profile of TimByron

Music Dump: Nickleback's Kendrick Lamar Hates EDM's Mumford and Sons

A recurring weekly feature where we look at some of the most interesting music articles from across the web.

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Genius: The Nickelback Story by Ben Paynter (BloombergBusinessweek): Nickelback are geniuses. Geniuses! Or so says Ben Paynter. Note what magazine he works for - it's not Pitchfork, it's Businessweek. What he's saying is that Nickelback's Chad Kroeger is a business genius. And well, Chad Kroeger does partly own the record company Carly Rae Jepsen is on. Remember: every time someone buys 'Call Me Maybe' on iTunes, a proportion of that money is going towards Chad Kroeger's wallet, presumably to be spent on trinkets for women he'll then dump and write angry songs about. 

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Making Cents by Damon Krukowski (Pitchfork): Which do you think would make a band more money? Being played more than 7000 times on an internet streaming music service in 2012? Or selling one seven inch single in 1988? That's right, selling one seven inch single in 1988 would have made you more money. Which is ultimately unsustainable for musicians. The sad thing is that Spotify isn't even making a profit despite screwing musicians royally. Also Maura Johnston has some words for you if you think that this doesn't matter, that bands can just make money touring instead.

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Kendrick Lamar And The Post-Hip-Hop Generation by Jeff Chang (BuzzFeed): Kendrick Lamar is the big new sensation in hip-hop. But Lamar is not hip-hop, argues Chang. Chang should know; he wrote the book on hip-hop (quite literally - it's called Can't Stop Won't Stop and it's authoritative enough to be used as a university textbook). Instead, Jeff Chang argues that Kendrick Lamar is post-hip-hop. Lamar may be straight outta Compton, but Compton ain't what it used to be - it's majority Latino now. And Lamar's music reflects this - it's steeped in hip-hop, but it's something else, too self-aware and angsty to keep on 'keeping it real', too aware that 'keeping it real' is pretty fake.

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Future Of The Left’s Andrew Falkous hates on Mr. Big’s monster ballad “To Be With You” by Josh Modell (The AV Club): Andy Falkous is frontman of the band Future of the Left, based in Wales. As befits his band's caustic music, Falkous' lyrics are cynical, smart and very frequently hilarious. He has a way with words. (He once told this publication: "But you know, exactly what is the role of a modern man is something that interests me. The way that certain women I’ve known in my life, they expect men to be on one hand a protective bear that can take on a room full of people with a snooker cue when required, then at the next moment cry at the end of Karate Kid 2.") So it's no surprise that when called upon to riff about his most hated song, the results are wonderful: "I was willing to forgo a potential sexual liaison and drinks with my teenage friends in order to never hear this banal collection of fuck-fluff again."

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The Expert's Ear: Expertise And Aesthetic Judgements by Ben McNerney (Big Think): Music critics suck. I mean, think of all the awesome records they give bad reviews to! Stupid Pitchfork, etc. If this is you, well, I wouldn't say you're wrong, but you're missing some of the story. What music critics can be really good at is putting a record in context. Any music critic worth their salt knows music fairly intimately. They know who wrote songs for Motown, which Led Zeppelin albums were released in which order (I mean, sure, the first four are easy, but after that...), who played drums on Songs For The Deaf, etc etc. And all this knowing helps them put music into context. The musicians who make the music are trying to do certain things - this track might be a Queen pastiche, that track might be trying to echo the Fleet Foxes - and most of the time a good critic should be able to pick what that is and interpret the music within that context.

Of course, sometimes bands create new contexts; if you were trying to judge Sgt Peppers in the context of Merseybeat, you'd probably think it wasn't very good (where's the simple straightforward love songs?). And if critics seem to miss the boat, it might be because your interpretation of the music is either context-less or that you're examining it from some different context, one where the music makes sense. The critic's POV isn't necessarily correct, mind you, but it's informed. Or at least, should be.

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Mumford & Sons And The Birth Of Festivalcore by David Greenwald (Uncool): Greenwald argues that Mumford & Sons are one of the prime exponents of festivalcore. What's festivalcore? Take rootsy folk music and turn it into the kind of music that sounds good at a festival. I mean, music played outdoors over big speakers in order to appeal to a crowd has limitations. It can't be too rhythmically complex or subtle (this gets lost in the mush of sound), and it should have some singalongs and a bunch of energy. And this is pretty much what Mumford & Sons (or the Arcade Fire) do. They're big because they sound good at festivals. And because they have the kind of surface-level cred that makes people overlook the fact that they're basically bands with mass-market appeal. Or so argues Greenwald.

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Dance Dance Revolution by Gideon Lewis-Kraus (GQ): Lewis-Kraus is happy to admit he's a bit of a newbie to EDM, the (retooled) genre that's sweeping America (and the Australian charts, if the current #1 single is any indication), and so it's curious to see his take on the Electric Daisy Carnival, the dance festival in the US that's as big as Coachella now. I liked this passage:

"The only really crucial thing to note here about the music is that the whole thing is about the bass. People who know a lot about electronic music will disagree with me, but knowing a lot about electronic music is, these days, entirely beside the point. The progression of a house track, and one plausible reason for house's ascendancy, goes like this: There's some twinkly pirouetting melody in the higher registers, then some bass for a while, and then the introduction of a soaring, optimistic vocal track about saving the world or, for the slightly less ambitious, having a feeling re tonight's bestness, then the simultaneous near-crescendo of the twinkles and the all-out vocal redemption, and then, right at the moment of presumed climax, the bass goes away for a few beats, everybody misses the bass so much and can't wait for it to come back, maybe the snare reintroduces itself after a few seconds to remind you to get excited for the prodigal bass's triumphal homecoming, a good DJ takes just longer than expected to bring the bass back, 20,000 or 50,000 hearts stop as one, lever arms hanging anxiously in midair, and then, when the bass kicks back in, the crowd goes out of their motherfucking minds, just like they did the time the bass disappeared and came back four minutes ago, pumping their right arms in genuinely exhilarated unison, survivors all of the briefly yet catastrophically lost bass."

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The End Of Jazz by Benjamin Schwarz (The Atlantic): Jazz has obviously been pretty much dead for a while. At least in the public's mind. I mean, there was a time when John Coltrane could have a hit single. That time is passed. Why has it passed? Schwarz argues that the problem for jazz is the Great American Songbook. Before rock and roll became the music of the people, the Great American Songbook was where it was at. This was the catalog of songs by the likes of Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Lorenz & Hart - stuff like 'Embraceable You', 'Summertime' and 'My Funny Valentine'. And what jazz did, for a long time, was to take these songs, and screw with them. It was the dubstep remix or mashup of its time, music that would only make sense if you knew the music it was working from.

But since the Great American Songbook became a memory rather than music everyone knew, jazz died. I mean, sure, there are jazz dudes like Brad Mehldau who take modern pop songs and jazz them up, improvising around the original melody (see Mehldau take on 'Teardrop' by Massive Attack), but Mehldau's more of an exception than he should be. The world has moved on, but jazz people still love that Great American Songbook. I mean, it is pretty great, sure.. But it's dead.

Tim Byron

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