"In pop music, normalcy is a commodity of fluctuating value, and its scarcity, like the gold that is electro-sprayed onto million-selling records, is manufactured—controlled and varied to suit the conditions of the market. Every phase in popular music calls for its own measure of apparent ordinariness: hayloads of it during the folk-music craze, considerably less of it in the disco era, more in the days of punk and grunge, and not so much in the extravagant luxury hip-hop of Kanye and Jay-Z, or in the high pop theater of Lady Gaga. This year the biggest star on the music charts is the English singer Adele, whose staggering popularity is rooted squarely in her image as both an extraordinary musician and the world’s most ordinary person. “In England I’m thought of as common as muck,” she said in an interview with The Sun, and she has nurtured that mode of thought successfully, flawlessly, while rising to the most rarefied strata of musical stardom. Adele has brought into line the fine-weight prices of muck and gold.”

- David Hajdu on Music: Billboard Goddesses

Photo courtesy of Reuters

What musical act’s name leaves you wondering, is that a singer or a band?

"When I posted the video of the song “Oblivion” here, a few weeks ago, I called a music-head colleague of mine and asked him what he thought of Grimes, who wrote and recorded the tune and is featured in the video. “I think they’re overrated,” said my friend, without knowing a thing about what he was talking about. I don’t blame him for confusing the professional name of Claire Boucher, the Canadian singer-songwriter, with the name of a band. (Though Grimes could easily be a performer’s surname, as it is for the English actor Tammy.) Grimes is sometimes compared with St. Vincent, which is the adopted name of the New York-based singer-songwriter Annie Clark, and St. Vincent sounds something like a band name, too. Both of them are carrying on a tradition established in indie rock a few years ago by Iron and Wine (Sam Beam), Bon Iver (Justin Vernon), and Nine Inch Nails (Trent Reznor), the last two of which (or whom) record as one-man-bands but tour under the same name with other musicians. This is a tradition with links to hip-hop, where professional identities have always had the quality of street names and graffiti tags. Now, the practice is blossoming in pop and rock, where, over the past few months, I’ve heard new music by a wave of emerging solo artists: Secondhand Serenade (John Vesely), Anchors (David Black), Field Report (Chris Porterfield), and Dirty Beaches (Alex Zhang Hungtai)."

- David Hajdu, Is That a Singer or a Band?

Photo courtesy of Blah Blah Blah