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song reviews

J. Cole

"Who Dat"

7

North Carolina rapper/producer J. Cole is Jay-Z's first signing to his new Roc Nation imprint. Though Jigga sees Cole as rap's future, his debut single is lodged in the recent past. "Who Dat" echoes the timeless flamethrowing of early-2000s Roc-A-Fella tracks like Freeway's "What We Do" or Memphis Bleek's "My Mind Right": repetitive head-knocking beat, chopped-up soul-sample stammer, and no one bothering to croon a chorus. Hov himself says it reminded him of Biggie's ... | More »

Arcade Fire

"Ready to Start"

8

Relentless snare thwaps; a bass-line melody that would fit in an Eighties goth-pop tune. Enter Win Butler: "The businessmen drink my blood/Like the kids in art school said they would," Butler croons. (Damn you, art-school kids: always right!) But then Butler sings, "You say, 'Can we still be friends?' " and a postgrad panic attack is twined with sweet heartache while synths conjure a time-bomb ticking. It's a glass-half-full take on dissatisfaction and the catchiest trac... | More »

Jenny and Johnny

"Scissor Runner"

7

Real-life lovebirds Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice have been lurking in the background of one another's records since Lewis's 2006 album Rabbit Fur Coat, but the brisk and breezy "Scissor Runner" marks their first front and center collabo. And what's it about? Love, of course — but not the entirely healthy kind. Over bright, bounding, summery guitars, Rice sings, "She's an artist/ painting a portrait all over my heart" to which Lewis responds: "Colors bleeding/ so deceiv... | More »

Jay-Z feat. Swizz Beatz

"Ultra"

6

'Fuck the DA, the mayor know me,' Jay raps on this new mixtape track. 'Ultra' works the space between Roc Boy and society man, name-dropping Cosa Nostra and Obama over Swizz Beatz's police whistle and grinding static. | More »

Enrique Iglesias Feat. Pitbull

"I Like It"

7

Enrique is back with his most danceable fiesta since "Bailamos" swept the States more than a decade ago. Rather than getting his samba on, he's scouting for some forbidden nookie with a babe he can't keep his hands off of ­ while his girl's out of town. "No one can know the things I'm gonna wanna do to you," he swoons. And Pitbull gives us insight into his bedroom: "Tiger Woods times Jesse James equals Pitbull all night long." Cheating never sounded so fun! | More »

Prince

"Hot Summer"

5

A one-off jam Prince put out in celebration of his 52nd birthday, this vaguely beach-rock tune rides chirpy organ riffs and a bright melody that feels kind of kitschy. It would be great in an ad for a local water park, though. | More »

Seu Jorje

"Everybody Loves the Sunshine"

8

The Brazilian singer with the killer Bowie covers (see The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou) wraps his chocolate baritone around this blissed-out '76 Roy Ayers jam while Beastie Boys producer Mario Caldato Jr. makes the vintage synths sizzle like summer cicadas. More, please. | More »

Eddie Vedder

"Better Days"

7

This spare slow-burner had Pearl Jam scholars wondering whether it was a Riot Act or Backspacer outtake. Turns out it's Vedder's contribution to the Eat Pray Love soundtrack, though it would have been a quiet standout on any recent PJ album. | More »

The Situation

"The Situation"

4

And you thought Pauly D would be the first Jersey Shore star to rap. Sorry, Pauly — the Situation pulled the robbery! Sitch raps with DJ Class, Fatman Scoop and the Disco Fries, complete with the party chant "Whoa, we got a Situation." It probably sounds fine when you're beating the floor at Bamboo in your "I Heart House Music" t-shirt — especially after a jug of Ron Ron Juice. | More »

June 28, 2010

Drake feat. Jay-Z and Lil Wayne

"Light Up (Rikers Remix)"

7

A song about how hard it is to keep the world partying when you feel like dying inside, 'Light Up' was already one of the more poignant tracks on Drake's Thank Me Later. Jay-Z's cameo was note-perfect ('I'm not as cool with niggas as I once was'). But this remix cranks the pathos to 11 with a verse from Lil Wayne — delivered over the phone from freakin' Rikers Island. (Is this how he used his one phone call? Talk about true to the game!) Reception in ... | More »

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

More Song Stories entries »
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