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Music Dump: Rihanna's Pitbull Stopped Frank Ocean's New Jack Swing

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

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A Sorry State: Pop Marketing & Rihanna's Unapologetic by Jude Rogers (The Quietus): The marketing machine behind Rihanna is massive. She sells records, and so the record company expects her to sell more records when new stuff comes out. What gets people paying attention to the likes of Rihanna these days isn't the music; it's seeing her name in the papers, seeing people on the internet discussing her. Page-clicks and controversy is everything. So Rihanna—or her producers—get Chris Brown to duet on a track with her because people will find it controversial and will write articles about it. Whether it's the right thing to do probably never came up; it being the wrong thing to do, in fact, is probably why it was done! Welcome to pop in 2012. What's bizarre about all this, as Katherine St. Asaph points out at Capital New York, is that the music on the album is pretty depressed-sounding - the marketing machine has stopped listening to the music when putting together the promotional push. Maybe it doesn't need to anymore.

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Hanna And Her Sisters by Sasha Frere-Jones (The New Yorker): In a weird way, Bikini Kill, who are basically synonymous with the riot grrl genre, became internationally influential this year; at least, without Bikini Kill, there would be no Pussy Riot. Bikini Kill's frontwoman, Kathleen Hanna, has oodles of charisma, as well as being an expert at simultaneously drawing your attention to her sexuality and mocking the fact that you care. Frere-Jones explains the appeal very well here.

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Ocean-ography by Amy Wallace (GQ): Frank Ocean explains his life to Amy Wallace, from when he first heard Prince as a kid and working at Subway, to writing songs for Justin Bieber and finding kindred spirits in Odd Future, as well as his love of video games. I find it fascinating that he references obscure Billy Joel songs ('Vienna') and is thinking of doing something along the lines of Pink Floyd's The Wall tour when he tours next; he knows his pop history.

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Pitbull's Global Hustle Can't Be Stopped by Simon Vozick-Levinson (Rolling Stone): Pitbull feels that most record companies are unambitious; they mostly attempt to market their music to the USA. He, on the other hand, wants to make party music for the whole world. Vozick-Levinson travels with Pitbull on his tour of South America, and he seems a little more enamoured of Pitbull's life than a reporter for Rolling Stone probably should - this is plenty hagiographic. But it's entertaining nonetheless, even if the idea of Pitbull collaborating with Akon on a song called 'Everybody Fucks' and seemingly taking it somewhat seriously essentially appalls you.

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Santana's Supernatural Was 1999's Most Surprisingly Successful Album by Steven Hyden (The AV Club): Hyden argues that the unlikely success of Supernatural was all down to record company marketing wiz Clive Davis (the man behind Whitney Houston). Albums like Supernatural, where washed up ex-stars (like Santana very much was in 1999) collaborate with more modern folk, mostly don't trouble the charts too much. But what Clive Davis did was effectively relegate Santana to a bit-player on his own album. You didn't have to even care who Santana was to like 'Smooth', but it probably helped if you liked Matchbox 20 (whose Rob Thomas wrote and sung the song). In 1999, quite a lot of people liked Matchbox 20. In fact, Billboard judged 'Smooth' the 2nd biggest selling single of all time. Of course, nowadays, Supernatural sounds incredibly dated, argues Hyden, and Supernatural means that Santana's fans from back in the day are not going to have much fun at a Santana concert these days.

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Ty Segall by Aaron Leitko (Pitchfork): Guitar rock has been done to death, and there's not too many viable ways to do anything new within its parameters. Leitko argues that Segall is doing exactly that; his music is too bubblegum to be stoner rock, too thrashy to be too 60s-retro and too sludgy to be hardcore punk. Fascinatingly, Segall wants to keep some sense of mystique about him; he is anti-TMI, and mostly has a (blank) Facebook page and a (blank) Twitter page so people know that he officially has nothing to say to social media, that the music is what is doing the talking.

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'We Gave R&B A New Lifeline': How Teddy Riley Invented New Jack Swing by Chris Williams (The Atlantic): Even if you don't know what New Jack Swing is, you probably know what it sounds like. It's hard-edged late 1980s-early 1990s R&B music, with hip-hop beats and attitude - think 'Nasty' by Janet Jackson, or 'My Prerogative' by Bobby Brown (or stuff like 'Remember The Time' or 'In The Closet' from Michael Jackson's Dangerous). The producer who more or less invented the genre is Teddy Riley (in fairness, Jimmy Jam & Teddy Lewis also have some claim on the genre). Riley discusses with Chris Williams how his earliest New Jack Swing recordings, with Keith Sweat, came about. 

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10cc: 'It Was A Tragedy We Didn't Stay Together' by Paul Lester (The Guardian): If you only know 10cc from Solid Gold radio playlist staples like 'Things We Do Love' and 'I'm Not In Love', you probably have no idea that 10cc had a unique musical playfulness; they were half Beatles and half Frank Zappa. This was a band, as Lester describes, that had songs about bombs on planes - from the point of view of the bomb. Anyway, Godley and Creme left 10cc at the height of their success in the late 1970s, because Godley and Creme had invented a E-Bow-ish contraption called the Gizmo, and because they wanted to work on a triple album featuring jazz chanteuse Sarah Vaughan and comedian Peter Cook; they clearly felt that 10cc weren't weird enough for them!

Tim Byron

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