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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: Music in Restaurants

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

New York restaurants are increasingly favoring open kitchens, bustling bar scenes -- and loud music. Some restaurateurs say intense music can create excitement, increase customer turnover and sell more drinks. But critics complain loud sounds are a recipe for indigestion. Today: A Soundcheck Smackdown debate over music in restaurants.

Comments [84]

Soundcheck Smackdown: Sax or Trumpet?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

One means John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins and is nicknamed the Devil’s Horn. The other is tied to Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis, and also with black masculinity. We’ll debate which instrument had the greater impact in jazz with saxophonist Branford Marsalis and jazz critic Will Layman.

Comments [19]

Smackdown: Bob Dylan

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bob Dylan's new album, Together Through Life, is the latest chapter in a critically acclaimed comeback that began in 1997. In another Soundcheck Smackdown, we debate Dylan's career revival, his legacy, and this latest release. Joining us are Joe Levy, editor of Maxim magazine and former editor of Blender and ...

Comments [35]

Smackdown: Record Stores

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Music fans celebrated Record Store Day last week with in-store performances, wallet-draining purchases and odes to independent retailers. But some say physical record stores are not worth saving in the online age. Sue Bryan, general manager at J&R Music and freelance writer Dan Gibson join us for a debate over ...

Comments [42]

Smackdown: Neil Young

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Neil Young's latest album revolves around eco-cars and the economy. But the singer-songwriter's past attempts at concept records have earned mixed reviews. In another Soundcheck Smackdown, Jim Farber of the New York Daily News and Carl Wilson of Toronto's Globe and Mail newspaper debate the new album, "Fork in the ...

Comments [12]

Smackdown: Jazz Fusion

Tuesday, April 07, 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 [37]

Smackdown: 'Rock Band' vs Real Bands

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Video games like "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band" are sparking new life in the music world. But how does playing in a virtual band compare to the real thing? A real bassist, Jonathan Herrera of Bass Player magazine, and a not-so-real bassist, competitive "Rock Band" player and LAGtv host Steve ...

Comments [24]

Soundcheck Smackdown: Wagner's "Ring"

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

As Wagner's "Ring Cycle" arrives at the Metropolitan Opera this week critics contend that it's the ultimate in long, boring and bombastic music drama. But Wagner fans (or "Ringheads") argue that few composers pack in more thrilling songs, glorious orchestral passages, and big ideas -- and the rewards for the ...

Comments [20]

Smackdown: Twitter

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Twitter first made a splash with music insiders at the 2007 South by Southwest Festival. Two years later, the social-networking tool is being used by musicians, fans and critics in ways that make blogs look outdated. But can anything musical really be summed up in 140 characters or less? In ...

Comments [40]

Smackdown: Jam Bands

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dust off your hacky sacks: On today’s Soundcheck Smackdown, we encroach on the religion of Phish-heads everywhere and debate the eclectic, free-form rock of jam bands like Phish, String Cheese Incident, and the Allman Brothers Band. Is jam band music ingeniously creative or tedious self-indulgence?

Comments [52]

Smackdown: U2

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

U2 is celebrating the release of its 12th studio album with five performances on "Late Show With David Letterman," an art installation in Los Angeles, and a world tour this summer. But as rock's premier band revs up its promotional engines, we dare to ask: Is "No Line on the ...

Comments [17]

Soundcheck Smackdown: Actor Albums

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Beware, Joaquin Phoenix. Even if you're serious about starting a rap career, few movie stars who release albums enjoy critical and commercial success. In another Soundcheck Smackdown, we debate "actor albums" from William Shatner, Zooey Deschanel, Juliette Lewis, Kevin Bacon and many others. Joining us are GQ staff writer Alex ...

Comments [36]

Soundcheck Smackdown: Morrissey – Witty or Washed Up?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The singer-songwriter Morrissey has made an colorful career singing witty songs about heartache and his unrequited desire. The former leader of the 1980’s band The Smiths refuses to cheer up on his new solo album, “Years of Refusal.” Today: A Soundcheck Smackdown debate on Morrissey’s music and career. Guests include ...

Comments [45]

50 reasons why magazine editors love lists

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Rolling Stone picked the 500 greatest albums of all time. Pitchfork culled the greatest 500 songs from the last 30 years. And a recent Blender magazine story offered “23 Reasons Why 2009 Will Not Suck.” Lists are a handy tool for music books and magazines, but do they undermine the ...

Comments [7]

Soundcheck Smackdown: Kelly Clarkson

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Kelly Clarkson has claimed to have broken up with the American Idol machine that spawned her - to the point of rebelling against mogul producer Clive Davis and titling her second album "Breakaway". On today's Soundcheck Smackdown, Ricardo Baca, pop music critic for the Denver Post, and Maura Johnston, editor ...

Comments [56]

Smackdown: Springsteen

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Today our Smackdown series enters dangerous territory with a debate over Bruce Springsteen, his new album, and his place in pop music. Phil Freeman of Metal Edge magazine and Lizzy Goodman of Blender magazine join us to spar over "Working on a Dream" and the legacy of the Boss.

Comments [83]

Soundcheck Smackdown: Motown versus Stax

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It’s been 50 years since Berry Gordy secured the now-famous $800 family loan that he would use to create Motown Records, the world's then-largest black-owned corporation that transformed American pop music and race relations. The history of soul music also rests on the shoulders of Memphis-based label Stax Records, which ...

Comments [31]

Kiddie Music: Great or Grating?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

For years, children’s music was ruled by niche artists like Soupy Sales and Raffi. But these days, “big kid” acts like They Might Be Giants and former Del Fuegos member Dan Zanes are creating clever songs for kids and parents alike. It’s infectious stuff – sometimes too infectious. In another ...

Comments [52]

The War on Christmas Music

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Today, our Soundcheck Smackdown series dares to enter the annual battle over Christmas music. Joining us are Dr. Gerard J. Grzyb, seasonal music coordinator for the public radio station WRST-FM at the University of Wisconsin, and Nigel Rodgers, the president of Pipedown International.

A Soundcheck producer is responding ...

Comments [51]

Music Critics: Irreplaceable or Irrelevant?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Everyone's a critic -- a music critic, in particular. Blogs and social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook serve some of the curatorial roles once held by music critics. Meanwhile, staff cuts at print media organizations have eliminated many music columnists and arts reporters. In another Soundcheck Smackdown, two guests ...

Comments [17]