Posts Tagged ‘Beyonce’

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Top 25 Pop Songs of 2011

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

2011 didn’t turn out like it was supposed to.

It was supposed to be the year that the electro-Europop ushered in by Lady Gaga completed its rise to total airwave domination. It was supposed to be the year hip-hop gave up trying to be as relevant as it was in the ’00s. It was supposed to be the year rock staged a comeback. But none of those things happened.

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Do hit singles sell records? Conflicting messages from a recently released rapper on fire and a British soul singer on a roll

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

Adele scores her second No. 1 this week as the heartfelt “Someone Like You” bounds 19-1, but her triumph has been nearly drowned out by news that Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter IV sold an impressive 964,000 copies in its opening week. The record industry has been used to bad news and declining record sales for a decade now, but this week represents a major bright spot.

Weezy’s sales figures are astonishing. Sure, Lady Gaga’s Born This Way might have outsold Tha Carter IV when it topped a million in its first week earlier this year, but Lil Wayne didn’t have the benefit of Amazon hawking digital copies of his album for 99 cents. He also didn’t have the benefit of a blockbuster hit single piquing public interest which raises some interesting questions. Just how important is a monster single to spurring album sales?

In 2008, Weezy sold over a million copies of Tha Carter III in its first week, a feat aided by his first No. 1 single, “Lollipop” feat. Static Major. This time around, Lil Wayne might have plenty of hits on his hands, just not one as big.

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Help us LMFAO, you’re our only hope

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

Twenty-three summers ago, a song by a rising pop act reached the summit of the Hot 100 before being steamrolled by one of the biggest recording artists of the decades achieving an unrivaled chart feat. The song was “Foolish Beat” by Debbie Gibson, and the steamrolling superstar was Michael Jackson whose “Dirty Diana” became the fifth No. 1 from his Bad album. A handful of albums have pulled off four chart toppers, but for more than two decades, Bad has been the sole album with a quintet of No. 1s. That could all change next week, however.

This summer, the foolish beat is “Party Rock Anthem” by rising pop act LMFAO featuring Lauren Bennett and GoonRock. Katy Perry takes the role of pop juggernaut. Singles from her Teenage Dream album have been unstoppable in their march to No. 1. Last summer, she began her assault with “California Gurls [sic]” featuring Snoop Dogg followed by “Teenage Dream,” “Firework” and “E.T.” featuring Kanye West.

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CHART WATCH: On A Roll: Adele Building Steam on Hot 100

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

Chart Watch is 17 Tracks’ weekly look at the happenings on the Billboard Hot 100 with chart expert Hunter Schwarz.

Katy Perry clenches the No. 1  spot for a fifth non-consecutive week with “E.T.” featuring Kanye West, and it’s become painfully obvious that Perry’s fourth Teenage Dream chart topping single is not a flash-in-the-pan.

“E.T.” is coming off its best sales week ever two weeks ago (344,000) and is down slightly this week with figures slightly north of 300,000.  In total, “E.T.” is on track to be the top-selling song of 2011 to date. Its 2.48 million sales are hot on the tail of Cee Lo Green’s 2.49 million sales of “F**k You.” Sales of “E.T.” are on par with last summer’s smash “California Gurls” feat. Snoop Dogg, and they might even eclipse her ode to the Golden State, becoming her best-selling single ever.

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CHART WATCH: It’s Game Change Alright: Britney Goes Rogue, Beyonce Flops and Rihanna’s Maverick Wears Off

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

Chart Watch is 17 Tracks’ weekly look at the happenings on the Billboard Hot 100 with chart expert Hunter Schwarz.

After spending a single week at the summit, Rihanna’s “S&M” featuring Britney Spears slides to No. 4 as Katy Perry’s “E.T.” featuring Kanye West retakes the No. 1 position with an impressive burst of sales and radio airplay.

In my last Chart Watch column, I compared the battle between Perry/West and Fenty/Spears to a presidential campaign, and likened Spears to the Sarah Palin of pop. Those comparisons aren’t that far off. Def Jam’s last minute decision to add Spears to “S&M” was a calculated Hail Mary. The label correctly assumed that by courting Britney’s rabid fan base, the song could finally break from its No.2  position and overtake “E.T.”

Remember when McCain picked Palin and suddenly, the disgruntled Republican base had someone to cheer for on the ticket? Yeah, it’s kind of like that.

2011 Rock & Roll User's Guide: Everything You'll Need to Hear in The New Year

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

Jay-Z, Kanye West, Lady Gaga, and Coldplay are all among the artists planning on releasing new music in 2011.

2011 is shaping up to be a blockbuster year. Several bands are returning from prolonged hibernations with what they say is their best material yet. Two of the biggest names in hip-hop are planning a joint LP that could be out as soon as next week while two of the biggest names in pop are releasing records months apart from each other. And Amy Winehouse might even get herself together enough to give us the follow-up to Back To Black we’ve been wanting for nearly half a decade now. And that’s to say nothing about the game-changing albums by bands none of us have even heard of yet.

Jay-Z and Kanye West

Watch the Throne, due January

What they’re saying: Kanye West isn’t that big of a douchebag. The rapper offered 15 songs for free on his website during the second half of 2010. Some of those songs landed on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and others are rumored to be on an upcoming release with Jay-Z. Originally planned as an EP, it has grown to a full blown album. “We’re putting out a whole album now,” said West to Entertainment Weekly. “We did like five [songs] so far, and then a few of them kind of were out there, and I put them on my album. Sorry, Jay! [...] But we’ve got some more, and we’re going to the south of France at the end of this month just to record our ideas.”

Bright Eyes

The People’s Key, February 11

What they’re saying: Although singer and guitarist Conor Oberst hasn’t stopped making music, Bright Eyes hasn’t released a record since 2007′s Cassadaga. But for what Oberst says is their last album, the band is leaning toward more of a rock sound. “We’re over the Americana, rootsy, whatever that sound is,” he said. “People say country but I never thought we were very country at all. But whatever that element is or that aesthetic is, I guess it’s worn a little thin for me these days. So we very much wanted it to be rocking and, for lack of a better term, contemporary, or modern.”

Avril Lavigne

Goodbye Lullaby, due March 8

What they’re saying: Fergie introduced Avril Lavigne on Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve by saying, “She grows and changes with every album she releases. Now she’s ready to take another bold step.” Not exactly. Lead single “What The Hell” is the same faux punk-rock style Lavigne has been singing since the teen pop bubble burst nearly a decade ago, but make no mistake, it will sell just as well as it did then.

Britney Spears

As yet untitled, due March

What they’re saying: Stakes are high for Spears as she prepares to release her first album in a post-Gaga world. “There’s a lot for us to live up to,” says songwriter and the album’s co-executive producer, Dr. Luke. “I want to get harder in some ways and maybe a little more deep into electronic and grimier.” Unfortunately, Luke’s recent material like “TiK ToK,” “Party In The U.S.A.,” and “California Gurls” [sic] doesn’t seem like the kind of music that can go up against Mother Monster and win. For Britney’s sake, let’s hope he’s got some tricks up his sleeve. Luke has been tweeting lyrics from the lead single, “Hold It Against Me,” and so far, all we know is “Hey, over there, please forgive me.” Sounds promising.

Lady Gaga

Born This Way, due May 23

What they’re saying: Anticipation has been building for Gaga’s next release ever since the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards when the singer announced its title, Born This Way, and sang a snippet from the title track. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, Gaga tweeted an image of her bearing her bare ass with the album’s release date. Elton John has been able to hear the album and said, “This is the new ‘I Will Survive.’ That was the gay anthem. This is the new gay anthem. Actually, it’s not a gay anthem — it can apply to anybody.” The first single is set to drop February 13, the day of the 2011 Grammy Awards. Coincidence? I think not.

Death Cab for Cutie

As yet untitled, due spring

What they’re saying: Despite the amazing music Death Cab has already put out, frontman Ben Gibbard says he’s more confident as a songwriter and musician than he ever has been. “I strangely feel closer to my bandmates than I ever have before,” said Gibbard. “We’ve all kind of landed in a place in our lives, personally and professionally, where we can all get together and enjoy each other’s company and enjoy making music.”

Coldplay

As yet untitled, unknown release date

What they’re saying: Lead singer Chris Martin says that the band’s next album, a concept album, is their “last big shot,” but he also describes it as more intimate as some of their previous material. “It’s from the point of view of two people who are a bit lost,” Martin said.  ”Two like-minded outsiders who meet in a very difficult environment and therefore have a journey together.”

No Doubt

As yet untitled, unknown release date

What they’re saying: No Doubt has hinted at new music for some time now. While Gwen Stefani was still promoting her second solo album, the band allegedly began working on a record of their own. It never saw the light of day, but guitarist Tom Dumont promises that 2011 will be different. “Holidays over. 2010 done. 10 new songs written. No Doubt’s 2011 New Years resolution: to record our new album…beginning TODAY!” tweeted Dumont.

Radiohead

As yet untitled, unknown release date

What they’re saying: Considering the way the band surprised the world and released their last album, 2007′s In Rainbows, anything is possible for Radiohead this year. Word on the street is they’ve finished a new record and had a “wrap party” in LA after a three-week recording session. “It’s genuinely exciting. It’s very different from what we did last time,” said guitarist Ed O’Brian. “It’s really nice to be doing this. It’s so good to be making music with the band that you feel is still as good as it’s ever been.”

U2

Tentatively entitled Songs of Ascent, early 2011

What they’re saying: Originally, U2 had plans to release material from their No Line on the Horizon sessions that, for one reason or another, didn’t fit on the record. It’s unsure if that’s still the plan, but Gnarls Barkley producer Danger Mouse and Black Eyed Pea will.i.am have been confirmed as co-producers on the band’s next LP. “”I went to Bono’s house for lunch and George Clooney and Cindy Crawford were there,” said will.i.am.  ”I played some of the songs we’d been working on together and everyone was blown away. They all left the finger food to come and hear.”

Amy Winehouse

As yet untitled, unknown release date

What they’re saying: It’s been over four years since Amy Winehouse wowed the world with Back to Black, and considering the drug and legal issues she’s been facing, it’s not surprising that she hasn’t released any new music since then. Still, things are beginning to look more promising than ever as a cover of Leslie Gore’s “It’s My Party” surfaced and Winehouse completed her first performance in two years at a private party in Russia. The singer was paid 1.5 million pounds to sing for an unnamed Russian business man. “‘It was certainly a lot of money for such a short trip, but she is clearly glad to be back on stage. 2011 is going to be a big year for her,” a friend of hers told The Mail.

Beyonce

As yet untitled, unknown release date

What they’re saying: Beyonce’s third solo record should have something for everyone, according to the singer. “I’m mixing every type of genre that I love,” she said. “It’s not R&B. It’s not typically pop. It’s not rock. It’s just everything I love all mixed together in my own little gumbo of music.” Rumored to be on board for the next record is songwriter and producer The-Dream, the man behind “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It).”

Top 25 Songs of 2010

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

December really is the most wonderful time of the year. Not only does Christmas essentially last the entire month, but critics publish their lists of the best music of the year. Some of these lists are pretentious (Really Pitchfork, Ariel Pink’s “Round and Round” is the best song of the year? Not just in the top ten, it’s the best?) while others are pandering (Rolling Stone has plenty of good stuff, but they always throw in some curve balls. According to them, Ke$ha’s “We R Who We R” is the fiftieth best song the the year. How about you add a few zeros to that number?) Hopefully, the 17 Tracks list is neither of those things. Created from top 25 lists of 17 Tracks contributors, it ranges from pop to indie to rock and hip-hop. Hope you enjoy.

Honorable mentions: “Power” – Kanye West, “Airplanes” – B.o.B. feat. Hayley Williams, “Boyfriend” – Best Coast, “Tenderoni” – Kele, “Yamaha” – The-Dream, “Find Your Love” – Drake, “Commander” – Kelly Rowland, “Indestructible” – Robyn, “Rude Boy” – Rihanna, “Guns & Horses” – Ellie Goulding

25. Norway – Beach House

Beach House’s new album Teen Dream, is composed of 11 tracks that somehow melt in and out of the other while competing for your attention simultaneously. “Norway,” however, is the most telling of the ambient duo’s new album. The 3 minute and 55 second long song starts out with kicking drums, joined by the characteristic guitar, keyboard, and siren-like vocals.  This track embodies the increased maturity and sensitivity found on their new album and suggests that despite having found their niche in today’s music scene, this is a band that is not afraid of change. – JP

24. All The Lovers – Kylie Minogue

“All The Lovers” is a return to form for Australia’s reigning pop star. After being diagnosed with breast cancer and failing to meet expectations with her comeback album, Kylie Minogue was in need of a hit. Teaming up with producer Stuart Price was a good choice, resulting in the glossy, intelligent, and highly danceable Aphrodite. “All The Lovers” captures the euphoria of the album as Kylie commands the listener to dance and gently tells her lover, “don’t be frightened, just give me a little bit more.” – HS

23. Airplanes – Local Natives

The Local Natives somehow fuse the styles of Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes, and Kings of Convenience to supply every indie kid and small venue across the country with the refreshing sound were craving this summer. “Airplanes,” the track that originally sparked everyone’s interest with its cascading guitars, captivating piano, and audience-participation-inducing clapping, make it nearly impossible not to join with Taylor Rice’s smooth vocals and sing along. Their debut album “Gorilla Manor,” was released in early March and though still underground enough to keep pretentious listeners content, it’s a great introduction to an impressive new band. - JP

22. Pursuit of Happiness – Kid Cudi feat. MGMT & Ratatat

Before Kanye teamed up with Bon Iver, Kid Cudi teamed up with MGMT, hinting at the distinct indie feel many in hip-hop would take over the course of the year. MGMT might have failed to match the pop sensibilities of Oracular Spectacular on their new record, but they make up for it with their hook on “Pursuit of Happiness”. Slurring through his verses, Cudi recounts his fruitless search for happiness saying, “everything that shines ain’t always gonna be golden.”  – HS

21. F**k You! – Cee Lo Green

“F**k You!” (also known as “the song otherwise known as ‘Forget You!’”) is the successor to such quirky neo-retro pop gems as “Hey Ya!” and Cee Lo’s other big hit, “Crazy”. The song failed to reach the level of ubiquity of those similarly styled hits for obvious reasons, but it did pretty well considering its explicit title.  The lyrics-only video went viral this summer, and then the song was given new life by Glee in November, reaching No. 9 on the Hot 100. – HS

20. Lights – Ellie Goulding

Ellie Goulding may not yet be a household name in the States, but in her native U.K. she has made quite the debut. She topped the BBC Sound of 2010 poll which honors new talent and was also awarded the Critics’ Choice Award at the 2010 BRIT Awards. “Lights” was originally a bonus track on her acclaimed debut effort of the same name, but was officially released as the albums’ fifth single this year. Haunting ethereal, otherwordly, “Lights” demands our attention and proves that Ellie Goulding is one to watch in 2011. – CH

19. Little Lion Man – Mumford & Sons

“Little Lion Man” the first single released by London’s nu-folk rock quartet Mumford & Sons, boasts flawlessly composed instrumental arrangements, an intoxicating melody, and an unforgettable chorus. The song provides an accurate insight to the band’s first album Sign No More, which features 12 other tracks that are equally impressive. Four other singles were equally well-received as they were released over the last 10 months, but “Little Lion Man” will hold a special place in the hearts of many as the song that introduced so many of us to this great new band. – JP

18. Erase Me – Kid Cudi feat. Kanye West

Kid Cudi feat. Kanye West, or Weezer feat. Jay-Z? It’s okay—we weren’t sure at first, either. The same Kid Cudi that won us over with his debut album Man on the Moon: The End of Day, showed no trepidation in parting from his typical style for something a little more radio-ready. Mr. Solo Dolo inherently attracts hipsters and electro-heads alike, but assured that no genre would be left unaffected album by featuring Kanye West on this track. If there was any way to heighten the anticipation of his album that came out in September, “Erase Me” was without a doubt the way to do it. – JP

17. Alejandro – Lady Gaga

Critics compared Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro” to a modern day “La Isla Bonita” or an Ace of Base knock off, but Gaga’s seventh top ten single was unmistakably hers. The song evoked the album art on The Fame Monster with black tears streaming down her face as weeping strings give way to towering, colossal synth lines.”She’s not broken, she’s just a baby,” Gaga sings about the protagonist, an insecure girl with both hands in her pockets. – HS

16. Hang With Me – Robyn

“I know what’s on your mind there will be time for that too,” sings Robyn in Body Talk Pt. 2‘s “Hang With Me”. Yeah, that’s right, Robyn is talking about friends with benefits. The euphoric melody and insistent and gentle blips courtesy of producer Klas Åhlund don’t hint towards the song’s true meaning, but it’s a part of its charm. Warning her lover he can only hang with her if he doesn’t fall in love, the girl who perpetually gets her heart broken is finally firmly in control. – HS

15. Runaway – Kanye West

Our first toast to the doucebags started with a simple repeated keystroke and catchy melody. The stage of MTV’s Video Music Awards ceremony was rushed by the corps de ballet as Kanye West delivered his most earnest performance of all time. Not long after its debut, the song played title for Kanye’s 35 minute long art film. “Runaway” is the poster child for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the album that assures critics and aficionados alike that Kanye West isn’t going anywhere. – JP

14. Crossfire – Brandon Flowers

The Brandon Flowers who sings in “Crossfire” is not the same Brandon Flowers who used to rock guyliner, pick fights with other bands, and brag that Sam’s Town was one of the greatest rock albums of the past twenty years (it was, and so was Hot Fuss, but that’s besides the point). Credit his return to Mormonism or his growing family (he and his wife have two kids with another on the way), but Flowers has toned down the whole rock star persona. Instead, his music centers on themes of redemption. “Tell the devil that he can go back from where he came,” he sings on “Crossfire”, the most epic track from the understated Flamingo. – HS

13. Animal – Neon Trees

Provo, Utah’s very own Neon Trees have had a good year. Breaking into the music scene in a big way, their debut single “Animal” has spent an impressive 26 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 13 and even clawing its way to the Alternative Songs chart summit in September. Comparisons to new wave pop from the early ’80s are almost immediate with its infectious use of synth and hand claps. “Animal,” with its popping melody and intelligent lyrics, showcases the breakout band’s engaging sound and its lead singer’s distinct vocals. – CH

12. Only Girl (In The World) – Rihanna

2010 was Rihanna’s year. “Umbrella” was the song that separated her from the pack of similarly marketed one name pop starlets, but when everyone’s favorite good girl gone bad tried to go serious on Rated R, no one cared. That is until the up tempo “Rude Boy” was released. The success of “Rude Boy” laid the groundwork for Loud, a collection of ballads and Caribbean flavored dance tunes of which “Only Girl (In The World)” was the queen. – HS

11. Not Afraid – Eminem

Ten years ago, at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards, Eminem led an army of blond young men in white shirts and jeans into Radio City Music Hall as he rapped “The Real Slim Shady”. That moment symbolized how Eminem had, for better or worse, given a voice to a generation of alienated youth. “Not Afraid” is for those people and anyone else who is in a dark place. “We’ll walk this road together, through the storm,” he says. Think of it as a white rapper’s “Beautiful”. – HS

10. The Only Exception – Paramore

Dialing down their usual guitar-heavy rock’n'roll, Paramore achieved their most commercially successfully single to date with easily their most restrained. “The Only Exception” is beautiful in its simplicity. Critics quickly took note of front woman Hayley Williams’ sturdy vocal delivery, noting her ability to connect with the listener emotionally. Paramore proved their musicianship by turning what could’ve been a sappy, trite ballad into an honest and heartfelt look at love. – CH

9. Teenage Dream – Katy Perry

“Teenage Dream” was meant to be a Katy Perry song for people who hated Katy Perry. Instead of being annoying, trite and revolve around stereotypes, it was impossibly catchy and celebrated the universal feeling of eternal youth. But, like other songs created in a laboratory with the sole intent of being a monster hit (read: “I Gotta Feeling” or “TiK ToK”), the song soon wore out its welcome and all the Katy haters just ended up hating her more than before. But unlike those other annoying songs, “Teenage Dream” has value, evident in the Resucuers’ unironic and beautiful cover and the fact that if another singer had the song, no one would have hated it as much. – HS

8. Starry Eyed – Ellie Goulding

Ellie Goulding described “Starry Eyed” as a song about feeling a natural high, and it’s no surprise she pulls that off with ease considering the lighter-than-air nature of her small but growing body of work. Balancing the intelligent dance pop Europe is currently demanding from its pop artists with a dash of folk pop, Goulding led the way in making music that appeals to a wide audience. “Starry Eyed” with its building but gentle beat was the most pop song the singer recorded, and it became her first top ten hit. – HS

7. Dancing On My Own – Robyn

Dance music isn’t a genre that’s known for emoting, especially if the song’s subject matter is something as trite as dancing, but Robyn managed to do that with the heartbreaking “Dancing On My Own”. The Swedish singer vividly describes the scene: Her in the corner and her true love across the dance floor with his “new friend”. Stilettos, broken bottles, and oblivious ex lovers be damned, Robyn is going to dance, even if it’s on her own with tears in her eyes. – HS

6. Cosmic Love – Florence + the Machine

Surprisingly, “Cosmic Love” was the sixth single from Florence + the Machine’s critically acclaimed debut album Lungs. In a word, the song is audacious. It perfectly showcases everything the band achieves so masterfully on the album: layered with deeply rich harmonies and sweeping orchestration, emotionally complex, and palpable in its intensity.

Florence Welch, lead singer and co-writer of the track, said she is often hungover when she writes her best material, and “Cosmic Love” is no exception. Coming off a night of heavy drinking, it took her a mere 30 minutes to pen the track once she got started. The end result became the most acclaimed track on the near-perfect album, a thunderous ballad that truly feels out of this world. – CH

5. Everything You Wanted – Kele

Thematically, Kele’s solo debut, The Boxer, was the healing balm to Intimacy‘s pain and hearbreak. It was an album about finding inner strength, believing in yourself, and looking forward.  “Everything You Wanted” was perhaps Kele’s only look back and the most emotional performance of his career.

Setting aside the harsh, blaring synthesizers, Kele employs tribal drums, a massive sing-a-long chorus, and piercing lyrics to get his point across. “I could have given you everything you wanted, everything you needed,” he laments, staring straight into the camera with tears streaming down his face. It’s hard to believe those are fake. – HS

4. XXXO – M.I.A.

The release of The Social Network forced us to examine the role social media plays in our modern society, and M.I.A.’s digital freakout music provides the unofficial soundtrack. Drowning in post-apocalyptic MySpace imagery, she defiantly snarls, “You want me to be somebody who I’m really not.” Considering the airbrushed life most people live online, her statement comes across as a call for logging off and living life for no one but yourself.

Unfortunately, her message failed to match reality when she came across as a pretentious poser following a scathing New York Times Magazine article. Although critics argued that it killed her street cred, songs like “XXXO” were evidence that Maya not being the anti-establishment freedom fighter she once was isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Rapping about Twitter and Tarintino over a beat catchier than bird flu, “Bird Flu”, or “Paper Planes”, M.I.A. makes pretty good pop for an anti-pop star. – HS

3. Cold War – Janelle Monae

“Cold War” is the confession of an underground artist unwilling to sell out or give up what makes her special just to be mainstream. “If you want to be free, below the ground’s the only place to be,” Janelle Monae sings. Despite the tear that glides down her face in the music video, Monae is sure of herself. “You better know what you’re fighting for,” she urges.

Her future-retroism is reminiscent of vintage OutKast or alternate reality Amy Winehouse, but she remains completely true to herself. In a pop landscape where being obsessively unique is quickly becoming the norm and bordering on being boring, Monae actually pulls it off. – HS

2. Telephone – Lady Gaga feat. Beyonce

The Fame Monster was Lady Gaga keeping her promise to be a true pop artist. It was dark and deep, something her debut album was not. The only exception was “Telephone”, her collaboration with Beyonce.

While the rest of the EP dealt with death, romance, and fear, “Telephone” seemed like just another pop song that could have been recorded by any number of pop stars. It wasn’t until a rough, unfinished, and highly autotuned demo by such a pop star surfaced that you realized that Gaga took the song to another level that the likes of Britney Spears simply could not.

On the surface, “Telephone” is about turning off the phone and partying, but in the context of the storyline of The Fame Monster, it’s so much more. Gaga’s character isn’t just dancing, she’s running from a bad romance, from a controlling boyfriend who’s just like a dad. She isn’t dancing for fun, she’s dancing for her life. – HS

1. Love the Way You Lie – Eminem feat. Rihanna

You knew Eminem had a hit on his hands when people who usually quote Ke$ha or Miley Cyrus in their Facebook statuses start quoting one of his songs. Sure, most of those people were quoting Rihanna’s hook, but they were still listening to an Eminem song. Despite Eminem being around for over a decade now, “Love The Way You Lie” was the first song of his that found its way onto many peoples’ iPods and it marked a return to relevance for the 2000′s biggest selling artist.

Misogyny has always been a favorite theme of Slim Shady’s, but rather than use the same tired, vile, and violent clichés, he made a haunting, powerful record that condemned domestic violence. His raps are graphic and raw, and although he apologizes, he reveals that he doesn’t really mean it. It’s not as if Rihanna’s character is fooled by it though. “Just gonna stand there and watch me burn, but that’s alright because I like the way it hurts,” she sings. She knows he hurts her, she knows he’s lying, but she can’t leave.

Some critics condemned the song, saying it glorified domestic violence, but the very inclusion of Rihanna on the record renders that argument void. Just eighteen months removed from her encounter with Chris Brown, Rihanna brought authenticity and pain that few other singers could have.

It’s the rawness and brutal reality of the song that does the condemning, because Eminem never explicitly does. Still, as the house burns down in the Joseph Kahn directed music video, the anti-violence message is clear. Remaining atop the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks and receiving five Grammy nominations, it’s safe to say the song and it’s message penetrated pop culture, becoming a counter-intuitive but very effective public service announcement. – HS

Graphic by Nick Smith

Text by Chase Hilton, James Porter, and Hunter Schwarz

Top 10 Music Videos of 2010

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

2010 was a year of renaissance for the music video. It was the year the notion that the rules of the game have changed in a post-MTV world came to fruition. Your video can’t just be cool, it has to be cool enough that bloggers write about it.  It has to be cool enough that people send the link to their friends.  It has to be cool enough that people think it’s a good idea to recreate their own version and post it online for the whole world to see. There isn’t one right way to do it.  It can be simple or elaborate, funny or controversial, but if you want a YouTube hit, you need the clicks. Below are ten videos that succeeded in not only getting the clicks, but pushing the medium of the music video forward.

10. “Go Do” – Jonsi

Directed by Ami & Kinski

Pounding percussion, pigeons, and parakeets — what more could one expect from the first solo video released by Sigur Ros frontman Jonsi Birgisson? “Go Do” in video is as feathery, colorful, and eccentric as the album’s artwork suggested it would be. The influence of longtime Sigur Ros directors Ami & Kinski is evident in the energetic and abstractly artistic cinematography. The video, described as a “symphonic flutter,” features Jonsi in feathers, make-up, and wrapped in raiment that even your most effeminate of friends would pause before nodding with in approval. He scrambles across his trademark Icelandic settings, replete with traditional derelict buildings, cool waterfronts, and eerie trees, with one new addition: birds — lots and lots of birds. – JP

9. “Power” – Kanye West

Directed by Marco Brambilla

The album cut of “Power” clocks in at nearly five minutes, but when Kanye committed the song to music video, he cut it down to a minute and a half. Don’t let that lead you to believe that Mr. West settled on making a simple video. There’s no plot because there’s no time and no need. Instead, Kanye appears in the center of a complex living mural reminiscent of Hellenistic mythology as the view slowly moves out revealing the entire scene. Horned female guardians move their staffs to the beat as water bearers defy gravity by pouring water on themselves upside down. And of course, no visual representation of this era would be complete without a sexy female phoenix. – JP

8. “Too Much” – Sufjan Stevens

Directed by Deborah Johnson

For those who had the pleasure of seeing the King of Indie live on his most recent tour, it isn’t the meticulously choreographed dance moves in this music video that will consume you — No, it’s the devil masks, flashing lights, bright colors, and especially that Nike tank, that one simply can’t have “too much” of. Complete with an animated instrumental interlude, Animorph-esque dancers, and the erratic stop-motion effects of director Deborah Johnson, this video is an allusion to the deliberate change in Stevens’ music path and an accurate representation of his live performance. (If you’re interested in the reasoning behind his stylistic transformation, Stevens provided a brief twenty-five minute explanation at each live performance.)  “Too Much” is the second track on Stevens’ new album The Age of Adz, which was released in October of this year. – JP

7. “All The Lovers” – Kylie Minogue

Directed by Joseph Kahn

Kylie Minogue takes the flash mob to a new level in her “All The Lovers” video. Despite the skads of disrobing kissers, the video doesn’t seem sexual. Instead, the mountain of barely clothed lovers seem like a call for ending all war and hatred, a concept cemented by the white dove Minogue sets free. The Australian vixen errupts from the growing mountain like a phoenix from the ashes (fitting as this is her triumphant comeback following a battle with breast cancer and an underperforming album) as she leads her followers in taking it “higher, higher, higher.” – HS

6. “Window Seat” – Erykah Badu

Directed by Coodie

Just watch the video. Eyrkah Badu, followed by director Coodie, sheds one article of clothing at a time while walking in downtown Dallas. Once totally nude, she is shot dead in the same location of the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy. As her body falls to the ground, blue blood leaks from her head and scribbles the word “groupthink” on the sidewalk.  She completes the segment with the following statement: “They who play it safe, are quick to assassinate what they don’t understand. They move in packs, ingesting more and more fear with every act of hate on one another. They feel more comfortable in groups, less guilt to swallow. They are us. This is what we have become, afraid to respect the individual.” – JP

5. “Born Free” – M.I.A.

Directed by Romain Gavras

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” reads Article 1 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. M.I.A. uses her “Born Free” video to graphically show how far humanity is from realizing that statement. Setting the video in an alternate reality United States where red heads are inexplicably hunted down, rounded up, and killed, M.I.A. brings the reality of genocide, something not uncommon in her native Sri Lanka, home of her Western audiences. It’s unclear if the video was simply intended to generate buzz or a pointed political statement (At the Bush administration? So 2000-and-late. At the Arizona immigration laws? Boring.), but whatever it was, the video was yanked from YouTube for a few days and did both.

4. “Telephone” – Lady Gaga feat. Beyonce

Directed by Jonas Akerlund

It’s one thing to compel people around the world to make homages to your music video if it features nothing more than black leotards and two back-up dancers, but somehow, Lady Gaga did it with a video over nine minutes long that stuffed in a prison, Pussy Wagon, and loads of product placement, not to mention several different phone hats. “Telephone” officially brought back the event music video in a way that hasn’t been seen since the heydays of Michael Jackson and Madonna, and she managed to created more iconic images in one video than Britney does for a whole album cycle. – HS

3. “Cold War” – Janelle Monae

Directed by Wendy Morgan

Unlike so many of the music video’s released this year, “Cold War” stands out for what it lacks. There is no product placement, there is no dancing, there is no violence, there are no special effects. The video isn’t even perfect. Monae breaks her flawless lip synch right after the line, “I was made to believe there’s something wrong with me and it hurts my heart.” First it seems like a simple flub, but then there’s more. A single tear streams down her face. But it’s more than just a tear of sadness. There’s regret there, yes, but there’s a feeling of resolve there too. “Do you know what you’re fighting for?” she asks. – HS

2. “We Used To Wait” – Arcade Fire

Directed by Chris Milk

Arcade Fire, Google, and artist/director Chris Milk have been successful in accomplishing at least one thing this year;  I no longer feel any shame for sporting my Funeral concert tee down the halls of my high school back in 2004. “The Wilderness Downtown” is an interactive video set that accompanies the band’s track “We Used to Wait,” the second single released from The Suburbs. After providing your childhood address, the project incorporates images from Google Maps and Google Street View to take you on a nostalgia-inducing tour of your hometown. Perhaps my favorite part of the experience is the chance to include a note to your younger self. Mine may have read something like this: “Jims, Arcade Fire is good. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.” – JP

1. “Runaway” – Kanye West

Directed by Kanye West

Kanye West might be a little offended that his video for “Runaway” topped a music video list; after all, the 35-minute clip is labeled “a film by Kanye West”. Still, “Runaway” is a worthy companion to the masterpiece that is My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, as West rescues a nearly nude half-woman half-phoenix that crash lands in by a country road. West teaches his visitor about life on our planet, including his views on the media, fame, and the elite. The visuals are stunning, from the explosions and fire of the initial rescue scene to the over-sized Michael Jackson head and now iconic ballerinas. The video provides a look into the brain of one of the 21st century’s premier music makers. – HS

Graphic by Nick Smith

Text by James Porter and Hunter Schwarz