26 Iconic VMA Performances You’ll Remember Forever

Originally posted on BuzzFeed.com

In the midst of one of the craziest award shows of the year, let’s remember the greats.

1. Britney Spears – “I’m A Slave 4 U,” 2001 VMAs

A true goddess walked among us that day, and still walks among us today. We were blessed with this snake performance, and the world WILL NEVER FORGET.

2. Justin Timberlake – Vanguard Award Performance, 2013

In a single moment, the entire world collectively sobbed at the glorious reunion of NSYNC. And JT was serving dance moves for days.

3. Mariah Carey – “Shake It Off” / “We Belong Together,” 2005

Anthems of the year and the century, TBH.

4. Beyoncé – “Ring The Alarm,” 2006

Beyoncé *literally* fights the police in this performance. She gave tooth and nail to serve you desperate housewife realness.

5. Guns N’ Roses featuring Elton John – “November Rain,” 1992

OK honestly just look at this collaboration. HONESTLY.

6. Lady Gaga – “Paparazzi,” 2009

Classic Gaga at her best. The voice, the costumes, the blood dripping from her eyes. EVERYTHING.

7. Shakira – “Hips Don’t Lie,” 2006

The hips that launched a thousand ships and a thousand memes.

8. Britney Spears and NSYNC – “Baby One More Time” / “Tearin’ Up My Heart,” 1999

This changed us all in a matter of minutes. Serving metallic pants, killer hair, and boy band outfits, Britney and the boys destroyed lives with this performance.

9. Drake – “Hold On, We’re Going Home” / “Started From the Bottom,” 2013

Admit it, you cried from enjoyment and sexual frustration. YAAAS, AUBREY.

10. Christina Aguilera – “Come On Over” / “Livin’ It Up,” 2000

The purple tips, the dance break, and Fred Durst? This is so ’00s it hurts. It hurts sooooo good.

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Listen to ‘Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz’ Album

'Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz art

Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz is the 23-track fruit of her collaboration with Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne, and also features Ariel Pink. Big Sean and Mike Will Made It, among others.

Cyrus spoke to the New York Times about the album, telling of Coyne’s influence on her work. “He’s everything in the world – you can’t even define us,” she said.

The album cost around $50,000 to make. She added that she didn’t expect to return completely to the mainstream. “I don’t think I’ll grow that way,” she said. “It seems like it would be backwards.”

Taylor Swift And Lisa Kudrow Sang ‘Smelly Cat’ Onstage And All is Right in the World

For her fifth show at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Swift and Kudrow sang a simple, but beloved song of a smelly cat.

Taylor introduced the song, “This singer, she’s only ever played in coffee houses before. She’s never played in a big venue like this so please make her feel welcome. Her name is Phoebe Buffay.”

Watch below

Dead & Company- Grateful Dead and John Mayer- Announce US Tour

Grateful Dead band members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann have teamed with John Mayer, Allman Brothers’ Oteil Burbridge and Ratdog keyboardist Jeff Chimenti to form Dead & Company. The supergroup/reunion has now revealed a full fall and winter tour schedule.

Dead & Company 2015 Tour Dates:
10/29 – Albany, NY @ Times Union Center
10/31 – New York, NY @ Madison Square Garden
11/01 – New York, NY @ Madison Square Garden
11/05 – Philadelphia, PA @ Wells Fargo Center
11/06 – Washington, DC @ Verizon Center
11/10 – Worcester, MA @ DCU Center
12/27 – San Francisco, CA @ Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
12/28 – San Francisco, CA @ Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
12/30 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Forum
12/31 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Forum

Tickets go on sale August 28th, with America Express pre-sales beginning on the 26th.

Disclosure Wants To Be Bigger Than Dance Music

Some artists consistently excel at one thing, while others churn through disparate phases over the course of a career. With their ambitious, pop-oriented second album, the electronic music wunderkinds of Disclosure declare themselves members the latter group. But will massive dance crowds still be moved?

Originally Posted on BuzzFeed

Guy and Howard Lawrence, who started making electronic music as Disclosure when they were still in their teens, settled on the genre for the same reason that many teenagers choose their extracurricular activities: They wanted to do what would make them seem cool. The two brothers from the London suburb of Surrey, now 24 and 21, respectively, come from a musical family — their father was a guitarist in rock bands in the ‘80s and their mother sang jingles and performed on cruises — but it was the avant-garde music of London clubs in the late ‘00s (Burial, Joy Orbison) that first gave shape to their own artistic ambitions.

“If we were going to write songs together, we were just looking for the freshest way to present them,” Guy, who is clean-shaven and extroverted, told me recently when I visited him and Howard, who is aloof with a scruffy beard, at a tony, high-rise hotel in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. Both brothers started playing instruments as children — Guy the drums and Howard the bass — and share an easy and quietly intimate bond reminiscent of twins. “I would go to these clubs in the early days of dubstep and it was just the most exciting thing happening at the moment, like nothing you’d ever heard.”

Disclosure’s 2013 debut album, Settle, drew from the astral, moody music of the London underground but pushed it toward the light, using the more immediately gratifying tempos of house music and incorporating pop vocals. The result, a 14-song instant party featuring a catch-a-rising-star roster of vocalists including Jessie Ware, AlunaGeorge, and a then-unknown Sam Smith, made the Lawrence brothers vastly more successful than their heroes, and established them as the babyfaced darlings of an international dance music revival. Settle sold 1.6 million albums worldwide, generated over 300 million streams on Spotify, and was nominated for a Grammy (its biggest single “Latch,” featuring Smith, cracked the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified triple platinum).

Partly to reconcile with their heterogeneous musical upbringing, and partly to leapfrog a wave of soundalikes that rode in on their wake, the Lawrences decided to recalibrate on their new album, Caracal, out Sept. 25 from Capitol. They wanted to prove that they could make not just great dance music, but great music, period.

“We didn’t grow up listening to house,” says Guy, citing his and his brother’s pre-club love of Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. “Even though we love it, we know loads of different types of music and there are still loads of different things we want to try.”

Caracal eschews the handful of sample-based floor-fillers like “When A Fire Starts To Burn” and “Grab Her!” that gave Settle its crackling heat, replacing them with wall-to-wall, verse-chorus pop songs made in studio with singer-songwriters like The Weeknd, Lorde, and Miguel. The collection is an impressive achievement by any measure, but, as Disclosure readies for its biggest shows to date at New York’s Madison Square Garden and the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena this fall, the album’s slower tempo may befuddle fans who were primarily in it for the party. That’s OK with the Lawrences. “We make music very selfishly,” Guy says.

You have a rule on your albums that you only work with artists who you can physically get into a studio with, which is not the way that a lot of contemporary music is made. Why is that so important?

Guy Lawrence: Yeah, we don’t ever send beats to anyone. If people want to write a song with us, than we have to meet up. That’s how we do it. It’s important to us because of the way we write. Loads of producers make beats and stuff but they don’t write lyrics and they don’t write toplines [melodies and lyrics], whereas we do, so it’s like if we want the singer on the track, we don’t want to just tell them what to sing, but we don’t want to just let them decide what to sing either, we want to do it together. I think doing it over email or doing it over the internet works for some people, but it doesn’t work for us. You lose that soul that we try and get in our music, that sort of classic songwriting that’s produced in a fresh way.

How do you choose who you invite to collaborate?

Howard Lawrence: We don’t just look for people who are good singers, we look for people who are good writers and nice people as well. We won’t work with people with a big ego or anything, we just wouldn’t get on. To us it makes no difference if someone’s big or small. We’ve got Sam Smith, and Lorde, and The Weekend, but we’ve also got Jordan Rakei, who’s got 400 followers on Twitter.

Guy: I think he’s got quite a lot now, actually, like 20,000. [Editor’s note: It’s a little over 4,000 as of late August.] But yeah, relatively unknown. We’ve got people like Kwabs and Nao, who haven’t released full albums yet; we’re all about supporting acts like that. Because they’re just hungry, you know, they wanna work. They just wanna give and give. Sometimes if you work with big stars, they’re just there and you tell them what to sing. That’s not what we’re about. But acts like The Weeknd, and Lorde, and Sam, and Miguel, they’re all still so hungry.

Lorde’s a great example. We knew she was a great singer and we knew she was lovely as a person, but we didn’t know she was such an incredible writer. When we did this collab, she was so involved in every little thing. Not just the lyrics and the melody, but after we’d finished the song we sent it to her and she sent us this big list of stuff she wanted to change and all these little details you can’t hear in the lyrics, in the drums or in the synths. It’s cool. She pushed the song an extra 10%. It was the only time we’ve ever really done that with an artist, they usually kind of leave the production to us.

A lot of mainstream electronic music sounds like Settle now. It seems like if you turn on the radio in the U.K., everything is “deep house.” How did you approach following that up?

Guy: We just did what we wanted to, really. When we made the last album, people now look at it and say, ‘Oh yeah, that brought house music back to the radio.’ Especially in the U.K., it brought forward all of these acts. But when we made it, that wasn’t its purpose — we just wrote music that we like. Now that house music’s back, it would be very predictable to make a solid album of just house. Why would we do that when we’ve already done it? The purpose is just to push things forward. We always want to do something forward-thinking and challenge ourselves.

Howard: That’s the main thing. It’s not like we’re pushing forward the scene. We don’t set off when we’re writing a song to push the scene forward, we’re just pushing ourselves. We want to outdo what we’ve already done.

“We’re just doing what we want, and it’s like, come with us if you want to hear it.”

Guy: You hear house music on the radio all the time now and that’s great, I’m glad the record helped to bring that forward. But now that’s done, let’s try something else. Let’s bring R&B back [laughs]. It’s only when you look back at what you’ve done, that’s when we realized, Oh that’s what it was for. We don’t really know what it was for, we just write music.

Another thing to remember is all this music on the radio as well, these house songs that are getting to number one or whatever and then they just disappear. They’re all kind of one-hit wonders. The artists behind them, 99% of them aren’t going to put an album out next or whatever. They’re just getting signed and getting played on the radio thanks to these big hits they’ve just made. I think people respect the fact that we’re an album act and a live act. We’re here to stay. We’re not just delivering what the radio wants at that time. We’re just doing what we want and it’s like, come with us if you want to hear it.

The album format seems to come to you guys naturally, but many great dance music artists never make great albums.

Guy: If you’re a producer or especially if you’re a DJ, you don’t need to write an album. You can get bookings forever — just release a couple of EPs a year, put a song up here and there, you can get any DJ bookings. And that’s fine. But the songwriting for us is what’s important. It doesn’t matter if it’s dance music or not, it could be any format. We just enjoy writing songs.

Howard: I think the majority of dance music producers come to it because they start DJing. That’s how that get into dance music; they become DJs and then think “Oh, I can make some tracks to play in my set.” Whereas we came to it from a musicians point of view, as did someone like James Blake, you know. He found dance music later in his life, and you come to it with a different perspective on the whole thing.

Guy: It’s a very different way of getting into it and it effects massively what you make, and I’m still yet to meet someone who had the same exact background that we have, being a drummer and a bassist and listening to all that and then just getting into dance music and that’s the genre you get into. It’s definitely rare.

There are more midtempo moments on Caracal.

Guy: Yeah. There’s a bigger tempo range, and if you took an average of all of it, it would be a bit slower. Probably around 110 BPM.

One of the consequences of that, though, is maybe you don’t have the same huge, cathartic dance-floor moment on every song on the album.

Guy: Maybe. But I think when I watch a live act… When I watch a DJ, I get it — it’s gotta be the same. You want the beats to maintain [a certain tempo]. But when you watch us, we’re like a band. [In Disclosure’s live show, Guy plays an electronic drum kit, while Howard plays bass and keyboard]. We play a song and we stop and we have a chat and we play a song and we stop. It’s nice to have those peaks and troughs in a show. You don’t go watch a band play like [gestures as if drumming in a tight, rapid-fire pattern] the whole time. They do a jam, they slow it down, they speed it up. We wanna be more like that, you know?

Howard: Everything that we do, everything that we do, except for having electronic drums, is like things that a band would do. The only thing that makes us perceived as dance music is electronic instruments. I think as a songwriter, forgetting the production aspect of it, it would be such an obscure thing to only write at one tempo for your whole career. Songwriters don’t do that. Imagine if every song on Thriller was exactly the same tempo. You need the freedom to change tempos so that you can do different melodies.

Does it concern you, though? The fact that you might evolve in a way that alienates you from big dance crowds?

“The only thing that makes us perceived as dance music is that we use electronic instruments.”

Guy: No, no.

Howard: No, it’s something that we really respect in other bands. All of my favorite acts ever have made an album at some point that I didn’t like. And that’s because to be really innovative and make really good music you have to just try different stuff. It’s like Prince — he’s one of the most prolific songwriters ever. He’s made some of my favorite songs ever. But some of his records I don’t like at all. And that’s great. For someone to have that versatility I think is great.

Howard, one of your songs from the album, “Jaded,” is about electronic acts who use ghostwriters and ghost producers, which happens to be a hot-button issue at the moment. What did you make of the Drake/Meek Mill situation?

Howard: I’ve only just started reading about it. Meek said Drake doesn’t write his own rhymes?

Yes.

Howard: I think working with people is fine, but if it gets to the point where you’re basically paying someone else to do your job, that’s just kind of stupid. Especially for producers. When they’re not singing it, writing it, or producing it, it’s like, well what have you done? You haven’t done anything.

Guy: If [Drake’s] not doing any of it, that kinda sucks. But if he’s crediting that guy, if he’s doing interviews like this and talking about it, cool. We work with loads of artists and with [songwriter and Sam Smith collaborator] Jimmy Napes, but we mention Jimmy in like every interview and big him up. I just think when it gets covered up, it’s a bit sad. I love Drake, though. That new fucking cell phone tune [“Hotline Bling”] is just sick.

Howard, you’re a singer and a songwriter; and Guy, you’re primarily a producer. Could you see yourselves pursuing those things separately at any point?

Howard: Yeah, we do to a certain extent anyway. Guy’s produced for some hip-hop artists and I did some writing on Sam’s album and with Lianne La Havas. But I think all of the stuff that we’d like to do separately is so different from Disclosure that we’ll always do Disclosure and just do that stuff as well. I don’t think there would ever be a need for Disclosure to stop.

Guy: It’d be later down the line, as well. Probably when we’ve run out of ideas for ourselves we’ll just start giving them to someone else [laughs]. It’s definitely something we’d like to do, for sure. There’s loads of stuff out there. Classical music, for instance, or I’d love to write some music for a film — stuff like that. But I wanna do that from my nice house in the country.

The Weeknd Premieres Video for “Tell Your Friends”

With just a few days until his album Beauty Behind the Madness drops, The Weeknd debuts a video for the Kanye West-produced “Tell Your Friends.”

In the video, the crooner is seen burying a man in the desert, but upon closer inspection, it appears to be himself.

“Tell Your Friends” comes from The Weeknd’s hotly anticipated Beauty Behind the Madness which drops on August 28th.

Taylor Swift Performs With Uzo Aduba

During her Saturday night show at the Staples Center in Los Angeles,Taylor sat down for an acoustic performance of her song “White Horse,” with Uzo Aduba. The “Orange is the New Black” actress joined Swift on stage once before in July, along with a #squad of supermodels.

Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Songwriters 10-1

rolling stone

 

See Part 1Part 2,Part 3Part 4, Part 5Part 6, Part 7Part 8 and Part 9

10- Stevie Wonder

“I feel there is so much through music that can be said,” Wonder once observed, and the songs he’s been writing for a half-century have more than lived up to that idea. Whether immersing himself in social commentary (“Higher Ground,” “Living for the City”), unabashed sentimentality (“You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” “I Just Called to Say I Love You”), jubilant love (“Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours”) or gritty disses (“You Haven’t Done Nothin'”), Wonder has consistently tapped into the sum of human emotions and happenings. He was already writing his own songs as a childhood prodigy at Motown during the Sixties (including the 1966 smash “Uptight (It’s Alright).”

As he hit his artistic stride on albums like 1972’s Talking Book and 1973’s Innervisions, he used the recording studio as his palette to create groundbreaking works of soulful self-discovery. “Like a painter, I get my inspiration from experiences that can be painful or beautiful,” he has said. “I always start from a feeling of profound gratitude — you know, ‘Only by the grace of God am I here’— and write from there. Most songwriters are inspired by an inner voice and spirit.” Combined with melodies that can be jubilant, funky or simply gorgeous, Wonder’s songs are so enduring that they’ve been covered by everyone from Sinatra to the Backstreet Boys.

9- Joni Mitchell

Mitchell came out of the coffee-shop folk culture of the Sixties, and she became the standard bearing star of L.A.’s Laurel Canyon scene. But her restless brilliance couldn’t be confined to one moment or movement. She began with songs that only by her later standards seemed simple: “Clouds,” “Both Sides Now,” “Big Yellow Taxi.” But then, banging on her acoustic guitar in startling ways or playing modernist melodies at the piano, she unfurled starkly personal lyrics that pushed beyond “confessional” songwriting towards an almost confrontational intimacy and rawness. “When I realized how popular I was becoming, it was right before Blue,” she recalled, in reference to her 1971 masterpiece. “I went, ‘Oh my God, a lot of people are listening to me.

Well then they better find out who they’re worshiping. Let’s see if they can take it. Let’s get real.’ So I wrote Blue, which horrified a lot of people, you know.” Mitchell’s run of albums from 1970’s Ladies of the Canyon to 1974’s Court and Spark, on which she perfected a jazz-bent studio pop, rival any streak of record-making in pop history, and her lyrical depictions of the ecstasy and heartbreak that came with being a strong woman availing herself of the sexual independence of the Sixties and Seventies offer a unique emotional travelogue of the era. “I had no personal defenses,” she said of her writing at the time. “I felt like a cellophane rapper on a pack of cigarettes.”

8- Paul Simon

If Paul Simon’s career had ended with the breakup of Simon & Garfunkel in 1970, he would still have produced some of the most beloved songs ever – including “The Sound of Silence,” “Mrs. Robinson,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” But Simon was just getting started. The quintessential New York singer-songwriter, he switches between styles effortlessly with as much attention to rhythm as melody, a rare quality among artists who came of age in the folk era. Over the decades, his music has incorporated Tin Pan Alley tunecraft, global textures, gentle acoustic reveries, gospel, R&B and electronic music, all without diluting his core appeal as an easeful chronicler of everyday alienation.

Whether he’s operating on a large scale summing up our shared national commitments in 1973’s “American Tune,” or writing a finely wrought personal reflection on lost love like 1986’s “Graceland,” the same wit and literary detail come through. For the generation that came of age during the Sixties and Seventies, he rivaled Bob Dylan in creating a mirror for their journey from youthful innocence to complicated adulthood. “One of my deficiencies is my voice sounds sincere,” Simon told Rolling Stone in 2012. “I’ve tried to sound ironic. I don’t. I can’t. Dylan, everything he sings has two meanings. He’s telling you the truth and making fun of you at the same time. I sound sincere every time.”

7- Carole King/Carole King and Gerry Goffin

Goffin and King were pop’s most prolific songwriting partnership –and, even more impressively, they kept their winning streaks going even after their marriage split up. With King handling melodies and Goffin the lyrics, the two former Queens College schoolmates worked a block away from the Brill Building and wrote many of professional songwriting’s most evocative songs: tracks like “Up on the Roof,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” and “One Fine Day” that were tender snapshots of the adolescent experience. “When Paul and I first got together, we wanted to be the British Goffin and King,” John Lennon once said. As a solo act after their divorce, King gave voice to a generation of women who were establishing their own lives and identities in the Seventies; her 1971 masterpiece Tapestry remains one of the biggest-selling albums ever.

Goffin, meanwhile, supplied the lyrics for a string of hits including Diana Ross’s “Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To),” Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love for You,” and Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “I’ve Got to Use My Imagination.” For them, there’s nothing crass, and everything earnest, about the art of the pop song. “Once I start to create a song, even if commerce is the motivation, I’m still going to try to write the best song and move people in a way that touches them,” King has said. “People know when you do that. They know that there’s an emotional connection, even if it’s commercial.”

6- Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards defined a rock song’s essential components – nasty wit, an unforgettable riff, an explosive chorus – and established a blueprint for future rockers to follow. Their work was at once primal and complex, charged by conflict, desire and anger, and unafraid to be explicit about it musically or lyrically. They wrote personal manifestos with political dimensions like “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and “Get Off My Cloud”; they brooded on the tumult of the Sixties with “Gimme Shelter” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”; they detailed the connections between societal evil and the individual (and made it rock) with “Brown Sugar” and “Sympathy for the Devil.” And sometimes –”Start Me Up,” “Rip This Joint” – they just kicked the doors in and burned the house down.

One of the many, many things Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have disagreed about over the years is how their songwriting partnership got started. Keith has steadfastly claimed that manager Andrew Loog Oldham locked them in a kitchen until they emerged with “As Tears Go By,” while Jagger says the pressure was merely verbal: “He did mentally lock us in a room, but he didn’t literally lock us in.” Like Lennon/McCartney, Jagger and Richards didn’t always write together – “Happy” was all Keith, while “Brown Sugar” all Mick. But both men had a hand in most of the Stones’ hits. “I think it’s essential,” Jagger once told Rolling Stone of the idea of partnership. “People. . .like partnerships because they can identify with the drama of two people in partnership. They can feed off a partnership, and that keeps people entertained. Besides, if you have a successful partnership, it’s self-sustaining.”

5- Smokey Robinson

“Smokey Robinson was like God in our eyes,” Paul McCartney once said. The melodic and lyrical genius behind Motown’s greatest hits is the most influential and innovative R&B tunesmith of all time. Robinson was an elegant, delicate singer and poetic writer whose songs brought new levels of nuance to the Top 40. The son of a truck driver raised in what he called “the suave part of the slums,” Robinson had his first hit in 1960 with the Miracles’ “Shop Around” and went onto pen the Temptations’ “My Girl” and “Get Ready,” Mary Wells’ “My Guy,” the Marvelettes’ “Don’t Mess With Bill,” Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t That Peculiar” and many more.

With the Miracles, he had his hand in more than a dozen Top 20 hits (including “The Tracks of My Tears” and “I Second That Emotion”), songs that describe heartbreak with stunning turns of phrase: “Sweetness was only heartache’s camouflage/The love I saw in you was just a mirage,” he rhymed in 1967. Though Bob Dylan’s famous quote calling Smokey “the greatest living poet” might actually be apocryphal, everyone believed it for decades because the songs backed it up perfectly. “My theory of writing is to write a song that has a complete idea and tells a story in the time allotted for a record,” he told Rolling Stone in 1968. “It has to be something that really means something, not just a bunch of words on music.”

4- Chuck Berry

He was rock & roll’s first singer-songwriter, and the music’s first guitar hero, as well. Berry was a Muddy Waters fan who quickly learned the power of his own boundary-crossing “songs of novelties and feelings of fun and frolic” when he transformed a country song, “Ida Red,” into his first single, “Maybellene,” a Top Five pop hit. His songs were concise and mythic, celebrating uniquely American freedoms – fast cars in “Maybellene,” class mobility in “No Money Down,” the country itself in “Back in the U.S.A.” – or protesting their denial in coded race parables like “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” and “Promised Land,” which he wrote while in jail inspired by the freedom marches, consulting an almanac for the route.

Bob Dylan based the meter of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” on “Too Much Monkey Business,” Mick Jagger and Keith Richards soaked up the idea of no satisfaction from “30 Days,” and John Lennon once summed up his immeasurable impact by saying, “If you gave rock & roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry.”

3- John Lennon

John Lennon’s command of songwriting was both absolute and radically original: that was clear from his earliest collaborations with Paul McCartney, which revolutionized not just music, but the world. “They were doing things nobody was doing,” Bob Dylan once remembered of a drive through Colorado when the Beatles ruled the radio. “I knew they were pointing the direction where music had to go.” That meant first reconnecting pop music to the awesome power of early rock & roll – Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Little Richard – then pushing forward with darker, more personal music like “Hard Day’s Night” and “In My Life” that stretched the boundaries of the capabilities of pop, and then diving into the avant garde with music that had only existed in his dreams: “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “A Day in the Life,” “Revolution #9.”

No one better rendered the complexity of personal life or global politics, or better connected the two, than Lennon during his solo career in universal songs like “Watching the Wheels” and “Imagine.” “I’m interested in something that means something for everyone,” he told Rolling Stone in 1970, “not just for a few kids listening to wallpaper.”

2- Paul McCartney

“I’m in awe of McCartney,” Bob Dylan told Rolling Stone in 2007. “He’s about the only one that I’m in awe of.” Sir Paul is pop’s greatest melodist, with a bulging songbook that includes many of the most-performed and best-loved tunes of the past half-century. McCartney has always had a much broader range than silly love songs. He’s the weirdo behind “Temporary Secretary” and the feral basher behind “Helter Skelter.” But part of what he brought to the Beatles was his passion for the wit and complexity of pre-rock songwriting, from Fats Waller to Peggy Lee.

“Even in the early days we used to write things separately, because Paul was always more advanced than I was,” John Lennon once said. Songs like “Yesterday” and “Let It Be” became modern standards, and post-Beatles, McCartney led Wings to six Number One hits, among them “Band on the Run” and “Listen to What the Man Said.” “The truth is the problem’s always been the same, really,” he said earlier this year. “When you think about it, when you’re writing a song, you’re always trying to write something that you love and the people will love.”

1- Bob Dylan

Dylan’s vision of American popular music was transformative. No one set the bar higher, or had greater impact. “You want to write songs that are bigger than life,” he wrote in his memoir, Chronicles. “You want to say something about strange things that have happened to you, strange things you have seen.” Dylan himself saw no difference between modern times and the storied past – reading about the Civil War helped him understand the Sixties –which allowed him to rewire folk ballads passed down through generations into songs that both electrified the current moment and became lasting standards. Early songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind” became hits for others –Peter, Paul & Mary took it Number Two on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1963; Stevie Wonder brought it Number Nine two years later – and reshaped the ambitions of everyone from the Beatles to Johnny Cash.

Then Dylan began to climb the charts on his own with music that turned pop into prophecy: “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Positively Fourth Street,” “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” His personas shifted, but songs like “Tangled Up in Blue,” “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and “Forever Young” continued to define their eras in lasting ways. And alone among his peers Dylan’s creativity was ceaseless –2000’s Love and Theft returned him to a snarling sound that rivaled his electric youth, marking a renaissance that continues unabated. “A song is like a dream, and you try to make it come true,” Dylan wrote. “They’re like strange countries that you have to enter.” And so we do, marveling at the sights, over and over again.