Seth Colter Walls

Erykah Badu's Maverick R&B

Erykah Badu's latest album is filled with plenty of gonzo touches, not least of which is its title—New Amerykah, Part II: Return of the Ankh. One of the best moments comes toward the end, when Badu's voice is manipulated for a few syllables.

Lady Gaga's Music and Fame Hypocrisy

French intellectual Claude Lévi-Strauss died at the age of 100 last month, before he could comment on the latest single from Lady Gaga. If you think this an absurd notion, note that Lévi-Strauss's major project—discovering the common aspects of myths from different eras and continents—has influenced many pop scholars, including Greil Marcus.

Classical Music's Version of Dodgers vs. Yankees

They're not in competition, they swear. Much as you might want to draw elite orchestras from New York and Los Angeles into a bicoastal grudge-match story, they just won't hear of it—especially this year, when both are debuting young music directors who aim to raise the cultural profile of classical music.Even if we grant this premise, it's certainly notable that top philharmonics on both coasts have simultaneously undertaken face-lifts.

Book Review: A Nader Novel

Liberalism has long held a reputation for hoarding the influential celebrity talent: Redford, Streisand, etc. Consider last fall, when candidate Obama received an aesthetic donation from rapper, whose "Yes We Can" video featured Scarlett Johansson, while GOP admen resorted to piping in old Jackson Browne—who promptly sued.

Yoko Ono Gets Her Due

To talk about Yoko Ono is to talk about The Scream. An impossibly long, warbling vocal tremor, it confirmed the public's worst prejudices about Ono—that she was an unmusical self-promoter who'd put John Lennon under her spell and split up the Beatles.

Maxwell's Pure Blues Sounds

If you're doing quality work within a genre, you don't tend to declare it dead. And then there's Maxwell, the R&B singer whose pouffy Afro and history-conscious music made him a leading sex symbol of '90s neo-soul. "Is there even such a thing as R&B anymore?" he asks. "Hip-hop has completely absorbed it.