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The Anniversary

“Don’t believe a word I say,” Jim O’Rourke dryly intones. “Not that you would anyway.” The Chicago producer, multi-instrumentalist, and singer-songwriter extraordinaire is telling us a lot with the first sentences he utters on Insignificance, released 20 years ago today. “I may be insincere,” O’Rourke continues, “But it’s all downhill from here.” Considering the timeless brilliance of the album that unfolds from there, that last line might be the least sincere of all — except in the sense that “All Downhill From Here” is one of those openers so spectacular that it sets an impossible bar for the rest of the tracklist, the way a rollercoaster never climbs higher than at the top of its first hill.

For more, go to: Stereogum.com (Source)

In a world of pop princesses, Pink was happy to play the villain. In the early studio meetings for the 2001 Moulin Rouge cover of “Lady Marmalade,” the then-22-year-old, whose debut LP didn’t even crack the top 20 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, chafed at the assumption that newly minted sex symbol Christina Aguilera would be the song’s preordained star. When Aguilera’s label executive declared that his client would take the song’s most challenging, highest notes, Pink pushed back: “She will not be taking that part. I think that’s what the fucking meeting is about.” The tension is obvious on the recording — Aguilera’s throaty croons go toe-to-toe with Pink’s raspy belts, neither really getting the last word (but Christina, inarguably, getting the highest notes). The story of that recording is a fitting metaphor for Pink’s breakout second album Missundaztood: It wasn’t enough to just be in the room; she wanted to call the shots.

For more, go to: Stereogum.com (Source)

Ghostface Killah’s rep in November 2001 was as bulletproof as the order window at whatever chicken spot he probably visited with that woman in the “Ice Cream” video after the shoot. For some time, Ghost had almost single-handedly held down the Wu-Tang imprimatur, most recently via 2000’s widely beloved Supreme Clientele. Even if you were outside at the time, up to your eyeballs in bright-ass Iceberg sweaters, it’s easy to undervalue how pivotal Ghost was to his group’s relevancy going into Bulletproof Wallets, released 20 years ago this Saturday. Not for nothing was he sporting that championship belt in the “Cherchez La Ghost” video a year earlier.

For more, go to: Stereogum.com (Source)

David Cloud Berman could spend a lifetime on a lyric. Eternally his own worst critic, he had a reputation for blowing past deadlines, sabotaging studio sessions, and endlessly critiquing his catalog. “I’ve seen him get hung up on a single line for literally months,” Drag City president Dan Koretzky recalled after his passing in 2019. There are hours of recordings that sound like the stuff of legends (most intriguing to me is a failed collaboration between Berman, Dan Bejar, and Stephen Malkmus), reams of prose, an unfinished memoir and a screenplay that sit idle, never rising to the unreachable standards Berman set for himself.

For more, go to: Stereogum.com (Source)

“Over My Dead Body”
Every piano chord is a shimmering pool, glassy on the surface, deep enough to get lost in. A sparse beat kicks up in the background, skipping and thudding as if we’re hearing it through the wall. Then comes Chantal Kreviazuk’s voice, sighing yet casually impassioned, painting streaks of neon on the music as she professes her irrational devotion. Crafted by Kreviazuk and a young sonic visionary named Noah “40” Shebib, it’s a softer, prettier intro than you’d expect from a blockbuster rap album before 2011. It sounds immaculate.

For more, go to: Stereogum.com (Source)

Donald Glover closes his first album as Childish Gambino by telling an embarrassing story about oversharing his feelings to a crush as a 13-year-old. He then explains the lesson: “Make it all for everybody” — reveal everything about yourself, even if that leads to shallow relationships. The preceding 55 minutes of sex boasts and punchline verses, written from the perspective of a 27-year-old rising Hollywood star, aren’t just rap shit. They’re also a defense mechanism.

For more, go to: Stereogum.com (Source)

In 2018, Stereogum’s Michael Nelson painted his masterpiece — a long and mind-blown piece about the identity of party-rock freak Andrew W.K. In that story, which reads more like a work of obsessive true-crime conspiracy theory than rock criticism, Michael got deep into the question of whether the Andrew W.K. of today is the same Andrew W.K. who first emerged on the global stage in 2001. Was an actor now portraying the Andrew W.K. role? Had Andrew W.K. suffered some kind of psychotic break? Who was Steev Mike, the associate and adversary who had, at various points, seemingly hijacked the entire Andrew W.K. enterprise? Was it really Andrew W.K. himself? Michael didn’t know, and after reading his piece, I didn’t know, either. I suddenly had new questions about the nature of reality and individual identity. But long before the ongoing mysteries surrounding Andrew W.K. rose up, there was a more pressing question, and it was a question that had no answer. The question was: Is this guy joking?

For more, go to: Stereogum.com (Source)

Twenty years ago Britney Spears recorded “I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman.” A goopy piano line and a karaoke-bar drum machine preset signal its seriousness. She and producer Max Martin wanted a ballad manifesto for Crossroads, a road-trip film about being Britney Spears but with Dan Aykroyd as the father resisting her maturation. For their idea of sensitive lyrics they tapped Dido Armstrong, whose “Thank You” turned into a massive hit in its own right after Eminem’s fan-ambivalent “Stan” interpolated its chorus. Recorded in Stockholm with Martin’s crew, “I’m Not A Girl” boasts a solid Spears performance; she sings the words in her thin, whiskery, fey timbre. She sounds like neither girl nor woman: She sounds as if the pitch-altered Prince of “U Got The Look” had imitated a senior citizen. The result is weird, powerful, and listenable — check out that key change in its last third, where she goes for it — if not quite a triumph.

For more, go to: Stereogum.com (Source)

The day Trouble Will Find Me came out felt like a feverish culmination. It was brutally, disgustingly hot and humid in New York, and the National were running all over town, playing a set of surprise shows that retraced their steps through origin stories: first at the tiny Ditmas Park bar Sycamore, blocks from Aaron Dessner’s house/studio; then the now-defunct Williamsburg venue Public Assembly, already rechristened from Galapagos, as it had been called when the National played it in the ’00s; and, finally, over to Manhattan for Mercury Lounge, the venue the National had played plenty of times but had never sold out until that night. It was the day I graduated college, and amidst all that I got a text from a friend who’d managed to get us Mercury Lounge tickets. After the day’s ceremonies wrapped up, I took a train downtown, still suited up and drenched in sweat, to see the National play a room they’d once only dreamed of filling.

For more, go to: Stereogum.com (Source)

If you were alive, online, and listening to hip-hop in 2011, the words “‘Purple Swag’ music video” wield an awesome, terrible power as a wormhole back to that summer. The still thumbnail image conjured by said phrase, a young white woman mugging for the camera in gold bottoms, is iconic: the blonde Trojan Horse bearing A$AP Rocky into public consciousness. As a whole, the music video’s no work of genius, but it’s catchy and magnetic. The same could be said for A$AP Rocky the rapper.

For more, go to: Stereogum.com (Source)