By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
At least an episode of Tim & Eric has the decency to last only 10 minutes. Chillwave had the gall to last an entire year.
In truth, Willow Smith is 10 years old, and Rick Ross was never a drug kingpin. In practice, Willow Smith is 23 years old, and Rick Ross is the most notorious cocaine dealer in America. Such was the power of sheer will in 2010. Unlike Ross, there was no controversy or surprise about Willow Smiths backstory: Shes Will Smiths kid, and precocious superstardom was coming to her like adult teeth. But much like Ross, her single Whip My Hair is rife with blatant untruths: in her case, having haters, driving cars, grinding, getting it in, and saying hurr. And yet Smith channeled the spirit of Rosss B.M.F. (Blowing Money Fast), inhabiting her character so emphatically and convincingly that it rendered her real self irrelevant and her song a megaton monster. Haters didnt get shook off, as the song says; instead, they got run over. By a 10-year-old driving a car.
The sooner hip-hop loses the intolerable burden of living up to some bullshit simulacrum of realness, the betterIm sick of reading white folks dismissing weirder-than-usual rap for not fitting their fetishistic version of what street is supposed to mean. And maybe Rick Rosss evolutionary success is a good first step: Just crank up the unattainable opulence and the struggling hustler/billion-dollar-man dichotomy to levels where it seems so transparent that its hard to care about boring shit like verisimilitude. He knows hes selling a Hollywood bill of goods, so why the hell not wink at the camera, especially when its what turned him from a joke into an A-lister? And now that hes actually playing to his strengths as a rapperthat bellow as a rib-nudging sales pitch, all outlandish comparisons and signifying brand-name dropshe has rendered all speculation over who-cares gossip and counterfeit Louis Vuitton shades into an obsolete joke. Hell, everybodys fake in the eyes of the Internet, anyways.
St. Paul, MN
The unearthed tracks on the Exile on Main Street and Darkness on the Edge of Town reissues were thrilling. But I was split on the revisionist history. I wanted to hear the original, un-fucked-with recordings. Then again, if I were going to publish half-baked riffings from 30 years ago, wouldnt I want to complete them? At least the authors were alive to call shots (unlike Michael Jackson). Still, the deconstructed multi-track of the Stones Gimme Shelter that surfaced in November on dangerousminds.net was more revelatory than anything in the Exile package. And the un-retouched history on Dylans Witmark Demos was the most profound of the lot.
New Paltz, NY
If a song as good as Plundered My Soul was indeed left for dead for 38 years, that says more about the Rolling Stones early-70s headspace than any of their landmark albums ever could. Or, alternatively, if a song this good was just now pasted together to replicate Exiles aesthetics and help pimp a reissue, that says more about what these guys may have left in the tank than any of their recent tour-souvenir studio albums ever could.
Plenty of people are calling 2010 a banner year for rap, but it was also a goodand diverseyear for queer music. From Bradford Coxs narcotized r&b to the ubiquitous vamping of Nicki Minaj to Robyns heartbreaking dance-floor drama to Ariel Pink as Menopause Man to Janelle Monáes gentle retro-futurist gender-bending, it seemed that the whole of the pop world was trending toward the middle of the Kinsey Scale.
Maybe Im too invested in the idea that tear-the-club-up rappers should belt like top-volume M.O.P. to get fully on board with Waka Flocka Flame. Dude has hooks for days, and he can write aggro without being dumb. (Fuck this industry/Bitch, Im in the streetsthats some Clio-winning phraseology right there.) But unless hes doing that thing where hes screaming out his own name like blunt-force trauma onomatopoeia, he also seems to let the beats do most of the heavy lifting, the kicks and bass providing all the force as Flocka just cockily drawls his way to the point in the hook where he can yell a bit. Its easy to go hard in the paint if youre a lumbering Shaq-size dude and youve got Lex Luger as Garnett next to you in your frontcourt. And, like modern-day Shaq, this shit gets tired after about 20 minutes.
St. Paul, MN
Isnt Taylor Swifts big auteurist move the readymade critics darling it should have been? Why are Arcade Fire and the National topping out year-end lists she doesnt even appear on? Its not just that her record is better than their recordsits better in all the rock-crit ways that are supposed to make you a Best-Of natural: musically broader and deeper than her last album, introspective about love and loss, a successful move into maturity from ingénue-ity. She even sings in a nasal whine that some people hate! So how come she isnt this years new Dylan, or at least new Conor Oberst? Tell me its not because shes blonde. Now tell me with a straight face.