Kendrick Lamar marches to his own beat in colorful 'i' music video

Kendrick Lamar marches to his own beat in colorful 'i' music video

Rapper is the best car buddy

Kendrick Lamar's "i" music video could've just been the rapper holding a single  balloon and crying, and I'd still be like, "K."

Because this song has grown on me. The single certainly was an unexpectedly upbeat jam from the "Good Kid," with the lilting sampled guitars and Compton MC preaching self-love to all the kids that "went to war last night." While his upbringing was rough, Lamar talks about finding peace, even in depression.

Thus, in his video, Lamar moves freely. He goes where he wants, dances how he wants, wears what he wants, his crew follows his lead through colorful streets and with interesting characters, one of which takes him on a car ride and he hangs out the backseat window like a dog on a joyride. There's a nostalgic '70s flare throughout, punctuated by the "one nation, under a groove" in the beginning. 

It's cool, and Lamar's cool in it. No wonder the NBA adopted it as its official anthem this season.

The song "i" will supposedly be on Lamar's next album, as-yet-untitled and with no release date, though he's warned that Dr. Dre and Pharrell have helped out on it so far. Lamar will be the musical guest on the Nov. 15 episode of "Saturday Night Live" (with host Woody Harrelson), so maybe we'll know more by then?

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HitFix Mix: Erasure talk 'Violet Flame' and why some EDM is just plain terrible
Credit: HitFix

HitFix Mix: Erasure talk 'Violet Flame' and why some EDM is just plain terrible

Dance music duo on tour now: Watch our interview

How do you keep things fresh when you've been a synth-pop and dance duo, together for almost 30 years, with 16 albums under your belt?

Erasure have done their damnedest, and recently released their album "The Violent Flame." Led by the bangin' new single "Elevation," Vince Clark and Andy Bell's set is still vibrant and luscious, with the beat-maker exercising restraint at times and the singer still belting them out.

I recently sat down with the Brits while they've been on tour in support of the effort -- a year after their Christmas album, 28 years since they released their first album, 26 since their first No. 1 album in the U.K., and a whole lotta hits in between. Bell talked about "responsibility" in his art, and both chipped in on why EDM (electronic dance music) today can really be the pits.

Watch a clip above and a longer abridged interview below, and give a spin to the three songs the pair recommended for you to listen to.

Vince Clark recommended: Nora En Pure, "Come With Me"

Andy Bell recommended: Kate Bush, "Wow" and This Mortal Coil, "Songs of the Siren"

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It sucks to be the good girl: Songs from Taylor Swift, Drake, One Direction and more

It sucks to be the good girl: Songs from Taylor Swift, Drake, One Direction and more

Examining lyrics from Carrie Underwood, 5SOS, Beyonce on what makes a 'good girl'

The "good girl" is a construct. There is no such thing as a good girl. If you've ever talked to a human female person-thing, you may take notice: none are binary animals, either good or bad. Girls are every shade, and to continue sorting women as "good" or "bad" is reductive to her experience and being.  

That hasn't kept the good girl from being defined, reconfigured and held as a nurtured stereotype in our most popular media, frequently in pop music. In folk, blues, jazz, country, dance, rock, ballads and hip-hop, the good girl is rarely explored for her multitudes, but instead for her definitive (and sometimes contradictory) two-dimensional attributes, most commonly associated to her sexuality and her relationship to male or paternal authority (Daddy, Santa, God, etc).

This continues to this day, even recently on Taylor Swift's new album 1989. Drake, One Direction, Beyonce, Kanye West, Carrie Underwood, Madonna, 5 Seconds of Summer have built new songs just in the last five years lamenting/blaming/extolling/pursuing/playing the part of the "good girl."

And what you can still conclude? For the most part, it sucks to be the good girl. It's a losing fight to be the good girl.

Tammy Wynette's good girl doesn't make her man happy, so she threatens to "go bad" to fit his desires: the good girl alters her very being to appease her man. Meanwhile, Kitty Wells' "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" places the blame of corrupted good girls on unfaithful husbands: "Too many times married men think they're still single / That has caused many a good girl to go wrong." ("If too many women 'go wild,' it could be a sign that society as a whole has come unmoored," wrote Ann Powers on the topic last year.)

Good girls are associative with reward, even monetary, tarnishing "pure" motive. In Fleetwood Mac's "Talk With You," his girl will get her money if she does what she's told. Hank Cochrane's "Sally Was A Good Old Girl" (covered by Waylon Jennings here) was "always willing and she did her best to please" when she was young, sold neckties (heh) to make a living ("up and down the street") and then married a millionaire." In "Underneath Your Clothes," Shakira wants fulfillment of "all the things I deserve / For being such a good girl."

Good girls are infantilized, naive or even enslaved to men. Some choice cuts from the glam-rock and hair-metal eras: Kiss' "Good Girl Gone Bad" has "a ace of a woman, hands of a child"; the Scorpions' "Kicks After Six" says "She's a slave to the suit and tie... She wants to be free" to "spread her wings" (wings, sure, right); Motley Crue call her jailbait, "A preacher's daughter with a devil tattoo... an underage angel with a dented halo... Headin' to the city with her starry-eyed dreams."

Good girls are holy material, or best when tamed: Tom Petty concludes that a good girl loves her mama, horses, Jesus, America, Elvis and her boyfriend, too. Good girls go to heaven  (according to Meatloaf... or Mae West... or Brooks & Dunn). Getting married made the "Queen of the Highway" a good girl, says the Doors.

Aw, too bad good girls like to sin, says blink-182 ("Snake Charmer"), and if you want to be good, you'll need a bad boy (Backstreet Boys).

So what you're saying is a "good girl" has to fit a mold, or she's a bad girl; and that mold is ill-defined, oppressive and makes her an object.

The Go-Go's realized that. And bless Jane Wiedlin, who wrote 1994's "Good Girl," a cynic's reaction to her Catholic upbringing of constantly trying to gain approval, and wanting to "get over it." "Good girl!" is something you should say to a dog, not to a person. "...No offense to dogs intended," she wrote.

In "Dicknail," Courtney Love in Hole recounted a "good girl's" sexual assault using well-worn  tropes in her narration, pleading that in her role-play "I did what you want," as Daddy/Santa Claus dismiss her: "She was asking for it." (That's why lines like the one in "Blurred Lines" -- "I know you want it" -- cause such a stir).

Morcheeba's "Good Girl Down" is an undefeatable, heroic good girl, painted as a woman who others are constantly trying to trip or kill. Jadakiss painted a much more flattering and complete picture of a good girl in his song, ironically titled "Nasty Girl" -- despite making diametric "sides" of his girl versus chickenheads (aka hoodrats, aka bad girls).

Below, I break down and analyze the lyrics of some of the most recent songs about "good girls": on what a good girl is, what she isn't, and why you should just forget about good girls, girl.

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PJ Harvey covered Nick Cave's 'Red Right Hand': Hear it now

PJ Harvey covered Nick Cave's 'Red Right Hand': Hear it now

'Peaky Blinders' got a wailing new recording from the British songwriter

PJ Harvey hasn't been very active since the release of her insanely good 2011 album "Let England Shake," but she's reappeared for "Peaky Blinders," to cover a classic Nick Cave Tune.

Harvey covered the Bad Seeds frontman's "Red Right Hand" for the BBC drama, and BBC radio has now premiered it.

Put on your Halloween costume early, because this one's creepy.

Harvey and Cave have long existed in the same music circles; check out their collaborative song "Henry Lee" from Cave's "Murder Ballads" below. "Red Right Hand" was from Cave's "Let Love In."

ICYMI, here's my interview with Nick Cave about his "20,000 Days On Earth" documentary.

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FKA twigs' 'Video Girl' vid is a death row nightmare

FKA twigs' 'Video Girl' vid is a death row nightmare

Happy horror days

FKA twigs has made a haunting out of her music video for "Video Girl."

The song itself addresses a 19-year-old mother-of-two who "dances" on a camera for others to watch. It's an eerie, creeper of a song to begin with. The "watching" activity goes a step further in its accompanying new clip. 

FKA twigs herself looks on at an inmate being strapped down and killed by lethal injection. Initially, she is crying, alone, made cold by the activity as she watches through a window.

But then something flips, and she is in the execution room dancing by the bound man in stuttering strange steps. She starts crawling up on his table as he starts to go under due to the drugs, bodily taunting him as she straddles him and captures the mic hanging from the ceiling, which is documenting the sound of someone dying.

This is not a mating dance or a sexual advance. She is spookily exasperating him in his dying moments. She's either a victim of the criminal (appearing as a ghost), or someone affected by his crimes (appearing in his or her imagination), but either way FKA twigs makes moves to transcend from bystander to supernatural punisher. Powerful stuff. And pretty freaky. Happy Halloween.

"Video Girl" is on FKA twigs' album "LP1."

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Fifth Harmony's 'Sledgehammer' is a Demi Lovato song with five girls instead

Fifth Harmony's 'Sledgehammer' is a Demi Lovato song with five girls instead

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Not neccessarily a bad thing

Do you like Demi Lovato? Then you'll love Fifth Harmony's "Sledgehammer."

The former has spent her last Top 40 singles singing about matters of the heart -- literally. Her human heart has been the center of "Really Don't Care," "Neon Lights," "Heart Attack" and "Give Your Heart a Break." Really. Listen to the lyrics. Demi Lovato loves singing about hearts just as much as Mumford & Sons does.

Falling in love is basically a death sentence to the singer, but she couches it with huge, crowd-pleasing dance beats and liberally applying kindly '90s boy band synths and an occasional dash of acoustic or live instruments. Her vocals never fail nor cease to soar on choruses, which is precisely why you may or may not like Demi Lovato: her heart is bursting and she needs you to hear about it.

Singing quintet Fifth Harmony follows exactly this formula, only with five girls I guess? If the crew were to splinter right now, Camila Cabello would be the one to continue on, having the strongest and most character-heavy voice, and it sounds like she's the one who's all over this "Sledgehammer" ("slaydge-hamma") recording.

"Sledgehammer" is on Fifth Harmony's new album "Reflection," out on Dec. 16. The song is the follow-up single to "BO$$" which did its damndest to make an impact on radio this summer.

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Belle & Sebastian walk 'The Party Line' with new song
Credit: BelleandSebastian.com

Belle & Sebastian walk 'The Party Line' with new song

It's the first single from 2015's 'Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance'

Scottish twee veterans Belle & Sebastian have been looking back on their prolific career lately, having recently initiated a series of reissues of their previous albums.

But the group -- led by "God Help the Girl" architect Stuart Murdoch -- aren't content to just relive their glory days; they have a new album called "Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance" slated for January, and have just released the set's first single, "The Party Line."

By the time the new album hits stores, it will have been nearly five years since B&S' last proper album, "Write About Love," was released. If the new tune is any indication, "Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance" will be living up to its title as a party-ready record.

It's a synth-driven, danceable jam which is part of the band's continuing evolution from the more '60s-influenced melancholia of their early work, when even their most upbeat songs were bittersweet affairs. 

Listen to it here.



And here's the typically dramatic and compelling single artwork:

"Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance" will be released January 20.

Check out their extensive tourdates in Europe, Asia and North America here.

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Nicki Minaj, Drake and Lil Wayne combine for new song 'Only'

Nicki Minaj, Drake and Lil Wayne combine for new song 'Only'

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Chris Brown sings, for good measure: Is there any air in this balloon?

I don't know why I find it so hard to believe that this new single "Only" is the first time Drake and Lil Wayne have been on a track together for a Nicki Minaj song. I'm also finding it (slightly less) hard to believe that single isn't all that great.

Devoting about a third of its running time is Nick Minaj asserting she hasn't "f*cked" the Young Money founder and one of its biggest signees; and Drake and Lil Wayne over on their verses going "yeah, uh huh." Of course, the guys need maintain that, given the chance, they'd be the  MC's squeeze, or as Drake delicately puts it, "I never f*cked Nicki cause she got a man / But when that's over then I'm first in line."

I get it. This combo -- which includes a deliberate, meandering hook from Chris Brown -- needs a little loping "hot for Nicki" fanfare, particularly for a track specifically for her "Pinkprint." Wayne's next "Carter" album has been MIA, Drake's apparently just dropping tracks for funsies on the weekend, and Minaj's "Pinkprint" release date just got shoved back by two weeks.

So don't you want something that rocks out the gate? Minaj needs that bluster, a big hit, to light "Pinkprint" on fire, and you just know your single's in trouble when the hottest verse on the track is from Weezy in marble mouth mode. Drake maybe got the giggles on his turn because he knew he could spend half of it talking about that one time he was on that one music video shoot for "Anaconda" (lest ye forget), and tack on an ode to thick girls. Minaj's pun game runneth dry. That slow, ominous beat is even looking around going, "What am I doing here?"

Maybe it was a good way to wink, to show Brown and Drake buried the hatchet (though, 100:1 they weren't in the studio on the same day. Pics or it didn't happen.), or a warning flare shot for Nicki's beau to see. Maybe it's an iteration that Nicki Minaj didn't come to change the game, she's just one of the guys until she's not.

Let's just, please, get a remix and see how we feel in the morning. Also, why is Drake the one in the papal hat? I thought Chris Brown's the one to be like, "Jesus is on my side," wakka wakka.

"Only" is on Nicki Minaj's "The Pinkprint," now due on real and virtual shelves Dec. 15.

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Taylor Swift, '1989': Track-by-track album review

Taylor Swift, '1989': Track-by-track album review

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You haven't been waiting for it, it's been waiting for you

Taylor Swift may be one of the last remaining pop artists on the planet to be able to sell a million albums in one week in the United States. The record industry has been hemorrhaging since the early aughts, but Swift has been adaptable, to say the least. She's a hustler, keeping her spirits and sounds current with the room temperature.

She started in 2006 with country-core self-titled set, then worked her ass off through the gazillion-selling "Fearless," the Grammys on "Speak Now," the massive crossover of hits like "I Knew You Were Trouble" and novelty "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" off of "Red."

The 24-year-old is firmly pop now for "1989," which will breed more certifiable radio staples than just "Shake It Off." "Blank Space" is apparently primed to be the official second single and it is an experiment to say the least (read the track-by-track below). "Welcome to New York" has legs because, well, New York City odes; "This Love" needs to make it's way to Adult Top 40, a la Sam Smith's "Stay With Me," and roost.

The common strings that runs through "1989" is Swift's image consciousness; shocks of lush synths; and the blight of the speak-sing. For the latter, there are scads of bridges and pre-choruses on which Swift resorts to little raps or conversational asides, where more literate vocal gymnasts like Ariana Grande, Sia, Jessie J and Beyonce would suss out as prettier fills.

But Swift is deft in other ways. She combined with heavy-hitting (and -handed) songwriters like Max Martin, Ryan Tedder and Jack Antonoff to make her very adult and pop-centered metamorphosis complete. Break-ups and flirtations still dominate the subject matter, but now they're bigger, and take more chances, burning away the memories of Swift as a barefoot-girl-with-guitar.

Below is a closer look at the effort, frame by frame. All those chances she takes? Don't always work. "1989" isn't a great album, but it's a good one, with lots of promise and further proof that Swift and her team figured out how to be the zeitgeist just by closely following it.
 

"Welcome to New York": Will survive for eternity because of every TV talk show, morning show, awards show, and New York-based sports event. With generalities like how New York is "like any great love, it keeps you guessing," you're like "Whatever Taylor Swift, you've lived in a $22 million loft for all of five minutes." Cloying, grandiose, simple. Grade: B-

"Blank Space": If this song were a human person, you would back away from him/her, slowly, even though you're tempted to ask him/her out. Swift puts on a pouty baby coo that would have Lana Del Rey flipping her hair, a batsh*t minxy, crazy-eyed ticking time bomb that would send Miley into a tongue flicking rampage. Lines like "Boys only want love if it's torture" or "You look like my next mistake" are the kind that will have mommies cringing at their daughters miming it in the car.

Lyrically, this is precisely the kind of song Swift would abhor in her current state of anti-tabloidian Zen, a boiling pot of modern pop starlet pitfalls. So I got to conspiratorially thinking, stick with me here: while "Bad Blood" is rumored to be the Katy Perry subtweet of "1989," I think catty lines like "Nightmare dressed like a daydream," the jealousy, "cherry lips," and the conversion of bad boys to good ones on the weekend align this song as more of a put-down to the "California Gurls" singer. It's a dressed-up barb. A nasty one, if you think about it. Grade: B

"Style": I completely forget that I'm even listening to A Song until that "slick" chorus kicks with a tight little skirt, and then you're doing twirls and big hand motions at yourself in the mirror. This is truly out of 1989. Grade: Mmmm

"Out of the Woods": Is damned near perfect. I moved the furniture so we could dance. Grade: A+

"All You Had to Do Was Stay": This isn't a Taylor Swift song, it's a Max Martin mid-tempo single, a moody kiss-off crammed into adolescent trappings, some cheerleader "heys," tinkling sky-scraped keyboards... make a mold, push this out the door. Grade: B

"Shake It Off": This is the kind of single where you start calling Swift by just her first name. She allows her Honest To Gawd personality into this one, has a lot of fun vocally and lets that charming, catchy choral phrase twirl around some flavorful new elements, like skronking horns, some live drums, the '50s hand-claps. The speak-sing of "this. sick. beat." and a misdiagnosed "hella" tarnishes this otherwise delightful tune. Grade: A-

"I Wish You Would": The tempo's too fast for Swift's performance, too dense for her quips, too '90s, too too. And the "it's-all-good" makes me want to set this whole jumbly problem track on FIRE. D+

"Bad Blood": Leave it to Taylor Swift to turn the word "cut" into three-syllables. Salting the wound, back stabbing, band-aids fixing bullet-holes... METAPHOR. WE GET IT. Mix her uncharacteristically bratty tone with the weakest beat and the softest cliches, this labor clunks to the finish line. Grade: C-

"Wildest Dreams": Taylor Swift's surely extensive dress collection makes another curtsy in this image-conscious rom-com, with lots of production color and bass like a heart beat. It sounds like an Instagram that's been toyed with too much, but the "tangled up with you all night" line? Yum, give this a hard house remix, stat. Grade: B

"How You Get the Girl": I literally listened to the album four times before I even noticed this song was on here. I forget it almost instantly. It sounds like a buffer episode of "Gilmore Girls," in timeliness and tone and activity. Grade: C

"This Love": The doubled vocals really emphasize Swift's little vocal tics, layered over top fluid, sumptuous harmonies and sonic arches galore, raising the hair on your arms. This song makes me want to tenderly place sentimental, rememberancy things inside a velvet-lined jewelry box; or shut the door to rooms filled with furniture covered in sheets; or drink a bottle of fernet and DM garbage to my exes. Grade: A-

"I Know Places": ...Is two different songs. She's barely confident enough for the high notes, especially on the bridge -- it's kind astounding that's the take they went with. Tedder really wanted this one to work. It could have benefited from dropping it down a key, stripping some of the octave doubles. But, God, does Ryan Tedder love a singing round as a finale. And, here, and so do I. This flirts with being "street," which is as street as this set gets.

PSA: The phrase "I know places..." will get you face-mased if you're a dude. Grade: B-

"Clean": John Hughes is that you? Imogen Heap, in songwriter mode, helped tell this tale about addiction, risk, wanting, not having, safety and daring. There's some beautifully intereting textural pings and pops in the rhythm section and a thumbbox dipping beneath some warped bass notes. Grade: B+

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Here are 10 reasons why you never underestimate Taylor Swift

Here are 10 reasons why you never underestimate Taylor Swift

Just look how many albums, how many followers, what age and what feats...

Listen, you don't have to be a fan of Taylor Swift to know that she has a massive impact on the popular music sphere.

You don't even have to like her, but there are definitely some career milestones the now-24-year-old singer and songwriter have achieved that you've just got to respect.

Swift is on the eve of releasing her new album "1989," which industry experts are pinning at selling between 800,000 and 900,000 of in its first week. It will undoubtedly be a No. 1 album... again... and on the lead-up to Christmas, it will likely be No. 1 for a long time.

And Swift literally shut down Hollywood Bouldavard in Los Angeles last night. Seriously. It was a parking lot of bodies.

And yet, the "Shake It Off" singer has long held the reputation for being a artist for the fans. She has been omnipresent during this promotional campaign, but even as she toured or didn't ahve any effort to be pushing, she still reaches out on her social networks, makes time for autographs, is more intimate than most with her Swifties.

Her clean image and "up" personality may have you underestimating her. Don't. Read 10 reasons why Taylor Swift's achievements and biggest moments may blow your hair back, regardless of the music. ("Out of the Woods" is brilliant, though, to be sure.)

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