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From the KORD writers:

LMFAO’s ‘Party Rock Anthem’ gets the last laugh

“Party Rock Anthem,” the worldwide smash from electronic duo LMFAO’s sophomore album Sorry for Party Rocking, doesn’t make grand statements about American politics. It doesn’t show concern for people sleeping on the streets. It doesn’t consider our warming climate, or worry about daily commutes or paying bills. It offers neither commentary on the pains and joys of romance, nor profound statements about sex or death.

But it will make you dance.

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One-chord wonder: Why Junior Walker’s ‘Shotgun’ still hits the target

“Shotgun” is the Motown classic that sounds nothing at all like a Motown classic. Junior Walker and the All Stars’ roadhouse R&B juggernaut is untamed and unbound — a wild card in a catalog synonymous with sequinned style and silk-trimmed sophistication. Released on Motown’s Soul subsidiary in early 1965 (a pivotal year in the company’s commercial and creative ascent, thanks to crossover blockbusters including the Four Tops’ “I Can’t Help Myself [Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch]” and the Supremes’ “Stop! In the Name of Love”), “Shotgun” delivers gutbucket grooves to rival the grittiest, greasiest records from competitors Stax and Atlantic, but despite topping the Billboard R&B charts for four nonconsecutive weeks, it remains an outlier in the Motown canon, its primordial energy unmatched by the label before or after — a tantalizing taste of a more incendiary Motown Sound that might have been. 

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Norman Whitfield

Producer and songwriter Norman Whitfield revolutionized the Motown Sound for a new age in music and culture, eschewing the ebullient R&B grooves that propelled the label’s commercial ascension in pursuit of something much deeper, darker and more daring. Working in partnership with Motown hitmakers like the Temptations and Marvin Gaye, Whitfield drew on contemporary influences including acid rock and funk to create a series of smash singles that explored the triumphs and tragedies shaping Black identity in civil rights-era America, architecting a singularly atmospheric sound retroactively dubbed “psychedelic soul.”  

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How Dylan grounded rock’s most tired joke

If you’re a live music enthusiast anywhere under the age of 25, you might bemoan all the great performers, events and venues you were born too late to experience. True, you never got to see Nirvana, and sure, you never got to visit CBGB. But look on the bright side: you also never had to endure one of those nights when George Jones didn’t even bother to show. Thanks to smoking bans, you’ve never come home from a concert smelling like an ashtray. And chances are you’ve never heard some drunken jackass calling for an act other than Lynyrd Skynyrd to play “Free Bird.”

You can credit Bob Dylan for that last one.

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Homer Simpson’s favorite band?

Homer Simpson loves donuts, beer, and Grand Funk Railroad. America’s favorite cartoon dad famously declared his affection for the hard rock group in 1996’s “Homerpalooza,” the penultimate episode of the seventh season of The Simpsons, highlighting among Grand Funk’s virtues “the wild shirtless lyrics of Mark Farner, the bong-rattling bass of Mel Schacher and the competent drumwork of Don Brewer.

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Making a Motown masterpiece: ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’

When music critic Dave Marsh published his book The Heart of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made in 1989, he declared “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” the greatest single of them all — and as the years go by, the selection seems more and more unassailable. Marvin Gaye’s searing account of a man devastated to learn through the rumor mill of his lover’s infidelity “distills four hundred years of paranoia and talking drum gossip into three minutes and fifteen seconds of anguished soul-searching,” Marsh writes. “The proof’s as readily accessible as your next unexpected encounter on the radio with the fretful, self-absorbed vocal that makes the record a lost continent of music and emotion.”

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OK Go’s relentless self-promotion pays off

As a song, “Here It Goes Again” is a footnote. But as a marketing stunt, it’s a milestone — a harbinger of a world where fame and fortune are measured in views, likes and shares, not record sales, radio airplay or downloads. Released online roughly a year prior to the introduction of Apple’s iPhone, the philosopher’s stone of the social media age, “Here It Goes Again” unleashed the power of viral video to chart a new path to celebrity, vividly demonstrating digital media’s unprecedented capacity to establish more direct connections between performers and audiences while disintermediating labels and broadcasters from the star-maker machinery.

OK Go, nominees Best Short Form Music Video for “Here It Goes Again” (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
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The Roots break through with ‘The Next Movement’

Play “The Next Movement,” the 1999 single from the Roots’ fourth album Things Fall Apart, and from the first sliding hand clap, listeners at any party, cookout or kickback will stop mid-conversation, nod their heads in quiet appreciation, and allow the music to take them to a place where hip-hop returns to its roots.

LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 26: Black Thought, Questlove, Kamal Gray, Frank “Knuckles” Walker, Damon “Tuba Gooding Jr.”, Bryson, James Poyser and Mark Kelley The Roots attend the 2016 BET Awards at Microsoft Theater on June 26, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
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Mazzy Star’s ethereal, eternal anthem

Fade Into You” is a dream-pop lullaby — a fugue-state meditation on love and longing that shimmers with the elusive beauty of a desert mirage. Released to radio in 1994, Mazzy Star’s signature hit really wasn’t a hit at all, falling four spots shy of the Billboard Top 40, but it endures like precious few records of its era: in fact, “Fade Into You” seems to exist outside of time and space altogether, echoing across the airwaves from the deepest reaches of consciousness.

LOS ANGELES – 1990: L-R David Roback (1958 – 2020) and Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star pose for a portrait in 1990 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Laura Levine/Getty Images)
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