Did Pink Floyd outsell Bob Marley? Did Pearl Jam outsell Nirvana? The answers may surprise you.
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Arcade Fire really want you to know that they’ve changed on their fourth album, Reflektor. They’re more colorful, more groovy, more willing to laugh at themselves. They recorded the album with LCD Soundsystem mastermind James Murphy as producer, and they debuted a big chunk of the material in a deeply strange half-hour special that aired on NBC following their appearance on the season premiere of Saturday Night Live. It’s a whole new era for Win Butler and his small legion of musicians.
But not really. While it’s true that Reflektor integrates elements of disco, reggae, calypso, and synth pop and is foregrounded by a busy sense of rhythm that has always been part of the band’s sound, the actual songs feel like the same old Arcade Fire: dour, earnest, thudding, and dramatic. Everything on Reflektor sounds as though it was recorded live at a worn-down discotheque, and though the “nightlife” gloss is attractive, it’s also superficial: There’s just no getting around this band’s unshakeable sense of self. There are solid, danceable beats on cuts like “Reflektor,” “We Exist,” and “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus),” but it’s hard to imagine anyone dancing to them outside the context of an Arcade Fire concert. The dynamic of the songs is heavily weighted in favor of arena rock theatricality, with the climaxes of key cuts like “Here Comes the Night Time” catering more to what would kill at a rock show rather than a dance club. Also, while they can write a good groove, the band is seemingly incapable of coming across as fun or sexy. They just can’t help but be a big stack of wet blankets.
Watch a very drunk Katy Perry and maybe even drunker Robert Pattinson sing karaoke.
There are basically two types of pop stars. There are the ones who subvert pop culture by bringing new ideas and images into the mainstream, like The Beatles, James Brown, David Bowie, Prince, Madonna, and Kanye West. Then there are those who simply make easy, unchallenging music that a wide variety of people can agree on. Katy Perry belongs to the second category. Whereas contemporaries like Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Ke$ha, and Miley Cyrus all gleefully test the boundaries of what can be done and said in a pop song, and experiment with images that have the potential to alienate large portions of their audience, Perry consistently makes the safest, most conservative creative choices. Her music is conventional; her image is traditionally feminine. Even when she pushes toward overt sexuality, she neutralizes that by making it goofy and regressive.
This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Perry’s blockbuster second album Teenage Dream had at least five major hits — “Teenage Dream,” “California Gurls,” “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),” “Firework,” and “The One That Got Away” — that were so expertly composed and unstoppably catchy that they could wear down the resistance of even those who were initially wary of her pinup-girl shtick. A great pop song is a great pop song, regardless of context or subtext. The problem with Perry’s new follow-up album Prism is that despite the fact that it is mainly written by the same team of songwriters — Perry along with pop wizards Dr. Luke, Max Martin, and Bonnie McKee — the songs mostly lack the overpowering hooks of Teenage Dream. As a result, the record is split between her most obnoxiously kitschy extremes and mind-numbing blandness.
This lip dub of Katy Perry’s “Roar” set at a children’s hospital is too beautiful to deal with.
The merch on Kanye’s Yeezus tour is pretty outrageous, but what else would you expect?