Music

Cultural Appropriation Is the Last Resort of the Lazy Pop Star

There’s been a predictable Internet shitstorm about the cringe-inducing video for Avril Lavigne’s “Hello Kitty,” three-and-a-quarter minutes of cultural cluelessness that make Katy Perry’s VMA performance look like a nuanced examination of Orientalism and the changing nature of East/West cultural interchange since the abolition of the Sakoku policy in 1853. The Lavigne video is awful, obviously — it’s a sort of checklist of idiotic Japanese stereotypes, including candy stores, cupcakes, sake, sushi, random Japanese phrases (“Kawaii! Arigato!”), and, of course, four identikit Harajuku dancers who get used as silent stage decoration.(There’s also the curious fact that Lavigne appears to be wearing some sort of colored contacts in the video, that seem designed to accentuate just how blue her eyes are — although if anything, they end up making her look like an extra from David Lynch’s Dune who’s hit the spice a bit too hard.) It’s all like a budget knock-off of Gwen Stefani circa 2004, only without the Neptunes/Nellee Hooper production and the hooks. … Read More

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tUnE-yArDs’ Take on Pee-Wee With “Water Fountain”

In 2011, teacher-turned-tUnE-yArDs Merrill Garbus dubbed her booming adult voice over that of a little girl crawling through a classroom for… Read More

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St. Vincent to Play ‘SNL’ Season Finale

St. Vincent will play Saturday Night Live‘s season finale on May 17, according to a press release. The episode will… Read More

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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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