When I was eight years old, my mother was forced to give me “the talk.” “I Want Your Sex,” the lead single from George Michael's solo debut, Faith, was in heavy rotation on MTV during the summer of 1987. I approached my mom, wide-eyed, and asked, “What's monogamy?” Michael writes the word in red lipstick on the naked back of his then-girlfriend, model Kathy Jeung. Quick on her feet, my mother offered a thoughtful, albeit predictably heteronormative, answer: “It's when a man and a woman are married.”
Music (#1–10 of 487)
So many of the highlights and lowlights of the year in singles were, for better or worse, attuned to what feels like a worldwide drift toward maintaining one's own financial and psychological (same diff) bottom line at the expense of anyone else's. Beyoncé, of all performers, was far from immune, though her particular brand of exceptionalism continues to dress itself up in the finery of collective consciousness raising. Far more common were the unfussy, ruthlessly entertaining likes of Fifth Harmony speaking on behalf of Melania Trumps everywhere. Or Kanye West's epic clapback against Taylor Swift, which in turn presaged his detour into the mental hospital, which we've now seen firsthand more or less counts as the first step in a presidential bid in 2020.
Even before everything started to go really wrong for Michael Jackson, Dangerous emerged as something of a harbinger of end times. The official Rolling Stone-canonical version of events holds that the ouster of Jackson's new-jack album from the top of the Billboard charts in favor of Nirvana's Nevermind signaled the unmistakable death knell for the 1980s and the arrival of the '90s. Never mind that both albums were certified blockbusters, as was the release that supplanted Nirvana the very next week: Garth Brooks's Ropin' the Wind. The sense at the time, amid the unprecedented promotional push for Jackson's latest effort and its analogous chart performance, was that the crown was slipping from the king of pop's fingers.
The music video for Britney Spears's “Slumber Party,” a standout track from the singer's recent Glory, starts off promisingly enough. A vintage car rolls up to a mansion, and Britney, looking fresh, strides up to the front door. Inside she discovers a sleepover-themed masquerade party, with guests dressed in their slinkiest nighttime attire, and locks eyes with a stud in a tuxedo and what appears to be a David Bowie bolt tattoo.
In Phil Joanou’s 1988 documentary Rattle and Hum, U2 guitarist the Edge, né David Howell Evans, gives the backstory of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” before he, Bono, and a full Harlem church choir launch into a rousing live take of the song. “[It’s] a gospel song pretty much,” he says. “It doesn’t sound much like a gospel song the way we do it, but if you look at the lyric and the basic music, that’s exactly what it is.”
This is U2 one year removed from the incredible success of The Joshua Tree, freshly anointed as the biggest band in the world. The Rattle and Hum film, which accompanied a double album of the same name, was less a follow-up to The Joshua Tree than a conscious evasion of U2’s proper next step: Designed in the Exile on Main Street mold, it shuffles messily between formulaic Americana, cover songs, and live versions of tracks released just 19 months prior. It sold 14 million copies and didn’t do much to hurt U2’s brand, but further confused whether this band—once so serious and political, at times dangerous—cared most about the message, the art, or the money.
At this point, to add even another sentence of fawning, if well-deserved, praise for My Bloody Valentine's Loveless seems pointlessly tautological. Yes, a quarter century after an album's release is theoretically a prime moment to reflect on its legacy and influence. But that legacy was secured nearly as soon as Kevin Shields's symphony of noise was released, at which point its revolutionary layers of guitar effects immediately began inspiring a generation of music nerds and gear geeks to start their own bands. After all, the album, along with My Bloody Valentine's debut, Isn't Anything, almost singlehandedly spurred the formation of an entirely new genre in shoegaze.
Consider Prince in the early 1990s, not yet Formerly Known As, coming off two soundtrack albums, 1989's Batman and 1990's Graffiti Bridge, neither of which registered as substantial expansions of the artist's very individualist persona. The latter shared a set list with everyone from funk godfather George Clinton to soul icon Mavis Staples, while the former pit his Purpleness against one of the very few pop-culture symbols more ubiquitous than his own. Prince's previous studio album, 1988's Lovesexy, had been well received by critics, but less so by the general public.
The soundtrack to the new documentary Silicon Cowboys, the story of the rise and fall of one of IBM's first competitors, doesn't drop until Friday, but we've got the exclusive premiere of two tracks from the album. The score, available on Little Twig Records, was composed by Ian Hultquist, a founding member of the indietronica band Passion Pit. Hultquist, who's based in Los Angeles, left the band in 2014 to pursue writing music for film, TV, and commercials.
One of the more infamous soundbites surrounding Primal Scream's Screamadelica is lead singer Bobby Gillespie's description of the transcendent “Higher Than the Sun” as “the most important record since [the Sex Pistols'] 'Anarchy in the UK'.” The quote—sometimes also attributed to Alan McGee, then the boss at Primal Scream's record label, Creation—props the song as a statement of purpose for the band as well as its era, the type of “cut-off record” that makes “everybody else look ancient” (to again quote Gillespie, interviewed at the unsteady heights of newfound stardom). Yet the true magic of “Higher Than the Sun” isn't that it sounds like nothing else, but that it sounds like everything at once: It's a seductive and detached fusing of the jazz, blues, rock, and country influences that had mesmerized Gillespie his whole life, with an added dose of ambient house from collaborators Andrew Weatherall, the Orb's Alex Paterson, and PiL's Jah Wobble—a veritable sonic time capsule disguised as forward motion and thought. McGee, speaking reflectively this time, said of the song in 2013 that he'd “die to this tune if I have any choice…it's a hymn.”
Even before a release date was announced for Lady Gaga's new single, “Perfect Illusion,” Mother Monster's minions were plotting to assure the song's success, launching an ill-conceived GoFundMe campaign and creating fake Twitter accounts to construct the illusion that soccer moms are breathlessly awaiting Gaga's new music. “Radio hosts hate homosexuals and stan twitters, it's a fact,” one not-incorrect, if overzealous, fan posted on a message board (yes, those things still exist).