Around the Web: Opening Pandora's box, 50 Cent's sex toys and Kanye West thinks he's earned a Grammy or two

By Salon Staff
Published December 9, 2005 8:30PM (EST)

I've become hopelessly obsessed with Pandora. Part of the spookily named Music Genome Project, the Web site creates streaming "radio stations" inspired by your initial suggestion of an artist or song, allowing you, in theory, to "find and enjoy music that you'll love." While it might feel a little odd to have your treasured musical favorites reduced to such base elements as "mild rhythmic syncopation, mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation, major key tonality and a dynamic male vocalist," and while it is questionable how long you would want to listen to a broadcast of songs that all sound very similar, the most compelling element of Pandora is how scrupulously polite it is. "Sorry about that," it says when I object to its selection of Barenaked Ladies on my Gorky's Zygotic Mynci station, "we'll try something else and we'll never play that song again." It's all right, Pandora, it's not your fault. I forgive you. The Independent sets some indie-rock luminaries -- including Nina Persson of the Cardigans and Andy Burrows of Razorlight -- to work testing Pandora, and other "music discovery services," here.

Inspired by 50 Cent's announcement of a line of sex products themed around, well, himself, the Village Voice has some suggestions that the G-Unit mogul might wish to consider. These include "Gangsta Beads" and the "Tony Yayo Bucket Hat," an item described as "possibly the world's first sex toy headgear, designed such that, if in the middle of play you start to lose energy, just take off the bucket hat; hiding inside is an emergency sandwich." Fortunately, 50 already has some ideas of his own, including a 50 Cent condom and a vibrator he describes as "a motorized version of me." Which poses the question, what exactly does he mean by "me"? Is he referring to the part of him that a vibrator is intended to represent, or does he mean an actual miniature replica of his whole body? Either way, it's a terrifying image. But wait "My favorite color is blue, so it would probably be blue." Well, that sounds a little nicer, I suppose.

It's Grammy nomination time again. Obviously, the "big" news is that "The Holland/Dozier/Holland Story" will battle it out with "The Complete Library of Congress Recordings" in the coveted "Best Album Notes" award (category 88, Grammy fans), but Stereogum has a summary of the more obscure nominees, including those for "Album of the Year." Kanye West is in the running for the album prize, and he tells he's "gonna really have a problem" if he fails to bag the award. After railing against artists who "love everybody except themselves" (not a huge problem in hip-hop, one would think), the Carlton Banks of rap gives a modest assessment of his oeuvre's value: "So 'Jesus Walks' is not a classic? 'Roses' is not a classic? 'Gold Digger' wasn't song of the year?"

Dec. 8 was the 25th anniversary of the death of John Lennon in New York, and the Web is unsurprisingly host to countless tributes. You will no doubt already know whether you like the man's music, so instead consider his politics. In the interests of objectivity, here are two articles from the Guardian, one claiming that Lennon was a genuine radical thinker, and one arguing that he wasn't. Now decide for yourself with this recording of Lennon's seminal 1971 Rolling Stone interview with Jan Wenner, via BBC Radio 4.

December is also, of course, the time for music hacks across the Web and print worlds to indulge themselves with end-of-year "best" lists, possibly using this formula (via Brooklyn Vegan). Would-be list makers could do well to check out the effort of Said the Gramophone. There's nothing particularly cool or obscure about the selections, but each song is downloadable and comes with an elegant little commentary: "I can't shake the bra-na-na na na of the guitarline, [the] crooked vocals, the doubleclink of drums, the way the 'oh-oh' feels already like something I'll sing, ruefully, when I'm 60. And the chorus is but a stall, a sideways-dancin' intermission so that when we return to the verses, it's fresh as daisies in a coffeepot of water" (via Chromewaves). The above refers to "You Only Live Once," a cut off the forthcoming Strokes record, "First Impressions of Earth." The leak that found the entire album available on the Web this week has apparently been shored up, but those who can't wait till January can check out the live videos of new tracks from the band's recent comeback gig at the University of London here.

-- Matt Glazebrook

Salon Staff

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