Results for Kanye West

interviews

Top Albums of 2005

The“Best Records”list: It's“a sacred thing”in pop music fandom, says Jim, requiring a discerning ear and laser-like focus. Thankfully, our hosts are here to help. After sifting through hundreds of records, and countless days spent listening (perhaps to the discontent of their wives), they‘ve managed to pick out their absolute favorites. Here’s what Jim and Greg say they'll still be listening to in 2006.

Go to episode 2

L.A. Reid

lareidcoachella TLC, Mariah Carey, Pink, Justin Bieber, Outkast, Usher, Whitney Houston, Jay-Z, Kanye West…you name the pop star, and chances are he or she has worked with this week's guest, Antonio“L.A.”Reid. While he began as a drummer in the R&B group The Deele, it's really behind-the-scenes that L.A. has made the most awesome noise—first, as a songwriter/producer with Babyface in the 1980s and 1990s, then as a record exec at LaFace, Arista, Island Def Jam and now Epic Records.

L.A. shares his insights into what makes a great pop song, great (melody, hooks, emotion and the ability to sound good, even with a pillow over it) and some of his biggest professional triumphs (signing“the Beast”Rihanna, coaching Kanye West) and failures (Lady Gaga…the one that got away). He's also not afraid to get candid about music industry sacred cows, whether it's Michael Jackson or major labels themselves.

Go to episode 542

Kid Sister

Chicago rapper Melisa Young, better known as Kid Sister, joins Jim and Greg in the studio this week. She began to get notice after releasing her breakthrough hit "Pro Nails" in 2007, and since then has become a mainstay in the club and festival circuit. However, it wasn't until November 2009 that she released her full-length debut Ultraviolet. Melisa explains to Jim and Greg that it just wasn‘t perfect, and she wouldn’t release it until it was. Now the album is an up-tempo blend of hip hop, electronica and house, and features guest appearances by Cee-Lo Green and Kanye West on a new version of "Pro Nails." But, Melisa assures Jim and Greg she hasn‘t gone Hollywood. She’s still got plenty of energy and appears to be happier just jamming out at the gym.

Go to episode 215

Peter Bjorn & John

Recently Jim and Greg invited a group of listeners to sit in on their session with Swedish trio Peter Bjorn & John. Many members of the audience had heard their album Writer's Block or seen them perform at festivals like SXSW. But, certainly everyone in the room had heard their catchy hit "Young Folks." The song has been featured in TV shows and commercials and was recently sampled by Kanye West. It provides just a taste of what the band had to offer. During their interview Peter Morén, Björn Yttling, and pinch hitter Nino Keller performed a number of songs, all of which you can sample here.

Go to episode 83

Jon Brion

Jon Brion Jim and Greg revisit one of their favorite interviews in the history of the show: a 2006 conversation with multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, producer, and film composer Jon Brion. Brion has produced for artists like Aimee Mann, Fiona Apple, Spoon, and Kanye West and worked as a session player for Macy Gray and others. He's collaborated with filmmakers like Paul Thomas Anderson, Michel Gondry, and Charlie Kaufman, providing the score for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Punch-Drunk Love, Synechdoche, New York, I ♥ Huckabees, and more.

But Jon Brion is also an accomplished solo artist with one solo album, Meaningless, to his name. Brion has grown a devoted following for his decades-long residency at the Los Angeles club Largo. At his shows, Brion improvises spectacular sets of originals and covers as he shows off his virtuosity on every instrument. He demonstrates his skills through performances of some of his compositions in front of a small audience. He also demonstrates to Jim and Greg the difference between the art of songwriting (as exemplified by Gershwin and Kurt Cobain) and what he calls "performance pieces."

Go to episode 574

Jon Brion

Jon Brion visits the show this week to perform and talk with Jim and Greg. Brion is mostly known for his production work with artists like Aimee Mann, Fiona Apple and Kanye West. Brion is also responsible for the innovative soundtracks to Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist was in town to perform at Chicago's Intonation Music Festival, and he stopped by to meet with our hosts, as well as a live studio audience.

What listeners may not know is that Jon Brion is also an accomplished solo artist, albeit not a prolific one. He holds a residency at Los Angeles club Largo, where he performs a cabaret-style act. Recently, however, a severe case of tendinitis has prevented Brion from playing live much. Lucky for Jim, Greg, and the audience, he was able to play both the piano and the "taro patch" during the interview. You can hear Brion perform "Knock Yourself Out" from I Heart Huckabees and the theme to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for the show.

One of the ideas our guest discusses with Jim and Greg is the art of the song. He finds songs to be“astonishing”and distinguishes them from“performance pieces.”Brion's example is the music of Led Zeppelin. He loves Zeppelin, but asks the listener to compare their melodies to that of someone like George Gershwin. Brion adds that one rocker who did manage to write wonderfully constructed songs that will stand the test of time is Kurt Cobain. Listen to how he plays Nirvana's "Lithium" followed by an old Cole Porter standard.

Go to episode 32

Common

This week on the show Jim and Greg meet with rapper Common, who happens to be visiting his hometown. Common is currently touring to promote his sixth (and, some would say, best) album, Be. Jim and Greg note that most hip-hop artists don‘t have his kind of longevity. In fact, Common is at an age where he has started to balance his career with fatherhood. Greg, who visited the set of Common’s sultry video shoot for the song "Go," asks him how he‘ll be able to present his more adult side to his daughter. Fans of Common’s videos should also check out his most recent, and most cinematic, "Testify."

Common actually performs "Testify" live for our hosts. This song was produced by longtime collaborator and fellow southsider Kanye West, and includes the producer's signature use of soul samples. For Be, Common also worked with ?uestlove of The Roots and rapper and producer J Dilla, who passed away just weeks before this interview. Dilla, or Jay Dee, has been a mainstay on the hip-hop scene, producing songs for De La Soul, Pharcyde, Janet Jackson, and D'Angelo. Dilla also worked with Common on Like Water For Chocolate, producing one of his biggest hits, "The Light." As Common explains, the loss of his friend and former roommate will be life-changing. And in his memory, the rapper does some freestyling over Dilla instrumentals — a first for Sound Opinions.

Go to episode 26

Jeff Chang

Jeff Chang, author of Can‘t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation, joins Jim and Greg in the studio this week. Jeff, who co-founded the Quannum Label in San Francisco, was on the show previously when his book first came out, and he and our hosts engaged in a discussion of hip-hop's history. Now that Jeff's book has come out on paperback, Jim and Greg welcome him back to the show to discuss where hip-hop is today and where it is going. In order to get a sense of hip-hop's diverse makeup, the three music journalists decide to embark on a geographical tour of the genre, beginning with Chicago and working their way through the United States, and even the U.K.

Go to episode 15

Rhymefest

Rapper Rhymefest joins Jim and Greg on the show this week. Rhymefest, born Che Smith in Chicago's Jeffrey Manor neighborhood, is one of many Chicago rappers slated to be the next Kanye or Common. But Rhymefest is no novice to the scene. A longtime staple of the city's battle rapping scene, Rhymefest initially claimed fame after defeating Eminem in an emcee tournament. He later helped to pen Kanye West's Grammy-winning song "Jesus Walks." But now listeners can hear some of Rhymefest's own work, from his major label debut Blue Collar, released this week.

Two of the tracks you'll hear are "Devil's Pie," which is based on a sample of The Strokes' "Someday," and "Bullet," which samples Citizen Cope's "Bullet and a Target." Rhymefest plays“Bullet”and explains the story behind this track to Jim and Greg. He recounts being at the mall, and seeing a promotion to win a brand new Hummer. But upon further investigation, the rapper discovers that this is not a sweepstakes he is signing up for, but rather the U.S. Army.

Go to episode 33
reviews
YeezusYeezus available on iTunes

Kanye West Yeezus

For the past decade, Kanye West has been the dominant force in hip-hop - maybe even all of pop, Jim says. And this week he came out with album no. six, Yeezus. West's last solo record, 2010's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, featured rich, radio-friendly production. On Yeezus, West has scaled back the lushness, if not the egomania. Greg says he hears everything from Chicago drill music to industrial influences on this“brutally minimalist”record. Forget the radio audience - Yeezus is about Kanye and his anger. Thematically, that means lots of songs about freedom and control, Greg says, and West's perception that, for all his sucgicess, he is still being denied a place at the“big boy table”where his fellow business and media moguls sit. Potent stuff, but West's downfall, both Jim and Greg agree, is the sloppily racist and misogynistic lyrics he relies. On the basis of the music alone, Jim says, Yeezus is a Buy it, but the lyrics are trash. Yeezus gets a double Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 395
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Deluxe Edition)My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy available on iTunes

Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Kanye West knows how to get into the headlines. He's bumped heads with everyone from Matt Lauer to Taylor Swift to President Bush. But, it's important not to forget: he also knows how to make music. Jim says, OK he's a jerk…John Lennon could also have been a jerk. But what Kanye West achieves on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is nothing short of amazing. He combines Iron Maiden with King Crimson; robotic humming and what Greg calls "classical opulence." Greg compares West to ambitious artists like Brian Wilson and Marvin Gaye, but notes that what separates him is his inability to censor himself. That gives his music both bravado and vulnerability. Both Jim and Greg give My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy an enthusiastic double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 260
Kanye

Kanye West The Life of Pablo

Recently, rapper Kanye West released his highly anticipated follow-up to 2013's Yeezus. It's called The Life of Pablo (well, sort of). After a large-scale fashion show and album presentation at Madison Square Garden, West decided that the record wasn‘t quite ready to be formally released yet. It’s still not available to purchase, but can be streamed on TIDAL and has been illegally downloaded over 500,000 times. This controversial new record pairs perfectly with West's recent antics, Twitter tirades and confusing outbursts. Jim's biggest problem with T.L.O.P. is its misogynistic lyrics - nothing new in hip-hop, but a new low for West. Jim adds, it's a shame because the music is fantastic. He gives it a non-enthusiastic Try It. Greg largely agrees, finding Kanye's disdain towards past romantic and business relationships to be petty and old news. Music-wise, he thinks there are just too many tracks on The Life of Pablo and wishes he had edited more diligently. He gives it a "Trash It."

JimGreg
Go to episode 535
808s & Heartbreak (Exclusive Edition)808s and Heartbreak available on iTunes

Kanye West 808s and Heartbreak

One of the albums making news this week is from rapper Kanye West. The Chicago native had planned to release a new album in his college series, but after the death of his mother and a bad breakup, he created an intensely personal album called 808s and Heartbreak. The 808 drum machine is used heavily, as is the Auto-Tune device. Those effects take some getting used to, but according to Jim and Greg, they are integral to creating the sense of introspection and loneliness. Jim appreciates the rapper's attempt to make an existential record, especially one inspired by Phil Collins. He wishes there was more acoustic musicianship, but Jim finds 808s and Heartbreak to be fascinating and gives it a Buy It. Greg agrees, calling the album one of the most personal released this year. He also gives it a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 157
Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings (1952-1959) [Remastered]Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings (1952-1959) available on iTunes

Ray Charles Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings (1952-1959)

Ray Charles is another deceased musician who has recently been brought back to life in the media. Last year, Charles was profiled in his own biopic, Ray, and this year his music was featured in a song that was number one for most of 2005Kanye West's "Gold Digger." Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings (1952-1959) is a six-disc overview of Charles' early period. Charles was signed to Atlantic Records by Ahmet Ertegun in the 1950s, and according to Greg, these Atlantic recordings came to be what we now know as R&B music. The music, originally produced by Jerry Wexler, will appeal to the soul aficionado, but neither Jim nor Greg can recommend this set as a Buy It for a casual listener. Both say it's a Burn It. The song Greg chooses is Charles' original 1954 performance of "I've Got a Woman," as opposed to Jamie Foxx's rendition you hear on "Gold Digger."

JimGreg
Go to episode 3
GraduationGraduation available on iTunes

Kanye West Graduation

Another album to be released on the same day as Curtis is Graduation from Kanye West. 50 Cent has publicly challenged West in the sales department, but when it comes to the music, Jim and Greg think there's no contest. The rapper/producer's third album and“dissertation”shows that not only has he grown as a rapper, but also as a producer. Jim calls the album a smorgasbord of sounds and a departure from the traditional Kanye West soul sample formula. He thinks Graduation is musically brilliant, and definitely recommends listeners Buy It. Greg is also impressed with this album. Kanye is an innovator sonically, but also demonstrates a complexity in his lyrics. Where 50 Cent denies he has any weaknesses, Kanye broadcasts them. This is evident in the album's closing track, "Big Brother," which Greg calls one of the best songs Kanye has ever done lyrically. He also gives Graduation a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 93
WZRDWZRD available on iTunes

WZRD WZRD

Kid Cudi made a name for himself first as a protégé of Kanye West, then as an innovator of a unique emo-rap sound with Man on the Moon Parts One and Two. And now he's picked up a guitar. With WZRD, his project with Dot da Genius, he is fusing elements of hip-hop and rock, and to great effect according to Jim. He admires his cockiness (covering Where Did You Sleep Last Night?) and his sense of experimentation, especially when compared to unsuccessful fusion efforts like Lil Wayne's Rebirth. Jim tells you to Buy It. Greg only needs to describe WZRD in two words: Amateur Hour. If he didn‘t know Cudi was behind this album, he’d instruct these kids to go back to the drawing board, learn to play guitar and learn to sing. Sorry folks, this one's a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 328
The AutobiographyThe Autobiography available on iTunes

Vic Mensa The Autobiography

This week, Jim and Greg review The Autobiography, the debut album by Chicago rapper Vic Mensa – a name already familiar around Chicago , with fans including Chance The Rapper and Kanye West. Mensa raps with a "genre-free approach to what hip hop is" while addressing his upbringing, his experiences with violence and drugs, and his own self-abuse - causing Greg to describe the record as brutally honest and“very emo.” Jim and Greg applaud producer No I.D. both for recognizing Mensa's artistic abilities and for producing a succinct album, rather than a bunch of singles. While Jim and Greg note that Mensa definitely tries too hard with some of the lyrics, both agree that the album is“really impressive…and moving”and give it a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 611
To Pimp a ButterflyTo Pimp a Butterfly available on iTunes

Kendrick Lamar To Pimp a Butterfly

In terms of combined critical and commercial success, Kendrick Lamar may be the most important rapper to emerge this millenium since Kanye West. On To Pimp a Butterfly, the followup to his 2012 breakthrough Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, he's teamed up with high-profile producers like Pharrell Williams and Flying Lotus. Greg is floored by the album's macro-level themes, depicting the world as a kind of prison and engaging with racism, injustice, and black history in general. Equally stunning is the album's diverse musical range. Greg thinks Lamar is driving the sound of hip-hop forward while also looking back to the deepest roots of African-American music. Despite a few missteps, like a pretend interview with Tupac, Greg finds the ambition and execution flawless. Jim concurs. While he felt that Lamar didn't bring enough to the characters he played on his previous album, he now believes that Lamar is providing them with proper depth and context. He calls the record a musical smörgåsbord with its jazz underpinnings and its bevy of unexpected samples. To Pimp a Butterfly is a double-Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 487
Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor (5th Anniversary Edition)Food and Liquor available on iTunes

Lupe Fiasco Food and Liquor

After being leaked and speculated about for months, the final version of Lupe Fiasco's debut solo album Food and Liquor was released this week. Lupe, or Wasalu Muhammed Jaco, has previously worked with fellow Chicagoan Kanye West, Beyoncé, and Jay-Z, who executive produced this album. The first single off the album, "Kick Push," is a modest hit, but both Jim and Greg think the song and the entire album deserve more attention. They love how Lupe weaves stories in such a unique way. He's a self-professed geek ("Kick Push" is about skateboarding and the album cover shows an image of the rapper floating through space with his trapper keeper) and you won't hear any typical hip-hop fare on this record. The music digs deep for its jazz and soul samples and doesn't depend on a plethora of cameo star producers. Both critics give Food and Liquor a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 43
EvolverEvolver available on iTunes

John Legend Evolver

The first album up for review this week is Evolver by R&B artist John Legend. Legend first emerged on the scene after touring with Kanye West and has since released two successful albums. On this third one Greg thinks the title may be overly optimistic.“Evolver”implies growth, but Greg hears more of the same, and even less so. This is Legend's most commercial sounding record, and if Greg were going to assign it a color it would be beige. Jim agrees about the blandness of this album. He essentially“hates”the boring, mid-tempo sound and feels betrayed by Legend, an artist who at one point had so much promise. Evolver gets a Trash It from Jim and a Try It from Greg.

JimGreg
Go to episode 152
Watch the ThroneWatch the Throne available on iTunes

Jay-Z & Kanye West Watch the Throne

And speaking of collaborations, Jim and Greg review this year's most anticipated one: Jay-Z and Kanye West's Watch the Throne. Do these guys even need an introduction? If Jay-Z's highly lucrative past collaborations with R. Kellyare any indication, Jim bets the Throne album and tour will hurt neither artist's bottom line. But what about the music? While Greg admits nothing could have lived up to the hype, he's disappointed by how Jay-Z and Kanye have misread the tenor of the times. In a summer of high unemployment, economic turmoil, and foreign revolutions, they're still rapping about their wealth. Kanye's recent albums may be among the best of the past decade, and Jay-Z might be the greatest MC living, but Greg and Jim agree - this is a Trash It record.

JimGreg
Go to episode 298
Thank Me LaterThank Me Later available on iTunes

Drake Thank Me Later

Thank Me Later, the debut album from rapper Drake, went to #1 this week, and Jim and Greg have no doubt that the young Toronto artist has a long career ahead of him. Previously best known as the wheelchair-bound Jimmy on the teen soap Degrassi: The Next Generation, Drake and his MC skills caught the attention of Lil Wayne. Wayne, along with Kanye West, Alicia Keys and a number of other heavy hitters join Drake on Thank Me Later, but it's a testament to his strength as a performer that he's not overshadowed by any of the guest stars, according to Jim. He presents a thoughtful album that focuses on hip hop's latest drug–celebrity. Jim calls the record introspective and brilliantly minimalistic and gives it a Buy It. Greg agrees, noting that Drake lacks the typical rap bravado. It's fascinating, but also monochromatic, meaning you'll need to sit and live with the record for a while. Thank Me Later gets a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 239
Bon Iver (Deluxe Edition)Bon Iver, Bon Iver available on iTunes

Bon Iver Bon Iver, Bon Iver

There's been a whole lotta commentary about the new album by Bon Iver–some good, some bad. Justin Vernon first made a splash in 2008 with For Emma, Forever Ago. Even Kanye West is a fan. But the mythology precedes the record according to Greg. Bon Iver, Bon Iver is much more lushly orchestrated, but it really starts to sag in the middle. By the last track Greg was having bad visions of Steve Winwood and Bruce Hornsby. He says Burn It. Jim hears Mike + The Mechanics and thinks Greg is being kind. The production is grating, the lyrics nonsensical and the vibe drippy and snoozy. In other words: Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 291
In My MindIn My Mind available on iTunes

Pharrell In My Mind

The next album up for review is by superstar producer Pharrell. Pharrell Williams is best known as part of the production duo The Neptunes, who have crafted hits for everyone from Jay-Z to Justin Timberlake. He and partner Chad Hugo also recorded some of their own music as N.E.R.D. Now, Pharrell has branched out solo (or as solo as a hip-hop artist can be these days) with In My Mind. A quick glance at the number of hits credited to Pharrell might make this album seem like a no-brainer. But it festered without a release date for such a long time that it raised some eyebrows. And, after giving the record a listen, Jim and Greg can say that those suspicions were not unwarranted. Greg explains that for someone who makes his living creating innovative beats and catchy hooks, the lack of such a sound on this record was shocking. Jim agrees, and neither critic thinks that Williams has the chops or personality to be a solo star. Kanye West, a producer who actually managed this feat, collaborates with Pharrell on "Number One," but it's a dreadful showing from both artists. In My Mind gets a Trash It — and Sound Opinions wonders if Chad is the genius to look out for after all.

JimGreg
Go to episode 35
reputationreputation available on iTunes

Taylor Swift reputation

Taylor Swift has been the most dominant pop star of the last decade, selling record-setting numbers of albums and winning 10 Grammy Awards (two for album of the year.) She's back for her 6th studio album, reputation, which she collaborated on with star producers Max Martin, Shellback and Jack Antonoff. Jim compares reputation to a brand new, state-of-the-art Tesla. It's got everything a person could ever want, but it's just too perfect. While he thinks that Swift is a talented lyricist and performer, he's irritated that she's still letting petty feuds with Kanye West and various ex-boyfriends dominate her music. However, Jim believes there are some solid pop moments on reputation and gives it a Try It. Greg agrees that as a writer and performer, Taylor is one of the strongest in the pop landscape. However, he finds the record to be sonically overproduced and feels Swift is less relatable because of some of the superficial content she sings about on reputation. For Greg there are highlights of pop brilliance ("Getaway Car") and his favorite track is the stripped-down acoustic closer "New Year's Day." He thinks it's the embodiment of Swift's strengths and she's singing about something genuine. Greg gives reputation a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 625
Thriller (25th Anniversary) [Deluxe Edition]Thriller 25 available on iTunes

Michael Jackson Thriller 25

This season's big records are starting to be released, beginning with the 25th anniversary of one of the greatest selling albums of all time: Thriller. Michael Jackson is the latest artist to try to re-market his music to a new generation. So in addition to the original album, listeners also get remixes of his hits with artists like Will.I.Am and Kanye West. It's an interesting concept, but neither Jim nor Greg think that any of the remixes are successful. They also agree that while Thriller is a classic, it's not even Jackson's best album. They give Thriller 25 a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 118
Finding ForeverFinding Forever available on iTunes

Common Finding Forever

Chicago rapper Common has a new album out this week called Finding Forever. This is the former Sound Opinions guest's follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2005 release Be. Jim explains that this is a big year for Common. In addition to having a successful hat company, he‘ll appear in a number of movies this year. But, it’s music that is Common's priority, and Jim hopes that hip hop fans won't dismiss this effort as another conscious record from a“backpack rapper.”Common was schooled in traditional lyric writing, and he really demonstrates the power of words in these songs. On the Buy It, Try It, Trash It scale, Jim gives Finding Forever a Buy It. Greg also thinks this is a great record, but admits that it will pales in comparison to the groundbreaking Be. But, as Greg explains, more of a good thing is still a good thing. Common and Kanye West have continued their special collaboration which results in an old-fashioned, beginning-to-end album — something that is rare in contemporary hip hop. He also gives the new Common a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 88
Chance

Chance the Rapper Coloring Book

Chicago artist Chance the Rapper recently released his third mixtape, Coloring Book. And while he's at the forefront of the rap genre, he's never actually sold a single album. That's because all three of his mixtape releases, as well as two collaborative albums, can be downloaded for free from the Internet. On Coloring Book, Chance enlists a slew of popular guest stars, from fellow Chicagoan Kanye West to the man of the moment, Justin Bieber. Jim really enjoyed this record, especially Chance's use of gospel music to empower individuals and generate a sense of community in order to combat violence. While he doesn't think it is quite as good as his last release, Acid Rap, Jim strongly believes the music and lyrical insight on this album is equal parts impressive and inspiring. He gives it a Buy It. Greg agrees, saying that Coloring Book is one of the most ambitious records in hip hop right now. He even points out that West's recent album, The Life of Pablo, wouldn‘t be what it is without Chance’s gospel sound influence. Greg appreciates the larger themes of the album and how it connects so well to the music of the Civil Rights Movement. It's a Double Buy It for Coloring Book.

JimGreg
Go to episode 550
untitled unmastered.untitled unmastered. available on iTunes

Kendrick Lamar untitled unmastered.

Last year, Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar released the groundbreaking album To Pimp a Butterfly. Both fans and critics enjoyed the record, and it earned him numerous Grammy awards just a few weeks ago. Now he's back with untitled unmastered., his new album full of“leftover”tracks from Butterfly. To Greg, the polished songs hardly seemed like leftovers. He admires Lamar's fusion of different musical styles and poignant lyrics and says Buy It. Jim is also enthusiastic. While contemporaries Kanye West and Drake have also recently released“unfinished”material, this is a bigger achievement.“Short, but sweet”and a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 537
If You're Reading This It's Too LateIf You're Reading This It's Too Late available on iTunes

Drake If You're Reading This It's Too Late

Drake's release of his latest opus If You're Reading This It's Too Late was a complete surprise, à la Beyoncé — though there's debate whether to classify it as a mixtape or a proper album. The Canadian superstar is once again working with producer Noah “40” Shebib. Greg credits Drake and Shebib for creating a uniquely atmospheric aesthetic for his introspective rap. But the minimalist beats make this feel half-finished: there are no hooks or pop hits, and the record never picks up steam until the end. Jim won't even concede any originality in the production. He says, Drake has been ripping off Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreak his entire career. To Jim, Drake is incredibly hard to like, as he continues to whine about his petty personal problems. If You're Reading This It's Too Late gets a double Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 483
Nothing Was the SameNothing Was The Same available on iTunes

Drake Nothing Was The Same

With his third and latest album, it's safe to say actor-turned-rapper Drake no longer needs much of an introduction. Drake's latest album Nothing Was The Same has certainly cemented him as a musical force to be reckoned with, but Jim and Greg don‘t agree on why exactly that is. Greg appreciates Drake’s consistently introspective and candid lyrics, while Jim is a fan of the musicianship on the record. On the other hand, he thinks Drake's naval-gazing verses retread ground already covered on Kanye West's last few albums. But, both hosts agree that it was wise of Drake to stick with his long time collaborator, producer Noah“40”Shebib. Greg says Buy It, Jim says Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 409
Man On the Moon, Vol. II: The Legend of Mr. Rager (Bonus Track Version)Man on the Moon II: The Legend Of Mr. Rager available on iTunes

Kid Cudi Man on the Moon II: The Legend Of Mr. Rager

Bringing us full circle, we again think of Kanye West. But this time, we don't ponder his dismissal of Taylor Swift, but rather his influence on a new movement of introspective hip hop. Drake, Lupe Fiasco and now Kid Cudi are all embracing self-examination, as well as rock and roll. And, explains Greg, Cudi is the great existentialist. His new album, Man on the Moon II: The Legend Of Mr. Rager, is a continuation of his last concept album. It is full of interesting narratives, wordplay, rock instrumentation and cameos. Both Jim and Greg are hugely impressed and give the record another double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 258
The Blueprint 3The Blueprint 3 available on iTunes

Jay-Z The Blueprint 3

Hip hop's top entrepreneur Jay-Z has a new album out called The Blueprint 3. It's the third in the rapper's Blueprint series. For the first he worked with then unknown producer Kanye West. Then for the second he invited a slew of big name guest stars. Now he splits the difference–West is back in the studio, as are guests like Timbaland. Greg finds the result split; half the tracks are good, half show the rapper on autopilot. Jim was also disappointed to hear that Jay-Z didn't really explore his life as a business man and celebrity husband in any unique way. But, the voice is still wonderful. It gets a double Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 198
dijs

Jim

“Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”Kanye West,Daft Punk

It's Jim's turn to pick a track for the Desert Island Jukebox. Still on a high after seeing Daft Punk perform at Lollapalooza, he chooses a song by the French electronica duo. In fact, if you haven‘t heard the group’s original, you may have heard it being sampled in Kanye West's new single "Stronger." The track is "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger," and it's also based on a sample-"Cola Bottle Baby" by Edwin Birdsong.

Go to episode 89

Greg

“List of Demands”Saul Williams

Kanye's mixed success on Yeezus gets Greg thinking about West's creative predecessors, and an artist who did anger-filled“industrial rap”even better. Saul Williams' 2004 self-titled album merged aggressive, minimalist, production with anger-filled rap in a way that got industrial music heavyweights like NIN's Trent Reznor to pay attention. (Reznor later produced an album for Williams.) Greg plays "List of Demands" for his Desert Island Jukebox as an example of what Yeezus could have been.

Go to episode 395
lists

The Best Albums of 2010

It's the moment all music fans wait for…the end of the year best-of list!

Go to episode 263

Musical Grand Slams

With Chicago baseball trying to keep their heads up during this World Series, we thought we'd inject a little joyous noise into this baseball season. Jim and Greg team up with Len Kasper, TV voice of the Chicago Cubs, to pay homage to their version of a Grand Slam. We all know how this works in baseball (though sports-phobe Jim DeRogatis is still getting the hang of the rules). A batter hits a home run with bases loaded, sending four players to home plate. In music, Jim and Greg define a grand slam as four masterpiece albums in a row. Which artists have achieved this rarest of rock feats? Jim and Greg sit down to compare stats.

Go to episode 518

Pop Stars vs. God

A big news story this week involves the ever-controversial Kanye West. The February issue of Rolling Stone features West on the cover posing as Jesus Christ wearing a crown of thorns. This is not the first time the rapper has been public about his conflicted relationship with Jesus, nor is it the first time a musician has pushed hot buttons with religion. Jim and Greg explore this issue and pick the top five instances when a rock star made religious waves.

  • John Lennon makes the statement: "The Beatles are more popular than Jesus." While this was more a statement about the absurd level of fame the Beatles had attained, feathers were ruffled nonetheless.
  • Madonna kisses an African-American Jesus figure and includes images of cross burning and the stigmata in her video for "Like a Prayer." As a result, Pepsi dropped Madonna as a spokesperson.
  • In a misinterpreted move, Sinéad O'Connor rips up a picture of the Pope on Saturday Night Live.
  • XTC releases "Dear God," causing a controversy by aggressively questioning the existence of God.
  • Marilyn Manson tells a Spin reporter, "Hopefully I'll be the person who puts an end to Christianity." This comment propelled Tipper Gore's organization, the Parents Music Resource Center, to start a campaign against the self-proclaimed Anti-Christ.
Go to episode 9

The Best Songs of 2008 - Mixtapes

At the end of the year, many music fans take on the challenging task of making a mixtape. And, Jim and Greg are no exception. They've both made compilations of their favorite songs of 2008.

Go to episode 162

Best of 2007

It's a critic and a music fan's favorite time of year. Jim and Greg run down their top albums for 2007. You can view their complete lists below.

For more end-of-year discussion, check out the Sound Opinions Message Board.

Go to episode 107

Turkey Shoot

It's Turkey time! Let out all your holiday frustrations on some well-deserving musical turkeys. Here are the albums that most let Jim and Greg down in 2013 as part of our Thanksgiving Turkey Shoot:

Go to episode 416

Strange Bedfellows of Rock

aerosmith-run-dmc Sometimes an odd pairing comes off like peanut butter and chocolate (Aerosmith and Run-D.M.C.). Othertimes, peanut butter and sardines (Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson). And the most recent odd couple is Kanye West and Paul McCartney, with the first single from West's forthcoming album. But during this segment, Jim and Greg remember the most successful "Strange Bedfellows."

Go to episode 478

Best Albums of 2008

Jim and Greg listened to hundreds of albums this year. Which ones soared to the top? Check out their lists for the Best Albums of 2008 below. You can also see what albums made the cut in years past in our Lists section.

Go to episode 159

Songs About Mom

Throughout the year Jim and Greg like to mark special occasions by playing the best and most appropriate music to celebrate. And nobody deserves more love than Mom. Here are some of our hosts' favorite songs for Mother's Day.

Go to episode 492

The Best of 2008… So Far

Hard to believe it's almost the midpoint of 2008, but lucky for Sound Opinions listeners, that means it's time for a list! Here are Jim and Greg's lists for 2008's mid-year best.

Go to episode 135

The Best Songs of 2007 - Mixtapes

Jim and Greg present their Mixtapes for 2007. Check out the track listing below.

Go to episode 109

Turkey Shoot 2007

Every Thanksgiving Jim and Greg celebrate by breaking out the double barrel and taking out the year's biggest musical“turkeys”in a Turkey Shoot. These aren't just flops or bad records, but albums Jim and Greg had high hopes for that turned out to be disappointments. Here are this year's birds:

Go to episode 103

The Best Songs of 2013 - Mixtapes

We‘ve said goodbye to 2013, and now we want to salute the tunes that wowed us. There’s no better way than with a personal mixtape from Jim and Greg to you.

Go to episode 423

The Best Songs of the Millennium - Mixtapes

Jim and Greg like to end every year with a good old-fashioned mixtape (presented as a new-fashioned mp3 stream). But this year they decided to go even further and compile their favorite songs of the entire decade. They pick highlights to play during this episode, and their entire playlists are below. You can also stream their full mixtapes:

Go to episode 214

The Best Songs of 2010 - Mixtapes

At the end of each year, Jim and Greg look back and pick out their favorite songs to make you a mixtape. Think of it as a soundtrack for 2010. They both play samples of the mix during the show, but you can stream both compilations in their entirety.

Go to episode 266

Grand Slam Allstars

Go to episode 383

Songs About Mom

Throughout the year Jim and Greg like to mark special occasions by playing the best and most appropriate music to celebrate. There has been Valentine's Day and Father's Day, but shockingly, they've never tackled Mother's Day…until now. Pop music is full of tunes inspired by Mom, and here are some of our hosts' favorites.

Go to episode 337
rock doctors

Peter Sagal

This week, Jim and Greg play doctor — rock doctor, that is. They‘ve decided to launch a new experiment where they help a listener in need of musical help. Let’s hope they don't get their licenses pulled. Their first patient is Chicago Public Radio colleague Peter Sagal. The Wait, Wait… Don't Tell Me! host listens to the show, but confessed to Sound Opinions that he doesn't always“get it.”Peter is a music fan, but is stuck in a bit of a rut, and has come to Drs. Kot and DeRogatis for some healing.

After their initial consultation, our hosts discover that their patient is a huge Elvis Costello fan. He also digs Tom Waits and Nick Lowe, and has ventured into newer territory with artists like Neko Case and Ben Folds. Peter also reveals that he likes "Jesus Walks," but may be the last person on the planet who hasn't gotten into Kanye West.

Greg cues in to Peter's fondness for singer/songwriters and theatricality. He also notes that much of the music Peter likes has a fairly wry, intellectual sense of humor. So, his prescription includes an introduction to the music of The Decemberists. Frontman Colin Meloy, who was also a guest on Sound Opinions, has a literary, almost Broadway-esque style that Greg thinks might cure what ails Peter. He also suggests that Peter check out the New Pornographers, the band that features Neko Case on vocals.

Jim's first prescription caters to Peter's dark sense of humor. He recommends a dose of the new (and improved, according to Jim) Belle and Sebastian. The Scottish band was always a bit too twee for our host, but on this year's The Life Pursuit, they create a sunnier, poppier sound, though with no less dark a point of view. Jim also instructs his patient to go for it and listen to Kanye West's second album, Late Registration. He predicts Peter will appreciate the rapper/producer's compositions and innovative orchestrations.

Peter followed his doctors‘ advice for a week, and returned to let them know how he feels. He admitted that he enjoyed most of their choices. He has never been a Belle and Sebastian fan, and probably won’t become one any time soon, but he understands why Jim recommended the band. And he tells Greg that he will continue to dig deeper into the The Decemberists and The New Pornographers. But the clear cure here was Kanye West. Peter was absolutely floored by how much he loved Late Registration. He definitely understands what all the fuss is about now. Therefore, by turning their patient on to even one new artist, the doctors can consider their medical experiment a success. They've got one patient in recovery and look forward to healing some more. So, if you or anyone you know needs to consult with the rock docs, please email Sound Opinions and tell us where it hurts.

Go to episode 34
features

Sample Platter: Kraftwerk

Often overlooked is Krautrock's influence on hip-hop. So and Jim and Greg present another installment of Sample Platter, where Jim and Greg take a look at chart toppers that prominently feature a unique sample. This week, they analyze how Krautrock has influenced hip-hop artists for decades. Jim and Greg discuss how artists from Afrika Bambaataa and Soulsonic Force to Kanye West have sampled Kraftwerk and Can to create new pieces of music that still evoke the industrial rhythm of the streets.

Go to episode 583
news

Music News

It's been quite a week for Kanye West. First an album leak, then a baby born, then an album release. But leave it to Jay-Z to steal his thunder. His upcoming album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, won't be released until next month, but already it has sold over one million copies. The buyer? Samsung. It will be giving Galaxy users early access to the record, which was further promoted by this ad during an NBA Final game. So if Billboard were to recognize these Samsung sales, this would be the album to beat this year.

Another chart success this week: Black Sabbath. Only this one was over four decades in the making. Ozzy Osbourne and his bandmates (less Bill Ward) debuted at #1 in both the U.S. and the U.K. The band only came close to this kind of success once before in 1971, but 13 is a record-breaker.

Go to episode 395

Music News

Susan Boye Last week Jim and Greg reviewed the new album by The Black Eyed Peas, and this week they were sure it would be a #1 hit. But if there's anyone that can give the Peas a run for their money, it's…Susan Boyle? The Britain's Got Talent winner is the top seller of the week with her new album The Gift, beating out not only The Black Eyed Peas, but Kanye West and Taylor Swift. This news is further evidence that the physical album chart is dominated by people who still buy physical albums, a.k.a.“older folks.”Which leads to the next story…

Billboard has recognized that its standard album chart might not be a fully accurate representation of what's“popular”in music. In today's world, an artist's tweets, followers, fans, friends and hits are just as important indicators as record sales. So with that in mind they've launched the new Social 50. At the top of Social 50 are artists like Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Eminem and Nicki Minaj – all performers who sell records. But the chart also has the potential to recognize non-traditional acts like Widespread Panic, Girl Talk and Robyn, who consistently sell out shows, but don't have a big retail presence. Jim and Greg welcome Billboard to the 21st century.

Still shopping for holiday gifts and got a few thousand to spare? Well, you could get your loved one the original lyrics to Bob Dylan's song "The Times They Are a-Changin." And by a few thousand we mean $300,000. That's how much the sheet of unruled notebook paper is expected to go for at an upcoming auction. December certainly seems to be the month of rock memorabilia sales. Johnny Cash's jumpsuit, which he wore during his concert at San Quentin and made famous in this image, went for $50,000. Michael Jackson's glove sold for $300,000, and a decades old legal letter featuring John Lennon's original lyrics to "I'm Only Sleeping" is expected to go for over $500,000.

Go to episode 263

Music News

Amazon recently announced its move into the publishing world. Authors like Laverne and Shirley's Penny Marshall have inked deals to have their books published and distributed by the online retailer. These kind of deals are similar to the exclusive releases sold by music retailers like Wal-Mart and Starbucks. So it begs the question: Is Amazon the music label next?

Longtime soul musician Syl Johnson's songs have been sampled by countless other artists. And consequently he's turned into a "serial litigator" according to Greg. The latest people to face his legal wrath: Kanye West and Jay-Z. The hip-hop stars used a sample of Johnson's track "Different Strokes" in their song "The Joy" from Watch the Throne. And now Johnson is seeking an injunction, damages and legal fees.

In other music news, Stone Roses fans will be happy to learn that the Manchester band will hit the stage for the first time in 15 years. Greg compares the group to the Oasis of its time, but wonders if they'll still have the chops. After all, The Stone Roses split after a disastrous show at the Reading Festival in 1996.

Go to episode 308

Music News

There were not one, but two hissy fits thrown by major pop stars this year. The first was by the always incendiary rapper Kanye West. Sound Opinions is a big fan of West, but sometimes he makes it darn hard. At the MTV Europe Music Awards, which will air in the States this weekend, West stormed the stage after losing the award for Best Music Video. He interrupted winners Justice and Simian as they were accepting their award and told viewers that by not winning,“the show loses credibility.”The number of expletives the Chicago native used was less shocking than the fact that he thinks MTV awards have credibility. But, we'll let you be the judge: "Touch the Sky" vs. "We Are Your Friends."

Hissy fit #2 was thrown by Elton John. At a recent concert in New York, the singer/songwriter ranted about his label's lack of interest in promoting his new album, The Captain and the Kid. He demanded to be dropped from Universal Music Group, and told the audience,“I'm 58 and I don't care anymore.”He also dropped the F-bomb 15 times. (Insert "Bitch is Back" joke here). Jim and Greg are rarely ones to defend major labels, but they float the idea that perhaps The Captain and the Kid just wasn't very good.

Go to episode 50

Music News

Jim and Greg discussed the great Kanye West/50 Cent sales battle a couple of weeks ago, and this week the results are in. Kanye took it in a landslide with a #1 spot on the Billboard charts and a whopping 957,000 copies sold. Kanye's album Graduation is the biggest selling album so far this year and is the 15th biggest sales frame since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking data in 1991. 50 Cent's album Curtis only sold 691,000 in the first week, though for a hip hop debut that's nothing to scoff at. As Jim and Greg note, no one should shed a tear for 50 Cent. On Forbes' list of the biggest earning hip hop stars, Fiddy holds the #2 spot behind mogul Jay-Z. So, despite this recent loss, 50 Cent is laughing "Straight to the Bank."

If you've been surfing YouTube recently, you may have noticed Trent Reznor's call for more stealing. The man behind Nine Inch Nails is fed up with his record company's decision to hike prices for his album Year Zero and he let his grievances be known at an Australian concert. While he doesn't legally have the authority to give his music away, he does have a point; HMV in Australia is selling Year Zero for AU $32.99, which converts to about $28 in the States. That's definitely more than a music fan should have to pay for an album, especially one that utilized a web-based marketing campaign.

And while one musician embraces the web, another does not. Pop icon Prince plans to sue YouTube and other major web sites for unauthorized use of his music in a bid to“reclaim his art on the Internet.”In a recent statement his representative wrote:“YouTube … are clearly able (to) filter porn and pedophile material but appear to choose not to filter out the unauthorized music and film content which is core to their business success.”Prince obviously doesn‘t need to use the web to build a fan base, but to Sound Opinions H.Q., he’s beginning to sound like a cranky old man.

Also in the news is the death of longtime James Brown collaborator Bobby Byrd at the age of 73. One of the chief architects of Brown's trademark sound, Byrd is often referred to as“The Godfather of Soul's Godfather.”You can hear his contribution in tons of early Brown tracks. In fact, the repeating phrase“Get on up,”on "Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine" was sung by Byrd. Byrd also had a successful solo career, and as Greg explains, his music can be heard sampled in countless late early hip hop songs. To pay honor to the soul/funk/R&B legend, Jim and Greg play his song, "I Know You Got Soul."

Jim and Greg speak with John Jurgensen, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. John recently wrote an article about how US visa procedures are squelching a British pop invasion. Artists like Lily Allen, M.I.A. and recent Mercury Prize winners The Klaxons have had to cancel tour dates and postpone recording sessions due to difficulties obtaining visas. John explains that this is partly due to Homeland Security crackdowns, which now mandate that artists themselves have to go to an embassy in person for fingerprinting and a retinal scan. John also says that artists have to prove that that they are legitimate,“internationally recognizable”acts. Jim and Greg wonder just how much more legit you have to be if Mercury Prize winners are getting hassled. The three reporters understand that these procedures are in place not just to protect Americans from danger but also from a loss of jobs, but unlike in the agriculture and technology industries, you can't sub one musician for another. And a loss of jobs and tour dates for one singer means the loss of many for the hundreds and thousands of promoters, roadies, sound engineers and teamsters here in the States.

Go to episode 95

Music News

Five years ago LCD Soundsystem announced its retirement. Boy has time flown, because they are back. James Murphy and his bandmates will be reuniting this summer for a series of performances at festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. Jim and Greg lament that the schedules for the season's major festivals are virtually the same. Music critics from the New York Times agree and won't be covering any of the big three, instead focusing on boutique festivals and summer concerts. As they write, these destination festivals are more about fun in the sun than music.

After one year in business, Jay Z's streaming service TIDAL has numbers to report. According to the service, they have 3 million subscribers total and Kanye West's new album The Life of Pablo has been streamed roughly 250 million times. Jim, Greg and other industry-watchers are skeptical about this figure. But, however the accounting shakes out, TIDAL is small potatoes compared to the leader Spotify with 30 million subscribers and Apple Music with 11 million.

Go to episode 540

Music News

The week's first news story concerns two different markers of achievement in the music industry: The Grammy Awards and the Village Voice Pazz & Jop Poll. Everyone, of course, knows about The Grammys—the annual awards given by the Recording Academy—but Jim and Greg argue that a better indicator of who deserved praise this year is the Pazz & Jop poll, which was taken by almost 800 music critics. There aren't many crossovers on the list of Village Voice winners and Grammy nominees, except for the critical and popular favorite Kanye West. The other musicians who finish out the top five—M.I.A., Sufjan Stevens, Sleater-Kinney and Fiona Apple—definitely don't appear on the Grammy ballot for "Album of the Year." The artists honored in that category include Mariah Carey, U2, Gwen Stefani and Paul McCartney.

Go to episode 10

Music News

Jim and Greg begin the show with a discussion of Lollapalooza and other summer festivals. There's Coachella in California and Bonnaroo in Tennessee, but Chicago is shaping up to be the major destination for music fans this year. The Lollapalooza lineup is impressive, with a diverse mix of bands including Lolla vets The Flaming Lips and Red Hot Chili Peppers, indie favorites Death Cab for Cutie and The Shins, and Chicago natives Wilco and Kanye West. Plus, the city will be home to two of the biggest independent music festivals: The Pitchfork Music Festival, featuring Destroyer, Art Brut, Spoon and post-punk pioneers Mission of Burma, and the Intonation Music Festival featuring The Streets, Bloc Party, Lupe Fiasco and a rare appearance by 13th Floor Elevators founder Roky Erickson.

Go to episode 21

Music News

Recently Jim and Greg saw a flurry of stories in the“People Will Buy Anything”department. John Lennon's Gretsch 6120 guitar, which he used to record The Beatles' classic "Paperback Writer," was sold to Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay for $530,000. And that's not the only famous guitar up for purchase: Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick is starting to auction off some pieces from his massive collection of vintage axes. Some of his guitars have reached prices as high as $8,500.

Meanwhile, the secret buyer of Elvis Presley's very first recording has been revealed, and it's none other than Jack White. The Third Man Records honcho paid $300,000 for the 1953 acetate of "My Happiness"/"That's When Your Heartaches Begin" and plans to reissue it on vinyl for Record Store Day.

Those all may sound like worthwhile purchases, if you‘ve got the cash. But the same can’t be said for some other pieces of music memorobilia showing up on the auction block. A plastic bag allegedly full of air from a Kanye West concert reached bids of over $60,000 before eBay shut down the auction. Many copycat listings have followed, including a bag of Ye's flatulence for the bargain price of $5.

Go to episode 486

Music News

Jay Z just launched his music streaming service, Tidal, to the public. Kanye West, Madonna and Daft Punk were just a few of the artists who attended a press conference to announce their support for the service. According to emphatic speaker Alicia Keys, Tidal's mission is to give artists more control over how their music is distributed while taking some of the authority out of the hands of tech companies. The basic monthly fee is $9.99, while the premium, hi-fi subscription is $19.99. It will be interesting to see how the service will compete with giants like Spotify and Beats, or fellow artist Garth Brooks' brand Ghost Tunes.

This year Lollapalooza Festival is being anchored by a Beatle. Paul McCartney is one of the Lolla 2015 headliners, which also includes Metallica, Florence + the Machine, Sam Smith, Alabama Shakes and The Weeknd. This will be McCartney's first stint at Lollapalooza, though he previously played at Bonnaroo in 2013.

In other festival news, if you're planning on getting a pass, don't bring your selfie stick. Lollapalooza and Coachella have banned the photographic aids from the grounds as the monopods often block the views of other concertgoers and could be potentially dangerous. However rest assured, you can still take pictures and selfies as long as you use your arms like a normal person.

Go to episode 488

Music News

A glance at the numbers coming out of the traditional music industry institutions don't paint a pretty picture. But, as Jim and Greg explain, for everyone outside the major labels and distributors, 2008 hasn't actually been such a bad year. Apple is reporting a 34% increase in sales. This includes iTunes downloads as well as players and accessories, but compare these stats with the 20% dip the record companies are reporting, and you get even more proof that the old model needs tweaking.

There's another surprising news item coming out of the digital music realm. If you had asked Jim and Greg years ago to bet on what artist would dominate digital music sales today, they would never have guessed Journey. The power balladeers' 1981 hit "Don't Stop Believin" just became top selling catalog track in iTunes history with over 2 million downloads. How did this song eclipse heavy hitters like "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Bohemian Rhapsody?" Greg attributes the song's late blooming success to 3 things: its association with the Chicago White Sox, its use in the Sopranos' finale, and its use during Kanye West's most recent tour. Jim would prefer to never have to hear from Journey again, but Greg will defend the song's catchiness, particularly that unforgettable keyboard riff.

In sadder news, South African singer Miriam Makeba died last week at the age of 76. Greg says that Makeba is to South Africa what Edith Piaf, Mahalia Jackson and Celia Cruz are to their home countries. Her passion for South Africa and for all of the continent mirrored her voice and her music, and in the case of her recording contract, jeopardized it. Makeba is best remembered through the conviction you can hear in songs, so Jim and Greg play the updated version of "Pata Pata" from her 2000 album Homeland.

Go to episode 155

Music News

iTunes announced that it will be offering cut-rate downloads on several albums in its catalog. The albums, which retail for $5.99 and $6.99, are part of a new series called“Next Big Thing.”The bargain bin includes albums from up-and-comers like LCD Soundsystem and Peter Bjorn and John. Jim and Greg are happy to see that the giant digital music retailer is waking up. Six bucks is a perfectly legitimate amount to pay for such good albums, and this is a move that's certain to please consumers, if not record labels.

Also in the news, pop star Avril Lavigne is being called out for a couple instances of plagiarism. First, power pop band The Rubinoos launched a legal case against Avril, claiming that her single "Girlfriend" was lifted from their 1979 song, "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend." Avril denies this, but the similarities are pretty striking. Then, gossip blogger Perez Hilton pointed out another suspicious similarity. The first 20 seconds of Avril's "I Don't Have to Try" sound nearly identical to electroclasher Peaches' track "I'm the Kinda." Jim and Greg think the evidence is stacking up against Avril, but are quick to point out that all rock music has been cribbed from one source or another.

Next Jim and Greg relay their experiences that at the recent Police reunion show in Chicago. Greg was pretty unimpressed, and says that the show was definitely not worth what people paid. Jim was less harsh, but agrees with Greg that the Police have always been better on album than live.

The Police concluded their tour at Giants Stadium as part of the Live Earth concert. Again, the band didn't wow our hosts, but it was Kanye West's performance that was the most strikingly bad. In fact, with the exception of a few performances, most of Live Earth was pretty underwhelming to Jim and Greg. And the world seemed to agree. Ratings were quite poor, especially compared to the success of previous attempts like Live 8. Jim is all for music influencing people to make change, but he didn't hear anything truly inspirational coming out of this crop of musicians. And Greg found the event to have a great lack of focus, though both hosts are all for Al Gore replacing Bono as music's new crusader.

Go to episode 85

Music News

Some of the biggest songs today haven‘t and never will hit radio airwaves. At last week’s MTV VMA's, Kanye West debuted a song from his forthcoming album called "Runaway." It's packed full of radio-unfriendly words, but it's a surprising mea culpa from the notoriously arrogant rapper. Also surprising is Cee-Lo Green's kiss-off track "F**k You." Cee-Lo is known for his dark sense of humor, but not necessarily his anger. And these major stars are forced to release their music through unconventional means. It makes Jim and Greg wonder if terrestrial radio is a little out of touch.

Go to episode 251

Music News

Jim and Greg don't like to give too much airtime to the Grammy Awards, but there was one upset worth mentioning (other than Amy Winehouse not getting a visa). Beating out big names like Winehouse, Kanye West, The Foo Fighters and Vince Gill for Album of the Year was veteran jazz musician Herbie Hancock.

Go to episode 116

Music News

Jim and Greg start off the show by updating a couple of news stories they've been talking about recently. The first is the sad state of album sales this season. When fall first kicked off, industry insiders had high hopes for big releases from people like Kanye West, 50 Cent, and The Foo Fighters. And now albums by Bruce Springsteen, the cast of High School Musical 2 and Rascal Flatts have been added to the mix. But, despite the big names, sales have not been soaring. In fact, in this week's chart, not even one album has approached six figures.

So what does the music industry do to appease its shrinking customer base? Answer: Sue them. Last week the RIAA sent its ninth wave of pre-litigation letters to administrators at 19 universities. A couple of weeks ago Jim and Greg discussed the trial of Jammie Thomas, a woman from Minnesota who was found guilty of copyright infringement to the tune of $220,000. It seems that trial left a taste of victory in the RIAA's mouth, because they are continuing their crackdown on music“theft”among college students. It seems these members of the industry missed the "Radiohead" memo.

Go to episode 100