What’s been on my mind this week? Justin Timberlake, new Bruno Mars, and the term “pop-punk.” Join me as I pick apart and obsess over music on this week’s edition of On the Radar.
Who doesn’t love Justin Timberlake? Well, I used to hate him from his Nsync days, but it didn’t take long for JT to win me over. Since his phenomenal 20/20 Experience tour wrapped up, Timberlake has taken on various projects, including acting. He has a starring role in the new Trolls movie. What is up with him and animated films? First Shrek the Third and then Boo Boo in Yogi Bear?
In terms of music, the only new material we’ve gotten from him is the satisfying “Can’t Stop the Feeling” for the aforementioned Trolls soundtrack. But we can whet our appetites for a new Timberlake album with the new Netflix concert film Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids. The film is taken from Timberlake’s final show of the tour in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Hotel on January 2, 2015. If you’ve never seen Timberlake live, this is your chance to take part in the larger than life outing. Over the years, Timberlake has proven himself to be a great showman. You can expect to see boundless energy, hypnotizing dancing, and a breathtaking stage show on this film. But it may make you more impatient for a new album, so better get on that, JT.
The loss of Rod Temperton
2016 has been a cruel year taking away some of best people in music. It was hard enough when David Bowie passed at the beginning of the year, but then Prince? People around the world felt the shockwaves of his death. As the saying goes death stops for no one and this week we lost songwriting genius Rod Temperton. He died last week at the age of 66 after a long battle with cancer.
Temperton was a prolific songwriter who worked with greats, like Anita Baker, Aretha Franklin, and Herbie Hancock to name a few. But what I and most music lovers will remember him for is his unmistakable work with Michael Jackson. Temperton helped penned Jackson classics “Baby Be Mine,” “Rock With You,” and “Off the Wall.” But his greatest work was bringing “Thriller” into the world. It’s crazy to think what the world would be missing out on if Temperton didn’t answer Quincy Jones’ call to work with him. We probably never would’ve had a video with dancing zombies and Jackson’s iconic red suit.
There’s no question that Temperton was one of the greats. Sadly, he’s another musical genius we lost this year. 2016 isn’t over yet. I shiver to think what other great artists could be taken from us in such a brief moment.
Viva the Revolution!
This week was a long time coming for me and other Green Day fans. The band’s new album Revolution Radio dropped this week and it’s making waves in rock. Though lead single “Bang Bang” made it seem like the entire LP would be full of rip-roaring vicious tracks, it actually isn’t. There are a share of in-your-face, kick-ass punk rock like on “Forever Now,” but these song don’t make up the majority of the album. Rather it’s a mix of the various sounds Green Day have tried over the years. “Somewhere Now” and “Ordinary World” have the warmth and maturity of Warning. “Bouncing off the Wall” and “Too Dumb to Die” have the same vibrant energy found on the Trilogy. And “Troubled Times” and “Revolution Radio” have the same call to arms as American Idiot.
Rather than finding the band reaching for their youth, Revolution Radio shows Green Day handling old age with comfort and a bit of hesitation. It’s everything fans wanted from their last output and more. There’s maturity, but lots of attitude and fire on the album that reminds you that Green Day are not content with society. It’s a fitting and welcome return for the Oakland punks. As Green Day continues to travel on the road for their brief club tour, you can bet fans are spending every moment learning the words.
Revolution Radio is out now.
Death to pop-punk
Bringing it back to Green Day, in a recent interview with Kerrang Magazine, Billie Joe Armstrong said he wants the term “pop-punk” to die. He believes it lacks diversity since the two genres aren’t the same in any way. What was once used to describe the light-hearted, catchy side of punk rock, has become an ugly term over the years. A similar thing happened with the term “emo,” but I think that one was asking for it. Now whenever someone uses the term “pop-punk” they say it like trying to get a bad taste out of their mouth. Any bands who are labeled as such are seen as not being “real music” and especially nowhere near “true punk rock.”
As an avid listener of Blink-182, Green Day, and Sum 41 I understood the pop-punk term. It’s clear the music these bands were making was influenced by punk roots. Yet, the use of melody, light-hearted nature, and sing along quality separated it from its punk origins. And during the mid-2000s people seemed to be okay with that. But as the bands got bigger and in some cases, the fans grew younger, the term became dirty and somehow synonymous with “sell out.” If the band you liked were classified as “pop-punk” then somehow then weren’t as real, honest, or gritty like other bands. And usually, anything that’s related to pop music is looked down upon by hardcore rock fans.
So should we burn the term as Armstrong suggested? It’s definitely time for a change. As Green Day and countless other bands associated with the genre have shown, the music they make is way beyond successful. So does that mean they sold out? Not really. It means they make music people enjoy and they keep finding ways to keep people interested. And if you look at a band like Blink-182, they’re not the same goofy guys they were when they first hit mainstream rock (minus the whole DeLonge debacle). Just like with any other band, they change, evolve over time.
A term like “pop-punk” cements them in once place in time. It makes them stay stagnant even if they’ve moved on musically. So what should we call it? How about music? Why does it even matter if it’s something you enjoy? If it needs a term then it should evolve naturally. For now, let’s just sit back and listen to the music.
Return to Mars
Bruno Mars brought an unmistakable funkiness to pop music. Without him, the genre’s been stale with the same beats and sounds permeating everything. But things are about to get funky again because Mars is returning to music. He dropped his latest single, “24K Magic” this week. It’s smooth, slick, and groovin’ all the way. Mars shows he’s even more fly than he was in “Uptown Funk.” The song makes you want to drop what you’re doing and shake your ass.
The song comes from his newly announced album, 24K Magic, which drops November 18 via Atlantic Records. This marks Mars’ first album since his 2010 album Unorthodox Jukebox. Mars will also perform as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live on October 15. Though Mars hasn’t been entirely absent from music, it feels like it’s been a while since we’ve seen him. With his good time vibe and party attitude, his music is what we need right now. It’s easy to get bogged down with all the bad in the world, especially with the Presidental election. But hopefully, Mars’ funky, catchy, and upbeat music will let us forget about our problems just for a little while.