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song reviews

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 »

May 15, 2008

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 »

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Song Stories

“Nightshift”

The Commodores | 1984

The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

More Song Stories entries »
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