Tracing “Reputation” to…Kanye West (Who Else?)

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A few people who know me know that I love Kanye West’s “Bound 2.” For those reading this, congratulations — you now have something in common with those good people.

I can’t entirely justify my love for this song, which arrives at the end of West’s aggressive, oppressive 2013 album Yeezus like a splash of cold water on a humid summer day. The rest of that album is striking and nasty; “Bound 2” is bracing and cuddly.

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Things I Loved This Year: Bruno Mars Gets In and Gets Out

Each day this month (assuming I don’t get busy or bored!), I’ll reflect on a tiny sliver of pop culture that I enjoyed or appreciated this year — scenes, shots, gestures, verses, sights, sounds, moments. Today: complimenting Bruno Mars in a way that sounds like an insult.

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Something unexpected happens at the 32-minute mark on Bruno Mars’ album 24K Magic. I sat back in my chair.

The album ends.

It’s over. That’s it! Nine songs, each less than five minutes long. No skits, no tangents, no filler. Four years between albums, and here’s what Bruno Mars has to show for it: nine songs, all stellar.

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“Happy” Trails: Can’t Bring Me Down

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It might seem crazy, what I’m ’bout to say: you might be hearing Pharrell’s “Happy” for a long time to come.

After ten weeks at number one, the buoyant “Despicable Me 2” theme song bowed out of the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 to make room for John Legend’s “All of Me” on May 10th. Nonetheless, the song crossed over from “big hit” to “phenomenon” right around the beginning of March, when Pharrell performed the track on the Oscars, rousing the likes of Lupita Nyong’o and Meryl Streep from their seats and charming a global audience with the song’s infectious energy. It’s only grown in ubiquity since – tribute videos, a charming cover by Majesty Rose on American Idol, even the source of some teary-eyed musing on Oprah. (The song even played a role in an overseas issue of free speech, as a group of Iranian youths were arrested for posting a video of themselves dancing to the song last week.)

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“G I R L”: More Savvy Than Sublime

Pharrell

It’s been a year of Pharrell, and this week is particularly Pharrell-y. The number one song on the pop charts? “Happy,” by Pharrell. The best musical performance on the Oscars? “Happy,” by Pharrell feat. Lupita Nyong’o, Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. The most talked about hat? Pharrell’s Grammy hit, which just sold for $44,100 to Arby’s.

Oh, and Pharrell has a new album out this week. Is it any good? As I wrote in my review for The Eagle, it’s good enough. No one’s calling this a breakthrough for Pharrell, and for good reason. Some good songs, but nothing game-changing. It’s more The 20/20 Experience than FutureSex/LoveSounds, to put it in terms of Justin Timberlake, as the album’s throwback aesthetic does frequently.

No matter. “G I R L” will sell well, and it will keep Pharrell in the pop-culture conversation for at least a little while longer. Meanwhile, he’ll have to work a little to pursue that EGOT. Judging by his eternally fresh-faced complexion, he’s got plenty of time left.

Grammys 2014: A Review and Three Great Performances

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In the immediate aftermath of this year’s Grammy Awards, I churned out a 750-word review for The Eagle. I don’t have much more to say – awards shows like this one are best enjoyed and debated as they happen and immediately afterward – but I want to spotlight three great performances that are worth checking out even if you didn’t see the entire show.

First, a snippet of my review: “Last night’s Grammys proved that some things do change. Robots can win Album of the Year. Thirty-three couples can get married in a hasty ceremony officiated by Queen Latifah. A 17-year-old New Zealander with curly hair and a sultry voice can win Song of the Year for a tune that critiques the very establishment that provided her with the award. The 2014 Grammy Awards were rarely boring, but they were often baffling.”

Read on for three catchup-worthy performances.

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6 Performances to Watch At the Grammy Awards This Weekend

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The Grammy Awards are airing on CBS at 8pm this Sunday night. Music’s biggest awards show is often as confounding as it is exciting, but the megawatt lineup suggests noteworthy “moments” (the Grammys’ favorite word) are ahead. Here are six performances I’m anticipating.

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Three More Thoughts on the 2014 Grammy Nominations

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I’ve already complained about the clunky telecast for the 2014 Grammy nominations in my piece for The Eagle. Nonetheless, I have a few more thoughts (three, in fact) on the nominations in general.

First, to quote from my piece:

“Despite some oversights, the nominations reflected the wide, if scattered, range of excellent pop music in 2013. Rising country star Kacey Musgraves nabbed three well-deserved nominations including one for Best New Artist. The Grammys embraced the anti-establishment alternative hip-hop of Lorde and the irrepressible smooth of Daft Punk. Taylor Swift’s excellent album Red ended up in the Album of the Year category, suggesting that the Grammys have longer memories than they are given credit for.”

Read on for three more thoughts.

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