Music

Strength in Independence: The Strokes and The National

Sandra Canosa

A dozen years later, the roles aren’t exactly reversed, but the tunes have changed. In the spring of 2013, both bands released new and much-anticipated albums – the Strokes’ fifth, Comedown Machine, and the National’s sixth, Trouble Will Find Me. In terms of sheer numbers alone, the National outsold their former clubmates nearly 2-to-1 in their first week. Trouble Will Find Me popped up on Best of the Year lists from Pitchfork, Stereogum, and Rolling Stone and is nominated for a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album. 

Bored This Way: The Loss of Lady Gaga's Relevance in Pop Culture

Sophia Dorval

Armed with a series of blonde hairstyles, nary a pair of pants and a wardrobe straight out of a pop art coffee table book, Lady Gaga shamelessly presented herself as a breath of postmodern fresh air through her then aloof persona in interviews, attending award shows with her tabloid BFF Perez Hilton, and naturally through her music videos, which were bacchanalian displays of youth, sexuality, consumption, and her and America’s favorite obsession: celebrity. Flash forward to the fall of 2013, when she has bestowed her fourth album Artpop onto the record, ahem, singles “buying” public.  It sells 75 percent less in its first week than its predecessor Born This Way.  

So Long Lou Reed: Keep Walking on the Wild Side

Benjamin Wright

There are artists whose works we enjoy and there are artists that have such a profound impact upon us that they shift our consciousness and urge us to look at life in a different way. Such was the impact on many (myself included) of the inimitable Lou Reed, rock n’ roll wild child, Warhol collaborator and lead figure of the proto-punk band, The Velvet Underground. The avant-garde band transformed the world of music in a way not at all dissimilar from Dylan or the Beatles, though without the immensely popular followings.

The Road to Nostalgia Is Paved With Vinyl

Mary Kinney

Recent figures from Nielsen SoundScan suggest that vinyl sales were up 33.5 percent in the first half of 2013. To some, this is jarring because we live in the digital age. One might suggest this rise is similar to the ebook trend Neil Irwin dicussed in the Washington Post this summer: old technologies don't go away, but rather, hone in on a more niche market. But perhaps there is something more to this trend: an indication of our culture of nostalgia, and that nostalgia extends far beyond what we initially thought.

How Pan-Asian Pop Went Global

Andrew Lam

Asian pop culture today crosses borders as easily as the bird flu. Korean rapper Psy, whose 2012 single “Gangnam Style” has garnered a record of close to 2 billion hits on YouTube, is probably the best example. But he’s not alone. Takeshi Kaneshiro, a Taiwanese actor with Japanese ancestry who Time Magazine called the "Asian film industry's Johnny Depp," has starred in Japanese and Chinese language movies for over two decades. 

How the Big Sound of Hip-Hop Went Indie

Daniel Sternkopf

Kitwana also talks about how some labels have veteran black artists at their helm, but that they aren’t the ones making important label decisions. Kitwana quotes from Wendy Day, who has spent the past 13 years fighting against what is often described as a sharecropping system, and states “It’s very much an industry dominated by white men in their fifties… That’s who’s empowered, that’s who’s running things, that’s who’s saying yea or nay to signing checks. And the music industry is still run 100 percent by white corporations” 

Verdi and the Immortal Opera

Hal Gordon

Verdi’s later operatic efforts were similarly meddled with to make them politically correct. In 1850, he gave the world “Rigoletto.” The opera was based on a novel by Victor Hugo called Le roi s’amuse (The King Amuses Himself). Hugo’s novel recounted the romantic escapades of the randy 16th Century French monarch, Francis I. Verdi’s portrait of Francis was largely accurate and that, according to the censors, was just the problem. 

The Future of the Music Industry: Consumers in the Clouds

Sandra Canosa

Downloading was sticking it to The Man, even if we knew we were hurting the musicians in the long run that we’d rather support. When streaming services came along, they seemed like a godsend for music aficionados with a heavy conscience. They’re free – or based on tiers of what you can afford. They’re legal. They offer instant gratification. And they actively cater to the pleasures of discovering new music without having to make an initial financial investment. They seemed like a way to circumvent The Man and simply get to the music.

All That Jazz: A Night in Montreal

Steven J. Chandler

Jazz in a concert hall? It’s a trend and can appear contrived and devoid of the spontaneity that’s the essence of jazz music. This was Redman’s challenge as he and his quartet performed at the Maison Symphonique de Montreal, an acoustically rewarding venue that on most dates is the home of Montreal’s acclaimed Symphony Orchestra. Backed with strings and performing from his latest release, Walking Shadows, Redman’s quartet made use of the acoustics by playing compositions that employed an orchestral landscape. 

Reflecting on Controversial Composer Richard Wagner on His 200th Birthday

Karolina R. Swasey

More people wrote about him than about any other person in history – with the exception of Jesus, Luther, Napoleon and Marx — they say. In 2013 the world is celebrating Richard Wagner’s birthday for the 200th time — his obit for the 130th. Wagner’s work continues to cause great emotions, ranging from sheer enthusiasm to utmost rejection, and his recitals attract people to opera houses all over the world. The poet, director, conductor, writer and first and foremost composer, remains a mystery for many, and doesn’t cease to polarize even 130 years after his death. 

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