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]
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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]
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.
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]
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.
The 'About' page of UK music website Popjustice also doubles as a pop fan manifesto.
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]
The Billboard Wayback Machine is an interactive that lets you explore the Billboard charts spanning from 1964 to 2011
In Defense of Pop Music -- New York Magazine takes a look at the rise of pop and dance music and the death of rock in the charts.
It was music to be heard, not listened to. It was the soundtrack to the relaxed, sophisticated, mature vision of the good life. It was music for lovers. It was upbeat, elaborately arranged, chart-toppingly popular, and yet has been almost written out of the popular music history books, dismissed as “elevator music”; soulless, toned-down, pre-chewed, limp cover-versions of popular songs for old people. So sit back, put aside the politics and angst, slip into something comfortable (preferably with someone of similar description), and allow yourself to experience The Joy of Easy Listening [2, 3, 4, 5, 6]
Smash Hits! was a UK music magazine, first published at the end of 1978. It charted the progress of pop styles, including the rise of 2-Tone, and included a number of freebie discs, first as flexi discs, and later on CDs. The magazine faltered in the 1990s, and closed shop in 2006. Since then there have been a few one-off "special editions," first a 2009 tribute to Michael Jackson, and then a Lady Gaga special in 2010. 30 years after the first issue went on sale, a fan posted the first issue online. So far, new scans have been posted fort-nightly, following the original release schedule. 73 issues are online to date, each three decades after they first were sold. (via MetaChat)
The Music of Jacques Brel is an article by music journalist Amy Hanson about the career of pop music legend Jacques Brel and his effect on popular music in the English language. A lot of songs and covers are mentioned in the article, below the cut are links to the songs that I could find videos of online. [more inside]
I maintain that only an encyclopedic-archaeological turn can save an aging person's attachment to popular culture from descending into ridiculousness. Against Eighties Music by Justin E.H. Smith
Janelle Monae has been busy since the release of The Chase EP, the first of four "suites" that make up her genre-bending epic set in the distant future. She's been "discovered" by Diddy, continued to find inspiration in unexpected places, founded an artists' collective in her adopted hometown of Atlanta, and found time to speak to Vogue about her singular sense of style. Somewhere in there, she's also recorded the next two parts of the Metropolis Suite, titled The Archandroid (which is out today), put out a teaser for the album, and also the video for the first single, Tightrope. [more inside]
Christopher Bird at Mighty God King has written some corkers in the past - from his ejection from Livejournal owing to his review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to his frequent conversations with Flapjacks and Photoshopping of Final Fantasy Covers (previously). He's really outdone himself this time, with Scenes From An Alternate Universe Where The Beatles Accepted Lorne Michaels’ Generous Offer. Read it, and, quite possibly, weep. Bonus points to the first person who constructs a Primer-level explanation of what happened.
Poet and poetry/film/music/culture critic Joshua Clover has been posting excerpts from his upcoming book 1989: Bob Dylan Didn't Have This to Sing About over at his blog. [more inside]
Of all the pretenders to the throne of "British Elvis" in the pre-Beatles UK music scene, none had the swagger or moves quite like Vince Taylor. [more inside]
The Mellotron features prominently on the 1968 album, The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, more commonly referred to as The Village Green Preservation Society. The weird, eerie quality of this electronic keyboard, which uses pre-recorded tapes of individual sounds such as strings and woodwind instruments, worked well with singer/songwriter Ray Davies' nostalgic, backwards looking sensibility. [more inside]
Classic tracks: Can't seem to face up to the facts? Searching for the heart of Heart of Gold? Mix Online delves deep into your favorite jams, to find out what was in the air when they were conceived. Know what I mean? via
"Radiodiffusion Internasionaal is devoted to the evolution of popular music from Africa, the Middle East, India and Asia and the proliferation of Western influences on these non-Western cultures. The focus is primarily the music from the mid 60's to the mid 70's." (Description from the front page of the site.) Slightly differently formatted version of the website here. Nice set of links, too (scroll down to the Words and Pictures section).
Tourists black out reflective retinas in snapshots before printing them, and millions of people refer to strangers they’ve never spoken to as friends, because they’ve connected through a social-networking platform. [...] It should come as no surprise, then, that singers sometimes choose to correct recorded flaws in pitch with modern software, like Antares’s Auto-Tune.
Sasha Frere-Jones on auto-tuning, in The New Yorker. [more inside]
Sasha Frere-Jones on auto-tuning, in The New Yorker. [more inside]
The best/worst in Lithuanian music: the catchy Otter in Love, DJ Dago's rave music, Suopis ir Rambynas' folk music and Mr Valdas Karklelis and his creepy and [NSFW] pervy writhing . [more inside]
The 25 Best Pop Song Opening Lyrics, like EVER - a spinner.com 'hit list', complete with wry commentary and abruptly cut-off audio clips. Bonus: 25 more, suggested by people who don't work for the webside. [more inside]
“We consider the 'primitive' music of blues singers such as Leadbelly to be more authentic than that of the Monkees. But all pop musicians are fakes . . . Hugh Barker and Yuval Taylor . . . have turned out their personal record collections to produce a persuasive defence of inauthenticity as the defining characteristic of great popular music[.]” (via)
Page: 1 2