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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: The Love Song vs. The Breakup Song

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Few song topics resonate with listeners like romance and heartache. Today: Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, stars of the 2007 film Once and the duo behind the Oscar-winning group The Swell Season, join us in The Greene Space to debate which is more powerful: the love song or the breakup ...

Comments [41]

Musician Activists: Passion or Publicity?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Last year's presidential election brought out a groundswell of political action by musicians. This year, the causes are lower in profile: Singer Will.i.Am is pushing for health care reform. Trent Reznor, R.E.M. and Pearl Jam are joining a movement to close Guantanamo. But can they effect any real change?

Comments [27]

Smackdown: Vampires vs. Zombies

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It's been a big year for the undead. Vampires are sucking blood on TV shows like True Blood and Vampire Diaries and in the upcoming film New Moon. Zombies are stumbling through movies starring Woody Harrelson (Zombieland) and books by zombie-loving scribe Max Brooks (The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks). ...

Comments [90]

Streisand Smackdown

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Having sold 140 million albums and won an armful of Grammys, Barbra Streisand has just released her first ¬full-length studio session in four years. Featuring her trademark romantic-ballad treatment on 13 well-known standards, it opened at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart. While fans say Babs sings like buttah ...

Comments [10]

Smackdown: Alan Gilbert vs. Gustavo Dudamel

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

One is the product of Venezuela's famous "El Sistema" ("the system"), a visionary music education system which teaches poor children classical music. The other grew up blocks from Lincoln Center, the son of two orchestra musicians. Conductors Gustavo Dudamel and Alan Gilbert may come from widely different backgrounds but they're ...

Comments [14]

Smackdown: Neil Diamond: Are You A Believer?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Neil Diamond's career exhibits all the characteristics of a music icon - numerous hits spanning numerous decades, the charisma and the chest hair-revealing wardrobe to back it up -- but he has yet to be formally recognized by his peers with a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of ...

Comments [61]

Ringtones: Set to Silent?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ringtones were once considered the goldmine of the music industry, commanding three times as much as a digital song download. But industry numbers show that ringtones sales are down in the past two years, and some believe the ringtone may soon disappear. In another Soundcheck Smackdown debate, we hear from ...

Comments [30]

Smackdown: Lyrics or the Melody?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Words and music are the peanut-butter-and-jelly of songwriting. Today, we dare to ask: which is better? Lyricists may be the driving force in pop music, but composers rule in the classical and opera world. In another Soundcheck Smackdown, we debate whether a catchy melody is more powerful than a clever ...

Comments [59]

Smackdown: Diplomacy and the Arts

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Latin pop superstar Juanes is set to perform in Havana this Sunday. And, the New York Philharmonic is considering the Cuban government's invitation to perform there later his year. Today: a Soundcheck Smackdown on the effectiveness and appropriateness of music as a diplomatic tool. Guests include cultural commentator and ...

Comments [19]

Soundcheck Smackdown - YouTube: Mesmerizing or mediocre?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The video-sharing website YouTube has had a huge impact in today’s culture for its commercial, political and even trivia uses. Some say it is democratic, fun and artistic. Others argue it is ruining video-production with low standards and mediocre stuff. Here to debate the issue is Rik Cordero, film director ...

Comments [14]

Both have beaches, sure, but which place has better music?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Garden state has been the home of Bruce Springsteen, Frank Sinatra, Yo La Tengo and Patti Smith. Long Island is the cradle of Public Enemy, The Ramones, Billy Joel and Pat Benatar. Both the Island and the Garden State have beaches, but which place harbors better musicians? We debate ...

Comments [78]

Smackdown: Stax vs. Motown

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The history of soul music rests on the shoulders of two great record labels, Motown and Stax. With both labels passing the half-century mark recently, we tee up a Soundcheck Smackdown debate for the ages: Which was the greatest soul label: Motown or Stax? Joining us are Steven Greenberg, CEO ...

Comments [5]

Smackdown: Jazz Fusion

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Since its emergence in the late 60’s, jazz-rock fusion has been controversial. Jazz purists decry its use of rock styles, electronic instruments, and what they feel are its commercial pretensions. Yet fans consider it visionary and experimental. As fusion makes a comeback with new albums and tours (not to mention ...

Comments [9]

Soundcheck Smackdown: Steely Dan

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The jazz-inflected rock group Steely Dan set the bar high for studio precision and musical complexity in rock during the 1970s. Fans laud the band’s light-funk touch, sarcastic lyrics and lasting popularity. Others say the duo of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen is just too smooth. As Steely Dan mounts ...

Comments [60]

Smackdown: When Is a Concert Too Short?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

When a concert headliner plays a set that lasts an hour or less, some fans feel shortchanged. Others prefer live music to be "short and sweet." We debate on the length of concerts, with Jon Bream of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Jaime Lowe, author of Digging for Dirt: The ...

Comments [40]

Smackdown: Disco

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Born in underground music clubs and raised on dancefloors, disco hit the mainstream in 1977 with the film Saturday Night Fever. Soon, it seemed that anything could be "disco": clothes, furniture, or even a Rolling Stones hit. But two years later, a cultural backlash booted disco from the pop ...

Comments [21]

Soundcheck Smackdown: Music magazines: elite or obsolete?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Hip-hop and R&B magazine Vibe shut down last week, the latest victim in a series of music magazines like Blender, Harp, No Depression and Jazz Times that have folded in recent months. Some say that is a huge loss for in-depth music writing. Others argue they became dinosaurs in a ...

Comments [14]

Smackdown: Teens and 'Tweens in the Audience

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Some opera houses and concert halls are trying to attract teens and 'tweens with discounted tickets and special programs. But not everyone thinks the strategy can work. Some believe the arts are an acquired taste that one develops later in life. Today: we debate kids in the concert hall. Joining ...

Comments [64]

Soundcheck Smackdown: Boyle vs. Lambert

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

He is a 27-year-old goth-vampire rocker who wears black nail polish and eyeliner. She is a dowdy 48-year-old Scot who says she has never been kissed. Adam Lambert and Susan Boyle overcame their unlikely personas to become the two most popular figures on television and YouTube – as products of ...

Comments [28]

Soundcheck Smackdown: Eminem's New Album "Relapse"

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Eminem is newly sober, but his first album in 5-years features raps about pill-popping, rape, abuse, family problems and Lindsay and Britney. In another Soundcheck Smackdown we debate the relevance of Eminem and the brutal fantasies he describes in detail on the album. Guests include author and journalist Touré and ...

Comments [34]