Category Archives: Music

Yoo Jae-ha’s K-Pop Masterpiece Because I Love You, 30 Years After His Untimely Death

By Colin Marshall

Thirty years ago this month, a Korean singer-songwriter by the name of Yoo Jae-ha died at the age of 25. Had the car accident that killed him happened a few months earlier, before he released his first and only album Because I Love You, Korean pop music, now better known as “K-pop,” might have taken a different sonic direction entirely. Though he died believing it had failed, his record has not just risen to the status of a beloved pop masterpiece but emanates an influence still clearly heard in hit songs in South Korea today. The posthumously granted title “Father of Korean Ballads,” as well as a music scholarship and yearly song contest, honor his memory, but on some level they also acknowledge that Korean pop music may never see — or more importantly, hear — an innovator like him again. Continue reading

“The Joshua Tree” to the Grand Canyon: A Road Trip

By Channing Sargent

In August of 1987, my parents, my older sister and I drove from Riverton, Utah to the Grand Canyon. U2’s The Joshua Tree had come out in March. It was one of only two albums we had in the car with us. The other was Paul Simon’s Graceland, released exactly one year earlier. My sister, who, at 15, epitomized New Wave, with multi-hued, brow-high eyeshadow and sky-high winged bangs, insisted on U2 over Simon, always concerned with her cool-factor. In our white 1984 Toyota Tercel, we turned the cassette tape over and over again, listening to it repeatedly.

I have scaled these city walls / Only to be with you
But I still haven’t found / What I’m looking for Continue reading

The Beirut-Paris Express: Yasmine Hamdan on Tour

By Jordan Elgrably

When we spoke, Yasmine Hamdan was on her way to major concert dates in Oslo and Copenhagen, before heading to a five-city U.S. tour and then on to Germany and Russia. She is an Arab singer-songwriter with a haunting voice and the personality of a social critic. To hear her tell it, she has fiercely marched to her own beat since she was an unruly “weird” child growing up in Beirut, Kuwait, and Greece. Yet you may not know her name, unless you spotted her as the sultry singer in Jim Jarmusch’s vampire flick, Only Lovers Left Alive (2013). Continue reading

Normal Girls: On SZA, Nella Larsen, and the Varieties of Black Feminism

By Marina Magloire

I am not Beyoncé. Never did I feel this more strongly than when I sat high above her, watching her tiny figure strut across the stage at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. Screens several stories high projecting her image hung like banners for some erstwhile fascist leader. It was in many ways not the ideal concert — it was outdoors, and a thunderstorm sparked a temporary evacuation of the stadium (“Please remain calm, Beyoncé is not leaving” someone said over an intercom). But what struck me as least ideal was the staged-ness of every word and gesture, everything scripted from the high kicks, to the thank yous to her loyal and dedicated fans, to the rote delivery of the songs meant to be uplifting and to get us “in formation.” Did she know the tears I had shed in the dark over “Sandcastles,” the reckless careworn times in my car when I drove on the highway just to turn up “Sorry” loud enough to drown out my pounding heart? Did she not know the emotional catharsis I wanted to share with her at that concert? Apparently not. Continue reading

What We Talk About When We Talk About Rock and Roll

By Erin Coulehan 

People loved rock and roll long before Joan Jett made an anthem about it in 1982. The genre was born through traditionally African American musical styles and adapted to suit a different audience — a whiter audience. Rock and roll as we know (and love) it drew influence from jazz, gospel, country, and R&B to popularize in the late 1940s and 1950s, and was set on fire by bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. According to Yale-educated music historian Lorenzo Candelaria at the University of Texas at El Paso, audience is what initially distinguished rock and roll from rhythm and blues. Simply put, “rhythm and blues refers to music that was marketed to a black audience; rock and roll refers to music directed at a white audience.” Continue reading

There’s a Theory I’ve Got Cooking: An Interview with John Rossiter of Young Jesus

By Sam Jaffe Goldstein 

Los Angeles-based alt-rock band Young Jesus has been through many iterations; it started as a high school band in the suburbs of Chicago, did a Red Bull-sponsored tour, went acoustic for an album, and then transformed into its current formation. A band of far-out sounds, 10-minute-plus songs that could be described as soundscapes, and live shows full of improvisation, Young Jesus resonates as both expansive and personal. Continue reading

Connections, Collage, and Citation in the Work of Lana Del Rey and Maggie Nelson

By Niina Pollari

These days, Lana Del Rey records every interview she does as a mode of self-protection against publications taking things she says out of context. The anxiety of citation has caused Del Rey to take major precautions; and yet, her new album Lust for Life is brimming with references, even more than her previous albums, from its title all the way to its final, Radiohead-riffing manifesto. Though they may not be attributed as citations, they are easily recognizable as pop canon: there are direct lyrical callouts to “Tiny Dancer,” “Stairway to Heaven,” “I Fall to Pieces,” and many more. The album also nods toward genres: the motorcycle revving at the beginning of the title track is straight out of teenage tragedy ballads like “Leader of the Pack.” How does the fact of Del Rey’s concern with citation, and with being cited correctly herself, reconcile with her borrowings from pop? Continue reading

The Joshua Tree Aesthetic: How the Mojave Yucca Became a Symbol of Music Video Feminism

By Julia Sizek

Lovers should seek out Joshua Tree for their next tryst, claims Ariana Grande’s music video. Her 2016 Grammy-nominated video for “Into You” traces a pop star’s illicit liaison with her bodyguard. They ride a motorcycle to a 1950s-style motel with joshua trees dotting the background, and Grande throws away her fame and celebrity boyfriend for a weekend of anonymity in the Mojave Desert. Continue reading