Musician and machine become one in “Cars.” New Wave pioneer Gary Numan’s paranoid-android anthem, a No. 1 hit in the UK in 1979, is a marvel of precision engineering — a chrome-plated vision of a world where technology has transcended humanity, foretelling the Orwellian future hurtling towards us at breakneck speed.Read More
Play “The Next Movement,” the 1999 single from the Roots’ fourth album Things Fall Apart, and from the first sliding hand clap, listeners at any party, cookout or kickback will stop mid-conversation, nod their heads in quiet appreciation, and allow the music to take them to a place where hip-hop returns to its roots.Read More
From the pounding thump of its programmed drums to its synth-based violins (a literal embodiment of the term “heartstrings”), Carly Rae Jepsen’s 2011 smash “Call Me Maybe” ranks among the best songs about young love ever recorded — a masterclass in pop songwriting that perfectly captures the thrill of infatuation. Its success also represents a sea change in music marketing, one defined by both technology and interconnectivity: on its own, “Call Me Maybe” might never have attracted much attention outside of Jepsen’s native Canada, but thanks to fellow Canadian Justin Bieber’s superstar sway and the increasing cultural influence of user-generated digital content, the single (and its singer) catapulted to international renown.Read More
“All I Wanna Do” is one of the most unlikely breakout songs ever released. A pop confection on an album full of earnest roots rockers, it was also an outlier among the grunge and hip-hop that dominated cultural discourse during the first half of the 1990s. Were it not for a series of quirks of fate involving a used bookstore, an obscure poet, and an informal group of Los Angeles musicians who called themselves the Tuesday Music Club, “All I Wanna Do” might not even have seen the light of day. The song’s climb to the top of the charts was all but impossible, yet it made Sheryl Crow a star.Read More
Somewhere along the way, Bob Marley’s Legend was accepted as absolute truth.
Legend, the hits collection released three years after the iconic singer’s death, is by leaps and bounds the best-selling reggae album of all time, moving more than 12 million copies in the U.S. and an estimated 25 million copies globally — a perennial chart blockbuster that for many listeners defines both Marley’s career and reggae as a whole. Legend did not just make history, however: it also changed history, reframing Marley’s music and message to make him more palatable to a broader audience, primarily by de-emphasizing his signature songs of resistance and revolution while foregrounding lighter, more uplifting fare — a modus operandi established with the retrospective’s opening track, the buoyant “Is This Love.”Read More
“Fade Into You” is a dream-pop lullaby — a fugue-state meditation on love and longing that shimmers with the elusive beauty of a desert mirage. Released to radio in 1994, Mazzy Star’s signature hit really wasn’t a hit at all, falling four spots shy of the Billboard Top 40, but it endures like precious few records of its era: in fact, “Fade Into You” seems to exist outside of time and space altogether, echoing across the airwaves from the deepest reaches of consciousness.Read More
Producer and songwriter Norman Whitfield revolutionized the Motown Sound for a new age in music and culture, eschewing the ebullient R&B grooves that propelled the label’s commercial ascension in pursuit of something much deeper, darker and more daring. Working in partnership with Motown hitmakers like the Temptations and Marvin Gaye, Whitfield drew on contemporary influences including acid rock and funk to create a series of smash singles that explored the triumphs and tragedies shaping Black identity in civil rights-era America, architecting a singularly atmospheric sound retroactively dubbed “psychedelic soul.”Read More