American Music Awards 2014: Grades for every performance

Taylor Swift 3

Last night, I watched all three hours of the 2014 American Music Awards. It wasn’t always a fun experience. Head over to The Eagle for my grades of each performance.

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Lessons from the 2014 Billboard Music Awards

Lorde

I spent much of the time from 8-10pm last night asking myself why I was watching the 2014 Billboard Music Awards. Most of the performances were uninspired and the award winners were foregone conclusions. It’s not as if this were the only awards show featuring performances from the likes of Pitbull, Imagine Dragons, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Lopez and Jason Derulo. And though I like Ludacris, the prospect of him hosting was not enough on its own to draw me to the show.

I realized that I’m drawn to awards shows like this because I’m fascinated by the way that organic moments of spontaneity can arise from a rigorously pre-programmed spectacle. I’m looking for two or three performances that rise above the mediocrity of the majority. I’m looking for something to reaffirm my belief that popular music and even awards shows can be thought-provoking or aesthetically satisfying. And indeed, while the 2014 Billboard Music Awards were largely forgettable and eminently skippable, I found a few topics worth discussing before I switched over to Mad Men.

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Grammys 2014: A Review and Three Great Performances

Pharrell

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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The M&M Report, Episode 14: The Year’s Best Music

Heart

Listen to Episode 14 here.

Welcome to the last 2013 episode of The M&M Report. This week, Devin Mitchell and I talked about some of our favorite albums and songs of the year. Keep in mind that Devin and I are far from comprehensive music consumers, so our musical tastes are limited to the genres we’ve enjoyed in the past. We’re open to tons of suggestions on new music we should try out, so bear with us and feel free to comment.

After we discussed six albums, we had a freewheeling conversation about the year in music, touching on everything from “Blurred Lines” and “Same Love” to Daft Punk and Miley Cyrus.

Here’s a Spotify playlist featuring some of the music we discussed during the show. Feel free to follow along.

Click through for the time breakdown and a bonus video from Local Natives, and we’ll see you in 2014!

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2013 in Review: The Best and Worst of Top 40

Lorde

It’s easy to look back at the year in music and only see images of Miley Cyrus twerking, Robin Thicke skeeving and Pharrell dominating. With this list, I’m shining a spotlight on the best that pop music had to offer this year, whether it involved blurred lines or diamonds in the rough. I combed over every Billboard Hot 100 chart from this year and picked my favorite songs that cracked the Top 40.

You’ll notice there are 12 songs on this list. Why not? Ten is just as arbitrary. These are 12 songs I really like. I hope you’ll find something worth celebrating here. No use cutting corners. (To make my life easier, I did my best to exclude songs that made bigger splashes in 2012 than they did in 2013, including Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” and Kendrick Lamar’s “Swimming Pools (Drank).”)

You’ll also notice that these songs are in alphabetical order by the artist’s first name. Why? Because it’s too difficult for me to decide which of these songs is better than the others. They’re good for different reasons, and I don’t see any value in fussing with which reasons matter more.

(The playlist isn’t in alphabetical order – in fact, it’s not in any order at all, except my vague attempt to create a pleasurable listening experience.)

Without further ado, my favorite Top 40 songs of 2013.


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Three More Thoughts on the 2014 Grammy Nominations

Lorde

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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Take 5. Actually, Take 7.

Lou Reed

Not caught up on the latest happenings in and around Hollywood? Fear not, because my Take 5 columns will catch you up in no time. Since September, we’ve lost two major pop culture icons in Tom Clancy and Lou Reed. We’ve ushered Breaking Bad off our television screens, replacing it with tons and tons of new fall shows, most of which aren’t as good as Breaking Bad. We’ve been graced with tons of compelling new music, from pop superstars like Justin Timberlake and Miley Cyrus to promising newcomers like Lorde and HAIM. We’ve come to terms with the breakup of the Jonas Brothers, but we’re not quite over talking about Chris Brown‘s depressing antics.

And I’ve been taking notes. Read on for the last seven editions of Take 5.

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