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song reviews

Ludacris

"Sexting"

5

On this Tiger Woods-skewering track, Ludacris plays a helpless, frantic sex addict, rhyming about "sitting in this rehab class / trying to get myself unhooked on ass" over simple, percolating drums. It's the rap equivalent of a late-night monologue joke: good for a laugh, but nothing you‚ll keep coming back to. | More »

March 18, 2010

Timbaland feat. Justin Timberlake

"Carry Out"

4

"Carry Out" was forgivable as filler on Timbaland's Shock Value II, but as a single, it's an unwelcome sign of how Timbo and Justin Timberlake aren't the future-pop duo they once were. The quasi-Eastern trills sound familiar, and the weak sex-as-fast-food metaphors don't get any traction: Timbaland wants you "open all night like you're IHOP," and Justin wonders, "Is it full of myself to want you full o' me?" This spot needs new management. | More »

February 18, 2010

Radiohead

"Lotus Flower"

7

Thom Yorke has unfurled this haunted Buddhist-tinged ballad at solo gigs lately, but the version from Radiohead's Haiti benefit show at the Fonda in Los Angeles on January 24th may be the best yet. It's simply a Gibson hollow-body guitar, Yorke's quivering falsetto and an oblique theme of addiction to something (drugs? sex?) he doesn't sound like he wants to give up. "While the cat is away/Do what we want," he suggests to a co-conspirator. "Dance around a pit/The darkness ... | More »

Taylor Swift

Today Was A Fairytale

7

Fairy tales, princes, damsels in distress — yep, it's a Taylor Swift song. Her costume-drama vision of romance may get old someday. But for now, her tunes are so shapely that you hardly notice. Her latest, from the Valentine's Day soundtrack, is more or less a song-length hook bolstered by muscular guitars and a big, arcing chorus. And Swift remains a great lyricist, filling the story with touching details, like when she sings, "You told me I was pretty when I looked like a me... | More »

February 4, 2010

Jimi Hendrix

"Valleys of Neptune"

8

"Lord, I feel the ocean swaying me/ Washing away all my pain," Jimi Hendrix sings at the start of this magnificent discovery. The title track of a new album of previously unreleased Hendrix studio recordings, "Valleys of Neptune" was important to the guitarist, a heavy-rock hymn to rebirth that he worked on at multiple sessions starting in February 1969, yet never finished, at least to his satisfaction, before his death. But this version is perfection, cut on May 15th, 1970, with drummer Mitc... | More »

January 21, 2010

Beck feat. Feist

"Weighted Down"

6

Beck's ever-changing covers band continues on its Skip Spence project with this slow-as-molasses song from the Moby Grape frontman's 1969 solo album, Oar. Beck adds light funk and makes the chorus a group singalong, but between the depressed lyrics and Feist's smoky murmur, Spence's pain shines through. | More »

December 10, 2009

Beck

"Little Hands"

7

Ten years ago, Beck paid his first respects to Oar – the 1969 solo album by Moby Grape singer-guitarist Alexander "Skip" Spence – by covering "Halo of Gold" on the tribute compilation, More Oar. This version of "Little Hands," Oar's opening happiness prayer, is the first installment of Beck's remake of the entire LP, with guests Wilco and Feist, for his online Record Club. Beck's vocal is an eerie double of Spence's jaunty-ghost delivery, and the arrangement st... | More »

November 12, 2009

Rihanna

"Russian Roulette"

5

This harrowing glimpse into the mind of an abused woman will stifle all snickers. Over a constricted electro-R&B pulse, Rihanna abandons all hope: "It's too late to think of the value of my life." A single gunshot follows. | More »

October 29, 2009

Beck

"Winter Lady"

6

After covering the Velvet Underground and Nico for his "Record Club," dude takes on Leonard Cohen with help from Devendra Banhart and the guys from MGMT, Little Joy and Wolfmother. It's a predictably ramshackle project, but this tender, ramblin' girl come-on is some impressive slacker overachieving. | More »

Lady Gaga

Bad Romance

4

Gaga's new tune — a snippet of which she recently debuted on SNL — isn't up to the star's trashy-chic standards: The booming beat feels oppressive, the wordless hook is a little annoying, and on the chorus- "I want your lovin', I want your revenge" — Gaga's emoting takes her into bad-Cher territory. | More »

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Song Stories

“Stillness Is the Move”

Dirty Projectors | 2009

A Wim Wenders film and a rapper inspired the Dirty Projectors duo David Longstreth and Amber Coffmanto write "sort of a love song." "We rented the movie Wings of Desire from Dave's brother's recommendation, and he had me go through it and just write down some things that I found interesting, and they made it into the song," Coffman said. As for the hip-hop connection, Longstreth explained, "The beat is based on T-Pain. We commissioned a radio mix of the song by the guy who mixes all of Timbaland's records, but the mix we made sounded way better, so we didn't use it."

More Song Stories entries »
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