Justin Tranter Is the Superhero Pop Needs

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This one has been a long time coming. Justin Tranter deserves a profile as much as any of the pop stars I’ve written cover stories on for Billboard: Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber, Fifth Harmony, Cardi B, Nick Jonas… in part because he’s cowritten hit songs for all of them, and also (mostly) because he is an incredible human and indefatigable activist who’s fought against some long odds to succeed on multiple fronts in a very massive way. You can read all about his exploits in this Playboy profile, but Tranter has been popping up in my work for years. I wrote a piece on his old band Semi Precious Weapons for SPIN in 2010, and have consulted him as a secondary on so many pieces since. He’s been a huge part of making pop palatable again, and is helping shape the future for LGBTQ acceptance in America. Plus, he’s building schools. Enjoy.

Foo Fighters Are Making America Guitars Again

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Have you ever met Taylor Hawkins? The man is a human rock ‘n’ roll fireball of conversation, a So Cal cypher of surfspeak and chill’thusiasm that will delight your ears even as he’s going on and on about how guitar bands are dead. Look, it’s been said before that Dave Grohl and his bros are a bit… reactionary when it comes to music that isn’t traditionally analog. But they’ve built something worthy with their Cal Jam festival, a place for shred’ficianados to gather and worship at the altar of chord, to revel in strings and necks and amps and whatever. Also, they have those big, tall, skinny flappy guys that typically cameo at used car lots. And camping. And Garbage, the band, who use samplers and stuff. So there’s something for everybody. Ish. Anyway, Hawkins was a delight to interview, and he and bassist Nate Mendel are pretty self-aware. :)

Tyga Wouldn’t Call It a Comeback, but You Can

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Look. Tyga is no one’s favorite rapper. Tyga is no one’s favorite tabloid spectacle either. But the thing about meeting Tyga, and talking to Tyga, and absorbing the bizarre lightness of being that is Tyga, is Tyga knows exactly who Tyga is, who you want Tyga to be, and how Tyga can succeed in this world… when Tyga wants to. At least, that’s what Tyga says. And I believe it. I didn’t love the guy, but I did love how refreshingly real he was about his place in the zeitgeist. Weirdly, it was inspirational. Plus, “Taste” and “Swish” are raunchy fucking bangers that demand to be looped in a four-song playlist with David Banner’s “Play” and Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up.” Amen.

Panic! at the Disco Is All Urie, All the Time

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Not in this story: the fact that Brendon Urie can quote multiple John Mulaney specials; that we were drinking Golden Road’s Point the Way IPA; that he called himself “such a sentimental little dude” at least twice; and a reasonable geometrical explanation for his perfect floppy hair swoop. In this story: quotes about crossdressing; analysis of what it means to slowly become the only member of a band with intense fans; wonderful insight from the excellent Morgan Kibby, a.k.a. White Sea; and very good photos of this very handsome man and his perfect floppy hair swoop.

The Shadowboxers Are More Than JT’s Best Boys

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Come for the Justin Timberlake endorsement, stay for the fact that the dude in the middle titled his college thesis Foucault Steps Out to the Ballpark. That’s the kind of deep dive reportage you can count on from yours truly—I’m, like, soooo good at Google. In all seriousness though, chief among the things that are genuinely remarkable about the Shadowboxers (that band you see above) is how damned hard they work. Chief among the things that were genuinely remarkable about this interview: it took place in a super fancy bathroom that smelled not unlike jalapeños.

KYLE Reveals the Roots of His Happy Rap

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First of all, you’ll need a free membership to read this article. But since everyone knows Playboy is for reading articles, that won’t be a problem, right? Didn’t think so. That kind of can-do ‘tude is exactly the thing that’s carried the career of the young, smiley SoCal rapper-singer you see above—KYLE, who, come to think of it, isn’t looking super cheery in that photo. But he certainly sounds like he’s smiling every time he commits lyrics to tape, and in this lil’ profile (as on his new album, Light of Mine) we delve into the creative and psychological sources of all that unusual happiness.

Bhad Bhabie Knows Why These Bitches Are Mad

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…and it’s fairly complicated. Systemic oppression, unfair comparisons based merely on gender, the fact that they aren’t her. Actually, I grabbed that headline from the photo I’m using. This hails from a very brief interview with the young lady (she’s 15! be nice) in honor of the Billboard Music Awards, but we do—more or less—touch on the aforementioned themes vis à vis said “bitches.”

Lord Huron Pioneer the Sci-Fi L.A. Noir Album

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I had a trippy conversation with old Los Angeles music pal Ben Schneider of Lord Huron—about the void, the city, time and space, and the all-too-easy-to-forget idea that artists ought not to be bound by convention or expectation when crafting their universe. Fittingly, he called in from the Arctic Circle in the middle of the night on a break from hunting the Aurora Borealis. Learn more about Vide Noir, the band’s third album, by clicking through above. And also by listening to it (it’s really good).

Kendrick’s Pulitzer: L.A. Should Be Proud…ish

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Kendrick Lamar won a Pulitzer Prize for Music. I enjoy this news most as a slap in the face to the Grammys who’ve failed thrice over to give the man his Album of the Year due. So yes, of course Los Angeles should be proud that Lamar’s made history, but we should be a little embarrassed that our own institutions didn’t do nearly enough to help him get there (not that he needs it).