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song reviews

Evian Christ

"Salt Carousel"

7

The young U.K. dark-groove producer who lent next-level flavor to Yeezus drops an awesome slice of bass grind. Proof that yesterday's avant-EDM producer can be today's mainstream hip-hop beat hero. | More »

Joanna Gruesome

"Tugboat"

7

The Welsh crew delivers a spot-on cover of Galaxie 500's signature tune. When Alanna McArdle lets out a bloodcurdling scream, she drags nostalgia into now and lays it at your feet, bloodied, beautiful, new again. | More »

Santana feat. Juanes

"La Flaca"

6

The 66-year-old ace teams up with Colombian star Juanes for a song that starts as sumptuous salsa blues before resolving into smoothly elevating crossover rock – with a hot solo, of course. | More »

November 15, 2013

Austin Mahone

"Banga! Banga!"

6

The YouTube pinup is every hypothetical American girl's dream: a cherub in a backward hat, sweet with the slightest hint of edge. "Banga! Banga!" is his best single so far – a primary-color pop rap pinned to a massive chorus that sounds a little Beach Boys. | More »

Broken Bells

"Holding On for Life"

7

The new LP from Danger Mouse and James Mercer of the Shins is called After the Disco, and that's the vibe here. The duo dive into pillow-talk soft rock and Bee Gees harmonies as they spin a soul-sad ode to a hooker who sounds like she walked out of Steely Dan's "Pearl of the Quarter." | More »

David Bowie

"Like a Rocket Man"

8

David Bowie is no stranger to songs about space, drugs or spooky girls – but he tops himself with "Like a Rocket Man." It's one of the great bonus tracks added to the deluxe version of his latest album; it's a slinky guitar shuffle where he quotes Taxi Driver ("I'm God's lonely man") and chases a go-to girl named Little Wendy Cocaine. Finally: Bowie steals his rocketman concept back from Elton John. | More »

Kurt Vile

"Feel My Pain"

7

The indie singer-songwriter's new EP is titled it's a big world out there (and i am scared), and this lovely, Spartan track – just droll fingerpicking, mush-mouthed intimacy and bedroom drum-machine patter – makes Vile's pain cave feel like the International House of Backrubs. | More »

Childish Gambino

"Melrose"

5

Community actor Donald Glover returns as his surprisingly good rap alias, Childish Gambino, for a few minutes of Frank Ocean-ic R&B minimals – falsetto loveman action over last-call jazz piano and a molasses beat. It's luxuriantly vibey psych soul – so vibey it feels more like an intriguing demo than a finished song. | More »

Will.i.am feat. Miley Cyrus, French Montana and Wiz Khalifa

"Feeling Myself"

4

"Now everybody trippin' like they poppin' 'molly'/Up in the club is where you find me," Miley raps over a throbby beat, finding her level as an MC. As hip-hop summits go, it's not exactly Yalta, but as dumpy, decadent inanity goes, it's an undeniable spectacle. | More »

October 31, 2013

Lady Gaga

"Venus"

6

The summit of beauty and love – and Gaga was her name. Her space-disco ode to the planet of sex sounds even more like Madonna than you'd expect, especially "Papa Don't Preach," chanting, "Goddess of love, take me to your leader!" But give Gaga credit for restraint: She waits three whole minutes for the Uranus joke. | More »

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Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

More Song Stories entries »
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