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song reviews

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 »

November 22, 2010

Duffy

"Endlessly"

6

The Welsh singer carries a lover's torch on the title track from her second album, sighing sweetly over spare acoustic guitars and suggesting early-Sixties soul at its warmest.  | More »

November 19, 2010

The Decemberists

"Down by the Water"

7

Surprise! This isn't an 18-minute prog epic. Instead, it's a tight folk rocker from the Decemberists' forthcoming album, The King Is Dead. R.E.M.'s Peter Buck adds signature guitar chime, Gillian Welch contributes powerhouse backing vocals, and there's also a badass harmonica-accordion duel. It's not entirely clear what frontman Colin Meloy is going on about, but his imagery is evocative. About this "lash-flashing Leda of Pier 19," sir, we would like to hear more. | More »

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Song Stories

“Madame George”

Van Morrison | 1968

One of the first stream-of-consciousness epics to make it onto a Van Morrison record, his drawn-out farewell to the eccentric "Madame George" lasted nearly 10 minutes, combining ingredients from folk, jazz and classical music. The character that gave the song its title provoked speculation that it was about a drag queen, though Morrison denied this in Rolling Stone. "If you see it as a male or a female or whatever, it's your trip," he remarked. "I see it as a ... a Swiss cheese sandwich. Something like that."

More Song Stories entries »
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