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song reviews

Rihanna feat. Drake

"What's My Name"

8

With the second single from the forthcoming Loud, Rihanna has created a perfect little tropical storm: Over dark, humid synths and swirling snare skitters, she's in full-on Caribbean-queen mode, dialing up her islander accent and rolling out a to-do list for any adult male seeking entrance into her chambers: "Hey, boy, I really wanna see if you can go downtown with a girl like me," she sings, kicking off the chorus. Her former fling Drake further steams things up with a little, um, math:... | More »

November 10, 2010

The Go! Team

"T.O.R.N.A.D.O."

7

This U.K. band, known for head-snapping sound collages, returns with a mix of schoolyard chants, turntable scratches and horn blasts. It's deafening and funky — like a drill team strutting into a funnel cloud. Video: Breaking Artist: The Go! Team | More »

November 8, 2010

Robyn

"Indestructible"

7

The Swedish diva drops the first single from Body Talk PT 3, a disco remake of a ballad from PT 2. She sings an uncommonly elegant Europop melody, promising, "I'm gonna love you like I've never been hurt before." Photos: The Hottest Live Photos of the Week | More »

November 3, 2010

Ke$ha

"We R Who We R"

5

This Dr. Luke-produced anthem — about "sick and sexified" kids who wave their freak flags while hitting the clubs — was inspired by a rash of suicides among gay youth. Lady K and human rights are an awkward fit. But she gets credit for doing empowerment her way, even if the song (from an upcoming EP) suggests "I Will Survive" by way of Girls Gone Wild. Photos: Ke$ha's Rock & Roll Party: Backstage and Behind the scenes With Pop's Wildest New Star | More »

November 1, 2010

Band of Horses

"Georgia"

7

Months after Cee Lo covered their slow-burn gem "No One's Gonna Love You," Band of Horses step out of their bearded comfort zone with a charged-up version of the Lady Killer's homage to his home state. It's an indie-rock pep rally — backed by the University of Georgia marching band, no less. Random Notes: Bon Jovi, Prince, Bruce Springsteen | More »

October 29, 2010

Elvis Costello

"National Ransom"

7

Wall Street deserves abuse in all forms, and on the title track from his upcoming T Bone Burnett-produced album, Costello delivers a punk-blues indictment of Goldman Sachs culture. "National Ransom" mixes rootsy stomp with squealing guitars, as Costello invokes the 1929 stock-market crash, rails against financial "hocus-pocus" and ends with a dire summation of the way we live now: "We're working every day, paying off the national ransom." The result is a fie... | More »

October 27, 2010

Taylor Swift

"Speak Now"

8

Taylor repurposes the "she wears short skirts" melody from "You Belong With Me" in order to bust up a wedding, Graduate-style. But freeing the man of her dreams from bad-marriage hell is almost an afterthought on "Speak Now"; the real fun is listening to her unload her simile nail gun at the disgustingly perfect bride-to-be — a mean girl who "floats down the aisle like a pageant queen" in a "gown shaped like a pastry." And all of it comes off catchy as heck and cute as a button. The gir... | More »

October 25, 2010

Kanye West feat. Bon Iver and Gil Scott-Heron

"Lost in the World"

8

The latest leak from Camp Kanye is less a song than an inspired chunk of Nineties-style DJ mixology. It begins with Bon Iver — the Wisconsin-bred folkie who collaborated on nine songs for West's upcoming album — singing a revamped version of "Woods," his haunting, Auto-Tuned meditation from 2009. Vocal rounds swell into a gospel chorus, fat 4/4 drums kick on, and there's Kanye pledging, "If we die in each other's arms/Still get laid in the afterlife." (Trés r... | More »

October 22, 2010

Bright Eyes

"Coyote Song"

7

A benefit single for the victims of Arizona's immigration laws, this protest song (about a lover stuck in Mexico) is as pretty as it is angry. Bright Eyes: King of Indie Rock | More »

October 20, 2010

John Legend

"Wake Up"

6

Legend and the Roots recorded Arcade Fire's anthem for their LP Wake Up!, but it didn't make the cut. This live version suggests why: Legend's vocals miss Win Butler's cracked frailty, and the groove refuses to swing. But it's cool to hear the song becoming a 21st-century standard. Video: The Roots and John Legend on Their Soul LP 'Wake Up' | 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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