by Lady Gaga
Context is everything. By itself on the radio, or in the acres of YouTube embeds that accompanied its release, "Born This Way" is an "Express Yourself" rip-off that hits everyone over the head with its It Gets Better message. It's loud and attention-getting, but as music it's nothing, or at least not enough. On the Grammy Awards, though, it was a perfect set piece, the choreography as pinpoint as Gaga's new alien shoulders, which some Fashion Week participant is incorporating into their new line right now. In short, spectacle trumps music, film at 11.
by Hercules & Love Affair
Context is everything. On Blue Songs, "My House" is one of only a couple respites from a series of mostly dull songs as well as some misfires (the "intense" piano-ballad version of Sterling Void's "It's Alright" is campy in a bad way) and an announcement at track two that things are going to be simpler in a circa-1987 Chicago-house way rather than the florid disco of H&LA's debut. Played in isolation, "My House" gets a little static—I put on "Falling," the album's other standout, a lot more—but the video improves everything tenfold, paying homage to Downtown Julie Brown–era TV dance/video shows, complete with pan-flash lighting, Cross Colours–gone-Basquiat patterned shirts, jacking dance moves, and just for its own sake, short ads for a Brooklyn dry cleaner and a Bronx chicken joint (en Español, of course).
by Bomba Estereo
No, no, no—don't cover a hit after your breakthrough single. Just don't. Trust me on this one—I'm a fan of Technotronic's "Pump Up the Jam," which this Colombian cumbia-dance-rock crew remakes. Maybe Bomba Estereo are hoping to bolster their festival-band bona fides by throwing something out there that everyone knows—anything to get people's attention while they're standing in line for personal pizzas. But this misfires in every way.
by Jennifer Hudson
During the Grammys, Hudson sounded far more comfortable extolling the virtues of Weight Watchers during the ad breaks than she did paying tribute to Aretha Franklin onstage, and it's not as if she has any apparent stage fright. This new single falls somewhere in between, but a lot more toward the latter: Hudson can make any sentiment sound purely technical and self-serious. Shouldn't you stop sounding like you're trying to win a talent show when you've already transcended the one you were on?