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song reviews

Paul Simon

"Getting Ready for Christmas Day"

8

"Got a nephew in Iraq/It's his third time back," sings Paul Simon, pondering the fate of a relative spending Christmas abroad. "Jingle Bells" this ain't. The first taste of his forthcoming LP is built around a 1941 sample of the Rev. J.M. Gates (from the gospel comp Goodbye, Babylon), and the end result recalls Simon's golden era, all warm tunefulness cut with mischief. "I may be layin' in some lonesome grave," laments the Reverend. Then Simon's sunny chorus chases th... | More »

December 10, 2010

Panda Bear

"Last Night at the Jetty"

7

The Animal Collective crooner evokes the sound of a woozy man stringing together bits of doo-wop at the bottom of a well, backed by wobbly synth, hand claps and the odd shriek. We'll have what he's having! | More »

December 8, 2010

Das Racist

"I'm Up on That"

7

These baked Brooklyn MCs got sophisticated since they stumbled into that Pizza Hut-Taco Bell: Moving into jazz rap, they spit witty rhymes — "Every Thanksgivin'/I'm killin'/A pilgrim" — while name-checking the D.C. sniper and Harry Nilsson. | More »

December 6, 2010

Pink

"Whataya Want From Me"

6

Pink's original recording of the hit she co-wrote for Adam Lambert reveals that Lambert's producers more or less replaced her voice with his. Lambert's desperation gives him the edge, but this would have fit well on any Pink album. | More »

December 3, 2010

Dr. Dre

"Kush"

4

The most amusing thing about the first single from Dre's long-gestating Detox album? Hearing Snoop claim he needs weed for his "cataracts." Otherwise, "Kush" is hookless, forgettable bud love. | More »

December 1, 2010

Michael Jackson

"Hold My Hand"

4

When it first appeared, there was some doubt that this 2007 "collaboration" — circulated in a rough but near-identical version after Michael Jackson's death — really happened. (Members of Jackson's family are among the skeptics.) Musically, the controversy is much ado about little. "Hold My Hand," the lead single from the forthcoming posthumous Michael LP, is a modestly anthemic ­ballad about sticking by loved ones in hard times, with a melody faintly echoing Bob Mar... | More »

November 29, 2010

Adele

Rolling in the Deep

7

With the follow-up to her Grammy-snagging 2008 album looming, this London pop-soul singer made a surprising choice for the disc's first single: "Rolling in the Deep" finds the 22-year-old in bluesy gospel mode, sounding powerful but not particularly pop. Starting with a stroked acoustic guitar, this breakup-mourning track builds to a stomping, hand-clapping climax that affirms the English knack for rejiggering the sound of American roots music. "I can't help feeling we could've... | More »

Quincy Jones

"P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)"

6

This version of the Thriller killer, cut by its producer for his new album, finds T-Pain splashing on the Auto-Tune like cheap cologne while Thicke channels Michael more straightforwardly. This at least beats Justin Guarini’s version from Season One of Idol. | More »

November 26, 2010

Weezer

"Unbreak My Heart"

6

From Weezer's new rarities collection, a cover of Toni Braxton's forlorn 1996 hit. In another band's hands, this might be a joke, but Rivers Cuomo moans the chorus like the words came straight from his diary.  | More »

November 24, 2010

Kanye West

"The Joy"

7

Our first taste of the Kanye-Jay collaboration album (due next year) celebrates some simple pleasures: a dusty Curtis Mayfield sample, a butter-dripping beat, and Jay waxing nostalgic about listening to his mama's shit when he was on his pajama shit. This isn't about conquering the world, just watching it spin. | More »

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Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

More Song Stories entries »
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