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song reviews

Nine Inch Nails

"Discipline"

8

Trent Reznor's emancipation from his label has not only made him more prolific but also helped him recapture The Downward Spiral's balance of melody and darkness. This latest stealth release is a classic NIN jam, with danceable backbeats, churning bass groans and Reznor's tortured singing. At the climax, Reznor bellows, "Once I start, I cannot stop myself" – if that's true, it should be a good year for death disco. | More »

April 3, 2008

Madonna feat. Timbaland and Justin Timberlake

"4 Minutes to Save the World"

6

Madonna has taken on many identities during her career, but "hook girl" has never made her résumé – until now. With Timbaland's thick, clanging beat in command of the first single from the forthcoming Hard Candy, her vocal competes with a blaring marching-band horn rift as she trades lines with the song's co-writer, Justin Timberlake. The track's urgent urban thump never hits a peak, but it's a heater all the same, and it demonstrates Madonna's new... | More »

March 6, 2008

R.E.M.

"Supernatural Superserious"

This brisk bundle of pop-chorus sunshine and fuzz-box fisticuffs from R.E.M.'s forthcoming rock-centric album, Accelerate, was originally called "Disguised" until R.E.M. pal and fan, Coldplay's Chris Martin, working on his record next to where R.E.M. were mixing in London, had a better idea. "He was like, 'That's a great song but a terrible title – you should change it to 'Supernatural Superserious,'" R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe explains. That phrase from t... | More »

November 15, 2007

Justin Timberlake and Beyoncé

"Until the End of Time"

4

This schmaltzy R&B slow jam is a bonus cut from the too-soon deluxe reissue of Timberlake's FutureSex/LoveSounds for a reason. Over third-rate Timbaland synth squiggles and strings, Timberlake comes to an important realization while watching the TV news: He loves to ball the ladies. While the track showcases his and Beyoncé's pipes (she doesn't come in until midway through), things take a weird turn when the two start chanting, "This one's for the lovers. . . . ... | More »

September 6, 2007

Beck

"Timebomb"

6

A soul scream gives way to a sound like an alarm clock and a synthetic stomp in this one-off single. As Beck has been telling us for some time now, things are bad, getting worse. And as he's been doing for some time now, he delivers this news over a mash-up of digital overload and melodic know-how. Good, but Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert do better almost every night. | More »

August 9, 2007

Justin Timberlake

"LoveStoned (Justice Remix)"

7

The French dance-floor duo lay it on thick with staccato disco strings, slap-back synth bass, metal-machine sonics and an in-your-face pulse until the groove rocks both harder and stranger than the original. Now it's worthy of Timberlake's confession, "She's freaky but I like it." This story is from the August 9th, 2007 issue of Rolling Stone. | More »

Kid Rock

So Hott

7

Don't take reports of the new Kid Rock album's purported maturity too seriously: This gloriously idiotic first single kicks off with more than a minute's worth of AC/DC-style rifting before Kid finally sings a first line that even Brian Johnson would reject as too on-the-nose: "You got a body like the devil and you smell like sex." (BTW: Does the devil have a hot body?) The shout-along chorus lands somewhere between Warrant and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the digga-digga-da guitar solo... | More »

May 31, 2007

Bob Dylan

Huck's Tune

7

This sober country waltz from Curtis Hanson's poker-tournament drama, Lucky You, is unlikely to net Dylan another Best Song Oscar. But "Huck's Tune" is a bleak beauty with liquid-mercury drips of steel guitar and at least one knockout lyric passage: "All the merry little elves/Can go hang themselves/My faith is as cold as can be," sung by Dylan in a perfectly crusty, malevolent whisper. | More »

April 19, 2007

Beck

"Chemtrails"

Beck spent over two months in an L.A. studio with producer Danger Mouse, comparing notes on their favorite Sixties psychedelic records while recording Beck's 10th album. What's amazing about its first song is that two hyperdetailed sonic architects have produced such elegantly simple music – on a track that could be Beck's most controversial yet. Taking cues from Syd Barrett-era Floyd, "Chemtrails" starts with electro-raga organ drones. But just when you think it's a... | More »

April 5, 2007

R.E.M.

"#9 Dream"

7

R.E.M.'s first recording with original drummer Bill Berry in eleven years is a cover of an ethereal 1974 John Lennon hit, but it ends up sounding more like an outtake from Life's Rich Pageant: While the drums are restrained on the track – the first single from the Lennon-themed charity comp Instant Karma: The Campaign to Save Darfur – Berry's presence alone seems to have pushed the band back in time, most obviously in Peter Buck's ringing minor chords. Sadly, t... | 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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