The Complete 2013 Music Reading List

December 25, 2013

126 pieces of music writing to take into the new year

It's just before noon and so far today, I have read half an article about the Pope in a magazine, the news on my phone, a rough draft of a story on my computer and a whole lot of emails. That's cool, but during the holidays, there is finally time to sit down and devour some of the more interesting pieces missed this year when time got short, the tab got closed and the recycling had to go out. We here at FADER are nerds not just about music, but about language, too, and belabor the writing and editing process of all our pieces. We've compiled a list of our favorite stories FADER published online and in print, alongside a selection of music writing that appeared elsewhere that we loved. Happy holidays and happy reading. matthew schnipper

The FADER Features

Solange: Rise and Shine by Amber Bravo
For an audience accustomed to Beyoncé’s public polish, Solange’s lyrics might read as provocation, but really, for her to deny there’s any existential conflict would be much weirder. Even if Beyoncé is the proverbial albatross around Solange’s neck—a good omen or potentially a curse on her journey toward pop stardom—Solange is still innately blessed, and talent is the family business.

Vampire Weekend: Upper Classmen by Felipe Delerme

"I think we’re all well aware of the context within which we’re releasing something,” Tomson says. “You know, it’s not like we’re bros from college anymore—we’re a band and an entity that people know and that some people, either good or bad, are emotionally invested in.

London Streetwear: Just Brilliant by Alex Frank

In contrast to the raw, stiff, reappropriated workwear and ’60s-style fits that have proliferated in men’s fashion for the past five years—the style known as heritage—these young designers are rejecting the notion that those looks were ever their heritage to reinterpret. They grew up on sportswear, not suits.

Earl Sweatshirt: Bless This Mess by Mary H.K. Choi

Earl reinforces that he’s a real kid with a traumatized family, and not the prize to an elaborate scavenger hunt of the internet’s making. Doris is a different story and Earl is aware of the pressure. “The anticipation scares the shit out of me,” he says, squinting against the smoke of a cigarette.

Juicy J: Still Trippin by Zach Baron

"When I get old,” he says, “I’ll be one of those dudes that’s had a real good rich life, a successful life, but not a real life.” When Three 6 Mafia ground to a halt, Juicy J could’ve tried to fill in those blanks, those voids where a real life would’ve gone, but instead he went straight back to work, rapping about pulling triggers, Xanax, cough syrup and strip clubs, same as he’d been doing since he was a teenager.

Haim: Best Friends Forever by Duncan Cooper

Haim are perhaps the prototypical millennial band, their image simultaneously conservative but liberal, safe but dangerous. “In my eyes, only the strong survive,” Alana says. “The more powerful girls are, the more interesting they are.” Haim is open to everyone precisely because they’re not afraid to alienate. They love their parents, but what would their mother think!

Ciara: Private Party by Lizzy Goodman

“I don’t know how to answer that question,” she says when asked about the contrast between her remote, intensely private persona and the risqué nature of her videos. “Like, when I was recording ‘Body Party,’ I felt a certain feeling—it evoked a certain emotion.” What emotion? She smiles shyly and plays with the delicate rings on her fingers. “Well…” she says. “I would think the emotion is obvious.”

Disclosure: Child's Play by Andy Beta

Rather than conduct themselves as if the center of attention, the Lawrence brothers act like any other kids out on the weekend, goofing with friends and smiling back at their girlfriends, and with Guy sporting a black backpack, they look as if they just left campus for a night out.

Mac Miller: Find Yourself by Andrew Nosnitsky

“People look at me like I really capitalized off [my whiteness],” he says. When I ask him if he thinks he did, he turns sheepish: “Not intentionally.” He continues, loosely skirting the question. “I think white kids saw me and were like, Holy shit! That could be me. I think I was an easily relatable person. I probably still am. But [on Watching Movies], you hear a lot of fucking insecurity about who I am.”

Sky Ferreira: Everything is Embarrassing by Lizzy Goodman

As Ferreira whips on a pair of sunglasses big enough to cover her pillow-creased cheeks, I think of something she said in passing as we took our seats on the plane a few hours earlier. “I’m trying to keep myself together, to keep myself sane through all of this, but there are moments when I am completely losing my mind.”

L.I.E.S.: Off Beat by Emilie Friedlander

It’s difficult to enumerate the particular qualities that draw Morelli’s ear, but he tends to zero in on the sort of jams that are somehow infectious in their dissonance, rhythmic in their disjointedness, textural in their particular brand of low fidelity. They aren’t exactly instant bangers, but they offer a rarer and more counterintuitive kind of musical enjoyment, one that runs parallel to Morelli’s skill for finding talent in the places where nobody else is looking.

I Survived Everything: An Interview with Trent Reznor by Andrew Nosnitsky

"I thought [Yeezus] was pretty fucking good. Musically, I like it a lot. I know Kanye a little bit. We’ve said hi at shows over the years, and I find him to be a pretty fascinating character that’s able to back up some of the absurdity with pretty consistently great music. Like, undeniably."

We’re In This Together: An Oral History of Nine Inch Nails compiled by Naomi Zeichner and Michael Zelenko

"Trent stood out from the crowd. Allegheny College was very conservative and preppy. There was no hipster/indie scene at all. He was pretty much the only person who had a distinctive style. He was like a mod or a new-waver. He used to wear parachute pants, and this was back in the ’80s, that whole MTV era. He looked like he had just stepped out of a video."

Blood Orange: Hitting the Right Notes by Alex Frank

On the album’s last song, “Time Will Tell,” Hynes reprises the lyrics from “It Is What It Is” in his own pretty falsetto, ensuring that Cupid Deluxe ends on a strangely hopeful note of ambivalence that he sings himself. “The buzz is going to die,” he says. “Maybe when people forget about me, I can sneak around and do all the things that I want.”

Travi$ Scott: No Fear by Sam Hockley-Smith, FADER #89

Success for Scott doesn’t mean being the most visible, or making the most hits. It means having a clear vision of what he wants to do. “I feel like I’m the opposite of the system—I’m the opposite of what Mike WiLL is,” he says. “You will not be able to compare me to a Mike WiLL or to a Young Chop or any of these niggas that make number one rap songs. Travi$ is not here to make number one rap songs. Those people get high off of making number one songs. I’m into making number one fucking albums."

Capital STEEZ: King Capital by Eli Rosenberg

None of the city’s newspapers reported it, and of the outlets that did, not a single one was able to confirm it officially. One of the city’s most gifted young artists had killed himself in the center of Manhattan, and no one seemed to know for certain if it had even happened.

The FADER Interviews

Future interviewed by Naomi Zeichner
"Before, I wasn’t stopping to eat dinner. I never ate at a restaurant for like, two or three years. Ciara is not really taking me out of my zone, but the relationship has opened me up to more and given me more to talk about. When you go to sleep with somebody and wake up with them, there’s certain stuff that she’s gonna have to know about that other people aren’t gonna know about. That’s what we share, and what we’re building our foundation around—those things that we know about each other that nobody knows."

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu interviewed by Duncan Cooper

"Not long ago, I was eating ramen and I heard my song “Invader Invader” playing from the speaker. I was surprised for a second, but that was it. It just feels a bit awkward now."

DJ Khaled interviewed by Jace Clayton

"You got the beautiful things about success: we get to eat good steaks and we have marble floors and nice whips and we get to take care of our family. Then you got the other side of it: everybody got their hand out, and people might be hating."

Five dancers from Rihanna's "Pour It Up" video interviewed by Deidre Dyer

"I think Rihanna gave women a leeway to not hide their love of exotic dancing. Its a dope record that Rihanna chose to do, to show a different side of herself and represent for exotic dancers."

Schoolboy Q interviewed by Naomi Zeichner

"I’m not saying white people should just walk around like, “Aww my nigga.” But white people come to my shows, they’re the reason I can wear these nice clothes. They’re the reason my daughter’s straight. So yea, you can say nigga in my concert...That’s TDE: fuck your ethnicity. We’re not black, we’re not white, we’re not Asian. We’re just people here listening to music. You can say nigga in front of me, I don’t care."

Jim James interviewed by Matthew Schnipper

"I feel very fortunate to be able to make music and make it my living, so I feel it’s my duty to do as much experimenting as I can to find sounds that make me lose my mind."

Parquet Courts interviewed by Emilie Friedlander

"I think that there is a romanticized version of New York, and there is a New York that exists in a lot of people’s minds—especially when the think of rock music and punk music in New York. I don’t feel the need to indulge that kind of romanticism at all."

Kelly Rowland interviewed by Naomi Zeichner

"I learn something from a woman every single day. From each woman in my life—I don’t care where she’s from, if I’ve met her for a second...Women know when we know something that another woman could benefit from. That’s how we empower each other."

Designer Stephen Burrows interviewed by Alex Frank

"Dancing, sweating. Knits are so perishable, you have to be careful with them. But it’s the body that goes in the dress that gives it life."

Gucci Mane interviewed by Naomi Zeichner

"People wanna follow in my footsteps and I wish that I can now do more positive things, and that back then I’d done more positive things. I value my core fans I got from the hood. I think a lot of things might hit home with them, like problems with the law or how I talk about partying—all the different topics I cover when I do rap. But I also value my suburban fans who take a liking to my music and like the way I change cadences. I appreciate all of them cause both types of fans push me to record all the time.”

Tao Lin interviewed by Emilie Friedlander

"If something happened, you can’t make it un-happen. Right now people can track what happened whenever to a certain degree, but a billion years from now they’ll be able to look at this probably. [Indicates the sunny park scene in front of us with the span of an arm.] Wikipedia is a very simple version of that, where you can see what happened and who did what. There’s just no way to hide from the universe. Do you know anything about the singularity?"

Pure X interviewed by Patrick McDermott

"I just can’t get inspired to make music inside of a software, or on a screen. It’s definitely a great tool to have around, but personally, I’m not inspired to make music inside my room, on a computer screen. I want to make music loud as fuck. IRL, man."

Spring Breakers costume designer Heidi Bivens interviewed by Naomi Zeichner

"Styling girls wearing bikinis seems easy, but in fittings I had 300-plus bikinis for each to try on. I tried to have some swimwear designed, then realized that even though it’s just little pieces of fabric, it’s so much more complicated than you would imagine. If you design a good suit and it looks great on one person, it’s not necessarily going to look good on the next."

Lorde interviewed by Naomi Zeichner

"Half the stuff that is written about being young is written by 40-year-old songwriters who’ve been doing it for 20 years. I guess sometimes I just wanna be a little more straight up about the nature of being a young person."

Dennis Cooper interviewed by Alex Frank

"I’m very, very afraid of nostalgia. That’s how you get old, you know?"

FADER Opinion

"The Internet Weeps" by Duncan Cooper
on Drake and Tao Lin

I see the works of both artists as like two sides of the same coin, pictures of contemporary young adulthood. The quality of affectlessness in Drake, created by his flatlined sonics, like Tao Lin’s prose style (“If I do affectless prose,” he said in 2009, “I want to do in the extreme”), is in my opinion the same quality that makes people peg them as spokespeople for their generation.

"How FKA Twigs is Pushing Female Sexuality Beyond Miley Cyrus and Sinead" by Emilie Friedlander

It’s like we’re watching [FKA Twigs] be psychically and physically annihilated, but there’s a bold, hyper-stylized, even auteurist quality to her musical and visual choices, one gives you the feeling that she’s also fully in charge.

"FADER Explains: Harlem Shake" by Naomi Zeichner
on how the meme was born

More than a decade ago, a guy named Jayson Musson, then a Philly art student, got into a bloody fight with a guy who’d been painting over his graffiti around town. He wrote a song about the fight, and last year, it was sampled into a new song, called “Harlem Shake.” This month, piggybacking onto an idea hatched by a weirdo video blogger, thousands of people uploaded clips of themselves dancing along with “Harlem Shake.” It’s a lot to take in, so here’s the whole story of how Musson’s lyric made it into a producer named Baauer’s hands, and how Baauer’s song ended up in a million videos.

"FADER Explains: Beyonce Tickets" by Naomi Zeichner
on why tickets to popular events are so hard to get

With help from four industry professionals and two fans, here’s everything I learned about what the ticket industry is like now, why Beyoncé tickets sell out so fast and how you can get seats to popular shows. Spoiler alert: there’s more than one bad guy.

"Tired, Poor, Huddled" by Matthew Schnipper
on why NYC is better than David Byrne thinks

Yes, it sucks that there are empty apartments owned by oligarchs in Chelsea. But they don’t have anything to do with culture keeping New York City electric. Spawn of Patrick Bateman have always been here and will always be here and I’m not against antiheros keeping the proletariat going, but, honestly, as rosy as it is, I never think about them.

"When to Listen and When to Shut Up" by Naomi Zeichner
on Miley Cyrus at the VMAs

At home after the show, I was surprised by how widely Cyrus was criticized by ostensibly liberal people not only for her racism, but for her body, with people calling her butt “nasty” or guessing she hasn’t really had enough sex. It felt like they were lumping needless extra criticism on something that was already legitimately offensive.Both Cyrus and MTV were presumably eager to stoke controversy by any means necessary. They benefit from bad press and critical think pieces. But sometimes, propelled by a sense of vigilante justice and the urgency to say something relevant right away, people who have good critical intentions end up coming off noisy and mean, whether they’re thoughtful or not. As performers and events become increasingly rewarded for provoking bile, when will we learn to shut up?


"Next Stage: Kim Gordon Goes Solo" by Alex Halberstadt
After dinner, Gordon climbed the stairs to the TV room, which was dominated by a'“Gilmore Girls' poster, signed by the cast. She put on 'Friday Night Lights' and reclined on a sofa with the spaniel in her lap. I sat beside them. In the pilot episode, there were maybe a dozen major characters, and I had trouble following the plot, maybe because of the red wine that we’d had at dinner. During a particularly convoluted football montage, I noticed that Gordon’s breathing had gotten deeper; when I turned to look, she was asleep.

"Charli XCX's Quest for Pop Stardom" by Amos Barshod

Backstage at Central Park, I'd asked Charli about the plan. "I'm ambitious, but it's not something I need. I'm happy to be making the music that I love, and doing fucking punk-ass gigs and shit. And if the pop world isn't ready for that, then that's their loss." She smiled. "Like, I'd rather have fun than be a cunt."

"Becoming RiFF RAFF" by Ben Westhoff

For the record, he was born Horst Christian Simco on Jan. 29, 1982, making him 31. He was a normal, square kid throughout his childhood, and he studied liberal arts at a community college in Hibbing, Minn. Upon returning to Houston 10 years ago, he was painting cars and gradually beginning to build his new identity. It's unclear why he's so cagey about his past; perhaps he believes his middle-class background disqualifies him from rap stardom. He's gone out of his way to make himself seem less educated than he is.

"Made It in Ohio: How Bradley Ray Moore Accidentally Conquered K-Pop" by Jakob Dorof

The stadium erupts with applause and confetti, and all of a sudden, Bradley Ray Moore is famous. In fact, as millions watch agog from bars and living rooms across South Korea, he’s probably the most famous white guy in the country—if not the whole history of Korean music. Moore didn’t intend to be here, and it’s the last thing on his mind; right now he just wants his fiancé back, and his freedom. He’s been shuttered from the outside world for two months, and if he screws this up, it’ll be a long time before his next chance to escape.

"Harlem Chic: How a Hip-Hop Legend Remixed Name Brand Fashion" by Kelefa Sanneh

“Paid in Full” was a hit, and a turning point: its imaginative samples inspired hip-hop producers to broaden their palettes, its sinuous rhymes inspired rappers to stretch out their verses, and its audacious cover helped convince rivals and fans that hip-hop fashion might mean something more luxurious than a T-shirt or a track suit. Of course, fans hoping to buy their own logo-print Gucci jackets wouldn’t have met with much success at the company’s Manhattan boutique, at Fifth Avenue and Fifty-fourth Street, which sold mostly handbags and wallets. But within the emerging hip-hop industry the source of those outfits was an open secret: they came from a bustling shop seventy blocks north, in Harlem, called Dapper Dan’s Boutique.

"The Band Leader" by Mike Powell
on Ariel Rechtshaid

When it comes to the studio, Rechtshaid is irreverent by habit and prefers to do the wrong thing whenever possible. Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij remembers walking into a session where Rechtshaid had raised the level of the kick drum on a song called "Everlasting Arms" 12 decibels. ("One decibel, that's noticeable. Twelve decibels, that's really noticeable," Batmanglij clarifies.) Naturally, it transformed the song. "There was this hiss sucking back and forth in conjunction with the kick," Batmanglij says. "It was amazing."6 After a few hours, Rechtshaid and front man Ezra Koenig had toned it down. "I was unhappy about that," Batmanglij says. "So when it was my turn to open the session, the first thing I did was bring up the kick drum 12 dB."

"How to Disappear Completely by Lucy Allan
on Laurel Halo

"Lots of driving everywhere, chain malls, churches and farmlands, where the nearest big city was Detroit."

"Platinum Underdog: Why Taylor Swift Is the Biggest Pop Star in the World" by Jody Rosen

It’s hard not to detect a sexist double standard in the policing of Swift’s confessions, especially when you consider the routine misogyny in the songs of rockers, rappers, and woebegone beardy indie balladeers. Taylor Swift is a young woman who dates guys, falls in love, falls out of love, and writes some songs about it. Must we begrudge Swift her muse?


"Behind Kanye's Mask" by Jon Caramanica

"I think what Kanye West is going to mean is something similar to what Steve Jobs means. I am undoubtedly, you know, Steve of Internet, downtown, fashion, culture. Period. By a long jump. I honestly feel that because Steve has passed, you know, it’s like when Biggie passed and Jay-Z was allowed to become Jay-Z."

"M.I.A. Talks Matangi" by Rob Kenner

"The government shut down. No one’s got fucking money. Lile, what the fuck? You know, maybe this is symbolism for kids to turn around and be like, "We’re all fucked.’ There’s kids walking around New York with a “Fucked” T-shirt on all the time and I’m confused by that. Is that just you saying you don’t know how to use the fucking tools that you invented? You don’t have to stage a revolution, but you can use it to fucking tweet at Obama. Like, do it. That’s what it’s there for. Why are you criticizing how Iranians use it and the Turkish use it and Egyptians use it? Your government’s getting shut down. I mean, you use it. Show them why you invented that tool in the first place. Instead the kids here are like, “Oh, it’s over.” So I’m going to just walk around literally looking like death because I’m dead inside. That’s the message, and it’s just bushit. If you’re going to do that you might as well fucking fight."

"Read the "Stomach-Churning" Sexual Assault Accusations Against R. Kelly in Full" by Jessica Hopper
on journalist Jim DeRogatis and the investigation that has defined his career

"Rapes, plural. It is on record. Rapes in the dozen. So stop hedging your words, and when you tell me what a brilliant ode to pussy Black Panties is, then realize that the next sentence should say: "This, from a man who has committed numerous rapes." The guy was a monster! Just say it! We do have a justice system and he was acquitted. OK, fine. And these other women took the civil lawsuit route. He was tried on very narrow grounds. He was tried on a 29-minute, 36-second videotape. He was tried on trading child pornography. He was not tried for rape. He was acquitted of making child pornography. He's never been tried in court for rape, but look at the statistics. The numbers of rapes that happened, the numbers of rapes that were reported, the numbers of rapes that make it to court and then the conviction rate. I mean, it comes down to something minuscule. He's never had his day in court as a rapist. It's 15 years in the past now, but this record exists. You have to make a choice, as a listener, if music matters to you as more than mere entertainment."

"Invisible Jukebox" by Dan Warburton
an interview with Archie Shepp

"I never espoused the idea of a black president. I didn't see why we should be held responsible for crimes committed by white people. I supported him, but I would have preferred Al Gore of John Kerry, because when white men speak, they're listened to."

Music and Business

“Not a Dataman, I’m a Data, Man” by Willy Staley
on JAY Z's partnership with Samsung
Jay-Z gets paid directly for his music in a way that wouldn’t be quite so likely if he had to rely on traditional record sales and “traditional” digital downloads. You, the listener, get free (or almost-free) music, which is what you’re used to at this point. It’s a frictionless transaction, to borrow a Silicon Valleyism. And Samsung — which is not a cellular provider and would therefore not normally have access to this, I don’t think — gets some of that raw uncut data, which is all anybody wants anymore.

“Blockbuster: Who Needs Hits?” by Kelefa Sanneh
on where big hits stand now

Once upon a time, we worried about what popular culture was doing to us. Now, more and more, we worry about what we’re doing to it.

“Rap, Both Good and Bad for Business” by Jon Caramanica
on how large companies employ rap

But these reactions are also a signal of how expendable hip-hop culture — and, by extension, black culture and youth culture — is to mainstream, predominantly white-owned corporations. These companies have been happy to associate with hip-hop while turning a blind eye to some of the genre’s rougher edges, but at the same time they have remained at arm’s length, all the better to dispose of hip-hop artists once their liabilities outweighed their assets.

"Is Sean Combs' TV Channel Good for Artists?" by Will Butler

Revolt envisions a cable network fully integrated with the Internet, and therefore better suited to today’s TV landscape. But this may require an audience willing not only to plug in and turn on but to opt out of certain rights.

“Kanye West Courts Silicon Valley Investors, But VCs Don’t Want DONDA” by Nitasha Tiku
on why Silicon Valley isn't backing Kanye West

DONDA's road map may be hazy, but is it any more far-fetched than some of the ludicrous pitches propped up Silicon Valley's free flowing capital? Especially from investors who claim to back the founder, not the idea, and embrace failure—West recently said he lost $13 million on business ventures because "I didn't have the knowledge to do it the right way"—as a badge of honor.


"Getting In on the Action" by Kathleen Hanna
on Dead Girlfriends
I hope this whole thing doesn’t deter his further experiments because he has really got people talking and blogging …he got me to write something and I have been seriously slacking on my blog! I also just want to applaud him for putting himself out there and making mistakes, because how else is anything left of bland ever going to happen?

"Is It OK for White Music Critics to Like Violent Rap?" by Dave Bry
on listening to Chief Keef

I will continue to listen to Chief Keef’s music, and I reserve the right to praise it. But I probably won’t get off this easy. Or I shouldn’t, anyway. As much as I’d like to consider rap music, and all art, in a moral vacuum, that’s not possible. Not in America, not with our history. The past is still with us, and we share—to widely varying degrees—in the pain and the guilt. Chief Keef serves as a reminder to those of us who may have forgotten: There are some things that should make us uncomfortable.

“Footnote Records” by Eric Harvey
on Alan Lomax, Rap Genius and translating black music

Rap Genius’ drive to “annotate the world,” in Andreesen’s coinage, is a clever turn of phrase masking the logic driving the site: a killer web app is presented as a populist game-changer when in fact it’s simply a slick new model to drive existing activity — discussing texts online, searching for information — into a new, privately-owned space.

“A Word on Chief Keef, Race and Hip-Hop Journalism” by Craig Jenkins

How many more stories of rappers’ success in the face of rap blog indifference have to transpire before we realize that the mainstream rap blog machine is broken? How long will it take us to understand that hip-hop is larger than any of our individual conceptions of it, that this music plays to more than just the inner city, that the best picture of modern hip-hop is derived from the unity of our varying voices? When will we learn to value each other’s perspectives?

“Why is J Cole Mediocre” by Andrew Nosnitsky

I mean this guy is supposed to be a great lyricist, a compelling writer, The Nas Of Our Time but nobody seems to notice that he failed to absorb the most (only?) compelling aspect of Nas’ style - that project window vision. Dude is wholly incapable of seeing outside of himself. Literally every idea on Born Sinner is I / me / my on some elementary school essay shit. His subjects exist only as one dimensional props for him to hang his own personality and narratives on.

“Poser Pride” by Hazel Cills

Acting like there’s a right way to like something is snobby, petty, and mean, and no one makes friends that way. It’s OK to give a person some space while they figure out who they really want to be instead of policing every pleasure they manage to eke out of life. Save your energy for making fun of things that are actually important.


"Rilo Kiley, rkives" by Carrie Battan

Rilo Kiley's frontwoman and former child star Jenny Lewis was, to my memory, a spiritual guide for one subset of the Livejournal community, who'd plaster her lyrics on their entries and profile pages with Belieber-like devotion. I think of Rilo Kiley and Livejournal the way some people think of Tila Tequila and MySpace...Exploring old-but-new Rilo Kiley material can feel like connecting vital dots in recent history

“Atlanta to Atlantis: An Outkast Retrospective” by Jeff Weiss, Nate Patrin, Jayson Greene, Mike Powell, Andrew Nosnitsky and Ian Cohen

When OutKast called themselves “ATLiens,” it was a partial rupture. They set themselves apart from their city and species—weird storms in the wrong season. But they also identify with the soil and struggle. They are black men in the South, where Confederate ghosts and rebel flags are constant shadows. As they lament on Southernplayalistic’s “Git Up, Get Out”, no one’s running for office but “crackers.” Yet the song’s message is deceptively traditional: Quit smoking your life away, pay attention to your parents, rely only on yourself.

"Wanted: Macho Men with Mustaches" by Nicole Pasulka

How did such a gay song become the fifth-inning anthem at Yankees home games?

“Rap 1.0: A History of the Early Hip Hop Internet” by Andrew Nosnitsky

The first post in Google’s archive for alt.rap, dated March 20, 1991, is simply a transcript of lyrics to Technotronic’s cheeseball hip house hit “Pump Up the Jam.” The second comment reads, “This is the worst shit ever. That’s all.” The posts get more informative from there on out, mostly mirroring the type of content that fuels the current music Internet: record reviews, new top-ten lists, album release dates, show reviews, debates about authenticity (most revolving around Vanilla Ice), race-baiting trolls, etc. This all might sound pedestrian, but remember that both rap culture and Internet technology weren’t even close to the global presences that they are now. It required a very specific blend of circumstances to gain access to either of these concurrently emerging lifestyles, let alone the sort of deep-end immersion that we take for granted today

“New York is Burning: Vogue’s Move from Ballroom to Limelight” by Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Willi Ninja, who passed away in 2006 from AIDS-related heart failure, is remembered not just because he was one of the most beautiful dancers ever, but because he had the foresight and confidence to know that voguing could be preserved as an important American art form. Mainstreaming ball culture didn’t have to be solely about commerce.


"Miss Millennium: Beyoncé" by Amy Wallace
Anytime she wants to remind herself of all that work—or almost anything else that's ever happened in her life—all she has to do is walk down the hall. There, across from the narrow conference room in which you are interviewing her, is another long, narrow room that contains the official Beyoncé archive, a temperature-controlled digital-storage facility that contains virtually every existing photograph of her, starting with the very first frames taken of Destiny's Child, the '90s girl group she once fronted; every interview she's ever done; every video of every show she's ever performed; every diary entry she's ever recorded while looking into the unblinking eye of her laptop.

"It's Mostly Tha Voice: Why the Music (Yes, Music) of "Beyoncé" Matters" by Tim Finney

Even when Beyoncé seems to be laying herself bare, she's really offering a studied simulation of the confessional: throughout Beyoncé, she draws for a conversational, talk-over-the-beat vocal style whenever she wants to convey unmediated spontaneity or truth-telling, from the bleary reverie of "Drunk In Love": "We woke up in the kitchen saying 'How the hell did this shit happen?' Oh baby…" to the rueful admission of "Jealous": "I know that I'm being hateful but that ain't nothin'." It is, of course, all hyper-mediated. But we should applaud Beyoncé for giving every fuck about how to come across as if she gives none, for being so intimately aware of how to deploy R&B's armory of mannerisms to capture such finely tuned emotional nuances through subtle shifts of inflection.

"The Great Big Beyoncé Roundtable" by Rookie

Does being a feminist mean taking no pleasure in your sexuality and never (god forbid!) profiting from it? There’s really no winning here, and that’s where the conversation should START. Being a woman is a trap, full stop, but especially if you’re a very successful woman in the public eye. I think Bey has really found the only way to maybe not avoid the trap, but avoid getting mangled by it: She expresses her sexuality in the context of her own life, which she lives strictly on her terms. There’s sex in her music, her dancing, and her performances, because sex is part of life, and she is an alive person. I don’t see how it’s cool or smart or “feminist” to dog on women for using the system to their own advantage, or for taking pleasure in something that happens to also sell. And there’s something especially gross about scolding a black woman for being too bodily, for taking too much pleasure from her sexuality. Like she’s a sinner or something. And like she should remember her “place” and be “modest.” I thank the heavens that Beyoncé has never been modest about her greatness on all levels, because she is a gift to all of us.

Miley Cyrus

"Can the White Girl Twerk?" by Ayesha Sidiqqi

It would be unfair to demand Miley remain faithful to her teenage aesthetic when no self-aware person does. And it would take a dull palette to assume she couldn’t sincerely recognize the appeal of rap music and gold accessories. Her sincerity, however, is ­irrelevant. Charges of cultural appropriation and the rampant slut shaming she now faces draw a narrow lens to her actions. In truth, Miley exemplifies the white impulse to shake the stigma its mainstream status affords while simultaneously exercising the power of whiteness to define blackness.

"When Your Brown Body is a White Wonderland" by Tressie McMillan Cottom

No, it’s not Syria but it is still worth commenting upon when in the pop culture circus the white woman is the ringleader and the women who look like you are the dancing elephants.

"In Defense of Miley Cyrus" by Rich Juzwiak

Cyrus was not afraid to look ugly on that VMAs stage. Though obviously choreographed, she exhibited a sort of hideous spontaneity that's you don't see as much in these safe, media-trained times watched over by St. Beyoncé. ..Cyrus' performance was a pop rendering of clanking teeth, an elbow to the face, bodies that never quite find the right rhythm. In fact, it reminded me of the awkward, iconic mess Madonna made when she just kind of flopped down and started rolling on the ground during her "Like a Virgin" VMAs performance, 29 years ago.


"Lou Reed x Kanye West" by Lou Reed
on Yeezus
"New Slaves" has that line, Y'all throwin' contracts at me/ You know that niggas can't read.' Wow, wow, wow. That is an amazing thing to put in a lyric. That's a serious accusation in the middle of this rant at other people: an accusation of himself. As if he's some piece of shit from the street who doesn't know nothing. Yeah, right — your mom was a college English professor.

"Burial’s Rival Dealer is a Christmas Story About Love, Confusion and Sexuality, and the Best Thing He’s Made Since Untrue" by Tom Lea

Already gutted by Rival Dealer not containing material that’s half a decade old, the first comments on the Facebook thread for this EP’s release read thus: “it’s god awful”. “Expected better after such a long wait.” “Burial is over”. But fuck these people.

"Arcade Fire’s ‘Reflektor’: Still Devoid of Wit, Subtlety and Danger, Now with Bongos" by Chris Richards

Butler is at his most irritating with “Normal Person,” pulling David Byrne’s oversize blazer out of the closet and asking, “Is anything as strange as a normal person? Is anyone as cruel as a normal person?” You tell us, dude.

In Memoriam

"For Lou Reed" by Laurie Anderson

Lou was a prince and a fighter and I know his songs of the pain and beauty in the world will fill many people with the incredible joy he felt for life. Long live the beauty that comes down and through and onto all of us.

"Lou Reed" by Patti Smith

He had black eyes, black T-shirt, pale skin. He was curious, sometimes suspicious, a voracious reader, and a sonic explorer. An obscure guitar pedal was for him another kind of poem. He was our connection to the infamous air of the Factory. He had made Edie Sedgwick dance. Andy Warhol whispered in his ear. Lou brought the sensibilities of art and literature into his music. He was our generation’s New York poet, championing its misfits as Whitman had championed its workingman and Lorca its persecuted.

"Chris Kelly (1978-2013)" by Rembert Browne

There was an initial confusion over which "Chris" had died, ultimately leading back to the two-decade-old maneuver of isolating one member of Kris Kross. It was "dark-skinned" Chris. Your heart sank, because at that moment, you remembered the first time you heard Kris Kross. It was his voice. Chris Kelly's voice. He was just 34 years old.

The Complete 2013 Music Reading List