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Wednesday, Feb 8, 2012
In the wake of Madonna'a ostentatious Super Bowl halftime performance, PopMatters presents a rundown of the Queen of Pop's 15 finest singles.

To date, Madonna has released 75 singles across 13 albums, four soundtrack albums, and six compilation albums, with “Give Me All Your Luvin’” (from the upcoming LP MDNA) being her latest. She has had 12 number-one hits in both the United States and the United Kingdom (with different sets of songs), plus 24 chart-toppers in Canada, and 38 US, 60 UK, and 49 Canadian Top 10 hits. Madonna has dominated the radio and video airwaves for quite some time, and although the moniker of “King of Pop” is firmly affixed to Michael Jackson, “Queen of Pop” gets bounced around to every new fluffy pop tartlet who claims to integrate music and fashion like it’s something that’s never been done before


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Wednesday, Feb 1, 2012
The process of deciding which Trane solos are the best of the best gave me a good reason to go back and listen to his catalog once again, as if an excuse is even needed. I hope you do the same.

John Coltrane completely changed the face of music in a recording career that lasted only a little over ten years. He was so influential in so many ways that it’s impossible to list them all. Naturally, many of his compositions have become part of the standard jazz canon, tunes that all young jazz musicians must contend with in order to be considered legit. He completely redefined the vocabulary of the genre with his “sheets of sound” and modal approaches. Coltrane revolutionized the way people play the saxophone, from his adroit use of the upper registers (known as altissimo) to his popularization of the soprano saxophone in jazz. His classic 1960s quartet is considered the apotheosis of the modern jazz combo for many. Above all, though, Coltrane played some of the most innovative, sublime, poetic solos in the history of the music. Every jazz musician aspires to capture even an iota of Trane’s musical and spiritual energy.


Ranking one Coltrane solo over another is an act of absurdist thinking. Nevertheless, the process of deciding which Trane solos are the best of the best gave me a good reason to go back and listen to his catalog once again, as if an excuse is even needed. I hope you do the same.


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Thursday, Jan 26, 2012
As the documentary From the Sky Down marks its arrival on DVD and Blu-Ray this week, Sound Affects list ten songs intended to help you warm up to the biggest band in the world.

For being the biggest band in the world over the past few decades, U2 is a very polarizing entity. Certainly, an act with such global ubiquity as Ireland’s prime musical export is bound to leave some amount of the human population cold. What’s striking in regards to a group as popular and critically-acclaimed as this one, though, is how numerous and outspoken its detractors are. No matter where you go, it’s as easy to find someone who strongly detests U2 for a long litany of reasons (its gargantuan ambition, its grating grandstanding, its gravely serious soapbox activism, singer Bono’s sheer existence, and so on) as it is to turn up a devout fan. Even U2 has grown sick itself on occasion—witness 1988’s Rattle and Hum film/soundtrack debacle, the leaden pomposity of which led the quartet to spend the 1990s embracing mold-shattering experimentation.


With U2 being such a love-it-or-leave-it proposition, assembling a 10-song primer to persuade the disinterested to change their minds about the group’s music has proven to be a difficult undertaking. Unlike our 10 Songs That Will Make You Love R.E.M. list from a few months back, this task is hampered by U2’s tendency to retain its most characteristic stylistic tics (Bono’s outsized voice, the Edge’s pedal-enabled guitar textures) even in its out-of-the-box forays, and because its best material is typically its most familiar—meaning you’ve probably already heard it and made up your mind ages ago. Still, we’re prepared to accept the challenge before us. If by chance you don’t finish this article with a newfound love of U2, at the very least maybe you’ll leave with a newly-earned respect for the lads.


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Wednesday, Jan 18, 2012
PopMatters's Corey Beasley can't knit you a blanket, but he can do the next best thing: here are five classic wintertime records to help you through the big chill.

What makes an album suited for winter? Should it be the type of record that encourages you to dig in for the season, fortify yourself with blankets and heavily spiked cider, call December through February a wash, and pick things up in March? Or should it be an album to help warm you up, get you moving again, and distract you from all that disgusting brown snow piled up by the side of the road? Whatever your instincts—fight or flight—here are five albums to help you through if you run out of mulled wine.


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Wednesday, Jan 11, 2012
The song, while the product of an artist with a unique vision, has the capability to become something else once it is put out for everyone to hear. Once a song is out in the open, it could very well undergo a transformation unlike the original artist ever anticipated. Fortunately, due to the skills of many artists, that need not be a bad thing.

Covering another artist’s song is a fantastic way for someone to demonstrate his or her musical skill in light of another’s. It seems that the notion of deconstruction is quite an accurate description of a song, for now a song written in one genre can be entirely re-interpreted in another. The Eagles’ “Hotel California”, a song coming mostly from the white-dominated ‘70’s California rock, was masterfully re-interpreted this year in the song “American Wedding” by Odd Future crooner Frank Ocean. Ocean took the music of “Hotel California”, a classic image of American societal decay, and sung over it lyrics about the decay of American romance. Though technically not a “cover”, that track nonetheless demonstrates the malleability of a song once it has been released.


The following 10 songs are prime examples of tracks that not only stand as great songs in their own right, but also as powerful re-interpretations of already great tunes. Ranging from folk to psychedelia to piano confessional, these songs all attest to the ability of music to unite people with distinct voices. As it turns out, unplugged covers aren’t just for bad coffee houses.


Note: Some of these tracks are not entirely acoustic, but in the cases in which there are non-acoustic instruments, they are not the central instrument in the song. I based my picks on songs that were either (a) entirely acoustic or (b) dominated by and large by acoustic instrumentation.


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