In 1976 Elton John was one of the biggest superstars in pop music. His album from the previous year, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy was the first album to enter the Billboard charts at #1. The follow-up album, Rock of the Westies, was the second album in history to enter the charts at #1. But behind the outrageous costumes and garish glasses was a lonely man whose fame had grown to the point where he and songwriting partner Bernie Taupin started referring to it as "The Beast". Thousands of adoring fans all over the world wasn't enough; as Elton confided to interviewer Cliff Jahr, "I crave to be loved".
...he co-wrote four songs on the Backstreet Boys’ self-titled 1996 debut album, one of which, “Quit Playing Games With My Heart,” went to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. And with that, his career took off. You probably know most of what comes next. For instance, you probably know that, to date, Martin has co-written 19 songs that went to #1 on the Hot 100, and another 36 that charted in the top 10 but didn't manage to hit #1. You probably know that many of those songs were recorded by Katy Perry (who has recorded 10 top-10 songs with Martin), Taylor Swift (six top-10 songs with Martin), Britney Spears (also six), P!nk (five), and the Backstreet Boys (five). You might also know that Martin’s 19 chart-toppers put him at third place on the all-time list behind Paul McCartney (32) and John Lennon (26). Stereogum's Michael Nelson on superproducer/songwriter Max Martin, complete with a list of 30 Essential Max Martin Songs.
The Magician was initially a mysterious mixer who released Magic Tapes, mixes of disco, house and pop without tracklists, challenging listeners to compile tracklists themselves, and they did. But he stepped out from behind the curtain, remixing Lykke Li's "I Follow Rivers" and later his debut single, "I Don't Know What To Do" feat. Jeppe. In 2013, he signed with Parlophone, but has continued making his Magic Tapes. Last month, he celebrated his 50th mix with Mixmag TV and Arches. [more inside]
“It is no exaggeration to say that the sound of mainstream pop/rock drumming in the 1980s was, to a large extent, the sound of Jeff Porcaro.” — AllMusic [more inside]
In 2010, the Colombian army wanted to send a message of hope to soldiers held hostage by FARC guerrillas deep in the jungle. But how to send a message the hostages would recognize, but their captors wouldn't? Morse code, hidden in a pop song.
Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars's 'Uptown Funk' takes over the UK. "Uptown Funk apparently took seven months to write and 82 takes before they hit pop gold. At one point Ronson – overwhelmed with anxiety – vomited."
Alex Ross writes for the New Yorker: Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, and the critique of pop culture.
Noted computer program and pop singer Hatsune Miku performs on The Late Show with David Letterman. What's a Miku!? you ask, and Buzzfeed answers in list form. Previously on Metafilter.
What's that you say? You like to read movie and music related lists on the Internet? Well here you go: The Movies' 50 Greatest Pop Music Moments from the folks at The Dissolve.
Ten Second Songs covers pop songs in twenty different styles: Linkin Park - In The End, Ariana Grande - Problem, Jason Derulo - Talk Dirty To Me [more inside]
Adon Olam is a 12th century Jewish hymn traditionally sung at the end of Sabbath services in both Ashkenazic and Sephardic congregations. Maybe you’ve heard Uzi Hitman’s disco version, which electrified the 1970’s. But what may be most inspiring about the prayer is that it can fit to pretty much any melody. Here it is to Pharrell’s Happy. Here it is to Gilbert and Sullivan's Modern Major General. Here’s the Cups song. Even Amazing Grace. [more inside]
The Perfect Beat is an article by The New Yorker's music critic Sasha Frere Jones where he lays out the reasoning behind his "Perfect Recordings" project, essentially a list of 200 songs that fit his personal criteria for perfection. The lists are available as Twitter timelines (volumes 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5), Spotify playlists (volumes 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5) or as one 200 song Rdio playlist. Frere-Jones answered some questions about the project and spoke about a few individual songs in The Guardian.
If the Beatles and their like were in fact what the youth of Britain wanted, one might well despair. I refuse to believe it – and so will any other intelligent person who casts his or her mind back far enough. What were we doing at 16? I remember reading the whole of Shakespeare and Marlowe, writing poems and plays and stories. At 16, I and my friends heard our first performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony; I can remember the excitement even today. We would not have wasted 30 seconds of our precious time on the Beatles and their ilk. Are teenagers different today? Of course not.
The world is a dark and a terrible place. Horrible, morally insane things are happening. Let us resist them as best we are able, and in the meantime replace various nouns in the lyrics of well-known pop songs with the word “cats,” that we might whistle against the coming of the night together a while longer.Song Lyrics Improved By Replacing Proper Nouns With Cats: Part 1. Part 2. By Mallory Ortberg. DLTT.
I Know Times Are Changing: Anil Dash dives deep into Prince's Purple Rain.
In 1983 a man who called himself Lewis recorded and self-released an album called L'amour. No one much noticed at the time but his album was rediscovered in 2007 and slowly became a cult classic. It was rereleased by Light in the Attic Records earlier this year and has been received very well by the music press. When the record label and other people went looking for the artist, a former stockbroker from Calgary whose real name is Randall Aldon Wulff, they drew a blank. Some think he is deceased but others are looking for him all over Canada. And now another Lewis album from 1985 has been found and rereleased, and apparently he recorded many more. The ethereal quality of the music and the attendant mystery compels people to search within the music for some kind of answer to this riddle of a man. [more inside]
Slate wants to know if you can name those 70s, 80s, 90s or more recent hits from hearing just the first second of them.
Lana Del Rey: Why a Death-Obsessed Pop Siren Is Perfect for Late-Stage Capitalist America (mirrored at Salon.com)
Lana Del Rey is pushing the envelope, and here's her message, delivered with a languid pout: 21st-century America is a rotting corpse, deadlocked culturally, economically, and politically. Since there's nothing we can do about it, let's enjoy ourselves as the body-politic disintegrates, perhaps by savoring some toothsome bites of the past: candy-colored Super 8 films, juicy jazz tunes and clips of sultry screen sirens. The future is a retrospective.
All of this echoes the ancient danse macabre, the dance of death, the motif that sprang out of the medieval horrors of war and the plague. It's a plea for fevered amusement while you've still got time.
You Look Sexy When You Do That (SLYT) by Brett Domino
Ragtime’s slaves-to-the-rhythm weren’t just figments of Billy Sunday’s fevered imagination—and “I Love, I Love, I Love My Wife—But Oh! You Kid!” wasn’t just a novelty ditty. It was, like the other hits of its era, a generational marker, an anthem of changing times and freedom and youth. The old songs sound goofy to us, but a hundred years ago they carried a teenybopper throb and the impish menace of punk rock. Lengthy (6000 words) link-rich article by Jody Rosen at Slate.
Internet personality Neil Cicierega (previously) has released a new mashup album based on Smash Mouth, "Smooth," "The Power of Love," Daft Punk, and other stuff: Mouth Sounds.
In which Kings of Leon covers Robyn's "Dancing On My Own", complete with unchanged pronouns.
Has pop music criticism really devolved into lifestyle reporting as alleged by this Daily Beast article? The response by Slate reviewing Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream". [more inside]
Sixteen years ago, on February 22, 1998, Madonna released her seventh studio album, Ray Of Light, followed the next day by lead-off single Frozen. Popular music and culture would never be the same. [more inside]
Scratchy Grooves For almost twenty years, starting in 1984, Bill Chambless on WVUD-FM at the University of Delaware, explored the pop music of 1900 to 1940 on vintage recordings, "scratches and all." Stream the shows at this website, migrated from the original cassette tapes and maintained by his son.
What if Disney Princes were in a Boy Band? Appearances by: Ariel and Eric; Beauty and Beast; Cinderella and Prince Charming; Jasmine and Aladdin; Mulan and Li Shang
The People's Songs: The Story of Modern Britain in 50 Records is a radio series on BBC written and narrated by Stuart Maconie. Each episode focuses on one particular pop song and tells the story of the song as well as what social trends it mirrored, for instance the episode on Telstar by The Tornadoes focuses on the technological progress, especially in space travel and music, and the story of songwriter and record producer Joe Meek. 25 episodes have been broadcast, including ones on Dizzee Rascal's Bonkers and 21st Century Britain, Cornershop's Brimful of Asha and the British-Asian experience , and Serge Gainsbourg's Je T'aime and sex. There are 25 more to come. There is also a blog and profiles of the songs already discussed. [Previously on MeFi]
Youtube user Thepeterson puts together collections of the major radio hits, movies, video games, and technology of a given year. So why not take a time machine trip to the media landscape of : 1997, 1999, and 2002
Marcello Carlin and Lena Friesen review every UK number one album so that you might want to hear it, starting in July 1956 with Frank Sinatra's Songs For Swingin' Lovers (reviewed August 2008) and so far ending up in September 1981 with Genesis' Abacab (March 2013).
Justin Timberlake likely made his new album to fulfill a contract he signed with Live Nation in 2009.
Noted filmmaker Allison Anders (recent L.A. Weekly profile) won 50 rock and pop records once owned by Greta Garbo at auction. She's listening to them, one by one, and writing about them at Greta's Records.
A couple days ago, Minami Minegishi, a 20 year-old member of the wholesome, innocent idol group AKB48 posted a video of herself, head shaved, tearfully begging not to be fired from the group. What horrible crime did she commit? What awful, unpardonable sin caused her demotion and public humilation? Dating. [more inside]
"This year, two monumental genres with decidedly global pedigrees arrived on our shores and attempted to crack the American pop code, with one enjoying far more decisive success than the other...One of those is definitely sexier and zeitgeistier than the other, but that doesn't always result in sustained cultural relevance."
K-Pop, EDM, and Baby Brosteps Toward a More Global Pop Landscape
K-Pop, EDM, and Baby Brosteps Toward a More Global Pop Landscape
"If Fantasma is a concept album, then what exactly is the concept? Simply-put, Fantasma is an album about music itself — a tribute to how the very process of hardcore music nerd fandom and collection reference lead to creation and production." Released in 1997, Fantasma by Cornelius was one of the finest albums of the 90's, and arguably the peak of the Shibuya-Kei music scene in Japan. Néojaponisme recently published a five-part, detailed retrospective on the album in honor of its fifteenth anniversary. While reading, you can listen to a playlist of the full album on YouTube. Enjoy! [more inside]
The 'About' page of UK music website Popjustice also doubles as a pop fan manifesto.
What happens when you mash up Cinderella, Disney songs, queer culture, and top 40 hits? This, apparently. [SLYT]
Warning for general ear-worminess. I'll be humming this all week.
Warning for general ear-worminess. I'll be humming this all week.
Its writer refused to record it. Pat Boone almost killed it. Then it was resurrected as a B-side to an indie prestige project. Then it became an A-side in its own right, sold a half a million copies, and ended up being performed by its writer on the last ever episode of the Monkees. - "Song to the Siren's irresistible tang" by Martin Aston. [more inside]
If you’ve ever heard someone complain about the 4 chord pop song, this is what they are talking about.
"I analyzed the chords of 1300 popular songs for patterns. This is what I found."
The story of the ABBA sound. 8 minute Swedish documentary. Click the "CC" button for subtitles.
The story of Lester Chambers of The Chambers Brothers in one picture. A cautionary tale of working for an RIAA label (and Clive Davis) and what happens when your 'legendary hit' peaks at #11. At least he has a friend in Yoko Ono.
In the last decade, no organ of music criticism has wielded as much influence as Pitchfork. It is the only publication, online or print, that can have a decisive effect on a musician or band’s career.... [W]hatever attracts people to Pitchfork, it isn’t the writing. Even writers who admire the site’s reviews almost always feel obliged to describe the prose as “uneven,” and that’s charitable. Pitchfork has a very specific scoring system that grades albums on a scale from 0.0 to 10.0, and that accounts for some of the site’s appeal, but it can’t just be the scores.... How has Pitchfork succeeded where so many other websites and magazines have not? And why is that success depressing? A lengthy history and review of Pitchfork [Media], from an inexpensive online alternative to a music zine, to "indie" music kingmaker, and thoughts on pop music (criticism). [more inside]