Pharrell Williams is a man of many hats, from his massively successful production work with the Neptunes (responsible for writing mega-hits like Britney Spears' "Toxic") to his chart-topping vocals on Daft Punk's "Get Lucky". Williams recently spoke with NPR's Morning Edition, where he outlined the methodical processes—including a three-step writing method that he says anyone can use—that have helped him ascend to stardom.
When it comes to popular music, Chris Molanphy correctly points out that "past performance is definitely no guarantee of future success"—as part of NPR's Best Music of 2013 series, Molanphy examines the concept of career longevity as it relates to hit-makers in 2013, dissecting the likes of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' smash hit "Thrift Shop" and Robin Thicke's controversial—but undeniably ubiquitous—"Blurred Lines".
1993 was a landmark year for hip-hop, with seminal albums from Snoop Dogg, A Tribe Called Quest, The Wu Tang Clan and more helping to forever change the landscape of the burgeoning art form. Amongst these visionaries were De La Soul, a New York trio whose third LP, Buhloone Mindstate, flew directly in the face of expectation.
The Pleyel piano factory, based in Paris, has been manufacturing 88-key masterpieces—a personal favorite of the legendary Frédéric Chopin, as well as impressionist composers like Claude Debussy —for more than 200 years. 2013 is a sad year for ivory-ticklers, then, as Pleyel will shut its doors for good at the end of the year. But... why? Was it a case of sub-par marketing? Over-expensive merchandise? A waning demand for top-quality pianos?
It's the kind of story that highlights the collaborative, social nature of jazz; in 1985, Marcus Roberts was a gifted young pianist when he caught the attention of legendary trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, who brought Roberts into his own band. Roberts went on to compose, record, teach and perform both jazz and classical music, and subsequently built his own career largely separate from Marsalis. It took almost twenty years, but Roberts and Marsalis have reunited, recording a pair of albums: Together Again in the Studio, and Together Again Live in Concert.
As ubiquitous as the remix has become, it's not something you hear much about when it comes to country music. It came as a bit of a surprise, then, when a hip-hop remix of Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise", featuring rapper Nelly, helped the track ascend to the top of the country charts and stay there long enough to break the all-time record.
At this point, the web—and, we'll admit, NPR in particular—is awash with year-end lists, seeking to summarize 2013 in pictures, song, film and more. For fans of unconventional live performance, though, the final list to top them all is right here, with a round-up of the year's most interesting Tiny Desk Concerts.
For all the talk of chains and private planes, there still exists plenty of hip-hop with a real message, made for a very real reason. Venezuelan rappers Apache and Canserbero are a prime example of this—their recent track "Stop" took aim at widespread police corruption in Venezuela. The duo have managed to transcend a limited budget to reach a wide audience; check out an in-depth examination of their work over at Morning Edition.
From the soulful tones of Frank Ocean to Kelela's bold crossovers into experimental dance music, 2013 was a fascinating year for R&B. Head over to NPR Music to check out Jason King's selection of five tracks that summarize the progress and direction of R&B in 2013.
Take a peek at the final rehearsal before David Byrne (of Talking Heads) and Annie Clark (of St. Vincent) took their collaborative album, Love This Giant, out on the road — complete with eccentric choreographed dance moves and an eight-piece horn section.
34 years ago today, a new commercial-free radio station located at The Blue Mouse in Salt Lake City broadcast Pete Seeger's "We Shall Overcome" over the FM airwaves. Since then, KRCL has become a beloved community resource for thousands of listeners throughout Utah. Happy Birthday, KRCL! Here's to another three decades and beyond...
The fine folks at WXPN public radio (home to World Cafe) would like you to vote on your favorite artists and albums from 2013. Vote by December 9, 2013 and you'll be entered to win a 16 GB iPad Air loaded with the Top 200 songs from the year-in-review countdown, plus a $100 gift card to Springboard Media.
Grammy-Award winning musician Esperanza Spalding talks with NPR's Celeste Headlee about her new recording, 'We are America.' Spalding's song and video demand congressional action to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. "Part of the message of the song is, 'This is not our America. We are America. I am America. Esperanza Spalding is America.
Devonté Hynes has recorded a punk album, a folk-pop-country album, and his new record features a mix of synth pop. NPR's Melissa Block talks with Hynes about his musical exploration and living with synesthesia, a neurological condition that links the senses — for Hynes, every sound he hears is associated with a color.