Music

What Iggy Azalea’s Haters Say About Hip-Hop Culture

This week marks the release of one of the most highly anticipated albums of 2014. With catchy hooks prime for radio and glossy production, many of its 12 tracks could easily straddle that lucrative line between pop and rap. But enough about Future’s Honest; rapper Iggy Azalea dropped her full-length debut on Tuesday as well.

The New Classic, as many quite reasonably anticipated, hasn’t lived up to its boastful name, at least from the perspective of hip-hop critics. Reviewer after reviewer after reviewer seems compelled to catalog Azalea’s otherness — her skin color, her country of origin, her gender, her looks — while building arguments against her music. She’s effectively in the online stockade, charged with a litany of crimes against rap: appropriating American hip-hop culture, mimicking Southern flows like a trained bird, being insufficiently lyrical. … Read More

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Lily Allen’s “Sheezus”: Feminist Anthem or Controversy-Courting Gimmick?

Lily Allen has proven herself to be a complicated artist in recent months. First there was her comeback single, “Hard Out Here,” which she dropped, along with a video, to much surprise. I immediately applauded the song itself, even enjoying aspects of the cheeky video, which seemed to reinforce what I loved about Allen when she released her debut in 2006. But the video caused controversy; was it making a statement about the current state of pop music, particularly the treatment of women within the genre, without recognizing the racist undertone in the way it depicted women of color twerking behind Allen? Months after the “Hard Out Here” controversy has died down, Allen has released the video for “Sheezus,” the title track of her new album, and it’s likely to cause a similar sort of debate.  … Read More

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Gabriel García Márquez on Shakira and 5 Other Authors’ Fascinating Rock Star Profiles

“The most amazing thing about the Shakira phenomenon is the craze that has gripped masses of children.” The late Gabriel García Márquez wrote that in his 2002 profile on Shakira for The Guardian. Even when covering one of the biggest pop stars in the world, the Nobel Prize winner’s music writing doesn’t rank anywhere near his classics like One Hundred Years of Solitude or Love in the Time of Cholera, but it does earn a spot alongside a few of our other favorite rock star/writer pairings. … Read More

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10 Concept Albums You’re Probably Not Getting

Concept albums should not be evaluated solely on how flashy the concept is, but rather, how well it’s executed as a narrative. Sometimes, the musician goes into painstaking detail to lay out the concept, but the overabundance of details and references to other works is overwhelming or inaccessible to the listener. Sometimes the story’s just right, but the way the album is received and discussed obscures the concept. It takes a very specific touch to not only tell the story, but also make sure that it’s accessible and comprehensible to the listener. With this in mind, we examined ten concept albums that don’t quite hit that sweet spot, either on the band’s part or on the fan’s… Read More

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Don’t Believe the Nostalgia Machine: 1994 Was a Shitty Year for Music

It’s a strange thing to see an era you remember being regurgitated by the nostalgia machine. The last couple of years have been a constant stream of early-’90s anniversaries: Nevermind! Dazed and Confused! My So-Called Life! It’s not like we didn’t see this coming, of course — culture tends to move in generational 20ish-year cycles, so a resurgence of interest in the ’90s was inevitable. (And, of course, these days culture bloggers just love a good anniversary as an excuse for a think-piece, a trend from which this site is certainly not exempt.) Sure, the early ’90s were a rich flourishing of culture after the desert that was the late ’80s. But this year, we’re at the 20th anniversary of 1994. And listen: 1994 was shit. … Read More

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Austin City Limits Fest Announces Lineup: Pearl Jam, Outkast, Beck, Eminem

A late-season but solid festival, Austin City Limits announced its 2014 lineup this morning. The main headliners are very… Read More

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Spending Record Store Day With Jack White, the Holiday’s Living Embodiment

The black and yellow paint, the tin ceilings, the interior archway with a phonograph for a keystone, the taxidermied elephant head in the blue room and full-sized bongo stalking the kitchen, the offices lined up as seedy motel rooms above a factory floor bathed in barely-not-nauseating yellow light, the lab coats the engineers wear while they’re cutting, probably even the bidet that hangs bat-like from the ceiling of one bathroom stall… everything in Third Man Records’ Nashville headquarters was born in Jack White’s head. Established in 2001, Third Man has put out a seemingly endless stream of vinyl releases, from Americana and country acts to scuzz punks to comedians to Neil freaking Young since opening this high-profile Nashville hub in ’09. If you’re a music lover, it’s nothing short of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory in here. … Read More

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The 6 Best New Songs We Heard This Week: Lykke Li, Lana Del Rey

As much as I secretly love the Pharrell-Johnny Marr-Hans Zimmer salute to Celine Dion, otherwise known as their Amazing Spider-Man 2 song, there’s better stuff for your ears this week. Some options: … Read More

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The Future of Music Festivals: 5 Experts on Drugs, Young People, and an Overcrowded Landscape

Music festivals. How could an innocuous phrase that essentially boils down to “a collection of concerts” inspire such polarizing opinions in music fans? Much of what differentiates festival culture from show-going culture has little to do with the music itself. Live music remains one of the few communal experiences in our digitally-minded world. What the rise of national music festivals has shown us is that we have different views about what constitutes ideal conditions for a shared musical experience. It’s a “duh” kind of statement, but go to a festival — any festival — and watch it play out. These differences are never more apparent than when you shove people of all different ages and lifestyles into a fenced-in park for three days of extreme heat and $6 bottled water. … Read More

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Why Is Prince Getting Back Into Bed With Warner Brothers?

Hell must be freezing over, and the sun will probably rise in the west tomorrow, because this morning brought news of the single most unlikely thing in the world (or the music industry, at least): Prince has re-signed with Warner Bros. I say “re-signed” because, remember, Warner is the same company that so infuriated His Purpleness in the 1990s that he took to scrawling “SLAVE” on his face when he appeared in public, and pioneered the legally adventurous move of changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol in an attempt to extricate himself from his record contract. This fact seems to have been largely overlooked by everyone reporting the news of his new deal this morning. Clearly, Prince’s ways are inscrutable at best, but seriously, what’s going on here? … Read More

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