Pop & Hiss
The L.A. Times music blog
How BET's '106 & Park' shaped a teen's life

As a black teenager with an affinity for pop music but raised on R&B and hip-hop, I considered BET’s “106 & Park” essential viewing. 

Before “106 & Park” -- which ended a remarkable 14-year run on Friday -- arrived in 2000, MTV’s wildly popular “Total Request Live” was the go-to after-school fix.

The MTV show was a can’t miss for a kid who fully subscribed to everything percolating out of the great teen-pop explosion toward the end of the millennium. Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Mandy Moore, 98 Degrees, Jessica Simpson -- "TRL" fed my insatiable love of pop hooks and sleek videos. 

But something was always missing. When “106 & Park” arrived, I knew what had been absent.

By then, BET had already been in the business of spinning videos. The station even had a sassy virtual reality character who served up videos with a constant dose of shade on “Cita’s World” (BET still doesn’t get credit for the ground it broke there). Before that, “Video Soul” served as my...

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Randall Roberts Music Awards 2014: 100 trophy moments

Each year critics scour the volumes of music to try and whittle all those sounds down to just ten albums that they consider to be the best of the year. We all know that's ridiculous. No one can hear everything, and any serious music fan will tell you that their favorite music changes from day to day, mood to mood, setting to setting. 

This is especially true considering music is more untethered than ever. Sounds come not just when we're sitting in front of the computer with headphones on, or working out, or putting on a record and sitting down to listen to it. It nails us when we're flipping channels, when we're reading, when we're running errands and scanning the dial.

Here are 100 great moments, records, performances, artists, events, ephemera and whatnot from 2014, as chosen by one opinionated human filter.  

Best televised performance (rap): Kendrick Lamar, “i” on "Saturday Night Live"

Best televised live performance (rock): Future Islands, “Seasons (Waiting on You)” on “The Late...

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Miguel drops surprise 3-song EP with odes 'N.W.A.,' 'Hollywood Dreams'

San Pedro's great young rhythm & blues seducer Miguel has released a surprise new three-song EP, and among its best moments is a refrain -- and title -- dedicated to Compton's essential rap team N.W.A.

If that's not enough to lift the morning spirits, the track features a fantastic verse by O.G. Los Angeles rapper Kurupt of Tha Dogg Pound. It's worthy of its title: a killer slow-burning work about a woman with great taste in hip-hop and weed. 

It's one of two songs thematically connected by Southern California. The second track, "Hollywood Dreams," focuses on the temptations of fame, and rolls along with one of Miguel's typically solid guitar runs and heavy tom-tom rhythms. A song about fame, cocaine, "palm trees and numb sensation," it features a coy reference to David Bowie in one of its best verses: "We could be better than heroes," sings Miguel. "We could fly higher than spaceships baby, all night long."

The other track is about coffee, which automatically gives it a thematic leg...

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Tortured by music: The year's most insidious, relentless earworms

Once they nestled into the mind, 2014's most enduring earworms never let up. Seeming to gain joy and momentum with each melodic loop, the stickiest brain music soundtracked our inner dialogue for weeks on end. These split-second loops — or cleverly worded choruses, too-obvious-for-words melodies, remarkably loopable structures — kept us up at night, scored our barely awake morning coffee. We whispered the word in the shower without even realizing it. "Surfboard. Surfboard." 

Like the most effective earworms, they then outstayed their welcome.

The below works transcended critique. Some were great songs. Others were terrible. What they shared, though, was an ability to serve as a tool of both pleasure and torture while the external world spun unawares. Used by one insidious part of the brain, the part that apparently revels in filling the head with music whether we want it there or not, these songs prevailed despite the logical brain’s protestations.

Below, a subjective list of the five...

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Madonna says music that leaked online is not a finished new album

Madonna hasn’t teased a release date or a title for her upcoming album, and aside from murmurings about collaborations (Diplo, Avicii, Ryan Tedder), not much is known.

However, reports spread through social media on Wednesday that the pop star's long-gestating record had been leaked online. The album, rumored to be titled “Unapologetic Bitch” (one of her favorite hashtags to use on Instagram) or “Iconic” (the leak included a supposed cover of the latter), contains 13 tracks according to the leak.

On one dubstep-influenced track, she references her signature tune “Lucky Star” before offering a snide reminder that “Bitch I’m Madonna” (which is also the song’s title). Another song, called “Borrowed Time,” finds her commenting on war and social issues. She winks at "the Illuminati" over a glitchy house beat, and pours over a failed romance in an emotional ballad called “Heartbreak City.” The "album" ends with the Avicii featured “Wash All Over Me,” which previously leaked.

As the music...

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Kendrick Lamar debuts new song as last 'Colbert Report' musical guest

Kendrick Lamar debuted an untitled new song during "The Colbert Report" on Tuesday night, capping the show’s nine-year run of musical guests with a devastating, slow-build track that equaled his memorable performance of “I” a few months back on "Saturday Night Live."

“You are the last 'Colbert Report' musical guest,” host Stephen Colbert said at the start of a pre-performance interview with Lamar. “Honored to have you on, but keep in mind that means that Paul McCartney, R.E.M., Jack White and Nas were your opening acts.”

Calling the rapper, who is teasing tracks from his eagerly awaited follow-up to “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City,” “the leader of West Coast rap right now,” Colbert wondered on one possible consequence: “With that job title, is it hard to get life insurance?”

The host complimented Lamar on his verbal skills, challenged him to rhyme something with “Colbert” (Lamar’s quick response: “no hair”), discussed Lamar's roots in South L.A. and namechecked N.W.A’s “Straight Outta Compton...

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