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song reviews

The Roots

"Dear God 2.0"

8

"This moody jam remakes the Monsters of Folk gospel-soul joint, adding fat ?uestlove beats and Black Thought's missive to God: "They said, 'He's busy, hold the line, please.'" Maybe try Twitter? | More »

May 25, 2010

Sara Bareilles

"King of Anything"

6

Like her 2007 hit "Love Song," this single shows off Bareilles' ability to tuck a heartfelt kiss-off into a perky piano-pop tune. Over an arrangement outfitted with hand claps and horns, Bareilles delivers smooth-voiced complaints about an overbearing acquaintance without losing her cool — the closing line, "Let me hold your crown, babe," is as mean as Bareilles gets. For introspective pop, sensitive adults and teenage girls could do a whole lot worse. | More »

The Gaslight Anthem

"The Boxer"

7

New Jersey's most buzzed-over young band drops a focused blast about a downtrodden creative type who finds "bandages inside the pen and the stitches on the radio." A hint of what's to come on Gaslight's upcoming American Slang, "Boxer" is one of the band's most immediately likable tunes yet: scrappy, catchy and hyperpassionate. | More »

M.I.A.

"XXXO"

7

With its ultraviolent video and synth-punk harshness, the Sri Lankan antidiva's most recent offering, "Born Free," suggested that her forthcoming third disc might be aimed at only her fringiest fans. So it's a big relief that the album's first official single is a frisky slice of dance heaven, with M.I.A. setting aside radical chic for a fiendishly sexy disco jam. Over sinewy and atmospheric future-techno throb from Baltimore producer Blaqstarr, M.I.A. drops uncharacteristicall... | More »

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

"I Should Have Known It"

7

Petty wasn't kidding about bringing a bluesier sound to Mojo, his new album (and 12th with the Heartbreakers). The CD's first single kicks off with a caustic riff that ZZ Top would love to have written, and Petty adopts a nasty sneer as he kicks aside a two-timing lover. The slow-boiling rage makes this one of his best bad-love songs, and when he declares, "It's the last time you're gonna hurt me," you know the man is hellbent serious. | More »

The Chemical Brothers

"Swoon"

7

Beloved British rave stalwarts rock the melancholy with indecipherable vocals and an awesomely squishy, spangled, descending-tone sample that hits your gut like cresting a roller coaster. A tune that definitely lives up to its title, for a world that needs to spend some time in the chill-out room. | More »

May 12, 2010

N.E.R.D. feat. Nelly Furtado

"Hot N' Fun"

5

The slinky dance cut rocks a fat, minimalist Eighties funk groove à la Liquid Liquid's "Cavern," with Ms. Nelly on the ephemeral hook. "We wrote this for a purpose," begins Pharrell. "Get high, get money, get sex, get real!" Duly noted. | More »

Eminem

"Not Afraid"

6

"Let's be honest, that last Relapse CD was eh," Eminem admits on "Not Afraid," his therapeutic new single. Even a sicko like Slim Shady couldn't stomach another humorless disc of Lindsay Lohan decapitation fantasies, so he scrapped Relapse II to bring us Recovery, the apparently more introspective disc that's due this summer. "Not Afraid" reflects the new MO: It's part "fuck tha world" rage rap and part rehab-session group hug, complete with lyrics about kicking drugs and ... | More »

Britney Spears

"Telephone"

7

Before Lady Gaga conquered the Fame Monster, she was a songwriter who pitched 'Telephone' to Britney Spears. This Auto-Tuned Britney demo is more bare-bones, but it holds up against Gaga's version anyway. Even before its authenticity was confirmed, any seasoned Britneyologist could tell it was our girl singing, with her distinctive vocal tics and barely repressed rage. | More »

How To Destroy Angels

"A Drowning"

5

The first single from Trent Reznor's new project (his wife, Mariqueen Maandig, is on vocals) is a seven-minute slow-burner decked out with squealing horns and whispered lyrics about slipping off into oblivion. Creepy? A little. But it's also too sleepy. | More »

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Song Stories

“Money For Nothing”

Dire Straits | 1984

Mark Knopfler wrote this song with Sting, and it wasn’t without controversy. The Dire Straits frontman's original lyric used the word “faggot” to describe a singer who got their “money for nothing and their chicks for free.” Even though the slur was edited out in many versions, the band, and Knopfler, still took plenty of criticism for the term. “I got an objection from the editor of a gay newspaper in London--he actually said it was below the belt,” Knopfler told Rolling Stone. Still, "Money For Nothing," undoubtedly augmented by its innovative early computer-animated video, stayed at Number One for three weeks.

More Song Stories entries »
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