The Top 10 Power Ballads of All Time

Categories: Commentary

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Photo by Helge Øverås via Wikimedia Commons
If we're being completely honest, power ballads are responsible for some of the most resonant music-listening experiences in the entire world. They're a beautiful blend of sentiment and obviousness, a band willfully becoming emotionally available. Everybody makes fun of the power ballad, because sometimes it's hard to admit we gave over our souls so easily. We've all made fun of a lot of the songs on this list, but we've also had private, don't-look-at-me emotional moments with each of them. This is the foundational argument against anyone who maintains that pop music makes evil people; this is proof to any aliens that the human race is not beyond salvation.

This is the top ten power ballads of all time.

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Weezer Has Finally Made Its Third Great Album

Categories: Commentary

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Eric Gruneisen
Weezer at Riot Fest last month. Full slideshow here.
You have to earn a Weezer fan's trust before he shows you his playlists. First, he'll make sure you aren't just parroting somebody else's post-Pinkerton decline narrative. He'll want to be sure you don't believe bassist Matt Sharp secretly wrote both of the band's two classic albums. He'll need to know that you have favorite outtakes and demos that never came out, not even on Rivers Cuomo's Alone records.

He'll want to know that you've thought -- over and over -- about how each of the seven albums the band's released since 2001 was lacking, not just in general but in its own particular way. Maladroit has great solos but the melodies are lifeless; Make Believe has heart but the production is sterile and the songs so short on words that they break into spontaneous ooh-ing choruses. The Red Album has high highs and low lows (mention "Miss Sweeney" and "Pig" here), and Hurley is competent but hardly a Weezer album at all. You shouldn't mention Raditude yet.

See also: How a Fourteen-Year-Old Weezer Holy Grail Leaked Last Week

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Mike Doughty, We Have Some Questions for Your Question Jar

Categories: Commentary

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Deborah Lopez
Mike Doughty
Mike Doughty will bring his Question Jar Show to the Walnut Room this Friday, October 10. He's had... an exciting relationship with the songs that made him semi-famous as the front man of Soul Coughing, originally swearing off the material before recording an album of Soul Coughing "re-imaginings." He's got a surefire way to bring intrigue to this weekend's show, however: Bringing a jar in which audience members can submit questions, in the grand style of middle school sex ed classes. As it turns out, we have a few questions for Mike Doughty.

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In Defense of Tribute Shows

Categories: Commentary

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Kholood Eid for the Riverfront Times.
Lez Zeppelinl

It's been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but in the world of music no one appreciates a copycat, especially those who work for months and sometimes even years to bring something new and original into the world. Tribute shows -- that is, those with bands whose sole purpose is to cover the songs of one particular artist -- draw the ire of artists who work in the vein of originality because not only are the imitators not doing anything new or innovative, they are merely riding the coattails of those who do. But do they bring anything to the table?


Well, for one, the closest I've ever been to seeing Tool was in the form a of tribute act.

Maynard James Keenan wasn't there. Neither was Adam Jones, Danny Carey or Justin Chancellor. It was simply four musicians in love with Keenan's most popular creation, putting it out there on the stage.


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Musicians Are Often Exploited in Denver: Here's What We Can Do About It

Categories: Commentary

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Aaron Thackeray
Denver music is much more than sold-out shows at Red Rocks. Let's make sure we're paying everyone fairly.
Many musicians are accustomed to playing for free, especially those who don't have a large following. The joy of it, as well as the promise of exposure, often suffice as a reward. But this can cause consternation for serious or professional artists who spend hours upon hours honing their craft. In the economy of live music, when is it appropriate to not pay someone for her creative labor?

My own experience suggests there is no clear answer. Overall, musicians enter into business relationships at a disadvantage, and not paying musicians treads a fine line with their outright exploitation. But I've also come to learn that there are many instances when playing for free seems acceptable. So, how do we tease out the difference? It can be hard to codify exploitative behavior. I'd suggest as a starting point that when other people profit from the presence of live music but the musicians themselves don't receive compensation, they are being exploited by definition: their labor generates value that disproportionately goes to other people.

See also: 50 Ways to Support Your DIY Music Community

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Everything Outkast Is Cooler Than

Categories: Commentary

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Bryan Sutter for the Riverfront Times. More photos here.
Outkast, now just a handful of shows away from what looks a lot like the end of its performing career, has made something of an art form out of cleverly describing its own level of "cool." Though the Atlanta duo is far from the first rap group to do so, Big Boi and Andre 3000 have certainly made a game out of it, employing all manner of wordplay in their explanations of the matter. "Cooler than a polar bear's toenails," from 1996's ATLiens, is likely the most well-known example.

Below, you will find a list of every single thing the members of Outkast have lyrically asserted themselves to be cooler than, along with carefully thought-out, scientific explanations. Let's dig in.

See also: OutKast - Fiddler's Green - August 22, 2014

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The Ten Best Rock-and-Roll-Themed Pinball Machines

Categories: Commentary

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Internet Pinball Database
I am a devoted video-game fan and a constant cheerleader for them to be considered art, but honestly, I would give up most of the compelling stories and high-definition graphics in the world for simple pinball machines. They're crafted and mechanical, and when built with a loving hand, they can turn almost anything into a game of skill while simultaneously paying homage.

They're like themed slot machines, but with less crying...usually. Today we look at some tables based on our favorite musicians.

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The Eight Worst Albums Ever: Let's Give Them a Second Chance

Categories: Commentary

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Emily Tan for the Village Voice. More here.
Reviewing music is, at best, an inexact science. You may say, "I don't like The Mountain Goats because John Darnielle's voice is annoying." I would respond with, "Fuck you, his voice isn't annoying at all, you just don't get it." That's pretty much divisive music discourse in a nutshell.

But that hasn't stopped us from critically evaluating millions of records. I ventured to Metacritic and found the worst of the worst. What is the absolute bottom tier of music, according to critics? Does it deserve to be there?

See also: The Ten Shittiest Nu-Metal Bands

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Why Blink-182 Is a Great Band

Categories: Commentary

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Christopher Victorio for OC Weekly. Full slideshow here.
Critics do their best to ignore Blink-182. After all, it's not easy to get scrunched up with deep opinions about lip-ringed, occasionally naked SoCal troublemakers hawking pre-YouTube music-video softcore on early-morning MTV rotation. Pitchfork didn't even bother publishing a flogging (a la 21st Century Breakdown) of Blink's 2011 comeback album Neighborhoods, much less a review.

In fact, to fans of previous musical generations, Blink-182 might be two notches above nursery rhymes in terms of the grand musical canon. Rolling Stone would call their 1999 album Enema of the State "harmless," which is profoundly wrong. Simply because there's a huge demographic of college kids thinking hard about music who consider Blink-182 one of the most important bands of all time, in about a decade, the band's best songs will achieve the respectable ubiquity of classic-rock radio. Blink-182 is anything but harmless, and they absolutely deserve their forthcoming revisionism.

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Here's How Long Your Set Should Be

Categories: Commentary

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Brandon Marshall
Jenny Lewis can pretty much play as long as she wants, as far as we're concerned.
When you purchase a ticket to any concert, you run the risk of not getting the experience you paid for. Outdoor shows get rained out. Favorite songs don't get played. Opening bands go over their allotted time. Sometimes a musician is just having a very bad night. The one variable any musician can feasibly control is the length of his or her setlist, but do bands like Interpol even have to give their audience more than an hour of their time?

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