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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.

Recently in Smackdown

Smackdown: White Christmas vs. Silent Night

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Some dream of a "White Christmas"...others prefer a "Silent Night."  Jody Rosen of and Rolling Stone debates WQXR host Jeff Spurgeon over which classic Christmas tune really puts the shine on Santa's shoes.

Comments [11]

Smackdown: Battle of the Brits

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It's a British tradition--a race to top the music charts each Christmas season. Music critic Sophie Harris of Time Out New York and BBC contributor Gary Burton square off on their favorite seasonal hits from back home.


Coward or Porter

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Our weekly Soundcheck Smackdown pits Noël Coward against Cole Porter -- two titans of 20th-century popular music go head-to-head in our weekly debate. Guests include Barry Day, editor of two books of Coward’s writing, and singer and actress Andrea Marcovicci.

Comments [19]

Smackdown: Kanye v. Pusha T

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

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 square off.

Comments [12]

Stop Buying That Stairway

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

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.

Comments [58]

Too Rye Ay

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

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.

Comments [21]

Smackdown: Hall of Shame

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

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.

Comments [78]

Smackdown: The Sax

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

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.

Comments [121]

Smackdown: Kind of Blue vs. Bitches Brew

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

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!

Comments [31]

Smackdown: The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

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.)

Comments [140]

Smackdown: Concert Simulcasts

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

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.

Comments [23]

Smackdown: Arcade Fire

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

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.

Comments [53]

Smackdown: The Banjo

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

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.

Comments [10]

Smackdown: Pop Charts

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

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

Comments [9]

Smackdown: Virtual Orchestras

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

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.

Comments [60]

Soundcheck Smackdown: Lilith Fair

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

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?

Comments [19]

Future of the Blues: Bright or Just Blue?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

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.

Comments [25]

Smackdown: Artificial Intelligence

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

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.

Comments [25]

Smackdown: Late-Night TV Bands

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

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 hotte...

Comments [25]

Smackdown: Reunion Fever

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Dormant rock acts like Pavement, Soundgarden and Faith No More are reuniting for summer tours. But as music writer Michael Azerrad explains, not all fans want their favorite musicians...

Comments [22]