Today is the 30th anniversary of the release of The Smiths’ first single, the enduringly excellent “Hand in Glove.” The song failed to chart — but it was later covered, curiously enough, by British pop singer Sandie Shaw, whose version reached #27 in the UK charts and helped a great deal in introducing the general public to the band. The idea of female singers covering the Smiths and/or Morrissey is interesting, simply because their songs are so quintessentially male in their own effete way. And so, in a repeat of the thought exercise we carried out with Leonard Cohen a few weeks back, we’ve rounded up a selection of Smiths covers (with the occasional Morrissey song for good measure) by female artists — including one particularly amazing track by Tiffany, of all people. … Read More
There are plenty of reasons to be excited about Skyfall, the newest installment in the venerable James Bond movie franchise (fifty years and counting): Daniel Craig is back as Bond, Javier Bardem as the new Bond villain, Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes bringing it all together with wit and grace. But our first indication that this one might be something special came a few weeks back, when we got a listen to Adele’s moody, smoky theme song for the film. It’s got a big, brassy sound that immediately recalls Shirley Bassey, who became the signature voice of the Bond movie theme songs (and while she only did three of them, that’s two more than anyone else), and digging up Bassey’s tunes sent us down a YouTube rabbit hole of Bond themes. As you might expect, over the course of fifty years there have been some timeless, immortal songs; there have been others that, to put it charitably, haven’t aged quite so well. After the jump, we’ve picked our five best, four worst, and one in between of the Bond themes thus far. Some controversies may erupt, so by all means, throw in your two cents in the comments. … Read More
More than any other season, we equate summer with music — outdoor festivals abound, boomboxes blast, and everyone you know has their “essential summer playlist” on heavy rotation. While we definitely have thoughts on the new tracks and indie standbys you should be blasting this summer, we got a bit nostalgic after listening to NPR‘s decades-spanning songs of the summer playlist on repeat this past week. Accordingly, we’ve collected a few “songs of the summer” from the ’60s and ’70s that we think still resonate today, and totally deserve a place on your 2012 summer fun mixtape or a little bit of airtime at your weekend backyard BBQ. Click through to have a listen, and if you’ve got your own ideas on the matter, chime in and add to our list in the comments. … Read More
Today marks the 49th anniversary of teen idol Lesley Gore’s American Bandstand performance of “It’s My Party” — a chart-topper with a catchy, melodramatic, but unmistakably girl’s-eye view. Followed by the similarly spirited “Judy’s Turn To Cry,” “She’s A Fool,” “You Don’t Own Me” and “That’s The Way Boys Are,” Gore’s early singles are often considered as proto-feminist in emphasis. “You Don’t Own Me” is a potent statement in itself — an attitude that was to burgeon later in the decade.
Throughout the centuries, women have accented popular song with resistance, resentment, and outright revolt against oppression. The history of popular music reveals that it’s far more than a man’s, man’s world.
While genres like blues allowed a remarkably femme-centric candor, rebellious notes can be perceived throughout numerous eras — and even within the hit parade. It’s true that often these songs frequently concentrated on romantic themes, but their strong female perspectives, assertiveness, and attitudes denote them as feminist forbearers. Here’s a selection of pioneering vocalists’ music dating from the twenties to the mid-sixties to remind us that empowered girls have been with us for longer than pop culture often cares to remember. … Read More
Face it, we all like a good lyrical smackdown, and the art of the kiss-off line (or, indeed, entire kiss-off song) is one of the most time-honored and enduring in music. Good kiss-offs can take many forms — they can be subtle and sarcastic, or blunt and brutal, or just flat-out hilarious. Either way, there have been many, many good ones committed to tape over the years, and we’ve always had an ear for a biting turn of phrase — so we’re counting down 30 of the best after the jump. As ever, we’re open to suggestions, so let us know your favorites! … Read More
Take heart — the long-awaited Season 5 premiere of Mad Men is finally upon us. Tonight we will all be plunged into 1966, the year of Bonanza, Capote’s In Cold Blood, and the Beatles being “bigger than Jesus.” To prepare ourselves (and you) for tonight’s epic event, we’ve put together a brief primer on a few of the year’s important pop culture touchstones, so we all know what we’d be watching, reading, listening to, and flouncing around in if we could magically transport ourselves to Don Draper land. We don’t know about you, but we just might dig out that old miniskirt and spend the day twisting to ”These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” and watching old Star Trek episodes in preparation. You know, just in case. … Read More
If you’ve ever wondered what your favorite literary characters might be listening to while they save the world/contemplate existence/get into trouble, or hallucinated a soundtrack to go along with your favorite novels, well, us too. But wonder no more! Here, we sneak a look at the hypothetical iPods of some of literature’s most interesting characters. What would be on the personal playlists of Holden Caulfield or Elizabeth Bennett, Huck Finn or Harry Potter, Tintin or Humbert Humbert? Something revealing, we bet. Or at least something danceable. Read on for a cozy reading soundtrack, character study, or yet another way to emulate your favorite literary hero. This week: the always divisive literary diva Scarlett O’Hara. … Read More