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Shake It Off: The Happiest Grammys

“Just think: while you’ve been getting down and out about the liars and dirty, dirty cheats in the world, you could have been getting down to this sick beat.” Thus speaks Taylor Swift on the breakdown of Shake It Off, the perky first single from her 2014 album, 1989. When the song was released last August, the American public, fed up with bad news, decided they agreed. Shake It Off went in at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and Swift’s sanguine, non-confrontational message—“Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate”—became a slogan for a year of pop music where conflict was taboo.

Literary Lyrics–Pop Goes Uptown

“Catch on fire above the green empire of the kraken / Flow with the isosceles to the beat of six knees knocking.” These lyrics may seem to have been unearthed from a triple-concept album dating back to the height of prog-rock, but you’ll find them on Mark Ronson’s new effort, Uptown Special, which was released Jan. 13. Its lead-off single, “Uptown Funk,” featuring Bruno Mars, currently sits at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it’s something of a Trojan Horse: apart from it and a funk-tastic rave-up featuring rapper Mystikal, the album’s other nine tracks have words penned by … Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon.

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Andy Summers, Circa Zero

“I’ve been through the whole thing you can do with a rock band,” says Andy Summers. He’s not kidding. Even before joining The Police, the guitarist had jammed with Jimi Hendrix in L.A. and with Eric Clapton in London, recorded a crossover album with an orchestra of Hungarian refugees in Munich, broken his nose in a tour-van crash in Yorkshire, thrown up on Richard Branson’s Persian rug after celebrating a record deal and had a tour manager kidnapped by yakuza promoters in Japan. And now, at 72, after playing psych-rock, prog-rock, pub-rock and The Police’s 2007-08 reunion jaunt — the seventh-highest-grossing tour ever — he’s started a new band.

Hugh Laurie

In the packed, neo-Gothic Union Chapel in north London, Hugh Laurie sits onstage at a piano, introducing the solemn blues song Six Cold Feet in the Ground. His guitarist, Toronto’s Kevin Breit, starts laughing so hard at Laurie’s wisecracks that he screws up his prelude to the tune—twice.

The Unfulfilled Promise of Amy Winehouse

It’s hard not to feel cheated by Amy Winehouse’s death. Not that she owed anything to her fans — apart from those who bought tickets for her shambolic concerts in recent years — but because of the unfulfilled promise, and promises, she leaves.

Yes

Benoît David was repairing a raccoon-damaged boat on the St. Lawrence River in June 2008 when he got the call that would change his life. Little did he know that the 14 years he’d spent singing in a tribute band to progressive-rock pioneers Yes had been, in a sense, one very long audition. On his cellphone was bassist Chris Squire, asking him to tour with Yes itself.

Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society

Most jazz musicians, asked about the defining concerts in their careers, will name a prestigious venue or heralded festival. For Darcy James Argue’s Grammy- and Juno-nominated big band Secret Society, old-school adulation is all very well, but the sweat, grunge and intimacy more common to indie rock has given them a vision of the future of jazz.

Bootsy Collins

From the bottom of his platform boots to the top of his stovepipe hat, Bootsy Collins is one larger-than-life character. But in his dressing room at Metropolis before a Montreal Jazz Festival show, surrounded by his sparkly robes and ruffs, the bassist becomes introspective.

There’s No Place Like Dome

The recording studio is a wonderful invention, but the daily routine in its cramped confines can lead to malaise. One way for a rock band to recapture excitement is to redecorate: prog-rockers Yes, for instance, turned their studio into a barn with bales of hay and cardboard cows for their infamous opus Tales from Topographic Oceans; Talk Talk recorded their post-rock tour de force Laughing Stock by shutting out natural light, burning candles, and losing all sense of time. More adventurous bands simply leave the traditional studio behind.

Vinyl Rules Again on Record Store Day

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — for independent record stores, at least.