Joey Bada$$'s breathless, mind-boggling '90s fetishization — the kid was born halfway through the decade — rolls on. I mean, I don't know for a fact, but I'm pretty sure the last person to have said the phrase "word is bond" had just unironically purchased limited-edition Brand Nubian vinyl and was wearing an upside-down/backward Puma visor.
Liam Hemsworth & January Jones: Miley Cyrus's fiancé was spotted leaving a pre-Oscars party at the Chateau Marmont with January Jones. Betty Draper Francis! "Liam got January's coat and helped her put it on, then they headed outside. They made sure to leave a few seconds apart, so they wouldn't attract too much attention. Then they jumped into a waiting car and took off." But, of course, paparazzi caught them. Miley went to Elton John's party the next night and was "all over the place." She was spotted at fashion week in New York "flirting with every guy and girl in sight. Especially the models!" The couple haven't been spotted together in a week. "January, meanwhile, has a reputation for romancing unavailable men." OOH, THEY WENT THERE. "In addition to high-profile exes Ashton Kutcher, Josh Groban and Jason Sudeikis, she has reportedly been linked to married celebrity chef Bobby Flay and supermodel Claudia Sciffer's [sic] husband, producer Matthew Vaughn." But apparently it's not January's fault, because "Miley is not the girl Liam fell in love with. She's turned into an embarrassment." Because she cut her hair short? Pfffffttttt.
Jordan Roseman, a.k.a. DJ Earworm, posted his first mash-up of Billboard's Top 25 songs on YouTube in 2007, in what was at the time a one-off experiment to see how many songs he could fit together in one track. Five years later, his annual "United State of Pop" mix is a year-end viral staple, with millions of viewers checking in to see the year in pop music reflected through his dense, hyperactive musical lens. Each mix becomes its own song, a barometer of the national mood, and a pop-culture time capsule as narrated by the likes of Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, and Bruno Mars.
This weekend Earworm premiered his 2012 mash-up, "Shine Brighter" (embed at bottom). I spoke to him on the phone from his studio in San Francisco in mid-November, when he was still hard at work bringing it all together.
It's Ke$ha week here at Grantland, as it should be everywhere in America: Her new album, Warrior, has dropped to remarkably — and 100 percent accurate! — positive reviews, and her big single "Die Young" is knocking on the door of official Biggest Song Right Now status. (Only Rihanna's "Diamonds" stands between it and the top spot on the Hot 100. Ke$ha, have you considered integrating more #TeamBreezy into your Instagram presence?) So, just to briefly summarize the review pool through line: Used to be you could get whole roomfuls of people riled up by defending the lilting lyricism of Ke$ha (ahem, "rat a tat tat on your dumb dumb drum / the beat so fat gonna make me come over to your place"), but now "loving Ke$ha unabashedly" is the new "hating Ke$ha with great force," and so if you want to be an effective contrarian/troll/spoilsport in all matters Ke$ha you're gonna to have to tell people how you only like it when Ke$ha's rapping. ANYWAY: "Die Young." Produced by the magically prolific mentor/protégé team Dr. Luke and Benny Blanco, and co-written by fun.'s Nate Ruess and mf'ing Kesha Sebert herself, it's a gleeful trumpeting of the party line. As in: party. Party like your death is imminent, but not of a terminal illness that would inhibit your party abilities. Matter of fact, you know what? Why don't you just go ahead and party so hard that you die prematurely.
On their brilliant 2008 debut Antidotes, Brit whiz kids Foals went all breathless math rock, smashing through a jumble of jerky riffs as fast as possible, as if at any minute they were gonna get called down for dinner. In 2010 they came back with Total Life Forever and blew enough spacey epicness into their jams that they ended up in an Entourage commercial. Now, with third album Holy Fire, front man Yannis Phillippakis explains, they're going Curtis Mayfield: "[O]nce the four-to-the-floor, hi-hat indie disco stuff's dead and buried with a chain of garlic around its neck, that feels like a really fertile place to go."
It's historically been hard to warm up to a slow Rihanna song, and that's equal parts due to the natural quality of her vocals, the persona she's carved for herself as a pop star, and, unfortunately, what we know about Rihanna the person. She's long overdue for a meaningful ballad, and her most recent attempts haven't held a candle to her more EDM-influenced material, but even as I write that I feel like a mom imploring her kids to eat their vegetables, which is weird. The towering ballad should be a staple in any pop diva's catalog, but meandering, laggy lowlights like 2010's "California King Bed" made me think that Rihanna might be an exception to that rule. The past year has seen a steady stream of sweat-drenched dance hits that were so much fun it felt objectively incorrect to say that anything was missing.
For today's edition of Songs of the Week, we turn to L.A. punk rockers (and past SOTW honorees) FIDLAR. Their name stands for "Fuck It, Dog, Life's a Risk," they write perfect, two-minute bangers about drinking and smoking, and they have some very well-developed opinions about Taylor Swift. Take it away, FIDLAR drummer Max Kuehn and bassist Brandon Schwartzel:
So apparently Yasiin Bey (a.k.a. the artist formerly known as Mos Def) has started series called Top 40 Underdog, in which he’ll drop his particular spin on the hits of the day. With “Niggas In Paris,” Bey doesn’t quite tack new verses over the steamrolling Hit Boy beat, choosing instead to riff earnestly off his buds Jay-Z and Kanye’s original lyrics: “What's fifty grand to a young nigga like me? More than my annual salary.” Hopefully he does LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It” next!
Last year, when Sleigh Bells dropped their debut, Treats, the twin cannon blasts of Derek Miller’s crush riffs and Alexis Krauss’s banshee shrieks took a shovel to everyone right in the face. This new single, off the upcoming follow-up Reign Of Terror, is plenty massive, but with a brand new softer edge. So, maybe it’s like a shovel to the face, but if they then go get the bag of frozen peas to put over your eye after?
Homeboy Sandman, “New York Nights”
The Queens MC – who got his undergrad at UPenn, and later dropped out of law school to focus on rapping – has just signed with the impeccably versatile Stones Throw, and this is the first track off his new EP for the label, out in January. At one point on this, he boasts about seeing five movies in the theater in one day, but only paying for one, a matinee. So, yeah, it’s pretty awesome.
Reviewing Kelly Clarkson’s new album, Stronger, out this week, the New York Times writes, “More than half the songs here cover similar ground, including ‘I Forgive You,’ the intro of which is basically a 'Since U Been Gone' cover; this happens on all of Ms. Clarkson’s albums, though — the shadow of that song, one of the pop highlights of the last decade, is too long to dodge completely.” That is very true! Since “Since U Been Gone” dropped in 2004 to worldwide, unanimous approval and joy, it’s been copied repeatedly, by Clarkson herself, the track’s producers, Dr. Luke and Max Martin, and plenty of third parties. Being that all anyone really wants from Kelly — or from anyone, really — is another “Since U Been Gone,” that’s completely understandable. Anyway, after a long night scrolling through our Zune, here are a few tracks that sort of sound (at least for stretches), like Clarkson's classic.