Category Archives: Gotta Hear This Music

David Guetta – A True #1 DJ or a Sellout?

Poor David Guetta sure has a tough time of it. Beneath the piles of babes, drugs, and awards, is a man accused. He’s accused of writing songs he didn’t write, and stealing ones he did, accused of being dead, and recently of being a fake DJ. Surely you’ve seen the YouTube video:

It’s possible that this is all a trick of the lighting in the club, but even if his mixer were turned off, I still wouldn’t buy that Guetta is a total fake. After all the guy’s been live Djing since he was seventeen. Surely if he didn’t know how to operate a mixer, someone in that time would have noticed. Even if his mixer is completely turned off, it’s possible that he had technical difficulties and had to throw on a mix CD. These things happen.

David Guetta in a bootylicious situation

But the very existence of this video and the support it’s received tells us that for every one of Guetta’s fans there’s a hater. He may not be a fake DJ, but is David Guetta a sellout? Let’s examine the evidence.

It seems he will collaborate with anyone, on his last album alone he worked with Usher, Sia, Taio Cruz, Snoop Dogg, Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown, Lil Wayne and Timbaland. He even collaborated with a fifteen-year old kid famous for lip-syncing on YouTube …but hey, maybe he’s just a friendly guy…and all his friends happen to be the biggest names in pop music.

Actually, it’s unfair to say this is all happening by accident. Guetta was told that dance music would never succeed in the American market, so he sought out the biggest names in pop. Now you can’t turn on the radio without hearing “Tonight’s going to be a good night” or that “Sexy Bitch” song he did with Akon, or whatever Guetta’s next single is. Instead of complaining about the lack of electronic music on the Billboard charts, he saw an opportunity and he took it.

Selling out can be defined as making music for money instead of answering the call of your artistic muse. Guetta described it this way: “The more melodies and chord changes, the less good it is for the clubs, but the better it is for radio, because it makes it really emotional…Yet, what gives dance music energy and drive is that it’s hypnotic and repetitive. My battle is to find the balance between the two.” Here he’s freely admitting that he changes the music he makes to appease the radio drones.

This all comes down to the age-old battle between professional and amateur artists. Whether you’re a dancer, poet, or photographer, if you want to make money practicing your art, you’ll have to learn to craft work that fits the needs of the person paying you. If you’re a writer, this could be cutting your profanity out of the articles you write for the local paper. If you’re a film-maker it could mean using the producer’s band for your soundtrack. And any DJ who’s ever worked a wedding can tell you the booking where you snub “The Hussle” and only play underground dance music you won’t be getting a referral from the bride. Maybe David Guetta truly believes auto-tune is the sexiest thing ever, but it’s more likely he puts up with it to have an opportunity to make Lil Wayne’s next hit a little less R&B and a little more four to the floor.

Haters gonna hate David Guetta

Meanwhile, those of us not out there making money can turn our nose up at those who do. Is David Guetta a sellout? Yes, and he probably has been for almost as long as he’s been making money.

It makes no difference to me if you hate on Guetta, what bother me is the idea that becoming a world-famous DJ and producer is somehow easy, if only you’re willing to sell out. The comments are along the lines of “All you need to become the next David Guetta are iTunes and swagger.” This marginalizes the hard work DJs are out there doing every day. Dammit, selling out his hard work.

Great Indie Lyricists #3: Emily Haines of Metric

This is song #3 of a playlist for my LYLAS Kat. The subject is great indie lyricists. Each week I’m focusing on the lyrics of one band and why those lyrics are worth delving into.

Hi Kat,

Since you’ve been obsessed with the Mountain Goats lately, we’ve been talking about who some of our favorite modern lyricists are. This playlist was made specifically to answer that question. Today’s band is Metric.


It’s no secret that Metric is one of my favorite bands of the decade. One may compare them to chick-fronted rock bands like Blondie or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. But Metric wins bonus points in having captivating, socially relevant lyrics. I first got hooked on the mysterious “The Police and the Private” and became fanatic with “Patriarch on A Vespa.” I say it’s socially relevant but it’s more poetry than preaching. She’s writing about the world she sees, and as a socially aware person, this is reflected in her writing.

Take the aforementioned “Police and the Private”. She sings:

Didn’t make this up I learned, I learned it from a friend
My friend is coming clean, she told me
Keep one eye on the door, keep one eye on the bed
Never expect to be sure who you’re working for

It’s clear she’s talking about some black market world. Is it drugs? Prostitution? Does it matter which, or does it matter more that the larger point is that “the whole world wants what we’re on…the police and the private, the doctor, the lawyer, the garbage collector“? The tone is desperate and dangerous. Never once does she ask why something the whole world wants is outlawed, as that would be preaching. I liken it to the Talking Heads song “Life During Wartime,” in that capturing the dangers of the lifestyle is more telling and more interesting than a sermon about the morality of those who choose to live in the underworld. The clincher in “Police and the Private” is the last line, Got to get to you the orphanage is closing in an hour. Such a haunting line. Does the character in the song live this dangerous lifestyle in the hopes of making enough money to get her child back? It’s unclear, merely suggestive that criminals lead desperate lives because there are other more innocent lives at stake.


Another example is “Gold, Guns, Girls.” The lyrics All the guns, all the gold, in the world…couldn’t get you off seem to be directed at a certain president and his cabinet that were in power when she released the song in 2009. Did she sit down to write a song about a particular politician, or does her pen naturally gravitate to such subjects because they interest her? Would the song be better if she namechecked Bush or Cheney? No, the song is better because it is about a certain type of person that Cheney happens to be an example of.

Download/Listen to Metric – Gold, Guns, Girls

Full Lyrics to Gold, Guns, Girls


The lyrics to Patriarch On A Vespa wouldn’t be out of place in the latest urban literary magazine. I’ll print them in full so you can imagine them not in a rock song but within your favorite poetry anthology.


Patriarch On A Vespa

Promiscuous makes an entrance
Her mouth is full of questions
Are we all brides to be?
Are we all designed to be confined?
Buy ourselves chastity belts and lock them
Organize our lives and lose the key
Our faces all resemble dying roses
From trying to fix it
When instead we should break it
We’ve got to break it before it breaks us

Fear of pretty houses and their porches
Fear of biological wristwatches
Fear of comparison shopping
Dogs on leashes behind fences barking
Pretty little pillows on floral couches
Until our faces all resemble dying roses
Stop trying to fix it

Patriarch on a Vespa
Runs a red and ends up
Crushed under the wheel


I can imagine this getting high marks at the next Berkeley poetry slam, can’t you? But on the contrary, she sings this while playing the keyboard solo and kicking her legs in the air in total bad-ass fashion. The “it” she refers to I presume to be bullshit suburbia and when she shouts “Stop trying to fix it…we should break it” she has created a couplet not matched in the history of rocking out since The Who first shouted  “Meet the new boss! Same as the old boss!” If this song had been popular enough to hit heavy rotation on corporate radio, surely it would have inspired some chair throwing and bra burning.


Download/Listen to Patriarch On A Vespa


If you want to see some chill-inspiring rockage, check out the thrills she throws down at 1:40. It will give you a sense of why Emily Haines is one of the goddesses of indie rock:


Bonus: If this rocks a little hard for you, check out Emily Haines solo career with her backing band The Soft Skeleton. Or if you just can’t get enough, she’s also a sometimes-singer for Broken Social Scene.

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RIP Etta James

Nooooo! Etta James died today. Leukemia.

My friend Achterom introduced me to Etta James. Of course I knew who she was, like everyone else I knew she was the old broad who sings "At Last." A pretty enough song, with very little spunk. I wasn't too impressed with it. But he went to go see her live, and wouldn't shut up about it. There she was, a woman in her late sixties, making raunchy stage jokes and treating the microphone like a dildo. She was feisty and larger than life, like a queen of the Blues should be. Having (at last) upped my respect for the the Matriarch of R&B, I started playing her more rockabilly songs in my DJ sets. Somehow tracks like "In the Basement" seem to fit in just fine along with heavy dance numbers with thumpin' bass. Maybe that's why Avicii's chose to sample her song "Somebody Got A Hold On Me" for their huge 2011 dance hit, "Levels."

Etta remixed:

Etta James – 7 Day Fool (Whiskey Barons Edit)
Avicii – Levels (feat. Etta James)

Etta served straight:

Etta James – In the Basement (Part I)
Etta James – the Wallflower
Etta James – Tell Mama
Etta James – Spoonful (WMA file)
Etta James – I Just Wanna Make Love to you (WMA file)

Fun facts about Etta James:

  • It's rumored that she dated BB King when she was only 16, and that the song "Sweet Little 16" was written about her.
  • She is believed to be half-white, though no one can say with certainty as Etta never knew who her father was. She suspected it was the pool player, Rudolf "Minnesota Fats" Wanderone.
  • She was a heroin addict and one of the many celebrities who received treatment at the Betty Ford clinic.
  • After Beyonce inaccurately portrayed her in a movie, Etta James said she couldn't stand the singer and threatened that "she would get her ass whooped," though her children claim this was said because she had begun suffering from Alzheimer's.
  • James has received more than 30 awards throughout her life, including six Grammys and entry into The Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, The Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame.
  • Etta claimed to have written many of her songs, but didn't take the credit for tax reasons.

Def Jef feat Etta James – Dropping Rhymes On Drums (1989)

Etta James singing "I'd Rather Go Blind" with BB King

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If SOPA Passes It Will Be the End of Music Streaming/Online Radio

I finally submitted my electronic signature to the petition to congress to oppose the bill that will remove our Internet freedoms (SOPA). I thought I’d share with you the letter I wrote under the section, “Tell your story”…

I’m the sixth most popular DJ on the music site My station gained this popularity because I focus on playing things that are underplayed, be it under-the-radar indie bands or long-forgotten b-sides of yesteryear. The music I play is primarily not music you will hear on commercial radio, but it is protected by copyright. I do this for free–it is my passion to help people discover these fantastic bands, as so many have tired of the repetitive and trite options available through commercial radio. In order to comply with the demands of record labels, the site does not allow file uploads so most of the songs are streamed from YouTube uploaders who are violating copyright by posting the vidoes.

If the SOPA Bill passes, the site where I play music, and any streaming site like it, will be outlawed. Moreover, I would face a ten-year prison sentence for hosting my amateur radio show. This despite the fact that none of the songs I play on my station are available for download, and links are provided to Amazon and iTunes for those who are ready to purchase. Professionally, I work in publicity and marketing so I understand that these bands need the publicity sites like provides. Sadly, many bands willingly sign detrimental contracts so they can gain access to the corporate labels’ big-budget publicity campaigns.  It is absurd that a label will pay millions of dollars to have “street teams” that give away free CDs at hip bars in major cities–all while claiming that sharing music is hurting their business model.
It is equally absurd to put the sentencing guidelines for copywrite infringement in the same range as child rape or armed robbery. I find it hard to believe that even the most willfull copywrite infringer on the planet is committing the same harm as rapists and robbers, nor do they represent a danger to society. I should hope that if SOPA passes and I am charged with a felony, someone can explain to me how the payola-backed radio DJs are upstanding members of society and those with streaming radio stations are criminals.

Great indie lyricists #2: Los Campesinos!

This is song #2 of a playlist for Kat. The subject is great indie lyricists.

Hi Kat,

Since you've been obsessed with the Mountain Goats lately, we've been talking about who some of our favorite modern lyricists are. This playlist was made specifically to answer that question.

Los Campesinos! We Are All Accelerated Readers

There were conversations about what Breakfast Club character you'd be

"I'd be the one that dies" (no one dies)
"Well then what's the point?"
You should have built have a statue, and so I did of you
And you were ungrateful, and slightly offended at the dimensions of it
You said you looked less like the Venus de Milo, 

and more like your mother in a straightjacket.

I've already shared a few Los Campesinos! songs with you. I really want you to fall in love with this band. For a great lyric I picked "We Are All Accelerated Readers" because I think you'll appreciate the humor in these opening lines. Los Campesinos!'s front man mostly writes about his dismal love life. But like any good writer, those conversations are peppered with his obsessions: twee and the musical culture which surrounds it. There's also frequent pessimistic asides about the future of politics, humanity and, well, everything. It's surprising in such upbeat songs. You hear the high voices, shouting, and hand-clapping over lines like "We kid ourselves there's future in the fucking / but there is no fucking future" or, say, "And your very existence is a monument / To how I taught myself to scream" and realize these aren't exactly pop songs. They're punk for tweeny-boppers. Or twee for punks. Whatever, they're fun. Which makes it easy to dismiss the lyrics. But the lyrics are what make this band so great.

Posted via email from Like Dancing About Architecture

Great indie lyricists #1: Cloud Cult

This is a playlist for Kat. The subject is great indie lyricists.

Cloud Cult – Ghost Inside our House


Image via Western Sun

The couple that fronts Cloud Cult released a ton of albums while working through the grief of the death of their young son. But the songs aren’t a diary of torment. There is real pain here, but just as often there is an appreciation for the beauty of life. Cloud Cult’s songs are drowning in duende. There’s so much love in this music. So many beautiful images and ideas.

We’ll start a little family
And call it our religion
Hunt for ghosts inside our house
‘Cause we’ll never give up wishing

Their lyrics give you the sense that life is tender and precious.

It helps that the music is interesting and every song is unique. This one is a slow guitar number but many of their songs feature strange interludes or booming orchestrations or meandering violin. It also helps that they’re amazing live. They’re one of those bands that make it impossible to pick a favorite. I believe you’ll especially like this one, but there are so many other Cloud Cult songs to fall in love with. Do it.

What is Pop Music?

art of music by ~josephine12cute

There is a long-standing debate in music criticism about whether pop music should be considered worthy of review, or whether it is a guilty pleasure best left undiscussed in polite company. With limited amount of time to write and listen and limited space to post reviews, these “rocktivists” argued that we should be focusing our reviews on Serious Art. The opposing poptimist camp won, as you’d expect: In a generation where the Internet promised there will always be a surplus of reviewers and space to post their opinions, why not review everything?

The problem with this debate is few people ever bothered to define what pop music is in the first place. It used to be so simple in the days of Nirvana. Pop music was inoffensive and danceable. Rock music was brash and unpolished. But the postmodern era we live in teaches us that labels are elusive bastards that refuse to divide most things in life into tidy binaries. The underground dance movement has shown us that there’s plenty of dance music that is clearly not pop. The success of corporate rock b(r)ands that “did it all for the nookie” will get the same snub treatment from rock critics, even though they aren’t thought of as pop. And even back in the days of Nirvana, what the hell was Bjork? Where did Future Sound of London fit in?

We labeled those acts as “Alternative;” today we call them “Indie.” Even label status can be a misleading marker though. The biggest label in a small country will be perceived as independent in other countries far from where their marketing efforts can reach. This is more and more a factor in a global economy. At the other end, you have indie labels that are swallowed up by major labels. Do the bands on these labels still count as indie when their label is bought? Does it matter if the parent corporation allows the staff to continue running their company exactly as they did before the takeover? Does it matter if the label gets a bigger publicity budget? And then you’re haggling over a dollar amount to define a genre.

Many will agree that we need to stop defining indie as a genre. The same thing needs to happen with pop music.

So What Is Pop Music?

No definition will be perfect, but here’s what I propose. Pop music is music produced by a team of people who collectively are designing a product. That product happens to be art, just as the designers who produce the sheets and lampshades at Target are also producing art. Pop music is first and foremost a money-making venture, and artistic decisions will be guided by marketing factors like target audience and branding. By this definition, Britney will be pop no matter how many giant rock guitars she locks her legs around. Weezer is an example of a rock band that became a pop band when they got rich and started making the songs they thought their teen audience wanted to hear.When you begin to think of Pop music as a product rather than a genre, the rocktivist argument makes a lot more sense. Art critics could write reviews of the output of graphic design firms, but usually they leave that task to Ad Week.

From NPR’s piece on the costs of making a pop single:gr-pm-song-cost-462.gif

Pop music is absurd. It is absurd to pay someone who can sing fifteen grand to write a song and then have someone who isn’t a particularly good singer record that song because her face is the one you want plastered on album covers. It’s absurd that the same system that pays $78,000 to create a single pop song will ask the rock bands they woo to sell their song and soul for a dime. Pop reduces the art of music the way a butcher cuts up a piece of meat. Every aspect of the song is outsourced to different experts who turn in their perfect little cog. All these cogs are reassembled as the clockwork machination we know as the pop star. The empty smile, the calculated cleavage, the vague unreality, the overly clean, slickly produced sound—all of these are symptoms of turning music into an assembly line process.

Conversely, all the rage and hubris the rock critics have flung at the poptivists seems almost silly. The poptivists have done themselves a dis-service by asking critics to take pop music seriously. Pop music is serious business but it is not, cannot be, serious art. Serious art stands for something. Serious art reflects someone’s vision. Because it is a hodgepodge of the cogs, whatever vision the writer began with will be diluted by marketing teams who wish to promote trends or avoid offense. It’s the difference between Jill Sobule singing in favor of kissing a girl and Katy Perry the product who sells the kissed-a-girl brand.

We need to move away from thinking of pop music by the symptoms that describe it—polished, electronic, trite, overly-produced—and think instead of the machine that produces it. We need to stop thinking of pop stars as artists and think of them instead as the logos for carefully tailored marketing campaigns. These surgically perfected smiling dolls are as sad as Frankenstein’s monster, as close to music as hamburger meat is to fillet Mignon. We can take pleasure in what is the fast food of the art world while seeing it for what it is, while going on to chase these monstrous stars with our pitchforks and torches. We love the monster. We hate the monster. We consume the monster. She sells art, but she is not an artist.

Rules for Shows #3: The Front of the Pit is Over-rated



Rule #3


The first strings have been strummed and the singer has claimed the mic. The shovers are staking their claim in the pit. There is a rush to the stage, a general movement: the show is starting. The young and foolish punk will rush forward so they can be closer to the sweat and angst flying off the stage. It seems rational. But if you’ve taken the time to push to the front-and-center position, standing in front of the fresh mosh pit is the worst way to claim that sweet spot. Not so much because the pit is unmanageable but because the task of managing it is in the opposite direction of the band. So you can turn your back on the show and push the pit kids. Or you can watch the show and get elbowed in the face. Thus what seems initially like the center of the action turns out to be a major distraction. Just when you think you can maybe take some time to actually watch the show you paid to see, you remember the crowd surfers. They like to remind you by kicking you in the head.

If this all still seems like a great plan, then you probably have a fierce abundance of ass-kicking energy. In that case, dive into the actual pit instead of turning your back to it. Now that’s a nice view.



Mashups of Duck Sauce – Barbra Streisand

[Image from]

I suspect that "Barbera Streisand" is the dance jam of the summer. Mainly because it's around, but not on the radio so your average radio drone hasn't heard it a thousand times. I imagine revelers saying, "Oh I know this! Wasn't it on Glee?" and their reveler friends saying "I dunno, but it sure makes me want to dance!" As it should. 

But you know I like to mix it up so, I'm sharing some of my favorite mashups of Duck Sauce's Bab's hit. The song barely has vocals so it's easy to mash and mix. It's like the song is a perfect beat and climax waiting to dress up any song. I mean really, is there any song you can't mash with "Barbra Streisand"? I accidentally had it playing at the same time as Beirut's "Santa Fe," and I gotta say that sounded pretty tight. But not all Duck based mashups are worthy of taking the time to upload. These are:

My least favorite, but mostly because I think "Vogue" is still overplayed. Still compulsively danceable.

At first I was skeptical of this next mashup. I actually love "Walkin' on the Sun," as a child of hippies I've always identified with the lyrics. But it seems that any radio hit gets so overplayed that it takes at least ten years before music snobs can stand to listen to it again. On top of that, the bass is all wobbly a la dubstep, which frankly I'm getting a little bored of. But then some magic happens after the three minute mark. Sickness is what happens. Sickness so so sick it gives me the shivers.

Uffie is on my list of rappers that need better producers to combine her nice rhymes with hot beats. I'm a fan of the Armand van Helden remix, but that one cuts out most of the lyrics. Here Elocnep has mashed Uffie's latest with "Harder Faster Better Stronger" and "Barbra Streisand." You can't do better for a universally loved dance platter than classic Daft Punk, here marinated in Duck Sauce for a scrumptious snack.

Finally here's the original so you mix masters can shape up some magic of your own. 

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Rules For Shows #2: Let People Exit


Rule #2

Say you're in a thick messy crowd with little room for movement. You are trying to get closer to the stage and some other asshole is trying to get to the bar and there isn't room for both of you to advance at the same time. Who should go first? The person who is leaving the crowd should be allowed to exit first. They are creating more room, you will be taking up more room. Moreover, you don't really know why this person is trying to get out. Maybe they are agorophobic. Maybe they are about to vomit. Maybe there is an injury. Maybe there is someone swinging an ax in the mosh pit. If you are trying to leave the crowd and someone is trying to get closer to the stage, you have every right to be a dick about it. I'm not generally an advocate of being a dick, but I have seen people at shows who wanted to leave and the people behind them were all, “Gosh, it's too crowded” so they simply gave up and stayed put. That is a fucked situation that makes no one happy. Don't ever be the cause of this. When it is so crowded that people don't want to move a foot to let someone by is exactly when they should be thrilled to let someone give up their space on the floor. It is wrong to trap people in a crowd. Ingress and egress, my friend. When you block someone exiting a crowd, you are a fire hazard. And no one wants to be a fire hazard. You want to be the reason the roof is on fire, not the reason screaming patrons with their hair on fire can't find the exit. If people want to move away from the crowd, step aside. If you can't step aside, tell the person behind you to step aside. Take responsibility for making sure you are able to move aside enough at least to let them past you.

By the way, this is a good life rule too.

Posted via email from Like Dancing About Architecture