Coldplay was pretty happy with 2011’s Mylo Xyloto, an album that for all intensive purposes served as an expansion pack to the far-superior stylistic reset they did with 2008’s Viva La Vida, turning piano recitals into multi-colored, heavily textured new sounds that still kept their warm pop aesthetic right in the forefront. Although Mylo produced hits, none of ‘em were as big as Viva‘s world conquering epics, and despite selling out arenas, the hushed critical response to Chris Martin’s wildly-varying lyric quality no doubt wore on the band.
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I remember February of 2012 very well, thanks to two seemingly unrelated songs. Though I didn’t know it at the time, these songs were signs of big things to come. Big, groovy things to come. Or, to be more specific, come back.
The first song was “Share My Love”, by R. Kelly. The song, melodically, lyrically, and sonically, could have easily been mistaken for a 1974 Barry White song if it weren’t for Kellz’s distinctive tenor. It’s disco through-and-through. But after 2010’s Love Letter, an album dedicated to recreating Motown and early soul music, this dip into ‘70s disco from R. Kelly wasn’t too surprising. The album which followed, Write Me Back, continued the disco of “Share My Love” and also included ‘70s soul and rock ‘n’ roll elements, but surely this was a novelty. It was R. Kelly making a ‘70s record, mostly because he could. It wasn’t a call to arms for every pop, R&B, and indie artist to start making disco, was it?
It’s not news that Arctic Monkeys have gone through a great metamorphosis since their boom in the UK music scene back in 2005. When they released Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not—a title that reflected adolescence’s rebelliousness—they seemed to be young boys just like any of us. With their ordinary clothes and electrifying riffs, nobody would have expected that they would someday become real rock stars.
Oh it’s a catfight, ladies and gents.
Much like Blur vs. Oasis, Kanye vs. 50 Cent, and Justin Bieber vs. common sense, the media is more than ready to hype up a battle of the pop divas, as Katy Perry’s remarkably hackneyed sing-by-numbers anthem “Roar” was unleashed to radio just days before Lady Gaga decided to debut “Applause”, both of them lead singles from their hugely anticipated albums.
I stood in the aisle at One Stop News for quite some time before I decided to purchase the 1 August 2013 edition of Rolling Stone, the issue with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (“Jahar”) on the cover. Though I spent most of my teenage years in a small, weathered mill town outside of Worcester, Massachusetts, I readily identify as a Bostonian. My father grew up in South Boston; my mother grew up in Jamaica Plain. I was born in Quincy (“Qwinzee”) Hospital and spent the first few years of my life traveling back and forth to various family houses all over the South Shore.
Back in the early 2000s, I bandited the Boston Marathon, running a respectable, if totally unofficial, time for my first marathon. On that day, my future wife waited for me mere feet away from the finish line.
Over the past decade, my wife has become quite the runner herself. She has been lucky enough to complete several marathons (I always seem to get injured beforehand). As a result, I have spent many, many mornings waiting at finish lines for her. My wife consistently runs her marathons broadly between 4:20:00 and 4:50:00. Had she been running the 2013 Boston Marathon, I would have been waiting for her, most likely at the finish line, most likely when the bombs went off. That was, and remains, a chilling thought.
So, petulant as it might sound, this Rolling Stone cover felt personal to me. And I took it personally.