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Carl Williott's Posts
Album sales have dropped precipitously in the last few years, but the format isn’t dead yet, at least when our biggest stars like Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and Justin Timberlake are concerned. But what about a stretch when most of those stars don’t release an album? In a year when Billboard replaced the album with “album equivalent units,” the biggest storyline in pop music was the absence of albums from the likes of Rihanna, Adele, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne. Think back to the buzziest pop moments of the year, and most of them were entirely separate from the album cycle: the “7/11″ video, the Shmoney Dance. Hell, Drake dominated his genre by releasing a few loosies and features.
With this changing role of the LP, the EP has seen a boost in relevance. Once the realm of half-formed ideas, album session scraps, and stopgap material for diehards, the EP is more important than ever as a statement of artistic purpose. For acts fighting to reach that top tier, the EP can help refine an aesthetic or identity, while labels can invest in a viral star and test the waters with an EP instead of rushing to production on a full-length flop for a Kreayshawn scenario.
So big-picture, it may have been a down year for pop, but at the increasingly vibrant EP level, some stellar things happened. Here’s our list of our 14 favorite EPs from 2014. More »
Synth-pop has never really gone away since breaking into the mainstream with a little help from Gary Numan and MTV in the ‘80s, but the genre has certainly fallen in and out of favor since then.
As luck would have it, we’ve been riding high on a synth spike for about 10 years now, with things really exploding in the late aughts as Passion Pit, La Roux, chillwave, and Lady Gaga helped spark a renewed interest the sounds of noodly keyboards and syrupy hooks.
Modern triumphs for the genre continued to pile up, and soon enough M83’s “Midnight City” accompanied a Victoria’s Secret commercial just as Drive’s ‘80s-mimicking space disco soundtrack amassed rave reviews. At the moment, Chvrches carries the torch for the durable category, but just this year dozens of new acts wielding Moogs, Korgs, Casios, and maybe even keytars entered the fray. So we’ve compiled some of our favorites from this new crop to see what could be on the horizon for the genre. Check out these 14 under-the-radar synth-pop acts we fell in love with in 2014. More »
last month unveiled a stripped-back cover
of Beyonce‘s “XO”
during his Australian tour, and now the permanently sensitive singer has posted the studio version. As with the live version, he’s on the harmonica and guitar to start, but this finished take also adds a piano to the mix to drive things home.
Even with Bey’s chest-beating declarations excised from the track, the song still packs an emotional punch, which is a testament to the writing job by Ryan Tedder, The-Dream and Bey.
Hear Mayer’s interpretation below. More »
It’s not exactly striking while the iron is hot
, but Robin Thicke
has announced plans to release a new album on July 1. His seventh album comes one year after he dropped Blurred Lines
, and this news led our own Bradley Stern to quip, “Who does he think he is, Rihanna
?” Last year’s LP of course contained the title track that sent Thicke to a new level of stardom and ubiquity, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can follow up that No. 1 debut with another smash.
The set’s lead single is “Get Her Back,” which he debuted at the Billboard Music Awards and is most likely about the dissolution of his marriage to Paula Patton. The full-length doesn’t have a title yet, but Thicke wrote and produced the entirety of it himself. More »
‘s five-track Do It Again
project is available to stream for the rest of this week ahead of its May 26 release. The so-called mini-album was recorded at the Norwegian duo’s studio as a stopgap before they both release new projects at some point following a joint tour this summer
Opener “Monument” begins as a Robyn-centric ballad, but somewhere in the middle it morphs into an extended exercise in Nordic smooth jazz. The slightly discombobulating start is followed by a pair of tracks that are more reminiscent of the two acts’ prior collabs: the churning “Sayit” and the sleek “Do It Again.” “Every Little Thing” is an elegant little electro-ballad, and then things finish with the atmospheric instrumental crawl of “Inside The Idle Hour Club.”
While it doesn’t entirely quench our thirst for new Robyn, it’s a great listen. Stream the EP over at NPR. More »
Well, the powers that be over at American Idol
wasted no time. Hours after Caleb Johnson was crowned the winner of Season 13
last night (May 21), details of his debut album were announced. The self-titled set will be released August 12 on 19 Recordings/Interscope Records. (Based on the cover, we’ve got ourselves another White Guy With Guitar, but anyone who watched this season knows this guy can wail and that he’s not in that sensi-crooner field.)
The 22-year-old North Carolina native topped the more pop-oriented Jena Irene in last night’s star-studded finale, during which he performed with Kiss and belted out his debut single “As Long As You Love Me” as confetti rained down for the victory. That song, which was written by Justin Hawkins of The Darkness, will appear on his album. More »
has been known to take rockism and analog fetishization to cartoonish heights, but guitar music’s reigning enigma is too self-aware to not
be in on the joke. And in his recent cover story for Rolling Stone
, the former White Stripes
leader revealed that he is, in fact, a fan of some mainstream pop acts — particularly Daft Punk
and Kanye West
. In fact, West and White almost worked together on Yeezus
According to the mag, Kanye asked Jack to work on the album, but then never followed up on the offer. White wishes it had happened, especially after seeing the Yeezus tour. “That might have been the greatest show I’ve seen in my life,” White told the mag. “It was more punk, more in-your-face than anything I’ve seen.” (Here’s White backstage at the Brooklyn show.) More »
The Black Keys
‘ Turn Blue
debuted at #1 on this week’s Billboard 200 chart, topping Michael Jackson
‘s posthumous album Xscape
, which debuted in the second spot. Considering that one half of the Keys called Xscape
“some fucking bullshit that sucks so bad,” this feat was doubly satisfying for the band.
The Akron duo’s eighth album is their first to top the charts and third Top 10. It sold 164,000 copies (a healthy number in this day and age), edging out MJ’s 157,000. One thing that may have affected the numbers — as with their last album El Camino, Turn Blue is not on Spotify.
Last week’s #1, NOW 50, dropped to number three, and the Frozen soundtrack’s descent continues, with a #4 finish this week and a 26% decrease in sales. See the top ten albums of this week’s chart below. More »
closed out the live finale of The Voice
last night, and now with their latest pair of songs on Ellen
, I think they’ve hit for the TV promo cycle. (It’s a baseball reference, folks.) Chris Martin
and his unsung anonymous bandmates appeared on the daytime chat show to perform “Magic”
and “A Sky Full Of Stars,”
the first two singles from their restrained Ghost Stories
Their sixth album is small-scale for them, but on these live appearances they’ve approached the tracks with the same big-stage magnetism that all their tracks exude. That said, we’ve seen quite enough of them on TV for the year.
Check out “Magic” up top and head to Ellen‘s site for “Sky.” More »
Welp, Nicki Minaj
promised her new album The Pink Print wouldn’t have a “Starships” on it
, and lead single “Pills N Potions” certainly isn’t that. But it turns out she was sort of misleading us about this all being a return to her “real” hip-hop roots. “Pills N Potions,” out today (May 21), isn’t a blast of sugary dance-pop, but the Dr. Luke
-produced jam is completely 100% pop — it just happens to be a ballad.
“Pills” is a lovely, understated song, with Nicki projecting a vulnerability that’s been missing from her material, meaning it’s the exact opposite of the firebreathing raps she’s teased with this year. While she turns out two quick verses about coming to grips with naysayers, her singing voice does the legwork with the refrain “Pills and potions / We’re overdosing / I’m angry but I still love you.”
“Pills N Potions” doesn’t showcase a brilliant hook or jaw-dropping rhymes, but it does show Nicki can’t be pigeonholed, and at this point, that’s her greatest asset. Does she have another chart smash on her hands? Hear it below to find out. More »