All of the Lights: Miley Cyrus & Rick Ross – Cop Lights

Pop Culture, Soundtrek, TGRI, Uncategorized

Turn up the lights in here, baby / extra bright, I want y’all to see this  / turn up the lights in here, baby / you know what I need, want you to see everything / want you to see all of the lights – Kanye West, “All of the Lights”

Miley Cyrus and Rick Ross were our patriots on patrol this year. Living the high life where MiCy met Miami, these two lit up the Pop scape with the red, white, and blue hues of stars, bars, strips, whips, chains, gangs, and the incessant inability of ever being tamed. He was the Teflon Don: gun dirty, brick clean; she hung on a pole and a prayer: the jailbait-in-waiting, craving to be scene.

All of the Lights: Lady Gaga & Kanye West – Soular

Pop Culture, TGRI, TrapperKeeper

1200px-Fame_Kills

Turn up the lights in here, baby / extra bright, I want y’all to see this / turn up the lights in here, baby / you know what I need, want you to see everything / want you to see all of the lights – Kanye West, “All of the Lights”

Kanye West and Lady Gaga… beyond, beneath, within, and without the flashing lights these two remained suspended in infinite existence. Modern Pop has known no before nor after these two… 21st century children will live to recount tales to their grandchildren of crucial kreugers emanating from nothingness, beautiful dark twisted fantasies in the midst of a blissfully bleak reality, the climate-shifting global state of monstrosity where beasts reigned as belles of the endless ball… a world void of time and space… a post-apocalyptic period where two prophets destroyed their own made world, an archaic rebirth after the darkest decade known to warholian man, a cultural sonicscape perpetuated by the synergy of two sources of sheer energy… in 2010 amidst all of the flashing lights Lady Gaga and Kanye West were The Sun: the ubiquitous body cultivating the craft through their presence and, even more so, propelling secondary stars to shine brighter in the darkness of their absence.

All of the Lights: Willow Smith & Far East Movement – Flashlights

Pop Culture, Soundtrek, TGRI, Uncategorized

Turn up the lights in here, baby / extra bright, I want y’all to see this  / turn up the lights in here, baby / you know what I need, want you to see everything / want you to see all of the lights – Kanye West, “All of the Lights”

Willow Smith and Far East Movement whipped across the globe this year like junior jetsetters; their infectious electro-pop sounds emerged from obscurity and hit ubiquity at the speed of light, they broke records beyond the speed of sound with a sonic boom that resonated across the planet. The free-wired high-flyers captured the world in a state of infinite liftoff; illuminating the world like it was their runway, Smith and FEM lit up the skies like flashlights over an airstrip.

All of the Lights: Ke$ha & Eminem – The Bic

Pop Culture, Soundtrek, TGRI, Uncategorized

Turn up the lights in here, baby / extra bright, I want y’all to see this  / turn up the lights in here, baby / you know what I need, want you to see everything / want you to see all of the lights – Kanye West, “All of the Lights”

Amidst the darkened sky of endless pop, visibly void of any specific stars; Ke$ha and Eminem emerged as groundskeepers sparking the scene from the floor – lighters up. This year we saw a party animal, a rehabilitated recovery, and a cultural cannibal unleashed; and behind the music we saw kindred kindling ignited, revealing both sides of the Bic: the disposable house-party-fueling flicker, and the timeless stadium torch.

This year Ke$ha served the purpose of the former, sparking the fire that fueled the gutter-grime-glitter sound lingering across basements and American airwaves like a tobacco smoky haze over the backseat of a golden Trans-Am. She opened the year with “Tik-Tok” and, by default of its January 1 release date, started the proverbial pop party with her entrance. Ke$ha was that frathouse staple – ready to spark the camel, willing to blaze the j, and able to pop the top off a Pabst at a seconds notice. She was the music that set the mood, the tunes that kept the backyard bacchanals alive, and – much like that flick-happy Bic with a flame as disposable as the fueled fun – she was out by the dawn, right before your parents get home. The Southern truckette raised Hell with tales of rogue revelry at rich kids’ parties, and was the exalted embodiment of too-drunk-to-function-but-lit-enough-to-keep-gunnin’.

All of the Lights: Drake & Justin Bieber – Nightlights #spoton

Pop Culture, Soundtrek, TGRI, TrapperKeeper

Turn up the lights in here, baby / extra bright, I want y’all to see this  / turn up the lights in here, baby / you know what I need, want you to see everything / want you to see all of the lights – Kanye West, “All of the Lights”

Justin Bieber and Drake, Drake and Justin Bieber… Our neighbors to the North brought a bit of the every-Canadaian to American mainstream this year: Thank Me Later emerged as an emo-rap twist on Jagged Little Pill for the Tumblr generation, while Bieber Fever took stranglehold on a nation of young girls nary seen since the grip of Avril Lavigne’s necktie. Amidst all of Pop’s flashing lights surfaced these two – millions of teenagers’ charming knights, with legendary musical vises in tow as their shield. If the market was a castle, these two boys would be the steady fixture beside every princess’ canopy; this debonair duo amidst the still dark of the room are her pseudo-safety nets, and in reality nary more than her mere nightlights.

Ah yes, Justin Bieber… from the pixie frame, glassy eyes, lucid skin, and soprano voice, he is the spinning image of a miniature lightbulb – transparent and empty, emanating a subdued pure glow. Put him behind the vibrant shields of iconic figures, though – Ludacris, Usher, Kanye, Diddy – and he displays a magnificent display of soft colors and caricatures upon which a sea of princesses can gaze eternally for nights on end. Close your eyes, open your ears and hear his world of hollow harmonies; blink: eyes wide behind 3D spectacles and experience Justin Bieber 2.0 – a white dwarfed black hole pulling the Pop universe into oblivion.

All of the Lights: Taylor Swift & Usher – Flood Lights

Pop Culture, Soundtrek, TGRI, TrapperKeeper, Uncategorized

Turn up the lights in here, baby / extra bright, I want y’all to see this  / turn up the lights in here, baby / you know what I need, want you to see everything / want you to see all of the lights – Kanye West, “All of the Lights”

This year Taylor Swift and Usher flooded the nation in fluorescence. She spoke now, well after the deafening sounds of Swiftgate settled to a dull roar. He saturated the market in music, void of a message, but with a ubiquitous mask so clean it bordered translucence. They were so bright, so white, so everywhere, so endlessly empty, and yet so inescapably enveloping. Mainstream music’s absence of creativity opened the doors for an influx of sheer commerce, and this year panoramic sterility sold.

This is America, we love our flood lights – so bright and unyielding, so integral to the world of endless recreation of the most mind-numbing, so fundamental to the 24/7 push of profitable play – night games. These aren’t streetlights that keep stickball games going past the dusk on a Brooklyn block… these are those overhead satellites keeping NASCAR motorcades roving around in circles ad naseum at primetime for ad revenue. Swift and Raymond are those forces bleaching the scene, sweetening the mean, and softening the screams of midnight melody makers whose cathartic cries were held at bay during the day.

All of the Lights: Nicki Minaj & Katy Perry – Fireworks

Pop Culture, Popisodics, Soundtrek, TGRI, TK:NYC, TrapperKeeper

Turn up the lights in here, baby / extra bright, I want y’all to see this  / turn up the lights in here, baby / you know what I need, want you to see everything / want you to see all of the lights – Kanye West, “All of the Lights”

Once upon a rhyme two bubblegum nymphs lit up the pitch black pop sky with tales of teenage dreams and rose-colored weekends. Princess Katy Perry sang this year from atop her Golden Coast lollipop tower; while Dutchess Nicki Minaj led a brigade of bad Barbies across the hard candy-coated pop landscape. This year we saw the rise and reign of the psuedo-sexual siren; from adolescent dreams to Roman’s vengeful screams Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj exemplified both sides of Barbie – the pinup princess and the dutchess behind barbs. Amidst all of the flashing lights, these two were the fireworks that took fantastical flight.

Nicki Minaj opened the year launching feature after brilliant feature across star-studded tracks. She held court with the divas, the dons, and the du jours; throwing down with everyone from Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera, to Rick Ross, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Eminem, Ludacris, Usher, and will.i.am. Co-sign after co-sign Minaj built hype and suffocated hearsay. Before long, it seemed as if the collective culture’s eyes were glued to Nicki’s rocketeering rise, awaiting with bated breath the halogenic blast of her solo debut; Pink Friday was the explosive result. The album is truly Minaj’s child, and capstoned her rookie year exceptionally well. It’s the pink hybrid hue between that clean white naive newness and raw red monstrosity; it’s the bridge between the come-up of the work week and the kick-back of the weekend, where Miss Minaj continues to blaze somewhere in between as the not-quite-a-babydoll-but-not-yet-a-boss.

Unforgettable, Vol. 21: Lady Gaga – The Fame

Anthropopogy // Culture, Deconstruction, Pop Culture, Soundtrek, TGRI, TK:NYC

Pop: grab your old girl with her new tricks, if this was Gaga’s first and last album it would be just as complete as it is in context as a dynasty starter.

The Fame is nothing more and nothing less than a perfect Pop debut through and through. Visceral, catchy, panoramic, reflective, progressive, chock full of hit singles, formidable filler, and fun; foreshadowing or foreboding depending on how you look at it – and yet, so very simple. The Fame is merely a skeleton, and the beats are nothing more than an atmosphere. In Britney’s wake we saw a sea change: where Spears’ story was plot-driven – a tale of a singer at the whim of heavy production, and a girl at the whim of a weighty world – Gaga’s voice is the fuel behind The Fame. She gives life to the beats, as much as she injected the joie de vivre back into Pop’s consciousness.

The sound is underground and mainstream, simultaneously past and present. “Just Dance” couldn’t be more straightforward as it rips the disco skeleton from the past, fleshes it out with simple synth layers, and slaps an electro-futuristic veneer on for 21st Century tech propulsion. The beat is a night out: airy synth, simple percussion, minimal layers, basic four-count – nothing crazy, nothing coercive, just dance music. The lyrics are universal: just dance, gonna be okay – and repete after moi. Gaga is “that girl” from the club. This is the first step of the journey through a tumultuously memorable relationship between lovers, the celebrity and the scene, the artist and the industry, the author and the audience. It all starts with “Just Dance.” You just dance to get to know their name, you just dance to get on Page Six, you just dance to get that record deal, you just dance for reassurance that it’s going to be okay – and this is The Fame.

Beyond that, at first listen, “Just Dance” is any other Pop track, a brilliantly choreographed debut. It couldn’t be more literal, and at a time where the world is a collective skeptic for good reason – the truthiness behind WMDs – that clear transparency was a trailblazing mindfreak in and of itself. Everything the track is not makes it everything it is. It is not new, it is not groundbreaking, it is not particularly deep or profound – and yet, coming from a world of life under-rug-swept it was that very transparency that broke America out of its shell. Just. Dance. No more, no less, no hidden agenda. Before auto-tune and vocoders, before ice and chains, there was lighthearted, carefree disco – the most basic, infinite, constant, life stream of music by method.

Unforgettable, Vol. 20: DJ Shadow – Endtroducing…

Anthropopogy // Culture, Deconstruction, Soundtrek, TGRI, TK:NYC, Vinyl Cut Prose

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Joshua Paul Davis emerged from the blackout – heroically from the shadows – to redefine an art form, resurrect a genre, and reflect the essence of a culture with his debut album, Endtroducing…. The 1996 release told the tale, that in 2010, portrays modern hip-hop’s epic poem on record. DJ Shadow laid the foundation for hip-hop from the ground up, producing the first album entirely constructed from samples. As he creates the aural masterpiece, he allows the past to dictate the future – grabbing clips from vintage movie reels, and television shows, blending them with layered instrumentals from aged vinyl recordings – and in doing so introduces the world to his own sound, but more so the identity of an urban creative class on the cusp of social impact.

Davis begins the journey putting his best foot forward – fusing no less than seven separate soundbites and a fifteen-second funk jam session – to take the veil off the silhouette and bring the DJ into the light. “Building Steam with a Grain of Salt”‘s unknown narrator echoes “producing…” over chilling piano scales, as the story begins and Joshua sets the stage from a single grain. In the midst of an industry cheapening musical quality in the face of quantity – rationing and rehashing masterful tracks of old like a 20th Century European crusade through Africa – Shadow reminds us that there is an art to the sample; and for a genre founded upon the collage of collaboration, Davis crafts a montage original in its new fusion of old fragments.

Unforgettable, Vol. 19: Britney Spears – Blackout

Pop Culture, Soundtrek, TGRI, Uncategorized

2007 climaxed the greatest American tale since The Civil War, and Britney Spears’ Blackout was our living soundtrack. Just as Spears was our brown-eyed girl of misfortune, Blackout is the requiem of our American Dream. Britney was an ideal created in our own image. Our image, our perception of our self worth, in the past decade was dependent upon fame and projected status. Then, more than ever, our identities were aligned with iconographies: Britney was our Miss American Dream, and in 2007 we saw her strip away her white gown.

At our darkest hour, our brightest supernova wanted nothing more than to go that extra mile for us. We created a monster mistress, a pop iconography reflecting our wildest and greatest desires – embodying our most visceral conquests. She was the broken kingdom, and on behalf of her mortal peers she sacrificed herself for our entertainment. She was our gladiator and our samurai on a kamikaze mission to kill the very same system which produced her. Even with her back against the wall she was our central focus, how something so perfect could be so not – and how such reckless power could destroy our most divine wind. We watched her spiral through insanity, as cameras flashed her dancing deliriously to music only she could hear. Even though we led her to this position of mania, she gave us permission to send her on a suicide mission: before the flashing lights, she was to touch the sky and nosedive in a sacrificial spectacle fit for a fallen empire. She gave more when she had nothing to give, because we asked for it – because the same guys who told us that she was the most valuable dream, told her that her value relied on our affirmation; she Merrill Lynched our Pop selves. Her punishment was her penance, and as much hers as it is ours. The opening is the standing reminder that even after she fades, the irremovable, unstoppable, perpetuating danja remains.