Kanye West

The new video for Kanye West’s “Bound 2,” the final track off his latest masterpiece, Yeezus, provoked discussion and controversy. Set against self-consciously generic backdrops—horses running, Monument Valley—that you might have used when making a fake music video at a birthday party in 1992, Kanye rides a motorcycle, on which soon appears his reality-TV-famous fiancée Kim Kardashian. They proceed to copulate (on the motorcycle) while he raps lyrics not fit for a family blog post.

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Oh, 'Yeezus'

Kanye West's new album is raw, unapologetic—and boring

Kanye West's new album is raw, unapologetic—and boring

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The Lupe Fiasco debacle only highlighted a deeper fissure.

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Have we become unable to appreciate a good political joke coming from anyone but Jon Stewart?

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The music industry, whose economic status roughly mirrors that of Greece, is finally making once-unthinkable cutbacks in entitlements. The finalists for this year’s Grammys were announced this week, and some hugely popular acts who by tradition would have been guaranteed nominations were shut out of the top categories. With the weakening of the corporate oligarchy of the old-line record companies, the nomination process has loosened up a bit for the good.

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Tony Bennett Duets

A musical duet is no less susceptible to power dynamics than any other intimate collaboration between two partners. In creative terms, someone is usually on top. Even when figures of virtually equal standing join up, as Kanye West and Jay-Z did recently with their extravagantly produced and even more extravagantly hyped match-up, Watch the Throne, it’s usually clear that one—in this case, Kanye—exerted more influence, if not quite dominance, over the other.

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Forty years ago this July, a few weeks before what would have been his seventieth birthday (on August 4), Louis Armstrong died of a heart attack in the brick shoebox house in Corona, Queens that is now a museum in his honor. The pallbearers included Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Dizzy Gillespie, and Frank Sinatra, all of whom had shared the stage with Armstrong at multiple points over his long career.

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A Spell Deferred

Let’s say you have a daughter named Adele, and she is one of the most celebrated young singers in the world. Reporters ask you about her musical education, and you tell them that you raised her right, exposing her early to the work of four musicians: Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Dylan, and Nina Simone. What would you be saying, in essence, when you listed those four artists together, as the father of Adele, the phenomenally successful young English R&B singer, did a few weeks ago?

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The pop charts have gotten awfully crowded. There are still only ten songs in the Top Ten, although some could count as multiple songs for the way they combine elements grafted from other pieces of music. There’s nothing new or scandalous in that method, by which Lupe Fiasco employed parts of a Modest Mouse recording to make “The Show Goes On,” the number-nine hit on the Billboard singles chart this week. What’s extraordinary—in fact, unprecedented in the history of pop music—is the high number of ad hoc teams of collaborators named as artists.

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Watching Republicans clutching their pearls to see the rapper Common invited to the White House on a poetry night Wednesday has revealed a party whose stars are grievously out of touch with the culture they hope to lead, as well as to culture in general, apparently. It is understandable that some would imagine if the Obamas convene a poetry night, the invitees would be the likes of Billy Collins or Elizabeth Alexander, who read a poem at the President’s inauguration.

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