Once More Into the Elena Kagan Thesis Frenzy!

Last week, I read Elena Kagan's Princeton thesis—the whole document, not just the oft-quoted personal soundbites from her preface and conclusion—and found it to be an evenhanded assessment of the Socialist Party's brief window of effective politicking in New York during the early 20th century.

The Rolling Stones Come Back From Exile--Again

It's a fact as undeniable as it is oft-repeated: in the late '60s and early '70s, the Rolling Stones were incapable of doing wrong. Or, at the very least, the wrongs they were committing were exactly the sort that the public wanted from its rock stars.

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.

Holocaust Music Breaks Its Silence

The story of Franz Schreker flips classical music's greatest cliché on its head. Instead of toiling in obscurity during his life and gaining fame only after death, the Austrian was a star as a young composer—before he was all but erased from history.

The Hollowness of 'The Hurt Locker'

It's unfashionable to carp about Hollywood's motives in handing out the Oscar for best picture. Savvy filmgoers are, at this late, cynical date, surely aware of the industry politics afoot, even if we reserve the right to howl privately about the worst offenses.

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.

What Does Bob Dylan Sound Like Singing Christmas Carols?

What would you say if Bob Dylan came caroling in your neighborhood on Christmas Eve?"Listen, Bobby D. That was an absolutely rip-roaring take on 'Must Be Santa,' but would you mind terribly playing 'Idiot Wind' while you're here?" Well, that's exactly what you'd do, if you had any sense.

Grand Valley Michigan's Minimalist-Music Hotbed

The best performances of Terry Riley's 1964 minimalist classic In C  come off like great sex: variations are gradually introduced and then withdrawn from a rhythmic structure—and when it's all over, you have a trancelike "what just happened?" kind of hum in your head.

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 will.i.am, whose "Yes We Can" video featured Scarlett Johansson, while GOP admen resorted to piping in old Jackson Browne—who promptly sued.

Somebody, Please! Write Whitney Houston Better Songs

Pretty much nobody roots against Whitney Houston. After the train-wreck marriage to Bobby Brown (complete with embarrassing reality show), her admission of substance abuse problems, and the long periods of inactivity, it's difficult not to feel for the female singer who's had as much influence as anyone else on the post-Aretha direction of popular soul.

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.

Why Did Eminem Dis Mariah Carey?

Even if you're a total cynic, there's something puzzling about Eminem's latest dis track -- in which he reiterates his claim that he once had some bad sex with Mariah Carey, before she met her current husband, Nick Cannon.

Maxwell Dishes on Auto-Tune, Hip-Hop, Radiohead, and Baby Makin'

Some musicians work only on their own terms, while others aim to satisfy the charts. Maxwell is doing both at the same time. After ditching the music game for eight years in order to pursue a "normal life," Maxwell's latest CD shot to the top of the Billboard 200 during its first week of release.

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.

Why CDs are Killing Classical Music

In 1996, American composer john Adams wrote a whirligig of a piece called "Scratchband." In its short running time, woodwinds and brass chase each other through thrashing figures so drunk on high spirits that the electric guitar, bass, and percussion can barely keep up.

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