Leonard Cohen's Five Best Collaborations

Categories: Five Spot

Leonard Cohen in the "Closing Time" video
In honor of his 80th birthday this year, Leonard Cohen will release a new record of original material entitled Popular Problems next week. Both the album's title and its first single, "Almost Like the Blues," show the Canadian maestro firmly in his comfort zone, exactly where he should be. Nobody is really looking for an experimental album from Cohen 47 years into his recording career.

Still, the poet has shown that he doesn't need any frills to produce amazing record after amazing record. With so much material to look back on, it's hard to narrow down his greatest songs, so let's not even try. Instead, let's go over Cohen's best collaborations throughout the past near half-century.

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The "Swagger Wagon" & Other Great Rap Commercial Fails

Face it -- hip-hop has been commercialized for a very long time.

Hammer yukked it up on Saturday mornings with his own cartoon, 2Pac and Biggie shilled malt liquor, plenty of others have hawked FUBU and Lugz (I think Birdman still sells Lugz), and Ludacris pushed Pepsi (and pissed off Bill O'Reilly). Then of course there's anything regarding Macklemore, Iggy Azalea and more.

We've gone through some dire moments in commercial products being tossed hip-hop ideas and stances for product placement. None, however, may be able to top Busta Rhymes, the "Swagger Wagon" and the 2015 Toyota Sienna.

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Miguel's Billboard Stage Dive: Hulk Hogan-Approved, But the Best Ever?

Categories: Five Spot

Photo by Amanda J. Cain
Miguel on firmer footing, opening for Alicia Keys at Toyota Center in March 2013
In the Internet age, you become a sucker for things that happen instantly. There's no way around it. Everything that garners a reaction, whether positive or negative, will become meme'd and turned into a .gif. I'm pretty sure the more awkward moments of my life will be displayed in some pixelated form by my kids or whomever in 2032. When you become addicted, you're stuck until the next thing comes along.

That being said, all week I've been glued to Miguel's guillotine leg drop on a poor fan this past Sunday night at the Billboard Music Awards like the Zapuder film in JFK. I'm discovering new wrinkles, judging launch points and quoting "back, and to the left" like a madman.

It will rank as one of those weird moments where social media and live television made sweet beautiful love to one another, and I will forever raise questions and other thoughts about it, such as the following:

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5 Albums I'd Like to Read

A Dream About Jim.JPG
Novelize this, please.
I suppose it was inevitable that Rush wrote a book. To move from long-form albums with intricate plot-lines and involved character development to a multi-hundred-page novel with the same isn't really much of a leap, after all, and prog has always been at least a bit about bombast. What could be more bombastic than expecting a fan to sit through 66 minutes of music and 300 pages of the same story?

While it seems silly at first blush, it got me thinking about the nature of song. If you think about it, songs were stories first. The literary tradition arguably began with song, its melodies and rhyming verses acting as an aid to the re-telling of myth and history. Memorizing 600 words of prose? Painful. Memorizing a three minute song? I'm guessing you know how that goes.

With that in mind, it's clear that Rush just reversed the process, or turned it into a circle, with a story begetting a song begetting a story. If they can do it, certainly others can too. If you mix and match song writers and authors, I'm pretty sure you can come up with some pretty compelling work. Take these, for example:

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Walking Through the Five Stages of Grief with Ghostface Killah

Categories: Five Spot

This weekend, my father and I had a falling-out.

The specifics of the exchange will not advance the narrative in any meaningful way. You just need to know that he felt one way about something and I felt another way about that same thing, and we let each other know that neither agreed with the other. (Those are the basics behind every argument, as I'm given to understand it.)

Now, in a threatening situation, my immediate thought, the thing my brain just shouts over and over again, is "PUNCH, MOTHERFUCKER, PUNCH!" It's why I've been kicked out of the last three basketball leagues I played in (fighting, fighting and threatening to fight, in that order) and it's how I ended up assaulting that plastic ficus tree that one time. I guess maybe I should be regretful that it's that way, but I'm not. Whatever. Sorry.

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Go Slow: A New Houston Playlist for Your Drive to Work

Categories: Five Spot

For parents, it's hard to find a moment of peace.

Watching TV during the day? Please. Reading a book without interruptions that isn't about a gorilla that has to learn manners or whatthefuckever? Nope. Naps? Dude, forget that shit. I haven't slept during the day in five years. Best I've been able to do is sit still for a few minutes in a sort of open-eyed coma while my brain tries to figure out how my life went astray.

As such, I've come to cherish the incidental bits of quiet that happen during the day, including Car Time.

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Hey, Look: Chief Keef, Kanye, Future, 2 Chainz, Delo, Etc.

No dalliances, do wayward (and likely unrelated) anecdotes, no nothing. Just good, interesting music:

Chief Keef, "I Don't Like": There are some details* behind this song that might be interesting to, like, 80 people or so, but mostly this song is important because IT FUCKING ROCKS TITS. Plus, its spine, the acerbic claim "That's that shit I don't like" functions beautifully as quip, both in real life and on Twitter, the second of which might even be more important than the first, which is either really cool or really sad, depending on if you're my dad or not. Amar'e Stoudemire's braids? That's that shit I don't like. Wearing pants while I eat? That's that shit I don't like. So on and so on.

*The most compelling subplot: Kanye and 'dem made a remix that sucked. The producer of the original version took to Twitter to cut it up. It was the first time that Kanye ever looked so uncool. And it made me way sadder than I was anticipating. Ooh, since we're here....

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Devin the Dude Is Here to Satisfy You...and That's It

Categories: Five Spot

Hello. It's Friday. And Devin the Dude is alive. So let's celebrate.

This is "You'll Be Satisfied," the first single from his upcoming EP, Seriously Trippin. It just came out. There are no tricks here and there are no gimmicks here. It is simply a traditionally Devin track, which is just about the best thing it could be: ultra-mellow, unconcerned and beyond cool in its I'm-gonna-dick-you-downdom*.

*Note: In one of Devin's greater feats, he manages to make the line "I'm gonna get you, gonna stick it in you" sound nothing like the threat that it would be coming out of anyone else's mouth.

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The Time Imaginary Cheese Upended A Perfectly Fine Music Experiment

Categories: Five Spot

The original idea wasn't even that original, which is why it didn't work, I suppose.

In 2003, a ferociously cool writer named Rob Harvilla (Google him; he's a vocabularian superhero) wrote an article about how he played a Radiohead album for a group of fifth graders and then asked them to draw pictures while they listened to it.

Read it. It's smart and funny and fun.

I had intended to do the something similar, except I'd adjusted the premise slightly. Rather than using one group, I was going to use rap from different artists with noticeably different sounds, and rather than using fifth graders, I was going to use my four-year-old twin sons, and their friends, who are five, six and eight.

But it was a train wreck. The whole thing. All of it.

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What If? Five Potential Hosts For A Revamped Soul Train

Categories: Five Spot

soul train.jpg
The news of Don Cornelius' suicide earlier this week left many stunned and hurt, especially those who were fans of the legendary TV show Soul Train. Noted for being the alternative to American Bandstand, the show ran from 1971 to 2006 opening the doors to young performers and countless generations starring at Don and muttering "Love, Peace and Soul" right along with him.

Even though the show lost its spark once hip-hop began dominating pop culture in the '80s and early '90s, classic reruns air today on various programming. Still, it would be remiss without thinking - what would Soul Train if they decided to bring it back full time and who could carry the legacy of hosting it?

Here are the requirements to be the host of the revamped Soul Train. One, you have to have a connection to your audience that doesn't make you seem like a curmudgeon, or at least not like that In Living Color "Old Train" skit. Two, you sort of have to be young America goes for that stuff. Three, you can't be Ryan Secreast. Should be simple enough, right? Good.

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