Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
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Friday, Nov 7, 2014
Another suburban family morning here at Counterbalance. We have to shout above the din of our Rice Krispies — and the 272nd most acclaimed album of all time. Many miles away, something crawls to the surface of a dark Scottish lake.

Mendelsohn: The one thing I miss about working through the Great List in numerical order was the weekly marching orders. Don’t like the album? Too bad. Don’t know anything about? Better learn. I kind of miss the adventure of exploring music I wasn’t familiar with. So, while perusing the Great List, trying to make sense of albums that came out in the early 1980s, I noticed the Police’s Synchronicity sitting at no. 272 overall and holding down the no. 3 spot for the year 1983 (R.E.M.’s Mumur is no. 1, Tom Waits’ Swordfishtrombones is no. 2 and the Violent Femmes self-titled debut is no. 4, which — spoiler alert, we are going to be talking about in a couple of weeks). I don’t know anything about the Police, at least anything I wasn’t taught by their singles, and my first experience with Sting was seeing him play the role of Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen in the critical wasteland that is the 1984 science fiction bomb, Dune.


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Thursday, Nov 6, 2014
After a relatively lackluster September, the K-pop industry was back in full swing this October. From veteran comebacks to solo debuts, there's a bunch of great music to get into here.

Seo Taiji and IU – “Sogyeokdong”


Five years since his last album, Seo Taiji—affectionately referred to as the “President of Culture” among K-pop fans—is finally back with his latest release, Quiet Night. For his lead single, the veteran artist released two versions of the same song, one sung by IU, and one by himself. The two different music videos show opposite perspectives of the same plot, a heartbreaking love story set against a violent backdrop. Sogyeokdong, the neighborhood in Seoul where Seo Taiji grew up, was focus of activity for the Defense Security Command in the early 1980s. The DSC at the time was a sort of secret police/counterintelligence branch of the military under dictator Chun Doo-hwan. With this tense political time as its setting, “Sogyeokdong” shows the story of two young kids meeting, falling in love, and being torn apart by military action.


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Wednesday, Nov 5, 2014
Ten years after Kanye West's first album, The College Dropout, we count down the rapper's top lyrics.

Arrogant. Provocateur. Genius. These are some of the adjectives that have been used to describe the one and only Kanye West. Before the memes, before the infamy, there was the artist. Not only one of the most notable hip-hop artists of this generation, but one of the genre’s biggest luminaries, period. With each of his releases, West has continually brought something new to the table. Through every evolution, West’s razor-sharp lyrics have remained one rock-steady constant. Socially aware with a flair for the superficial (and “so much emphasis”) since his 2004 debut, The College Dropout, Kanye’s words and self-conscious mentality have been just as his important as his self-made, powerhouse beats.


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Monday, Nov 3, 2014
The final song on Green Day's 2004 masterpiece paints a haunting portrait of romantic regret and longing that just about every listener can relate to.

As I said last time in this series, American Idiot essentially ended with “Homecoming”, as Jesus of Suburbia’s journey came full circle and found its resolution.  He didn’t become the rebellious punk antihero/savior he set out to be, but he was able to find solace in himself and the world in which he lives, accepting that life is meant to be screwed up and scary, yet ultimately full of possibilities too. However, it’s precisely those unfulfilled prospects and vague uncertainties that shape who we are and perpetually haunt us, nagging at the backs of our minds for answers that will never come.


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Friday, Oct 31, 2014
We were dreaming when we wrote this, so sue us if it goes astray. The Purple One’s 1982 breakthrough is the 199th most acclaimed album of all time, and it’s the subject of this week’s Counterbalance. All the hippies sing together.

Klinger: I can’t remember where I parked my car, but I think I’ll always remember the first time I saw Prince on MTV. It was the “Little Red Corvette” video, and I was watching it on a black and white portable TV in my room. (I want to say I was drawn in by all the glimpses of scantily clad ladies, but now I’m thinking that was the “1999” video. Also I have no idea how my dad got a portable black and white TV hooked up to cable.) I would have been about 14, I guess, and I immediately realized that this guy was a rock star, and he was what was going to be next. I didn’t exactly get on board as a fan — in fact, I was probably a little alarmed by what I perceived as a non-white, not-conventionally-masculine threat to the rock hegemony — but when Prince pulled off that astonishing dance move about halfway through the video, I knew that things were about to change.


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