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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: Online Music Lessons

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

There are thousands of free music instructional videos on YouTube produced by performers and teachers. Some even feature well-known performers such as Paul McCartney, Andy Summers of The Police and Brian May of Queen.

Comments [26]

Smackdown: "Glee"

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The show-choir sitcom is hot. But not everyone is giddy about Glee.

Comments [52]

The Future of Arts Funding

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Earlier this month, the government of Georgia approved legislation to eliminate funding for the state's arts council. After hundreds gathered on the capitol steps to protest the decision, the funding was restored (albeit with a steep cut). Michigan, Florida and Illinois have also instituted drastic arts budget cuts in the ...

Comments [75]

Smackdown: High Voices vs. Low Voices

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Which do you prefer -- the high-pitched wails of Mariah Carey, Prince, and Brian Wilson? Or the throaty roars of Barry White, Leonard Cohen, and Nina Simone? In this week's Soundcheck Smackdown, high voices face off against low ones to determine which makes for better music.

Joining ...

Comments [50]

Smackdown: American vs. British theater

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

British theater is taking Broadway by storm – again. In the last year, Billy Elliot: The Musical – a London import – swept the Tony Awards. The Royal Shakespeare Company has announced a residency at the Park Avenue Armory in 2011. And a musical about Enron has come to Broadway ...

Comments [15]

Smackdown: The Banjo

Tuesday, March 30, 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. Today: Stan Jay of the Staten Island-based instrument shop Mandolin Brothers explains the ...

Comments [80]

This song is brought to you by...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lady Gaga's new music video for "Telephone" is raising product placement to a grotesque degree: Ten brands appear in the 9-minute video, including Virgin Mobile, Hewlett Packard, and Chevrolet. While that may be an extreme example, many artists are increasingly selling their image and songs to products. Some say these ...

Comments [42]

Smackdown: Too Many Bands?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The digital age has spawned a do-it-yourself revolution. It's easier than ever to record music at home and distribute it using tools like MySpace and iTunes. But the band boom has its drawbacks, as the wealth of buzz acts can be overwhelming. Today, as more than 1900 artists descend on ...

Comments [20]

Simon Cowell: Conqueror or Crank?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

This season will be Simon Cowell's last as judge on Fox's smash-hit American Idol. The caustic Brit everyone loves to hate is stepping down to bring his show X Factor to American audiences next year. Some say he’s brought diverse audiences together and made us all critics; others argue he ...

Comments [28]

Smackdown: Music at the Oscars

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

When Bruce Springsteen, Céline Dion and rap group Three Six Mafia performed at the Academy Awards, they nearly stole the show. But this year’s “Best Original Song” nominees will have to remain seated. J. Max Robins of the Paley Center for Media and music critic Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly ...

Comments [3]

Google: Music's Friend or Foe?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Google is poised to become a major player in the music industry. But the company with the “don’t be evil” motto is drawing criticism for its relationship with major labels and copyright detectives. Jon Healey of the Los Angeles Times explains Google’s rapid expansion into music. Then, writer Maura Johnston ...

Comments [6]

Smackdown: Lady Gaga

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

With Fashion Week in high swing in New York, we turn to an artist who blurs the line between pop music and haute couture: Lady Gaga. The divisive superstar was called "a pretentious pop starlet" and "a savvy media manipulator" by the music writer Jonah Weiner -- and he's a ...

Comments [69]

Drummers: Heart of the Band...Or Butt of the Joke?

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The drum kit has its fair share of esteemed idols: Neil Peart of Rush, Dave Grohl of Nirvana, ?uestlove of the Roots and many more. Yet drummers have always had a reputation for being unreliable and misanthropic. On today’s Soundcheck Smackdown, we debate whether the skin-bashers of the world deserve ...

Comments [89]

Smackdown: The Halftime Show

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Lampooned and celebrated in equal measure, Super Bowl halftime shows are a lightning rod. Some of the biggest stars in music take the stage -- but not without controversy. Performances can be underwhelming, predictable and even censored. (Or not, in the case of Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction in 2004.) As ...

Comments [16]

Smackdown: Vampire Weekend

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The New York indie rockers Vampire Weekend are topping the Billboard 200 chart by selling more than a 120,000 copies of their second set "Contra." While fans praise their unusual, global sound, critics call them Ivy-league elitists ripping off third world music. Joining us for a Soundcheck Smackdown: Chicago Sun-Times ...

Comments [83]

Smackdown: Open Source or Closed Doors?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The director of Sita Sings the Blues, Nina Paley, had to pay $50,000 to use old songs in her animation movie. She then put the movie online for free and turned herself into a free-culture activist. Composer Jaron Lanier was a digital pioneer in the '90s, but in his new ...

Comments [47]

Smackdown: Rock and Broadway

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Green Day's 2004 release "American Idiot" sold millions of copies and grabbed a Grammy for Best Rock Album. It inspired a stage musical that ran for eight sold-out weeks in Berkeley, Calif. Now, the production is headed for Broadway, where rock music has an uneven history. In another Soundcheck Smackdown, ...

Comments [48]

The Best of Times or the Worst of Times?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

In the past ten years, pop stardom met reality TV, the mobile phone met the MP3 player, and music stores and record labels met their doom. Some say that as a result, music has never been so democratic and accessible. Others claim it has never sounded worse. We find out ...

Comments [35]

Smackdown: Radiohead

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Everything's in its right place for today's Soundcheck Smackdown as we debate whether Radiohead deserve to be regarded as the best band of the decade. Joining us are Rachael Maddux, assistant editor at Paste magazine, and Chris Norris, a contributor to Spin magazine who recently argued that Radiohead is "an ...

Comments [80]

High Drama: Pop vs. Score

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Soundcheck Smackdown goes Hollywood! Today: music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas, who compiled the hit soundtrack to the new Twilight film New Moon, and Variety film writer Jon Burlingame debate which makes for better movie music: pop music or original score.

Comments [49]