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Eminem’s ‘The Slim Shady LP’ Turns 15: Backtracking

Backtracking is our recurring look back at the pop music that shaped our lives. Our friends may come and go, but we’ll be spinning our favorite albums forever.

Looking around today’s popular music landscape for a corollary to the kind of once-in-a-generation controversial shitstorm Eminem whipped up with his 1999 breakthrough record The Slim Shady LP is damn near impossible. Outside of maybe Miley Cyrus — who caused controversy not with the thematic material of her music but the package it was presented in — the closest we probably get is what Odd Future managed to accomplish a few years ago, which makes complete sense. Tyler, the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt, the group’s de facto leaders and most talented rappers, have repeatedly cited the influence of early Eminem on their own violent, personal, misogynistic brand of laughing horrorcore rap. But when Tyler won the MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist in 2011, it felt more like an attempt to cash in on what was essentially a transgressive internet meme than a reflection of the culture writ large, anointing significance to a sliver of truly viral hip-hop in an extremely fractured popular music industry.

And while this may just be a reflection of the generational differences in music consumption, Eminem managed to capture the unwavering attention of a significant block of the nation’s music-loving youth back in 1999 because of his music, aided by his inventive videos which corresponded with the peak popularity of MTV’s influence on the pop charts. He wasn’t making headlines or selling records because of racy performances, outlandish interviews or highly publicized legal trouble. When The Slim Shady LP dropped on February 23, 1999, it sounded absolutely nothing like anything in hip-hop, presenting a hilariously strange alternative to the weirdly glitzy, Puff Daddy-driven, post-Biggie & Pac playing ground that had existed for the previous few years.

If Eminem accomplished anything with his 4x platinum selling Slim Shady LP, beyond becoming one of the patron saints of Total Request Live-era MTV (along with Britney, Christina, *NSYNC, The Backstreet Boys, Limp Bizkit, Blink 182…yeesh), it’s that he produced one of the most enduring pieces of transgressive art the mainstream music culture has ever celebrated. More »

Kanye West’s ‘The College Dropout’ Turns 10: Backtracking

Backtracking is our recurring look back at the pop music that shaped our lives. Our friends may come and go, but we’ll be spinning our favorite albums forever.

“I’m the funny version of Dead Prez.” That’s Kanye West giving an amazingly succinct and accurate summary of his career during an interview. Without a timestamp on that quote, it could have easily been something he said in the handful of, ahem, “honestinterviews he gave during the lead-up to the June 2013 release of his cathartic, abrasive and game-changing sixth studio album Yeezus. West’s incendiary “New Slaves,” for all intents and purposes, was the best Dead Prez song they never recorded, and it was a fantastic example of the ways in which his sonic and thematic fascinations mirrored those of the Brooklyn duo’s seminal first record Let’s Get Free. But that quote was actually from a Rolling Stone profile that ran in May of 2004, only a few months removed from the release (and subsequent smashing success) of West’s debut The College Dropout, which turns 10 today (February 10).

That made me take a step back. I’ve spent the past eight months lauding Yeezus as not only West’s best album, but one of the most important, innovative hip-hop albums of the last decade. For me, the angry, bass-blaring, Corbusier lamp-inspired, Chicago house-riddled Yeezus made the rest of his back catalog look downright saccharine. I remembering thinking at some point during the fourth minute of “I’m In It” that it would be very hard for me to revisit West’s earlier material — like, say, the day-glo urban working class paean “We Don’t Care” from his debut —  and not yearn for what I saw to be his career’s avant-garde zenith in Yeezus.

But I went back, and ended up being astonished at how Ye’s creative vision and philosophical ruminations have stayed consistent and vital throughout a career spanning 10-plus years. The College Dropout is the brilliant foundation of his raging, creative restlessness, as well as his constantly sharpening social mind. With this album, he wasn’t given access to the zeitgeist. He took it. More »

Carly Rae Jepsen Heads To Broadway To Star In ‘Cinderella’

We know, we know. Carly Rae Jepsen’s ascension from a British Columbian John Denver enthusiast to Canadian Idol second runner-up, to 2012-pop-song-of-the-year-title-holder was the stuff of…ugh…fairy tales. So, thanks to some Broadway casting director who will be smugly patting his own back for the next couple of years, it only makes sense that Jepsen will take over Tony Award nominee Laura Osnes’s lead role in Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella starting February 4. More »

Ariana Grande Charm Shines Through In ‘Cosmo’ Cover Story

Everyone’s favorite paranormally plagued pop starlet Ariana Grande graces the cover of the February issue of Cosmopolitan and gives her fans some candid quotes on what it’s like to be the 20-year-old, Mariah Carey-worshipping former Nickelodeon star. She dished on everything from dealing with haters on Twitter (“They’re evil as hell!”) to her ideal Friday night (PJs and Harry Potter).

See what else she had to say, as well as photos from the shoot, below. More »

Beyonce Gets Real About Her Sexuality In ‘Self-Titled’ Doc Clip: Watch

Beyonce's High Class Striptease
If there was anything that even approached the excitement and surprise of Beyonce‘s late night drop of her self-titled fifth studio album, it was that she was going to accompany Beyonce with 17 — count em’, 17! — videos for 14 songs that would encompass what she called “The Visual Album.” In addition to that, Bey’s also been slowly releasing a multi-part documentary series called Self-Titled which takes viewers behind the scenes of the Beyonce recording experience and the production of her 17 music videos. So, basically, everything Beyonce is doing at any moment is being lit, shot, edited, scored and eventually stuffed into a constantly growing documentary that’s about as candid and natural as a table read for Keeping Up With The Kardashians. (Trust me, they do table reads.)

But the fourth segment of Self-Titled, which is titled (so many titles) “Liberation,” has Beyonce going into intimate detail about the creation and inspiration of the song “Partition” and its accompanying video. Apparently, Bey took Jay Z to the famous strip club Crazy Horse the night he proposed to her. Which was also his birthday. Got that? And then she thought the strippers were so hot that she wanted to be up there dancing like that for Jay, which is basically the premise of the racy “Partition” visual. More »

Taylor Swift Tops Most Charitable Celebrities List For Second Year In a Row

Taylor Swift, St. Thomas Aquinas’ human ideal of magnanimity, has topped DoSomething.org’s Top 20 Celebrities Gone Good of 2013 list for the second year in a row. According to the site, Swift “donated $100,000 to the Nashville Symphony, which has faced extreme financial difficulties this year. She also headlined an event benefiting Centrepoint, an org[anization] working to help young people experiencing homelessness.” The list included other musician A-listers like Beyonce, One Direction and Kendrick Lamar, and also someone named Justin Bieber.

Fantastic work, Taylor. With the exception of your ex-boyfriends/potential hit song subjects, everyone will continue to unconditionally adore you. More »

Drake Drops Opulent Victory Lap “Trophies”: Listen

After Drake’s decidedly accomplished and eventful 2013, can you really blame him for resting on his laurels a bit? With that in mind, Aubrey decided to unveil his new Hit-Boy/Hagler/Noah “40″ Shebib-produced track “Trophies” to presumably celebrate the past year that was, in retrospect, pretty good to him.

Granted, the song was first teased in the stately trailer for his 2013 smash Nothing Was The Sameso it’s a bit like designing your championship ring before the season even starts, but that actually makes it cooler, no? Regardless, listen to the horn laden boast after the jump. More »

Lea Michele Drops Second Single “Battlefield”: Listen

It’s pretty easy to get excited about the fact that Lea Michele’s debut album Louder is set to arrive March 14. And after being treated to her first single “Cannonball” a few weeks ago, Michele returns with a second glimpse of Louder in the form of the power ballad “Battlefield.” If Michele’s work on Glee was any indication, this is the kind of song that fits snugly in her wheelhouse: a slow building avalanche of emotion that sounds like the fever pitch centerpiece to some future, unnamed musical. It’s also good to hear she’s pulling away from the breathy little girl vocal flourishes that could sometimes mar her incredible voice. Fight on, Lea.

Hear the new track below. More »

Selena Gomez Reportedly Suffering From Lupus

Selena Gomez canceled the Australian leg of her Stars Dance world tour two weeks ago in order to, according to a statement she released, “spend some time on myself in order to be the best person I can be.” But Pop Dust reports the possibility that the move is a consequence of Sel’s struggle with lupus, an autoimmune disease that can affect many different parts of the body, including the lungs. Gomez has neither confirmed nor denied the reports, but according to sources close to her camp, the star has “suffered multiple ‘flares’ recently, causing facial swelling, extreme fatigue, headaches and joint pain.”  More »

Katy B Belts It Out In Gorgeous “Crying For No Reason” Video: Watch

Katy B Gets Epic
British club pop princess Katy B hits it out of the park in her new video for “Crying For No Reason,”  the second single from her upcoming album Little RedThe video is beautiful and stark, perfectly pairing with Katy’s titanic performance and the track’s dramatic swell of pop histrionics replete with huge glacial synths. It’s the kind of song few stateside chanteuses can pull off. Here’s to getting insanely excited for the February release of Little Red. More »

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