There is as much good music writing now as there has ever been. There are gross inequalities in the system still, in who gets heard and who is silent. But more than ever, people are able to let their experiences and expressions be heard.
Thinkpieces, essays, reviews and features: the internet has overwhelmed us with writing. There's so much of it out there, and it's all so easy to lose perspective. The more our Facebook feeds tell us what's worth reading, the less likely we are to stumble across something outside of our worldview.
In an attempt to get a handle on all of the music writing out there, we've decided to put everyone up on the music writing we've enjoyed reading during the course of the week. If you've read something that we've missed, feel free to put it in the comments.
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Ecstatic Melodic Copulation: Explaining the genius of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”—using music theory by Owen Pallett in Slate
Last week, jazz critic Ted Gioia attacked music criticism for devolving into, as he saw it, "lifestyle reporting." His critique, on the whole, seemed disconnected from what's actually going on in music criticism these days—although he's not wrong that most critics have only cursory knowledge (at best) of music theory. But if music writing was to incorporate more music theory—what would it look like? Owen Pallett took that as a challenge, writing in Slate a review of Daft Punk's "Get Lucky," utilizing music theory as a base. However, he seemed skeptical, to a point, of Gioia's criticisms: "Do some rigorous Googling and you’ll find that listeners are aware of the sensation, even if they don’t describe the mechanical specifics." Finally, the last insight of the piece (and arguably its most interesting) utilizes no music theory at all. Instead, it's more like language analysis, and points to how good music criticism isn't as much about awareness of how chord changes function as it is a holistic approach to song. After all, pop music is a democratic form, and appreciation is open to everyone; specialized knowledge isn't necessary. —David Drake
YG’s ‘My Krazy Life’ and the West Coast Rap Album Matrix by Shea Serrano in Grantland
There were a lot of reviews of YG’s very good new album My Krazy Life over the past week or so, but Shea Serrano’s Grantland breakdown had to have been the most fun. Serrano’s piece hinges on the album's three most important characteristics (as he sees them): sonic minimalism, YG's identity as a Compton rapper, and DJ Mustard’s influence. Rather than go for an in-depth analysis, however, Serrano spends virtually the entire piece explaining how YG fits into a “West Coast Rap Album Matrix” that he himself drew. (It's amazingly well thought out, actually). Along the way there are choice nuggets of wisdom ("I would recommend that you purchase My Krazy Life. I would also recommend that you delete 'Do It to Ya' as soon as you do") and some serious laughs ("Snoop is hard to draw"). Maybe infographics are the answer to the tired old review format? Nah. —Nathan Reese
How ‘Madvillainy’ Rewrote the Rap Handbook by Sam Hockley-Smith in MySpace
In speaking about the impact of MF DOOM and Madlib’s collaborative album, Sam Hockley-Smith describes the project as “the perfect college rap album” because it “presented a lifestyle built on the premise of exploration and experimentation.” Hockley-Smith’s piece speaks on the sound of the album and its lack of structure, but it shines when the focus turns inward and he remembers his relationship with the record. He offers intimate tidbits everyone can relate to when thinking about their favorite albums: he talks about him and his roommate listening to it before they went to sleep each night and how spent mad time trying to figure out just how it was all created. —Damien Scott
How Young Thug Got Trapped By A $15,000 Advance From A Major Label by Naomi Zeichner in BuzzFeed
Whether or not you're a fan of Young Thug—and judging by our comments, he's got a pretty polarized listenership—this article is a must-read for anyone interested in the inner workings of the music business. Young Thug has one of the industry's most convoluted signing stories, picked up by Atlantic twice and entertaining other deals while technically already signed. Find out how he got into this mess with Naomi's in-depth exploration of the rapper's labyrinthine story. —David Drake
Hashtags and Heartbreak: Iamsu!, Sage the Gemini, and the Bay Area's New Rap Revolution by Andrew Nosnitsky in SPIN
A few years back, an argument crystallized and hardened into "common sense." The internet had replaced or rewritten the regional; A$AP Mob was the proof, evidence that now, because of connectivity, pulling on organic ideas from the past and rearranging them in the data cloud was our post-modern future. Then, of course, along came Chicago's hermetic drill scene and DJ Mustard's reorienting of club rap and the Bay Area's post-Hyphy movement to point out that just because the Internet happened didn't mean that people weren't still connecting in the real world, that geography didn't put up some hard barriers even a cable modem couldn't undo. Unless all you were into were Tumblr "likes," Artists who couldn't connect in real-world spaces were unlikely to flourish.
Not that the Internet didn't have an impact anyway. As ever, the too-rare piece by Andrew Nosnitsky is going to be incredibly well researched and with a breadth and contextual knowledge that is hard to beat. In his in-depth reported piece for SPIN, he explores the intersection between online and IRL, identifying the spaces that have allowed the Bay Area to continue to explode creatively. The focus is on the HBK Gang—a crew that includes artists IamSu (pictured above) and Sage the Gemini, who has managed to toss off two Hot 100 hits in "Gas Pedal" and "Red Nose," and whose Remember Me album dropped last week. Noz underlines the connection between the old "hyphy" sound and this newer evolution, and the various channels through which the sound has traveled, both technological—from MySpace to Vine—and geographical—as LA's "jerk" and the Bay's "Yikin" dances sprouted as offshoots from the music. He then shifts the scene from online to the real world, evidence that this scene is built upon organic foundations. —David Drake