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Tag: Attack of the '90s (1-10 of 90)

Kurt Cobain's life and legacy: A conversation with biographer Charles R. Cross

Twenty years ago, we lost Kurt Cobain. Few singular stars were as deeply influential as the Nirvana frontman, who smashed apart the otherness of the rock star persona and made it a more egalitarian pursuit.

No two Nirvana albums were ever alike, and it seemed like Cobain’s musical horizons were continuing to expand when he left us. His approach to singing, his songwriting style, and his band’s shifting dynamics so permeated rock radio that there seemed to be an entire subgenre of hit-making bands (Bush, Silverchair, Sponge, and the like) who seemed to exist solely as Nirvana avatars. READ FULL STORY

The Unsung Melodies of Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain’s old home sits in Seattle’s quiet Denny-Blaine neighborhood, a posh place with water views where people probably kept to themselves even before an iconic rock star died in their midst. The room over the garage where the Nirvana singer’s body was found on April 8, 1994, after he ended his life at 27 with a gunshot wound to the head, is now gone, and the house is ­isolated by a large fence, an imposing gate, and some Middle-earth-level greenery growing up around it, so fans tend to stick to Viretta Park next door. There, a pair of benches have acted as a standing tribute to Cobain, with decades’ worth of messages etched into the wood by grunge pilgrims from around the world. I’ve made this trek myself ­multiple times, and as I sit on one of the benches, the same question that has occupied alt-rock devotees for the past 20 years tugs at me: Had he not died so young, what would Kurt Cobain’s music sound like now?

 

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What would Kurt Cobain's music sound like today?

In the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, I ruminate over the anniversary of the death of one of the last great rock stars with a simple question: Had he not died in April 1994, what might Kurt Cobain’s music have sounded like now?

In order to find some possible answers, I talked to Cobain’s friends and collaborators about his potential musical directions; the master playlist craftspeople at Beats Audio took those cues and built a batch of songs that help extrapolate what Cobain might have sounded like had he lived.

“Cobain always seemed like an old soul and I agree that he would have continued to explore more acoustic music, as opposed to electric,” says Beats’ Scott Plagenhoef. “He wrote personal lyrics but they were opaque and non-linear and he never wrote narratives. There is also a temptation to assume major creative forces like Cobain would remain progressive into their older age but the fact of the matter is that was never a quality that he displayed even during his lifetime. There is no indication he would have embraced electronic music, for example.”

The playlist includes a handful of tracks that seem like inevitable Cobain compositions (Elliott Smith’s “Waltz No. 2 (XO),” Wilco’s “How To Fight Loneliness,” The White Stripes’ “We’re Going To Be Friends”), as well as some reasonable stretches (EMA’s “California,” Cat Power’s “He War,” Lambchop’s “My Face Your Ass”). Spin the whole thing here while you consider what might have been.

What do you think Kurt Cobain would have sounded like in 2014? Let us know in the comments.

Nine Inch Nails' 'The Downward Spiral': 20 years of filth and fury

Though I had dipped in and out of MTV throughout the late ’80s and early ’90s, tuning in for the manic kitsch of Remote Controlthe clever smarm of The Half-Hour Comedy Hour, and the occasional Skid Row video, I didn’t really go all in on the network—and thus music videos—until 1994. I had become deeply invested in the narrative running through the third season of The Real World, which was the great San Francisco-based slobberknocker between Pedro and Puck. That show became the only thing people talked about during middle school study halls, so I immersed myself in one of the earliest revolutionary reality shows, and often stuck around for the videos.

I have vivid memories of sitting in the dark in my living room after my parents had gone to bed, watching clip after clip on the network (this was still the era when a Saturday night meant several consecutive hours of music videos shown under various umbrellas). A handful of those videos from that year stuck with me, simply because they were in such heavy rotation: Nirvana’s Unplugged performance of “All Apologies,” Smashing Pumpkins’ sci-fi clip for “Rocket,”  Soudgarden’s terrifying “Black Hole Sun,” and the Beastie Boys’ kinetic ’70s cop show homage “Sabotage.” (There was also the always-playing clip for Janet Jackson’s “Any Time, Any Place,” which I found boring at the time but now I find cripplingly sexy.)

But only one video really mattered to me, and that was Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer.” READ FULL STORY

Fast talking at the end of the world: 15 thoughts on hip-hop's 1998 middle age

Just last week, one of the topics on EW Radio was the number of genre-defining hip-hop albums hitting their twentieth anniversaries this year.

Snoop Doggy Dogg’s Doggystyle, Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders, and Salt-N-Pepa’s Very Necessary all just wrapped their second decade. Those all represent different corners of the rap universe, and they all point to a crucial moment when hip-hop became such an overwhelming presence that mainstream culture had no choice but to move in its direction, rather than the other way around. The success of Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, which dropped in late ’92, started the trend, and it reached its apotheosis with the one-two punch of Notorious B.I.G.’s 1994 debut Ready to Die and Tupac’s 1995 crossover smash Me Against the World.

Plenty of rap records had found their way to the upper echelon of the charts, though they were primarily pandering or novelty tracks (in ’92, both Kriss Kross’ “Jump” and Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” became Hot 100 chart toppers). The albums from ’93 were purer hip-hop, and they were crafted by fantastically charismatic characters who were singular in their delivery and presentation. The success of Doggystyle was particularly jaw-dropping—listening to that album 20 years on, it still packs an incredible impact both as a unique piece of pop music and as a remarkably dirty statement of purpose.

Those albums are unimpeachable classics, and by design there’s not a whole lot more to add to that conversation. So let’s fast-forward five years to the albums from late ’98 that are now turning 15 years old. They represent a strange middle age for hip-hop, as its dominance on the pop chart began to be taken for granted and just about everybody began to lose their way.

There are plenty of notable big-ticket rap records from 1998′s fourth quarter, and none of them are classics. It could even be argued that not a single one of them is any good. But they do represent a culture in transition, and it’s a fascinating look at where hip-hop was and how it managed to get to the place it is now. So on the 15th anniversary of Busta Rhymes’ E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front, Method Man’s Tical 2000: Judgment Day, Mystikal’s Ghetto Fabulous, Ice Cube’s War & Peace Volume 1: The War Disc, RZA’s Bobby Digital In Stereo, DMX’s Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, Juvenile’s 400 Degreez, and Redman’s Doc’s Da Name 2000, here are 15 thoughts on the 15th anniversary of a weird time for hip-hop.

1. Everybody totally thought Y2K was going to be a real thing
For anybody too young or too unborn to remember Y2K, it seems utterly ridiculous. READ FULL STORY

Busta Rhymes invites Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Q-Tip along for 'Thank You' video: Watch it here

BUSTA-RHYMES-THANK-YOU.jpg

What do we do with Busta Rhymes in 2013? It’s been more than a minute since his peak years of mainstream relevance — his first big break came on A Tribe Called Quest’s immortal 1992 single “Scenario” — but 2012′s Year of the Dragon was surprisingly strong, and there are more hits than misses on his Catastrophic mixtape from last year.

The internet has also been fairly excited about his new tag-team tape with Q-Tip, thanks to the single “Thank You,” which lets Busta do his lightning-tongue thing over some groovy old school new soul funk. It features the best Q-Tip verse in years, plus drop-ins from Kanye West and Lil Wayne — both of whom also appear in the spartan but satisfying video that just dropped this morning.

Give the clip a spin below and marvel at Kanye’s unwavering stare during one of Q-Tip’s verses at the 2:37 mark. It’s freaky: READ FULL STORY

Lost Kurt Cobain interview from 1993 features his thoughts on Aerosmith and feminism

Though he had all the makings of a proper recluse, Kurt Cobain actually submitted himself to a surprising number of interviews over the course of his too-brief career.

And no two were alike, because nobody ever knew which version of the Nirvana frontman would show up. The acid-tongued cultural critic? The in-joking goofball? The shy suffering artist? The sweet family man? They were all part and parcel to the Cobain experience.

In a recently unearthed interview from 1993 conducted by British journalist Jon Savage and animated by PBS’ new Blank on Blank shingle, each one of those Kurts shows up for a minute or two.

There’s some stuff that has come up in conversations in the past, like the idea that Cobain thought at one time that he might be gay, and details about his various stomach ailments. But there’s also a fun bit about looking for the roots of the name Cobain, what annoys him about Aerosmith records, and how he felt about becoming a father.

Listen below: READ FULL STORY

Take a look at Nirvana's first record contract with Sub Pop, worth a hefty $600

“Six hundred bucks well spent—not that we had it at the time.”

The official Tumblr account of Sub Pop Records just put up a copy of Nirvana’s first contract, along with that note — the contract that would yield the band’s first album, 1989′s Bleach.

There are some remarkable pieces of history embedded in this artifact: The fact that the band was signed as a four-piece (featuring soon-to-be-departed members Chad Channing and Jason Everman, the latter of whom did not play on Bleach), that they were originally only signed for two years (it was set to expire at the end of 1991, though Sub Pop made a deal with DGC about Nirvana prior to the release of Nevermind), and that the band’s first advance was for a guaranteed $600 (with jumps up to $12,000 and $24,000 in the option years).

Of course, the band became far bigger than anybody at Sub Pop could have predicted back in ’89: They went on to sell over 30 million worldwide copies of their second album Nevermind and changed the course of popular music for a few years in the early ’90s.

As noted yesterday, Nirvana’s In Utero is getting the 20th anniversary box set treatment next month.

Scott Weiland countersues Stone Temple Pilots over music and name rights

Years ago when Guns N’ Roses (the original, Appetite For Destruction version) parted ways, there was a protracted legal argument that ended with frontman Axl Rose as the owner of the band’s name.

Several non-Axl members of GNR went on to form Velvet Revolver, and tapped Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland to provide vocal duties — and now Weiland himself is in a very similar battle with his old bandmates.

Just days after the other three members of STP—brothers Dean and Robert DeLeo and drummer Eric Kretz—sued Weiland in an attempt to get him to stop playing STP songs and using the STP name on tour, Weiland has filed a $7 million countersuit. He’s seeking that amount in damages and wants a judge to dissolve the band partnership.  READ FULL STORY

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