Why 2018 welcomed the rebirth of the protest song – from Childish Gambino to Janelle Monáe

Pop music and politics have long enjoyed a dysfunctional relationship, marked by wary trysts and embarrassed silences. For every timeless, biting political anthem – for every What’s Going On or Fight the Power – there have been a dozen unfortunately, misinformed, garbled political diatribes by celebrities with more ego than insight. Which might be why, while musicians were once held up as the voice of their generation, recent times have seen increasingly media-savvy stars sidestepping ever-further away from having an opinion on anything. Until, that is, now. It was purportedly Ancient Greeks who first decreed that desperate times call for … Continue reading Why 2018 welcomed the rebirth of the protest song – from Childish Gambino to Janelle Monáe

The Beatles’ White Album at 50 – revisiting pop’s archetypal double album

Released 50 years ago today [November 22], The Beatles’ “White Album” is popular music’s quintessential double album. That doesn’t necessarily mean best – although The Fab Four’s eponymous entry surely ranks among a handful of contenders for that title – but simply the ultimate; the epitome of excess. The most representative, referred-to and replicated case of the beleaguered 2LP package. Double albums are stereotypically bloated, ego-fuelled, idiosyncratic, genre-hopping, directionless affairs as baffling as they are beautiful – all of which might serve as a fitting introduction to The Beatles’ ninth LP. Both the cause and effect of infamous infighting which … Continue reading The Beatles’ White Album at 50 – revisiting pop’s archetypal double album

As I Heard it Through the Grapevine turns 50, a look back at Motown hit machine

There might have been more than a touch of bravado at play when then-aspiring music mogul Berry Gordy dubbed his new Detroit home “Hitsville, USA” – but the iconic sign he hung outside not long after the 1959 purchase would feel like a quaint understatement just a decade later. By the end of the 1960s, Gordy’s Motown hit machine had clocked an incredible 79 Billboard top ten singles, spawning not just a generation’s soundtrack – while launching the careers of icons including Michael Jackson, Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder – but presaging a landmark era of racially integrated entertainment, affording … Continue reading As I Heard it Through the Grapevine turns 50, a look back at Motown hit machine

Heavy metal turns 50? Happy birthday to popular music’s most persistent party crasher

In the history of recorded music, no genre has earned more controversy, sparked greater outrage, or scared more parents, than heavy metal. From decapitated bats and onstage self-mutilation, to offstage accusations of coded Satanic messages and devil worshipping, for five decades metal has hounded the upholders of morality across the globe – while attracting covert fascination from mainstream music fans. Because for all the gore, blood and muddle, metal’s most popular practitioners – such as Metallica and Iron Maiden – rank among the best-selling bands ever. Fans will continue to debate where hard rock ends and heavy metal begins – … Continue reading Heavy metal turns 50? Happy birthday to popular music’s most persistent party crasher

How women (finally) took over the charts (together) in 2018

It’s no great creative secret that conflict is an essential ingredient of any good narrative – and it seems that the male-dominated media once got together and decided that in the world of pop music, nothing sells like a catfight. Historically, it sometimes feels hard to find a female star that has avoided being dragged into some kind of ugly, unbecoming feud with a would-be rival. The headlines are often as legendary as they are petty: From the showdowns of Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez to the intergenerational enmity between Madonna and Lady Gaga, right up to the Taylor Swift … Continue reading How women (finally) took over the charts (together) in 2018