While Phil Collins’s current Still Not Dead Yet tour has been a mostly a celebratory affair, it also bears a tinge of bittersweetness. A variety of physical ailments have impaired Phil’s ability to move around, requiring him to be seated for the majority of the shows. But despite these challenges, there is a particular song Phil makes a point of standing up to deliver most nights. It’s not one of the perky sing-alongs like “Sussudio” or “Invisible Touch,” but his eternally haunting, bitter and thunderous “In The Air Tonight.”
Lana Del Rey has been one of the most polarizing artists in the 21st century pop world. Questions of authenticity have dogged her for her entire career, from criticisms of her so called adopted persona to her supposed affections supporting it. Every move has been ripe for attack. Criticism has often come wrapped in a thin veil of sexism; the fact is, her career blueprint is not much different from that of David Bowie’s. He was as calculated and theatrical in regards to his persona and product as they come, but the credibility of the music he produced was never in question.
The latest Del Rey album, Norman Fucking Rockwell! is not the work of a persona or a character; it is an open, brazen modern day love letter to the classically cynical, gorgeous California pop of the ’70s. Gone are the echo laden, girl group, Blue Velvet vibes that personified her previous recordings, Del Rey instead meshes lyrically caustic, in your face vocals with memorable melodies resting somewhere between post Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys and early ’70’s Joni Mitchell and wears her passion for these sounds on her sleeve. Prince once said when it came to making music, he would look at what his contemporaries were doing and go the other way. Del Rey is going the other way.
While it’s odd to categorize a new album as a teaser, it’s hard not to consider Closer To Grey, today’s surprise release from Chromatics, to be just that. In 2015, the band announced that a new album titled Dear Tommy was on the way, going so far as to offer an official track listing. Though several tracks earmarked for it have trickled out since then, the album itself has never been released. Stories of all copies being destroyed have led to comparisons with the the poster child of all that is unreleased, The Beach Boys’ Smile. In this day and age of stand alone song releases and mix tapes, an unreleased album being regarded with such reverence and anticipation is a rarity, and in the case of Chromatics, deserved.
There’s been a long-standing, at times insufferable debate as to whether or not My Chemical Romance were an really an emo band. While that description was accurate in terms of the lyrical sentiments, it didn’t reflect their actual sound, a manic mix of early Queen, Iron Maiden, The Misfits and The Smiths. But no matter where they’re categorized, for some listeners coming of age and not fitting during the early noughts, they were the only band that mattered. While their signature song “Welcome To The Black Parade” was epically bombastic and capable of driving moms crazy, it also had an unfailingly earnest, empathetic and melodic heart beating inside of it.
It’s hard not to feel cynical about the current onslaught of collaborations in the musical universe these days. The trend seems less about popular artists creating something great together and more about leveraging multiple fanbases to jack up stream counts. Enter Miranda Lambert to turn this trend on its ear on her new all-star cover of “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.”
The 2010 Rush documentary Beyond The Lighted Stage has a strange effect on all those who witness it. No matter what one thought of Rush and their music before viewing it, you would have to be some kind monster to hate them afterward. Their heartfelt bond with one another, self awareness about their effect on men (check out their cameo in 2009’s I Love You Man), as well as, of course, their virtuosic musicianship, proves riotously lovable on screen. As a result, people who have never been “into” Rush before have come away liking them, or at the very least wanting to like them.