The big apple

iTunes is still the answer
By MATT ASHARE  |  September 4, 2007
Bruce Springsteen
With his big, bearish presence and Buddha-like air of reflective certitude, Rick Rubin has been christened savior of the music industry as we’ve come to know it by the suits at Sony and the cover of last Sunday’s New York Times magazine. But even he has had to admit that Apple, with its pesky iPods and ubiquitous iTunes, is already miles ahead of the big labels. Sure enough, if you’re looking to download the first single from Foo Fighters’ forthcoming Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, a new Beck single just weeks from the mastering plant, a free taste of the hotly hyped soul chanteuse Ledisi, or the first track from Magic, Springsteen’s new album with the E Street Band (slated for an October release), iTunes is still the answer.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, “Radio Nowhere”
After the solo introspection of Devils & Dust and the history lesson of The Seeger Session, the Boss snuck back into the studio with his old Asbury Park pals, and if the stoic yet celebratory anthem “Radio Nowhere,” with its perfectly placed sax solo and ringing guitars, is any indication, Magic is a full-on return to the arena grandeur of Springsteen’s best E Street Band recordings. “I just wannna hear some rhythm,” Bruce despairs. If there’s irony here, it’s that the song verges on a critique of the very technology he’s now using as a promotional tool.

Foo Fighters, “The Pretender”
In this typical Foo rocker with hyperactive guitars and pounding drums (is that Grohl behind the kit?), the ever emotionally embattled Grohl hangs a mundane hook that rhymes “pretender” with “never surrender” for no apparent reason on one of those irresistible melodies that you’ll find yourself humming even if you’re not quite sure what the hell he’s talking about. Lighten the mood by playing dress-up in one of those Spike Jonze spoof videos and it’ll be on its way to heavy rotation, if radio stations are still playing music in October.

Beck, “Timebomb”
“I’ll suck a headphone,” Beck yells (I think) at the start of this droning techno groove of a tune, which is replete with a chorus of “na, na, na, na” girls going “tick, tick, tick, tick” in the background as he just repeats “We gotta a time bomb.” Hard to call this forward thinking, but Beck is one of those artists who seems incapable of backsliding. Hell, even if the rest of the album is just him running in place the way he does here, it won’t be a disappointment.

Ledisi, “Alright” (single version)
Like Angie Stone and Jill Scott, this New Orleans–bred singer was raised on R&B — old-school R&B. She may be updating it here with a smooth electronic groove, but it’s still full of soul as she worries over making ends meet and not giving up because, well, it’s gonna be “Alright.” Yeah, with lines like “I just wanna run and hide,” it’s a bit on the formulaic side, but it’s the good formula. And Ledisi’s slow, steady rise out of San Francisco clubs to a contract with Verve is proof that Rick Rubin may be onto something with his new “word of mouth” marketing strategy for Columbia.
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