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song reviews

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 »

October 18, 2010

Brian Eno

"2 Forms of Anger"

7

This taste of Eno's new album nearly conflates his entire oeuvre: There's ambient drift, murky, data-storm rhythms and art-punk rave-up. Anger from the guru of chill? Bring it on. Photos: The Hottest Live Photos of the Week | More »

October 14, 2010

Steven Tyler

"Love Lives"

6

Tyler recorded his first solo single for Space Battleship Yamato, a Japanese sci-fi film set in 2199. But the song is stuck in 1997: It's a ballad with an orchestral sound so big you can see spaceships explode while lovers em- brace. It's no "Dream On," and it's not quite "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing." Let's hope Tyler saved the rockers for Aerosmith's next LP. Photos: Aerosmith Bring the Hits to Cocked, Locked, Ready to Rock Tour Kickoff | More »

October 12, 2010

U2

"Every Breaking Wave"

8

U2 have made their current European tour a testing ground for new material. The best of the new live songs is "Mercy," cut during the sessions for 2004's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb but not on the album. The band has reworked "Mercy" for the stage, turning it into a big bear hug of a ballad that almost sounds like it could have gone on Joshua Tree. "You're going to kill me, and I want to die," Bono sings against the Edge's spacey arpeggios. &qu... | More »

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Song Stories

“You Oughta Know”

Alanis Morissette | 1995

This blunt, bitter breakup song -- famous for its line "Would she go down on you in a theater?" -- was long rumored to be about Alanis Morissette getting dumped by Full House actor Dave Coulier. But while she never confirmed it was about him (Coulier himself says it is, however), she insisted the song wasn't all about scorn. "By no means is this record just a sexual, angry record," she told Rolling Stone. "The song wasn't written for the sake of revenge. It was written for the sake of release. I'm actually a pretty rational, calm person."

More Song Stories entries »
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