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song reviews

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 »

August 20, 2009

The Flaming Lips

Silver Trembling Hands

6

A classic Lips freakout with nods to Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd: screams, harp arpeggios and a bass line that bears down like a speeding trucker while Wayne Coyne sings about a girl who sees scary stuff, except – cue mellow soul-fusion guitar chords – when "she's hiiiii-iiiigh." Like 2009 compressed into 3:59. This story is from the August 20th, 2009 issue of Rolling Stone. | More »

May 14, 2009

Clipse feat. Kanye West

"Kinda Like A Big Deal"

8

This seductive cut finds the world's best coke-rap duo crowing cleverly over DJ Khalil's rumbling beat about diamonds, cars and how "it's a blessing to blow a hundred thou in a recession." Kanye nearly outbrags the Clipse, calling himself "the black Marshall meets Jay." | More »

The Flaming Lips

Borderline

6

Oklahoma's psychedelic-pop giants team up with local pals Stardeath and White Dwarfs for an arresting reinvention of Madonna's Eighties disco-pop classic. They start out by crafting a dubby haze: a minimal electro beat, some toy-box keyboard plinking and Wayne Coyne giving genuine depth to lines like "Stop playing with my heart/Finish what you start" with his high, earnest falsetto. But brace yourself for the chorus, where the song explodes as the crew unleashes dazzling space-rock ... | More »

March 19, 2009

Ciara feat. Justin Timberlake

"Love Sex Magic"

4

Let's hear it for the breakdown! The best part of this techno-funk number is the part where you don't dance: Ciara and JT crooning in silky, intertwined falsettos about "falling in love." The rest of the time, they sound positively bored about this dance-floor hookup – even when Ciara sings, "Show me what's your favorite trick that you want to use on me," she sounds about as sexy as a burlap sack. | More »

March 5, 2009

Justin Timberlake

"Better Not Together"

6

"All the time, I was loving you faithfully/And you took my love/And you turned it around on me" sings Justin Timberlake. The cuckold's revenge ballad is a Timberlake specialty, but this newly leaked track is a lesser effort – it's rumored to be an outtake, and sounds it, rather than a teaser from Timberlake's upcoming album, which is due later this year. The neo-soul-flavored production (lotsa Fender Rhodes) fails to grab the attention; Timberlake's falsetto vocals d... | More »

February 5, 2009

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 »

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

More Song Stories entries »
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