Music Writing (and Yes, a Few GIFs) We Loved This Week

Rub your hands together for this round-up of music stories Voice music writers are reading this week. Have one that should be on our radar? Get in touch.

More »

Radio Hits One: Nine Songs From 2012 That Should Have Been Huge

radiohitsone_august31.jpg
The term "flop" in a musical context usually refers to an unsuccessful album. Although singles constantly perform above or below expectations, a song will rarely get a reputation as a flop unless there's a lot riding on it, such as a pre-release single from a big-name album. In 2011, Beyoncé's "Run the World (Girls)" and Lady Gaga's "Judas" failed to launch and became notorious stumbling blocks for two women who had up to that point experienced one success after another.

In 2012, no singles have fallen short of expectations in such a high-profile way, but hundreds of songs are constantly being lobbed at radio, and some great tracks get lost in the shuffle. Last year, I critiqued the singles campaigns of recent albums, suggesting how different tracks could have been released in a different order. But right now, I feel compelled to highlight some singles that simply deserved better, because by December, these songs will be long forgotten in lists that boil the year in pop down to "Somebody That I Used to Know" and "Call Me Maybe."

More »

Neil Young, Foo Fighters, Black Keys To Play A Big Charity Show In Central Park

neilyoung_piano.jpg
Neil Young.
The Global Festival 2012, a concert on Central Park's Great Lawn sponsored by an outfit called the Global Poverty Project, will take place on September 29; Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Foo Fighters, and the Black Keys will headline, with Band of Horses and K'Naan serving as support acts. As is customary with shows on the Great Lawn, he show is free as far as monetary cost, but you'll have to give up some of your time if you want to get in—to enter the lottery for tickets, you'll need to point your web browser to GlobalFestival.com, which is chock-full of " a wide cross-section of content and actions about international health and development issues, ranging from videos to in-depth white papers," and peruse some of the content within to accrue points. Three points enters you into the lottery for tickets. But if you don't want to click around with the hoi polloi, there are, of course, VIP options available. Private bathroom access: Worth your $189.50? It's your call!

More »

In Defense Of Dave Grohl

foofighters0111394RT-520x682.jpg

Dave Grohl had a good time at the Grammys on Sunday. The Foo Fighters won pretty much every rock-oriented award possible, he reminded everyone that he's got the power-ballad game on lock, and he even got to show off his sweet Slayer T-shirt. Once again, everything came up Grohl. The most likable man in rock wins again, right?

More »

Live-Blogging The 2012 Grammys: Tributes, Tribulations, Skrillex, And The Return Of Adele

skrillex_kitty.jpg
via Cats Who Look Like Skrillex
Will this cat win Best New Artist?
Welcome to Sound of the City's liveblog of the 54th Annual Grammys, coming to you live from a couch in Astoria. There are quite a few questions lurking around tonight's ceremony. Will Adele sweep the three major categories in which she's nominated, thus putting a cap on the megaselling, incredibly popular 21—and how will she sound in her live return? Will Skrillex (above, sorta) put a wub-wub-wub on the Best New Artist category? Will Bon Iver pout his way to the podium if he upsets Adele in Record or Song of the Year? Will Adam Levine upstage the Beach Boys when they share the stage? Will LL Cool J make at least 10 cross-promotional references to other CBS shows? Will Kanye West show up? Will the Whitney Houston tribute be okay? Tune in belooowwww!

More »

Oddsmaking: Should The Grammys Just Give The Album Of The Year Award To Adele Now?

grammys_albumoftheyear2012.jpg
For the last twenty years, the award for Album of the Year, the biggest Grammy honor of them all, has tended to go to two types of people: young women and old men. Female solo artists under 30 (Lauryn Hill, Taylor Swift) and male veterans over 40 (Tony Bennett, U2) have dominated the category for two decades with only a few exceptions: the youngish male rappers in Outkast, the wide range of musicians on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, and the thirtysomethings in the Dixie Chicks and the Arcade Fire. This year, that pattern's unlikely to be broken, with only one of the five nominees falling outside either of those two categories.

More »

Oddsmaking: Will The Grammys Declare Sum 41 To Be More Metal Than Megadeth And Mastodon?

bestmetal_2012.jpg
The 54th Grammy Awards mark the combination of the Best Hard Rock Performance and Best Metal Performance awards into the single category Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance, which is why Mastodon and Sum 41 are up for the same award. Historically, the metal category has been one of the most confounding, with oddities like Judas Priest winning for a new live version of a song originally released 23 years earlier, Motörhead winning for a cover of a then-22-year-old Metallica song, and Metallica actually being honored for a track from St. Anger.

In addition to the pros and cons of each nomination, we've helpfully included whether each group is listed on Metal-Archives.com, a database that serves as the genre's gatekeeper by barring its doors to those bands deemed not brutal enough to ride to Valhalla.

More »

Radio Hits One: Foster The People, Cage The Elephant Lead The Charge Of New "The" Bands

radiohitsone_january10.jpg
Back around 2001, a Transatlantic cabal of music critics led a media hype machine declaring that rock was "back." To further this thesis, it grouped together a disparate set of bands offering variations on the stripped-down "garage rock" template who were often cheekily referred to as the "The" Bands—The Strokes The White Stripes, The Vines, The Hives, and so on. I always thought that was kind of a silly way to label those bands, since a huge number of band names have always started with the word "The," with a slightly smaller subset of that group naming their bands "The [blank]s."

Looking at Billboard's year-end Alternative Songs chart for 2011, however, you might wonder if a decade later we quietly experienced a new wave of "The" Bands, only this time with names that had words on both sides of the "the." The top two spots on the chart are occupied by Foster The People's "Pumped Up Kicks" and Cage The Elephant's "Shake Me Down", with Young The Giant's "My Body" at No. 14. Like the "The" Bands of 2001, there's not much uniting them other than the fact that they're all fairly new (only Cage The Elephant enjoyed any chart hits prior to 2011) and offering major-label-sanctioned, radio-friendly versions of musical and vocal styles usually associated with indie rock.

More »

Radio Hits One: Playing Armchair A&R With The Singles From 2011's Biggest And Best Albums

radiohitsone_november29.jpg
The two big formats that have long ruled over popular music are the single and the album. They have a great duality between them: the song and the collection; the sliver and the whole; the appetizer and the main course. Albums are the full-length format long considered pop music's ultimate artistic medium, while the hit single is the galvanizing force that sells albums while blaring from millions of radios, televisions, YouTube windows and cell phones. I've long been fascinated by a slightly more ephemeral concept that exists somewhere in between: the singles campaign for an album. The way an artist or label chooses which songs are released to radio to promote an album, and the sequence in which they're released, often forms a kind of narrative just as much as the running order of the album itself.

Of course, that narrative is often largely about how successful those songs are as singles, and they are often chosen and judged purely by their charting potential. But at its best, a singles campaign is as much an art form as it is a marketing tool. There are formulas and clichés—lead with the stylistic curveball and follow it with the surefire hit; start with an uptempo first single, then bring out the ballad second; and, of course, throw songs at the wall for the fourth and fifth singles if the artist has the profile and the promotional budget to go that far.

Just as sports fans often play Monday morning quarterback, analyzing how their home team did in the big game and how they would've made better choices, music fans are prone to imagining a more ideal world, one in which their favorite albums had better production and their cult favorites were worldwide superstars. For me, that often means speculating on and critiquing which songs were released as singles from an album.

More »

Live: Foo Fighters Enjoy Themselves At Madison Square Garden

foofighters_november20.jpg
Benjamin Lozovsky
For more photos from the show, check out our gallery.
Foo Fighters w/Social Distortion, The Joy Formidable
Madison Square Garden
Sunday, November 13

Better than: Some band with only two guitar players playing for only two hours.

Dave Grohl is often called the nicest guy in rock. Don't think he doesn't use this to get away with murder. During their performance at Madison Square Garden last night General Grohl led his Foo Fighters through "Stacked Actors," one of the deep cuts fans point to whenever detractors complain about "Learn To Fly." It's a great song. It has pointed lyrics, an insistent groove and just enough pop-polish to make the slash and burn riffs and throat shredding go down easy. It is not a song that benefits a great deal from instrumental vamping. But that didn't stop Grohl from running across the MSG floor to a second stage in the middle of the arena and then indulging in an extended back and forth solo off with lead guitarist Chris Shiflett. And it just kept going.

More »

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...