"You hear it all the time: Rock is dead," David Fricke writes in the new issue of Rolling Stone, on sale at newsstands today. "But the current state of music is the same as it ever was: There is the good and the bad, and there is always plenty of the former, if you're willing to seek it out."
To prove the point, the Rolling Stone staff assembled a rundown of the 40 top reasons to be excited about music right now, starting with our cover stars, the Black Eyed Peas, a group that has perfected the art of global domination thanks to the brilliant maneuvering of philosophical leader Will.i.am. The producer/rapper/friend-of-Bono tells Chris Norris about his theory that music works in circles, not squares (the proof: the success of the 45; the failure of the 8-track), the moment he realized an electro album would be a blockbuster (see: The E.N.D.), and how it's possible to make a whole song a chorus. "Lots of people say, 'Black Eyed Peas shit is simple,' and I'll be like, 'No, fool, it's the most complex shit you even could fathom, that's the reason it works everywhere around the planet," Will.i.am says.
RS also spotlights MGMT (Number 17), who tell Vanessa Grigoriadis about rejecting fame in the wake of their blockbuster Oracular Spectacular and returning to their real psychedelic roots for their new disc Congratulations. Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser also open up about their unique dynamic and their personal struggles after their first disc blew up big: "We needed to figure out how to exist in the real world, but we had no idea how to do it," Goldwasser says. "To have a record deal come along — well, we pretty much convinced ourselves that aliens had done it." Stay tuned for bonus Q&A, only at RollingStone.com.
The countdown also includes supergroup Them Crooked Vultures, Chuck Berry's incredible monthly residency in St. Louis, the returns of the Strokes and T.I., the rise of ridiculously cool gear (like the micro music player), Dr. Luke's awesomely trashy radio hits, badass country singer Jamey Johnson and U2's epic stadium tour. Plus, RS spotlights female pop divas who are ruling the charts from Rihanna and Katy Perry to Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga.
Also in this issue: David Fricke on Thom Yorke's Atoms for Peace show, Justin Bieber Q&A, Rob Sheffield examines The Vampire Diaries, Tim Dickinson on Washington's financial watchdog Elizabeth Warren, and reviews of new discs from Hole, Kate Nash and more.