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

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Thursday, Dec 5, 2013
"It was Christmas Eve, babe / In the drunk tank / An old man said to me / 'Won't see another one'" -- "Fairytale of New York" has become a modern holiday standard, and Sound Affects lists five reasons why it deserves that status.

Canadian Thanksgiving, Halloween, American Thanksgiving, Black Friday—whatever date on the calendar you use to mark the start of holiday season preparations, know that that point has arrived. As has the requisite blizzard of season-appropriate music. For those seeking a respite from the Christmas/Hanukkah/etc. traditionals, popular music has proven more than willing to pick up the slack. Need an entire album of yuletide cheer from your favorite superstars? Everyone from Mariah Carey to Justin Bieber has you covered. Want to hear a legend tackle a holiday classic? Hold out for the inevitable yuletide network TV parades available throughout the month, or go online and cue up a vintage chestnut like Bing Crosby and David Bowie’s take on “The Little Drummer Boy”.

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Thursday, Nov 21, 2013
Many genres collided in the pop realm in 2013, and the result (mostly) sounded great.

If you really think about it, pop music is the greatest genre of music. It includes and incorporates every form of music imaginable. Pop can be rock, R&B, country, electronic, bubblegum, adult-contemporary, and more. Sometimes it can even be all of these things in the same song.

Pop often gets a bad name, however. One of the genre’s most-talked-about artists recently is the ever-increasingly desperate-for-attention Miley Cyrus. In the midst of releasing weak dance/rap numbers filled with drug references, she actually released a halfway decent song. Unfortunately, people will mostly remember “Wrecking Ball” for its meaninglessly vulgar music video instead of its emotional intensity. Similarly, her MTV VMA cohort Robin Thicke released one of the best selling albums of the year, despite claims that it plagiarized Marvin Gaye.

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Thursday, Nov 14, 2013
Last month, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced the 16 contenders for its Class of 2014. Sound Affects picks five artists from a very strong ballot that it would vote for.

It’s that time of year again. Almost a month ago, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame unveiled the ballot for its 2014 induction class to the public. The 16-strong list of names is admittedly impressive, boasting one marquee-level no-brainer (Nirvana, whose nomination in its first year of eligibility officially forces the Hall to acknowledge the 1990s), several deserving re-nominations (Chic, Deep Purple, N.W.A, LL Cool J, Kiss), and some unexpected yet wondrous first-time surprises (Yes! Peter Gabriel! Link Wray! The Replacements!). Along with the reappearance of a fan ballot on its website, the Hall’s selections this year are laudable steps in its continued efforts to add a populist slant to an institution long slated for its myopic ‘60s rock critic view of popular music.

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Wednesday, Oct 23, 2013
Classical and compositional music has continued to thrive in the 20th and 21st centuries, reaching new heights of both dissonance and beauty.

Despite what your T.A. in Music Theory once said, good music didn’t cease to exist post-1900. But you know that; after all, you’re reading a website called PopMatters. But what elitist thought conceals is that classical and compositional music has thrived in the 20th and 21st centuries, reaching new heights of both dissonance and beauty.

The pieces below cover a wide range, from Penderecki’s serialism to Shaw’s experimental vocal techniques. They don’t stick purely to the avant-garde, and they most certainly are not in a singular style. While many people think of classical music, pre- or post-1950, as somewhat monolithic, even dipping your toe in reveals a staggering, frightening array of styles that share nothing beyond a basic origin in composition.

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Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013
Following Nirvana's surprise ascent to stardom, no one knew what would be the next underground success story. Here are eight examples of where people post-Nevermind opted to place their bets.

One only needs to glance over Spin’s recent rundown of the 40 weirdest major label albums released in the wake of Nirvana’s epochal Nevermind to be reminded how thoroughly the grunge trio changed the game in the early 1990s. A select few acts had jimmied open the door separating underground rock from the mainstream to varying degrees throughout the previous decade, but Nirvana blew that sucker off its hinges. With “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in omnipresent radio rotation and Aqua Net suddenly on deep discount, the record industry naturally sought to capitalize (and survive) amid this unexpected turn of events and started searching for the next potential from-the-underground success story.

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