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song reviews

Lady Gaga

"Just Dance"

6

Sorority girls will surely relate to this mindless but addictive club cut, which finds Lady Gaga drunk, dizzy and wondering how her shirt got turned inside out — but powerless to stop dancing. "What's the name of this club?" she asks over a throbbing, siren-backed beat. "I can't remember, but it's all right." | More »

January 22, 2009

T.I. feat. Justin Timberlake

"If I"

6

Fans hoping for another "My Love" should keep waiting: Justin Timberlake plays T.I.'s wingman on this very straightforward Timbaland-produced club cut, which is fueled by a sputtering bass line and T.I.'s freak-nasty come-ons: "Imagine me behind you, drillin'." | More »

December 11, 2008

Justin Timberlake Feat. Esmee Denters

"Follow My Lead"

5

In this benefit single for Shriners Hospitals for Children, Justin Timberlake's protégée Esmee Denters plays Fergie in what sounds like an update to 2003's "Where Is the Love?" Denters' range is impressive, but not very distinctive, and while the music touches on the urban grooves of Timberlake's solo material (check out his pseudo-rap during the bridge), "Follow My Lead" sounds too tossed off for the slick prince of pop. | More »

November 27, 2008

The Flaming Lips

Space Bible With Volume Lumps

6

If Wayne Coyne ever tires of this pop thing, he'll have a future in film scores. This instrumental from Coyne's Christmas on Mars works a spooky organ line with an off-kilter trumpet and women's screams. It's a cinematic head trip, no visuals required — the "Also Sprach Zarathustra" of Coyne's own 2001. This story is from the November 27th, 2008 issue of Rolling Stone. | More »

November 13, 2008

Kanye West

"Coldest Winter"

7

Welcome to the winter of Kanye's discontent. On the first two singles from the upcoming 808s and Heartbreak, West drenched his sorrows in Auto-Tune, but he's more clear-voiced on this ode to his late mother. Injecting the glowing synths of Tears for Fears' "Memories Fade" with gut-punching percussion, he croons, "Will I ever love again?" It's an honest sentiment that's fortunately not deep enough to drown in. | More »

October 16, 2008

Kanye West

"Love Lockdown"

7

Kanye clearly has no business singing, and at first his monotone makes you wonder why he tried. But his vocodered flatlining complements the opening heartbeats, and when his pitch hitches up on "you lose" and "system overload," his loneliness clicks — it feels like techno-pop blues. He tells his girl he's leaving, and eventually his voice does just that. The percussion doubles into a step routine, some noise screeches through, and the heartbeat returns alone. | More »

October 2, 2008

Jay-Z and T.I. feat. Kanye West and Lil Wayne

"Swagga Like Us"

7

This late entry for hip-hop anthem of the summer (slated for T.I.'s new album) comes down to a four-way braggadocio battle – and with a beat this hooky, everybody wins. Still, Kanye West scores the best lines, including the succinct instant classics "My swagger is Mick Jagger" and 'Tm Christopher Columbus, y'all just the Pilgrims." And Jay-Z loses a couple of points for sticking in an overobvious nod to his single "Jockin' Jay-Z." Meanwhile, Lil Wayne's surreal,... | More »

August 21, 2008

Bob Dylan

Dreamin' of You

7

Recently posted online to promote Dylan's new website and forthcoming Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8, this track is the first studio outtake heard by Dylan fans since unused cuts from Oh Mercy surfaced in the Nineties. Originally written for 1997's Time Out of Mind, it provides a rare glimpse into Dylan's songwriting process. Many of the lyrics eventually found their way onto "Standing in the Doorway" with a radically different melody, but this primitive version is ... | More »

Beck

"Vampire Voltage No. 6"

6

At first, it's what you'd expect of a B side: a little rare – just some shabby electric piano and acoustic guitar, spiked with la-la-las. But then it kicks into a low-fi rush of psych metal, magnifying Beck's bummed-out lament about the "vampire voltage in my soul." The octave-fuzz guitar licks are pure Sabbath – if only Danger Mouse had put a spit-shine polish on it. | More »

June 17, 2008

Rihanna

Take A Bow

7

WARNING TO CHRIS BROWN: Do not cheat on Rihanna. On her new Stargate-produced single, she goes bonkers when her boyfriend is unfaithful to her: "Grab your clothes and get gone/You better hurry up before the sprinklers come on." (In the video, the poor guy reaches his clothes only after she has already set them on fire.) Written by Ne-Yo, the ballad has the same sultry, clap-along rhythm of "Hate That I Love You," just with extra rage: "Trying to apologize?" Rihanna taunts. "You're... | More »

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Song Stories

“Bleeding Love”

Leona Lewis | 2007

In 2008, The X Factor winner Leona Lewis backed up her U.K. singing competition victory with an R&B anthem for the ages: "Bleeding Love," an international hit that became the best-selling song of the year. The track was co-penned by OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder (whose radio dominance would continue with songs such as Beyonce's "Halo" and Adele's "Rumour Has It") and solo artist Jesse McCartney, who was inspired by a former girlfriend, Gossip Girl actress Katie Cassidy. Given the song's success, McCartney didn't regret handing over such a personal track: "No, no," he said. "I'm so happy for Leona. She deserves it. There are really no bad feelings."

More Song Stories entries »
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