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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The Best Opening Song Pairings in Album History

Categories: Commentary

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Timothy Norris for LA Weekly. Slideshow
First impressions have always been important in pop music, but in an era where bands seems to outnumber people, it's become our primary currency. In three minutes you can go from reading about a band, to typing their name in Spotify, and writing them off permanently. These are strange times, a utopia gone wrong, and it doesn't seem to be slowing down. Pray for the thinning moments of contemplation for our future generations.

But that doesn't have to be a death knell, at least not all the time. An album's killer first impression can serve as some of the most memorable experiences of music listening, a flashpoint realization that the reason you claw through all the middling vibes is to stumble on sublimity. With that in mind, we've collected a few of our favorite one-two punches, when a record turns its track one track two sequence into a clarion call.

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Hip-Hop Did Not Start the Way You Think It Did

Categories: Commentary

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To hear most people tell it, the history of rap goes like this: MCs were originally rapping primarily to showcase their DJs. That is, until Sugar Hill Gang put out "Rapper's Delight" in 1979. It was the second rap record of all time and an enormous hit, proving there was a market for rapping on wax.

From there, Kool Moe Dee battled Busy Bee and changed how rappers could rap, Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel put out "The Message" -- changing what rappers could rap about -- and Run-DMC released "Sucker MCs (Krush Groove 1)," which changed how rap could sound.

By Chaz Kangas

At the start of it all, of course, was DJ Kool Herc's 1973 block party in the Bronx, which effectively birthed hip-hop as we know it.

Those are the bullet points, but they don't answer the question: How did rapping get started in the first place?

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The Strange, Stupid History of Pop Music Plagiarism

Categories: Commentary

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Flickr user Heinrich Klaffs
Yeah, even this guy.
Plagiarism in music is a weird concoction of money, pride and misinterpretation. We all know that nobody has written an original rock song since 1953, and the entire music industry is founded on the principle of exchanging blurry photocopies of other people's work. But that certainly doesn't stop artists from realizing a cash opportunity when they see it. Case in point: Tame Impala, an Australian psych band currently fielding accusations that their song "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards" rips off Argentinian singer Pablo Ruiz's "Océano," which we can almost be sure is a song that Tame Impala have never, ever heard. It doesn't matter, money talks, and the band will inevitably get sued and be tied up in courts for years to come.

So we decided to look back on some of the more interesting cases of music plagiarism. Who among our favorite artists decided to ingloriously steal (or take inspiration from, depends on your definition,) from others? Can we learn anything, or is this just a never-ending cat fight of litigation and tears? The answer is more obvious than you'd expect.

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In Defense of Liking Music for No Good Reason

Categories: Commentary

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A Yeezus tour photo courtesy of Rogers & Cowan
Because it's awesome, is why.
Why did you like Yeezus? Did you find it anarchic? Did you like how it challenged racial norms in a confrontational, blacked-out way? Did you like its minimalism? Or its maximalism? Did you find the songs to speak to a larger narrative of where Kanye West is artistically and emotionally? Did you appreciate the videos, or the bloodthirstiness? Did you enjoy the lack of singles and the punk narrative?

This is how you're supposed to like Yeezus. It's a cultural artifact that aims to be a cultural artifact, the sort of album that comes with mystical adjectives like "brooding" and "antagonistic" already equipped. The justifications for the acclaim were prepackaged in the marketing, and it only took a few pissed-off punchlines to sell the world that this, right here, was Kanye's blue period. A wildly experimental album that was sure to alienate listeners, and destined solely to unite the cabal of serious, resourceful music fans eager enough to journey into the dark world.

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Can You Guess the Real Music Genre?

Categories: Commentary

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Photo of Neon Indian by Laura June Kirsch for the Village Voice. More here.
If there is one thing you can always blame music writers for, it's the utterly useless proliferation of genre tags into modern cultural dialogue. The construction of a genre can serve as hot branding for certain publications -- it's why a site like Pitchfork was totally happy to nurture an imaginary "chillwave" scene which really only encompassed about five bands in five completely different parts of the world. The connectivity of the Internet allows the idea of genre to bind our entirely asymmetrical music scene into something digestible. It's a vain attempt to give meaning and context to something that will always, always be hopelessly obfuscated.

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