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Adele, Kanye West, and the Future of Pop Music

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The Future of Pop Music
(RealClearLife Photo Illustration/Getty Images)


In the new, music issue of the New York Times Magazine, the publication sets out to produce the ultimate predictive listicle—a harbinger of things to come in the pop music world. And instead of using Spotify data or some other secret, in-house judging panel, the magazine picks the songs that are particularly “tied to people” or has a specific “identity.” Per the Times‘ Nitsuh Abebe: “Maybe decades ago you could aim your songs at a mass market, but music does not really have one of those anymore. Artists have to figure out whom they’re speaking to and where they’re speaking from. The rest of us do the same. For better or worse, it’s all identity now.” RealClearLife picked the 10 songs on the Times‘ list that we think will speak to you the best.

(1) Leonard Cohen, “You Want It Darker” – The title track of the late singer’s final album, the song was recorded in a synagogue and features his childhood cantor.


(2) Future, “Mask Off” – You can’t argue with a guy who just broke a record, landing back-to-back No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200. (Some of the lyrics are NSFW.)


(3) Pentatonix, “Jolene” – For those unfamiliar, the group gained fame by winning The Sing-Off, NBC’s short-lived, but much beloved, a cappella competition pitting vocal-only groups against one another. Did we mention they’ve won three Grammys? This cover of the great Dolly Parton’s signature song features Ms. Parton on the instrument-less track.


(4) Shirley Caesar, “Hold My Mule” – To paraphrase the Times, this is what happens when “gospel goes viral.” Just before Thanksgiving, DJ Suede the Remix G-d snatched an eight-second clip from the original and posted it online as a remix challenge. It became a social hit.


(5) James McMurtry, “Copper Canteen” – If that last name sounds familiar, it’s because the singer-songwriter’s father is novelist Larry McMurtry of Lonesome Dove fame. And where his father excelled on the page, the song does one better on the clef.


(6) Kanye West, “Fade” – Love him, hate him, whatever. Kanye West is one of the great talents out there right now. And it’s impossible not to notice. (Some of the lyrics are NSFW.)


(7) Lady Gaga, “Grigio Girls” – She did us right at the Super Bowl. Here, she gives you yet another reason to love her Madonna-esque pop.


(8) Charles Bradley, “Changes” – There’s nothing like a soul cover of a Black Sabbath classic from 1972’s Vol. 4.


(9) Mitski, “Your Best American Girl” – This Japanese-American indie darling made all the hipsters swoon with last year’s Puberty 2. But she ushers in a new “face” of indie music, one where Asian artists are sorely missing (see also: The Slants).


(10) Adele, “Send My Love (to Your New Lover)” – Look, we thought (wrongly) that the Grammys would at least split up the top prizes this year and give one of them to Beyoncé. And while it didn’t happen, Adele still paid tribute to her chart rival in her acceptance speech—and broke it in half.

Read the Times‘ full list here.