Smart Pick of the Week/Forever:

Mad Men

Thank you, Matthew Weiner.

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A Smart Playlist to Kick Off 2015

Wait, it’s 2015?? But that’s the year Back to the Future 2 features flying skateboards! Here are the songs I’ve been enjoying since 2015 began – some overlapping 2014 just a bit. Here’s hoping this year gives us more weird mega-pop like Sia, under-the-radar folk like First Aid Kit, and irresistible fabulousity like Stromae. And maybe less blinkered tackiness pretending to be “Fancy.” (Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars are a decent start, wouldn’t you agree?)

Jam on:

Raf Rundell and Joe Goddard’s boldly bizarre second album folds time and space; you can travel from the streets of South Africa to 1970s London clubs and back again while listening. This is their most straight-up pop song and I can’t stop gyrating.

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Smart Reads: Jack Smart Edition #3

Bylines are not clickable on Backstage unfortunately, so these little updates are the best way to check out what I’ve been up to writing-wise. Do what I do when browsing a writer’s body of work: spend 4.3 seconds scanning for juicy buzzwords, and click what tickles your fancy. Here we go!

Michele Martin of NPR, Henry David Hwang, Lydia Diamond, Kristoffer Diaz

Photo source: Janice Yi/NPR

Smart Pick of the Day: T-Pain’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert

Wow.

I have long been a fan of the great T-Pain, king of auto-tune and creator of the best song no one’s ever heard of. But for some reason it never occurred to me that the guy could actually sing:

Yeah. All the hairs on my arm are sticking straight up too.

I guess I assumed – I’m sorry, T-Pain, truly I am – that the use of auto-tune has always been a bit of a crux. Now it seems auto-tune was just the guy’s thing, a branding method. This performance at NPR Music’s tiniest of desks was, from what I understand, completely unplanned. So T-Pain has accidentally set the internet on fire with the grand epiphany of his gorgeous, soulful voice, and must now face the question: why not try getting rid of the auto-tune altogether? What if T-Pain were to re-brand?? He could fill the hole in the pop music industry that douchebag Cee-Lo left behind!

Smart Pick of the Day: Sia (again)

I know, I know, I’ve already fawned over her enough. But this video! This video!!!!

She is serving intense partygirl existentialism and I am HERE FOR IT. If you listen really closely, you can hear Pink weeping somewhere, watching this on repeat. (I’m trying to think of other pop stars operating at this level or with a similar aesthetic. Lily Allen? Riri? Lana? You know Sia + Stromae would be amazing.) This little girl is so ferocious and beautiful and disturbing, and you just know Sia was right there behind the camera, feeding her all that bizarro energy.

Robyn, gurl, you better bring it.

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Smart Pick of the Day: Stromae

I’m just gonna leave this here:

This guy should come to America to teach pop stars how to turn their music videos into social commentary that is simultaneously high-concept and le supercool. Or at the very least, give everyone a dance lesson, no?

(And yeah, you’re going to want to check out Stromae’s equally mind-blowing “Papaoutai” and his international sensation “Allors on danse.” C’est incroyable.)