Thursday, September 27, 2012

Songwriting Case Study: Perfecting P!nk's "Walk of Shame"

Have you ever misheard a song lyric only to discover that the actual lyric isn't as good as the one you thought you heard?

I can think of a couple small examples: Britney Spears, "Trouble For Me" - "Sweet talk, here we go/Tell me something credible" (it's "tell me. Sounds incredible."); Rihanna, "Only Girl (In the World)" - "Hold me like a pillar" (it's "pillow"). Plus of course there's always "'Scuse me while I kiss this guy" or those awesome yet imagined "Renegades of Fuck" (was that just me?). You get the idea.

Usually this happens with a song that's already good - at least good enough to sing along to - and the accidental potential improvement merely a minor adjustment. Since part of the purpose of artistic criticism is the notion of the form's future improvement (since, obviously, the specific objects of criticism tend to be in their final form before we blowhards weigh in), it seems a worthy endeavor to put thoughts of this nature into print now and then, using a recent work as a case study wherein, the argument holds, a few certain tweaks might have made a good thing closer to great. Praise and constructive criticism all in one! Winners all! *The crowd roars*

Today's contestant is an album track from P!nk's recent album The Truth About Love, entitled "Walk of Shame," written by P!nk and Greg Kurstin, who also produced. First, let's have a listen, shall we (plus lyrics...those will be helpful)?

Monday, September 17, 2012

How "Lights"-Obsessed Top 40 Radio is Marketing "Anything Could Happen"

In case you're wondering how mainstream radio might deal with Ellie Goulding's seeming U-turn from the synthy pop of US hit single "Lights" to the alt-rock plodding of new single "Anything Could Happen," I have one answer for you. You may remember "Lights," the very 2010-sounding electropop song from UK singer's 2010 debut album that hit #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August and is currently #1 on the Radio Songs chart. You also may have heard that "Anything Could Happen" is of a bit different a breed (I believe I referred to "Pat Benatar '80s rock wailing"). And radio doesn't like things that are different. But they do like Ellie Goulding.

So...torn, right? 

Friday, September 14, 2012

New Music That Doesn't Suck - September 2012

Once again I've acquired some new music over the last month or two that's not terribly objectionable, and my mother taught me to share. Here's a sampling, and there's a Spotify playlist at the bottom.

Video Still
Kat Deluna gets high.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Popologist Panel: Elle Varner, Alanis Morissette, Neon Hitch, Mariah Carey (...we think)

August is traditionally a slow news month. It's no exception in pop music, which had a rough month: Carly Rae Jepsen, after a Ke$ha-esque reign atop the Hot 100, was deposed by Flo Rida's "Whistle," but the following week he was replaced by Taylor Swift after she broke Ke$ha's digital sales week record with "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," a song on which Swift pretends that she is Ke$ha. Then after two weeks, Swift was overthrown by the all time digital sales week record holder, none other than Flo Rida again (whose record-setting single features a hook sung by Ke$ha). It what Techno School says true: is everyone really trying to be Ke$ha? Or is it like the way one mistakenly thinks he sees an absent lover nearly everywhere he goes? Ke$ha came up eight separate times in last month's panel; let's see how the new crop does. We've got new albums by rock legend Alanis Morissette, R&B newcomer Elle Varner, and Britney Spears songwriter Coco Morier; two bombastic music videos by Nicki Minaj and Jessie and the Toy Boys; and new singles from artists new(ish) (Neon Hitch, Carly Rae Jepsen, Example) to not-so-new (Mariah Carey...we think).

There's a good crop of new stuff here you may or may not have heard, so we hope you'll check out anything here you think might interest you. For an extra bit of fun, each panelist has selected one of this month's selections as his or her "Top Pick." What's yours? Enjoy, share and please send your thoughts, whether you think we're right on or full of shit. We're very likely both.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Deconstructing "1991" - Azealia Banks' Autobiographical Homage to the 90s

Azealia Banks has been the buzz of the hip hop world following the release of her thrilling single "212" last December and a star-making US debut performance at this year's Coachella music festival, and now she has millions watching to see what she'll do when she makes her official full-length debut. This debut keeps getting pushed further and further, though fortunately we did get an official EP, 1991, in May (read Popologist Panel reviews), and a mixtape, Fantasea, in July, to tide us over as she hammers it out at Interscope. Included on 1991 alongside "212" were the previously released "Liquorice;" "Van Vogue," with its lengthy, stinging diatribe outro; and the sleek, elegant "1991," whose classic house beat and old-school R&B flavorings evoked some of the great music from the 90s you don't hear much these days. Videos for "Liquorice" and "Van Vogue," both directed by fashion photographer Rankin, were released over summer, but it was a bit of a surprise when Banks debuted the music video for "1991" over Labor Day weekend, since the track doesn't receive as much attention as its more bombastic siblings.

"1991," appropriately, is a compendium of references to 1990s-era pop, R&B and dance videos; Banks tweeted to fans that she was "channeling Madonna, Crystal Waters, and Aaliyah" in the clip. The references aren't just playing off a trendy aesthetic, though: there's a great deal of meaning packed into this seemingly breezy affair. Not an expert on early 90s hip-house, R&B music videos, and pop aesthetics? Never fear; I'll lay it down for you. Read on for a closer look at the references Azealia Banks and director Justin Mitchell have drawn on for their sleek, glamorous, and very clever homage to some of the artists and visual and musical styles that have had an influence on the young Harlem rapper whose potential, at this point, is as fascinating as her already impressive early work thus far.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Listen Up Everyone: Missy Elliott Dropping Two Comeback Singles on Monday, World Braces for Impact

Listen up, everyone! We have been just informed that Missy Elliott is debuting not one but two new singles next week from her long-awaited comeback album.

You have five seconds to catch your breath. 5...4...3...2...1...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Gone Commercial: TV Ads and Music Discovery

Though by now it has probably all but subsided for most of the 40 million plus who tuned in from the USA alone, Olympics withdrawal is no joke. But the comedown from the high of this biannual fortnight of nationalist revivalism, heroics, bratty silver medalists, nationally variable broadcasting atrocities, and impassioned if amnesiac debates on the legitimacy of mysterious events like rhythmic gymnastics, curling, and dressage takes different forms for different folks. Those for who,m television is a major life engagement must adjust from athletic drama to scripted, "reality," or 24 hour news cycle drama, while others gradually reacquaint themselves with life beyond the boob tube, whatever that might be. For the latter, the short term difficulties of their more drastic transition are mitigated by one significant long-term benefit: no more COMMERCIALS! As one of this group, I can certainly feel the positive effects of the poison leaving my system: no more spoiled Lexus drivers seeking exotic vacation locales where they can stay in their beloved cars; no more promos for clearly doomed NBC shows (Animal Practice, Stars Earn Stripes); no more of Jeff Probst posing as self-important life coach; no more car salesmen somehow managing to make Grease songs even more intolerable; no more of that awful Wendy's spokesgirl and her damn Baconator. Winners all around.

Now, like spiders or Jersey Shore, commercials aren't entirely a bane on the world's existence. In terms of the music business, which generally makes little direct use of television advertising, commercials can do some good and almost never harm; for musicians, tv ads when harnessed properly can offer considerable rewards with virtually no risk. Rarely has this been done more successfully than this year's placement of "We Are Young," by the new alternative band fun., in a Chevrolet commercial aired during the Super Bowl. The single shot to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and remained there for six weeks, and has sold over five million downloads. The enormous impact of the placement (significantly eclipsing the sales benefit of Madonna's massive halftime show) is of course an exceptional case, but even if on a far less monumental scale, numerous other acts have enjoyed boosts from tv ad exposure beyond the primary benefit of licensing fees.
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