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by Teresa Jusino

8 Jul 2010


Before Ricky Martin drank from the Cup of Life while shaking his bon-bon, and before Shakira was even a glimmer in the eye of the American pop culture landscape, there was Selena: a young, beautiful Texan of Mexican descent who was the first of that generation of Spanish-language performers to begin to cross over into English-language success.

Fifteen years after her tragic murder, her music—in both languages—lives on. Even the most sheltered English-speaking music fan might not know Selena’s name, but if you mention her hit singles, “Dreaming of You,” or “I Could Fall In Love,” they’ll likely respond with I remember that song! or I love that one!  Today, Suzette Quintanilla Arriaga, Selena’s sister and long-time drummer, is doing her part to ensure that this remains the case: that Selena’s memory lives on through her music.

by Nathan Pensky

2 Jul 2010


Last year when Flo Rida’s album R.O.O.T.S. dropped to chart-crushing popular acclaim, it was easy to miss the peculiarities of the album’s fourth single, “Be on You”. Perhaps tempered by the influence of the rapper’s several other hits that year, including “Sugar” and the number one Billboard hit “Right Round”, the sheer oddness of “Be on You” went pretty much unnoticed. And what, exactly, is so unique about “Be on You”, one might ask? Oh, nothing except that the song’s chorus and title are lifted wholesale from the Will Ferrell comedy, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004). While many dance pop tracks have made the sexing up of one’s significant other their subject matter, this may be the only song that can truthfully tout itself as “baby-making music”. Flo Rida’s “Be On You” is not just another rapper’s homage to Scarface but a musical tribute to a character who describes his dog/life coach as “a miniature Buddha, covered in hair”. Knowing this, is it even possible to take this song seriously, and by “seriously”, I mean even on the level dance-pop is meant to be taken? Is the song meant to be earnest (as far as any pop music is earnest), ironic (insofar as pop music is capable of irony), or staking a claim in some post-ironic netherworld of genre definition where the likes of the Insane Clown Posse reign supreme?

Before proceeding, a definition of “post-irony” should probably be attempted. At least in terms of the minimum understanding required for conversation’s sake, and with an all-encompassing disclaimer in terms of the actual ins and outs of nascent terminology: A) when hipsters listen to Britney Spears because they think her music is awful, ever saying to themselves “Ha, look how awful she is, how clever I am, etc.”, their appreciation is ironic; and B) when the same hipsters have been listening to Britney Spears way too long for their appreciation to be truthfully called “ironic” anymore, their appreciation is post-ironic. The hipsters have, in fact, started to genuinely like Britney Spears. Their enjoyment happened by way of irony but is not actually ironic. Now that that’s out of the way…

by Jessy Krupa

30 Jun 2010


As we previously discussed, Paul McCartney’s first solo album was heavily criticized, perhaps most of all by his former Beatles bandmates. This is somewhat surprising, seeming that several songs on it came close to being on Beatles albums. “Junk”, originally dubbed “Jubilee”, was written by McCartney in 1968, when the Beatles took a trip to Rishikesh, India to study transcendental meditation under the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Though there are many different accounts of what actually took place there, one thing is for sure: the group wrote and worked on an amazing amount of music while there. “Junk” was passed up for inclusion on both on the band’s 1968 self-titled album and Abbey Road, but it did eventually end up on the 1996 Anthology 3 album, which was made up of the group’s unfinished material and studio rarities.

McCartney must have really liked “Junk” by the time he finished it in 1970, because he included it twice on his debut solo album. It first appears as the last track on side A of McCartney, and then later appears in instrumental form on side B. Titled “Singalong Junk”, it is not only shorter than its vocal counterpart, but it sounds slightly different. With its melody played out on the piano, more prominent drums and mellotron (an early precursor to the electric keyboard) strings are added. It was the first take of the song, but McCartney chose to record a longer, more simplistic take for the vocal version. Unlike most of McCartney, they were both recorded not at his home, but at Morgan Studios in London.

by Nathan Pensky

29 Jun 2010


Since Radiohead’s landmark album OK Computer (1997), the band’s music has had two defining characteristics to me: A) forward-thinking experimentation unsacrificing of melody, and B) somewhat unexplainable popularity. The enigma of Radiohead is not that its esoteric, bleepy-bloopy music stands in stark relief against the Britney Spearses and Justin Biebers of the world (which it certainly does), but that Radiohead ever charted at all, that such a comparison is even possible. To register surprise at the mere oddness of Radiohead’s experimentation would be unrepresentative of the group’s appeal. Singer Thom Yorke himself repeatedly has pointed out in interviews that the band isn’t even really all that experimental, how it never claimed to strive for the high water mark of the experimentation of such artists as Aphex Twin or Sigur Rós. Rather, discussions of Radiohead as avant garde makes sense only against its pop music peerage, a classification where it belongs, if anywhere. Mathematically speaking, say, in an X-Y Graph where the X-Coordinate represents measures of Weirdness against a Y of Popular Success (and the “Nirvana Diagonal” representing a slope of 1), Radiohead falls somewhere deep in and high up in the rarified air of universal acceptance and indomitable singularity of vision with people like David Bowie and Lou Reed. Yet, Radiohead’s albums fit more snugly on the racks of the pop/rock section at Wal-Mart with those of Miley Cyrus and Dave Matthews Band than with any other so-called “experimental” group.

And so the question on the lips of both hipsters and their junior high-age sisters everywhere remains… how? What is that certain something that has ranked Radiohead so high in the estimation of critics and consumers alike? Certainly not the fact of its experimentation, because even artists historically on par with Radiohead’s experimentation usually cannot boast that group’s success. Can you imagine Jobriath rivaling the Osmonds in concert ticket sales, or Funkadelic toppling Olivia Newton-John for radio play? And of course not because Radiohead’s forays into anti-pop ever offered anything overtly commercial, containing none of the fratboy-identifiable aggression of your Rage Against the Machines nor the manic-pixie-dream-girl fantasies of your Björks.

by Jessy Krupa

28 Jun 2010


In my opinion, “Hot As Sun/Glasses” is one of Paul McCartney’s best instrumental tracks. However, it is actually several different compositions put together and there are some lyrics at the end.

The first part, “Hot As Sun”, written in 1959, is one of the first instrumental songs McCartney wrote. A happy-sounding guitar-based melody, it uses an organ to make the carnival-sounding middle part. It then abruptly cuts into “Glasses”, which is mostly composed by the sound of electronic waves traveling through the rims of drinking glasses. This is a technique that McCartney seems to be fond of; in the PBS TV special Chaos and Creation at Abbey Road (available on The McCartney Years DVD set), he shows how it can be done.

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