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Music Criticism Has Gone to Hell

In the new paradigm, artists generate coverage by their clothes, hook-ups, and run-ins with the law. What happened to the music?

Imagine, for a moment, football commentators who refuse to explain formations and plays. Or a TV cooking show that never mentions the ingredients. Or an expert on cars who refuses to look under the hood of an automobile.


©DreamWorks/Courtesy Everett Collection

These examples may sound implausible, perhaps ridiculous. But something comparable is happening in the field of music journalism. One can read through a stack of music magazines and never find any in-depth discussion of music.  Technical knowledge of the art form has disappeared from its discourse. In short, music criticism has turned into lifestyle reporting.


Johnny Cash’s Lost LP

‘Out Among the Stars’ isn’t a bottom-of-the-barrel hodgepodge assembled by Cash’s heirs to keep the family coffers full—it’s an ‘endeavor of the heart’ by Cash’s son.

Most “new” albums released after a musician’s death aren’t really new at all. Instead they tend to be leftovers—the live tracks, B-sides, and outtakes that the artist didn’t see fit to release in his or her lifetime.


Johnny Cash (Michel Linssen/Redferns)

But the new Johnny Cash album, Out Among the Stars, is different. This isn’t a bottom-of-the-barrel hodgepodge assembled by Cash’s heirs to keep the family coffers full. It’s an actual lost LP by the Man in Black—an entire disc that was supposed to come out back in the mid-1980s but was shelved by Cash’s record company before it could be completed.

Directing ‘Divergent’

Not the Next ‘Hunger Games’

Director Neil Burger knows that you thought his take on ‘Divergent’ would be a lot like ‘The Hunger Games,’ and he worked doggedly in order to change your mind.

The director of Divergent is facing a major conundrum.

Everyone—everyone—is asking director Neil Burger how his film version of the phenomenally popular young adult novel compares to The Hunger Games. “Every time I say something about The Hunger Games,” Burger says, “I get, like, death threats.”


Jaap Buitendijk/Summit

Listen Up

From Gossip Girl to Risqué Rocker

She played Jenny Humphrey on the hit CW series, but now the 20-year-old has found her comfort zone as the lead singer of the band The Pretty Reckless. Momsen opens up about her journey.

“Fame is so fleeting and stupid,” utters Taylor Momsen.


Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless performs on stage at HMV Hammersmith Apollo on November 4, 2011 in London, United Kingdom. (Christie Goodwin/Redferns)

For three-plus years, the celeb-infatuated sphere knew the striking blonde as Jenny Humphrey, problem child extraordinaire on the CW series Gossip Girl. Jenny was, as the concerned Dad would say, a real piece of work; a Machiavellian social climber who pushed pills, covered up a cancer misdiagnosis, and was deflowered by the town lothario.


Remembering L’Wren Scott

L'Wren Scott

Evan Sung/The New York Times, via Redux

From the early age of 18, L’Wren Scott caught the eye of the fashion world, skyrocketing to success with a career as a model and designer. On Monday, she died of an apparent suicide.

On Monday, L’Wren Scott, American fashion designer and longtime girlfriend of Mick Jagger, was found dead of an apparent suicide in her New York City apartment. The 49-year-old’s body was discovered hanging by her favorite scarf around 10 a.m. While a suicide note has not yet been found, police do not suspect foul play.

Scott, born Laura “Luann” Bambrough, was raised in Utah by adoptive Mormon parents. At thirteen, Scott—who was known for her incredibly long legs—was already six-feet tall, and she began crafting clothes to fit her lengthy stature. In 1985, an 18-year-old Scott captured the eye of fashion photographer Bruce Weber while skiing; soon after, Weber shot her for a Calvin Klein shoot, and her career took off. She walked the Paris runways for Thierry Mugler and Chanel and landed a slew of editorials and campaigns, most notably, the Pretty Polly “clock” campaign shot by David Bailey.

In the mid-1990s, Scott left Paris for Los Angeles, first to head public relations for Prada, and then to embark on a successful career as a celebrity stylist, dressing the likes of Sharon Stone, Nicole Kidman, Ellen Barkin, and Sarah Jessica Parker, and working closely alongside legendary photographer Herb Ritts. She designed costumes for the likes of Ocean’s Thirteen and Eyes Wide Shut, and won the hearts of countless celebrity A-listers—particularly, Mick Jagger.

Don’t Stick Me

Hollywood’s Anti-Vaxx All-Stars

Who’s to blame for the return of measles? Is it the 'loons' who refuse to vaccinate their children? Or is it the celebrities who champion the anti-vaccination campaign?

Jenny McCarthy: “We need to get rid of the toxins, the mercury—which I am so tired of everyone saying it's been removed. It has not been removed from the shots."

Jenny McCarthy

Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Kristin Cavallari: "I understand both sides of it. I've read too many books about autism and there's some scary statistics out there. It's our personal choice, you know, and if you're really concerned about your kid, then get them vaccinated and it shouldn't be a problem."

Jim Carrey: “If we are to believe that the ruling of the 'vaccine court' in these cases mean that all vaccines are safe, then we must also consider the rulings of that same court in the Hannah Polling and Bailey Banks cases, which ruled vaccines were the cause of autism and therefore assume that all vaccines are unsafe. Clearly both are irresponsible assumptions, and neither option is prudent.”

Mayim Bialik: “We are a non-vaccinating family, but I make no claims about people’s individual decisions. We based ours on research and discussions with our pediatrician, and we’ve been happy with that decision, but obviously there’s a lot of controversy about it.”

Donald Trump
“You know, I have a theory [about the rise in autism diagnoses]. And it’s a theory that some people believe in — and that’s the vaccinations. We never had anything like this. This is now an epidemic. It’s way, way up over the past 10 years. It’s way up over the past two years. And, you know, when you take a little baby that weighs like 12 pounds into a doctor’s office and they pump them with many, many simultaneous vaccinations — I’m all for vaccinations, but I think when you add all of these vaccinations together and then two months later the baby is so different then lots of different things have happened. I really — I’ve known cases.”

Charlie Sheen:
He doesn’t want people “sticking” his kids. Read this.


Walking Dead's Most Brutal Episode

The Walking Dead's latest shocker was one no one saw coming. Warning: Spoilers ahead!

Every time someone asks you to “look at the flowers” from now on, be very, very afraid.


Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead went where few shows are willing to go last night. It did something extraordinarily brutal and morbid, even for a show that‘s built an empire on being brutal and morbid. Let’s just get it out there now: Carol killed a child. She shot her at point-blank range in the back of the head while out looking at flowers. Earlier in the episode, that child stabbed her own sister to death to prove a point. That’s “The Grove” in a nutshell.

Movie: The Musical

Is Broadway Brain-Dead?

‘Rocky’ is now a musical, along with countless other movies. Whatever happened to theater producers taking a risk and making a big hit that didn’t rely on big-screen familiarity?

Rocky has just opened as a Broadway musical. Yes, he not only swings—he sings! The theatrical version of Sylvester Stallone’s tale received wildly mixed reviews: The Wall Street Journal called it “a knockout hit,” The New York Times referred to it as “leaden” until its climactic fight scene, during which the audience suddenly finds itself ringside. Now, it is up to audiences to decide.


Andrew H. Walker/Getty

If the recent past is any indication, there is no guarantee that those who loved the little movie will run to see the living spectacle. Nevertheless, everyone is seemingly getting into this film-to-stage act. Even movie mega-impresario Harvey Weinstein is turning one of his films, Finding Neverland, into a stage musical. Visit the Great White Way and you can see not only Rocky, but The Bridges of Madison County, Bullets Over Broadway, Once, Kinky Boots, Matilda, Newsies, The Lion King, and Aladdin.  Still to come are Honeymoon in Vegas, Diner, The Bodyguard, Back to The Future, Beaches and so many more.   


Uma Goes 'Nymphomaniac'

The Oscar-nominated actress steals the show as a woman scorned who gets her revenge on her two-timing husband and his sex-addicted mistress in ‘Nymphomaniac: Vol. I.’

Revenge is a dish best served cold.

Uma Thurman

Timothy Allen

It’s one of the most celebrated proverbs in popular culture, referenced by everyone from Don Corleone in The Godfather to Spock in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The saying is also inextricably linked to actress Uma Thurman, the cognoscente of cinematic revenge.

Let’s Dance

NCAA Teams to Cheer if Yours Lost

Unlucky fans and casual observers alike can still enjoy the NCAA tournament.

If your college basketball team was left out of the dance on Sunday, don’t give up on March Madness. But how do you decide who to cheer for without a direct interest in any of the 68 teams that made the field? Forget Mailroom Doug’s seven-year reign over your office pool; let’s find you some teams you can really get behind.

Here’s the team to root for if…

If you want Cinderella to become the empress of the world...


SXSW, The Breakout Bands

The music, tech, and film festival, which ran from March 7-16, has finally come to an end. Here are the “next big thing” musical acts that you’ll be hearing a lot more of in the near future.

South By Southwest (SXSW), the annual set of music, interactive, and film festivals in Austin, Texas, has grown into a strange breed of monster.


London Grammar playing live at the Troxy in London on March 5. (

On the music side, a superabundance of DIY acts, all of which cover expenses out of pocket, flaunt their wares alongside seven-figure corporate-sponsored extravaganzas courtesy of Apple (Coldplay), Samsung (Jay Z & Kanye West), and Doritos (Lady Gaga). Buttoned-up, hors d'oeuvres-nibbling execs rub shoulders with tattooed, finger-lickin’ hipsters over their mutual love of music and barbecue.

Watch This!

The Week in Viral Videos

From tumbling toddlers to tiny tiger cubs, watch our countdown of this week’s buzziest videos.

5. Raising ‘80s Awareness

Listen up, millennials. You better appreciate how easy your life is now because the struggle that was the eighties is real, and Kevin Bacon is here to tell you just how real it was.

[Movie Name] XXX

The Art of Smutty Spoofs

Modern porn parody goes a little deeper than titles like ‘When Harry Ate Sally,’ ‘Sorest Rump,’ and ‘Star Whores.’ Have we entered the age in which porn parody is actually respectable?

Modern porn parody goes a little deeper than comically spoofed titles like When Harry Ate Sally, Sorest Rump, and Star Whores. There’s the hardcore sex, of course, but adult audiences want more—they want something clever beyond the box cover. Have we entered the age in which porn parody is—gasp—respectable?


While porn spoofs have been around for years, it wasn’t until the late 2000s that they really broke through. The film was Not the Bradys XXX. Until then, studios had never so blatantly parodied mainstream sitcoms. The soundtrack expertly mimicked the original song. Surely a lawsuit was on its way. Instead, Not the Bradys XXX was a blockbuster. The actors were invited to Entertainment Tonight. Jackpot! Porn producers started chasing the money and parodied everything from Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to Judge Judy. “Parodies came in at the time that DVD sales had first started to drop,” says Lee Roy Meyers of “So when these porn spoofs sold well, so many people jumped into making them that they flooded the market.”

Why the GOP Is Angry About Colbert

When Stephen Colbert was announced as David Letterman's successor, Rush Limbaugh and company both criticized and politicized the move. Keli Goff discusses whether they're actually mad.

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