When it comes to music, arguments can get passionate -- and even heated. In our Soundcheck Smackdown series, guests square off on new releases, controversial artists, or polarizing trends – and we take your calls and comments.
On today’s Soundcheck Smackdown we’re asking the question: Who is the best MC of the new millennium? Our guests are pitting two MCs currently in the spotlight against each other: Kanye West and Pusha T. Though they may be collaborating together on West's upcoming album, we look at the questions on fans' minds: Who has the best flow? Whose lyrics have the most poetry? Whose rhymes best match the beats? Amos Barshad of New York magazine’s Vulture blog, and Jay Smooth of illdoctrine.com square off.
Led Zeppelin nostalgia is at a fever pitch, with rock heir Jason Bonham leading a tribute tour and biographer Stephen Davis revisiting the subject matter that made his “Hammer of the Gods” tell-all so scandalous. Today, our single-song edition of the Tuesday debate throws down the gauntlet on the band's controversial classic, “Stairway to Heaven:” arena anthem or eight minutes too long? Guests include Emily Rems, managing editor of Bust Magazine, and Phil Freeman, writer of the Headbang metal blog for MSN Music.
The hip insiders at Pitchfork recently gave high marks to a reissue of "Searching for the Young Soul Rebels," the 1980 debut album from Dexys Midnight Runners. But most Americans know this British pop-soul group as a one-hit wonder that brought us something else: the oft-covered '80s standard "Come on Eileen." Squaring off on this karaoke staple are: Steve Almond, author of Rock and Roll Will Save Your Live and music writer Gary Burton.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its short list of nominees last week. The list of candidates for induction next year includes The J. Geils Band, Bon Jovi, Donovan and Neil Diamond. Our Smackdown guests were a little underwhelmed.
Soundcheck talked with jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins last week about his memorable (and uncredited) performance on the Rolling Stones song “Waiting on a Friend.” But the sax blows hot and cold in pop music. For every “Walk on the Wild Side,” there’s a “You Belong to the City” lurking around the corner.
2009 and 2010 have been big anniversary years for Miles Davis fans. But only one album can reign supreme. Today, Soundcheck's weekly Smackdown series pits the iconic Kind of Blue (1959) against the genre-bending Bitches Brew (1970). May the best riffs win!
Our weekly debate series takes on one of the most divisive rivalries in pop music: the Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones. Which was the greater band? Which had a deeper connection with their fans, or a more lasting impact on popular music? Prepare for our call-in lines to melt; also, the Earth may crack in half. (Fair warning.)
As opera houses and orchestras simulcast their performances into movie theatres across the country, critics charge that it’s turning classical music into a cheap reality show. Fans say it’s as addictive as popcorn. It's our Soundcheck Smackdown debate.
True to their namesake, Arcade Fire are a hot commodity: the Montreal ensemble knocked Eminem off the number-one spot on the Billboard albums chart with their new disc The Suburbs. But not everyone is moved by the band's hyper-dramatic anthems and onstage theatrics.
For the last half of the 20th century, the banjo didn't wander far from folk, bluegrass and the "Dueling Banjos" scene in the film Deliverance. But today, banjos are popping up in a wide variety of genres.
Last week, the Billboard charts met their first real challenger. The Ultimate Chart is a list that ranks artists and singles not just by sales and airplay, but also by their status on streaming services and social networks. Eric Garland, chief executive of the Ultimate Chart’s parent company BigChampagne, joins us to explain the chart’s genesis. Then: in a Soundcheck Smackdown, critics debate whether any pop chart can quantify success in the digital age. Guests include Maura Johnston, music writer and blogger, and Bill Wyman, editor of the blog Hitsville and former arts editor of NPR and Salon.com.
From Broadway theaters to opera houses and Hollywood production studios, digital orchestras are providing controversial alternatives to real-life musicians. The most recent example concerns the Broadway revival of West Side Story, which will soon lose half of its string section for a synthesizer.
This summer marks the return, after an 11-year hiatus, of Lilith Fair - the all-female music tour co-founded by Sarah McLachlan. Featuring artists like glam-soul diva Janelle Monae, pop princess Ke$ha, and indie-rock sister act Tegan and Sara, the festival has come a long way from its roots in adult-contemporary folk. But ticket sales have been sluggish, leading to a dozen canceled shows. In the age of Beyonce and Lady Gaga, is Lilith Fair still relevant?
The Blues is a quintessential American art form but some believe the genre has lost its way -- and its audience. Others contend that the blues are as vital as ever. Today: a Soundcheck Smackdown debate on the future of the blues.
Meet composer Emily Howell: she’s crafting original works of classical music that sound sharp and lively, if a little derivative. Some say her pieces sound like Bach or Liszt. The issue: Emily Howell is a computer-based algorithm, designed by composer David Cope. He joins us to talk about Emily Howell’s latest album, From Darkness, Light.
Last month, Kevin Eubanks left The Tonight Show after 15 years as Jay Leno's bandleader and music director. Now, the stage is set for a new challenger to assert dominance as the hottest late-night band in the land.