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Oscar Songs 2014

When it comes to movies, Jim and Greg defer to the Academy. But, when it comes to music, they aren't as casual. 2014 has been a banner year for pop music in the movies, with three of this year's Best Original Song nominees topping the charts. In fact, this kind of crossover hasn't happened since 1984, when all five nominees hit #1. First, there's Idina Menzel's ubiquitous "Let It Go," from the animated Disney hit Frozen. Written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez of Book of Mormon fame, it's a flashy show tune—the "Diane Warren power ballad" of Greg's nightmares—that fails to impress our hosts. Not so with "The Moon Song," from the film Her. Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who co-wrote the song with director Spike Jonze, has since released a duet with Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend. This quiet, intimate tune wins Jim's statuette, even if it's too low-key for the Academy. Greg's giving his award to "Happy" from Despicable Me 2. While Mr. Kot admits to living under a rock when it comes to kids' movies, he considers Pharrell's single, with its layered vocals and handclaps, a pop masterpiece (despite the mediocre lyrics). Jim isn't as happy and thinks that Pharrell phoned this one in. Meanwhile, U2 took a break from ending world hunger to record a new song for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. While the film got little attention in the U.S., "Ordinary Love" has something else working in its favor: the media empire of Harvey Weinstein. His aggressive promotion already won the song a Golden Globe for Best Song, and could similarly sway the Academy…but not our hosts. Despite the noble subject, Jim and Greg just hear standard U2 flag-waving.

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Go to episode 431
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Music News

Oh, how the mighty have fallen—and we're not just talking about lackluster MJ. After its two-month reign as the nation's #1 album, the Frozen soundtrack has at last been ousted from its throne… by Now That's What I Call Music! Vol. 50. What are we to make of this coup by Universal's unending compilation series? On one hand, it's proof that the Top 40 crowd is still the biggest force in purchasing music. But on the other, it's surprising that teens still want Now! to curate their playlists when it's so easy to create their own. Turn Down for What? For Idina Menzel, apparently.

Go to episode 443

Music News

Last year, Apple purchased Beats headphones and its streaming service for $3 billion. This was an attempt to get away from the already antiquated iTunes method of paying to download a song. On June 8, Apple unveils what the new Beats will look like. The Wall Street Journal has reported a subscription will cost $10/month and there will be no free tier like on Spotify. Beats has also paid millions to Pharrell and Drake to be guest personality DJS (and to stay away from Jay Z's floundering TIDAL). Will it be the next big streaming service?

A$AP Rocky topped the Billboard Charts this week with his album At. Long. Last. ASAP. However he isn't the first hip hopartist to do so in 2015. Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Big Sean have all inhabited the number one spot. 2015 has had many different leaders as opposed to 2014, where the soundtrack to Disney's Frozen held top billing for much of the year. At 5th place comes a surprise: the religious band Hillsong United. Our hosts are curious to see how far their fame goes.

Go to episode 497

Music News

Digitally-savvy Deadheads rejoice! Jerry Garcia's official website is getting an impressive makeover which includes a massive archive of 15,000 hours worth of Grateful Dead material to listen to for free, some of them fan recordings. Jim notes that these bootlegs have been circulating around for a long time, usually traded in person. But now with this update, fans can swap in a virtual“Parking Lot.”The website is so comprehensive that Jim and Greg think the only offerings missing are grilled cheese sandwiches and mind-altering substances.

Tweens across the country are raising their tiny fists to self-empowerment anthem "Let It Go" from Disney's latest animated feature, Frozen. The single, sung by Demi Lovato, is flying up the Billboard charts with over a half million downloads sold. But, only six radio stations nationwide have reported playing the song on-air. Jim and Greg say this isn't the first time an album or single has made it big without the help of radio. Just look at Beyonce's latest release or the Les Misérables soundtrack. Both hosts take this as just another sign of the FM dial is loosing its hit making-or-breaking influence.

Ella Fitzgerald is known for her perfect pitch, something long thought to be a skill developed early in life by only a lucky few. But Professor Takao Hensch of Harvard University says that he's got a pill that makes it possible for anyone to gain that skill, regardless of age. The pill is normally used to treat epilepsy by temporarily retiring the brain to a juvenile-like state, which just happens to be the perfect time to learn all kinds of things. Jim and Greg smile at the idea of auto-tune going by the wayside. But, is taking a pill for perfect pitch like taking steroids in sports? Also, if every artist had perfect pitch, the world may never know another Bob Dylan or Lauren Hill whose voices brim with personality. Perfection is overrated, says Jim.

Go to episode 426

Music News

Taylor Swift dominated 2014 with her album 1989, selling 3.6 million copies and narrowly beating out Disney's Frozen for the top spot. With only four records achieving platinum status, not even Queen Bey made the cut this year. 2014 also saw a change in how consumers listened to music, as streaming increased 54% and vinyl sales were at their highest since 1991.

Just when people thought they "forgot about Dre", it turns out he was the highest paid musician of 2014 according to Forbes. Dr. Dre made $620 million before taxes, which can be attributed to his success with Beats headphones and collaboration with Apple. In second place is Beyoncé. Rounding out the top five are boomer acts The Eagles, Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen.

For the first time in UK chart history, the ten best-selling albums of the year were British acts. Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, Coldplay and One Direction all held prominent places on the list, perhaps signaling that there is another British invasion on the way.

vx2 Sony is reintroducing the Walkman to give music enthusiasts a new old obsession. This Walkman has 128 GB of memory and 60 hours of battery life, and the device is competing with Neil Young's Pono, another high-fidelity music player. Young says his device does not do anything but play music and argues that is what it all should be about.

Go to episode 476