How music evolves

Ramon Ramirez on how Earl Sweatshirt became Internet rap’s reluctant icon. In praise of vulgar feminism: Agata Pyzik reviews Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon and Hole’s Live Through This by Anwen Crawford. Is PC Music the future of pop or “contemptuous parody”? Since emerging two years ago, they’ve divided the critics with their strange sounds and highly manufactured image. A different tune: Nick Holdstock on music, identity and resistance in far west China. Rap lyrics are fiction — but prosecutors are treating them like admissions of guilt. Noah Berlatsky on why “indie” music is so unbearably white; and on the marginalization of women in mainstream country music: To succeed in the genre, you just have to be a guy who likes staring at women. Our record industry nightmare: Marlow Stern on Unlocking the Truth’s journey from viral craze to label hostages. Amanda Foreman on “American Pie” and the history of mysterious rock lyrics: From Don McLean and Bruce Springsteen to the Beatles, the hit songs we hum have often not meant what we think. Doreen St Felix on the prosperity gospel of Rihanna. Being Ringo: After five decades, the happy-go-lucky sidekick in the greatest band of all time is finally getting his solo moment in the sun.

Few would drop this word in conversation at a house party or a nightclub, but in music-journo circles, the idea of poptimism itself is holy writ. How music evolves: Statistical analysis of music reveals the truth about its periods of revolution. Machine-learning algorithm mines rap lyrics, then writes its own. Stephen Graf on labour-power, punk rock and possibilities for feminist politics. Deborah Cohen on how indie rock changed the world: The influence of geeks with guitars on culture, from DIY to social media. Jordan Sargent on how mainstream rap’s gay future is upon us. A new study shows that people stop listening to new music at 33. Extreme’s “More Than Words”: Maura Johnston on the oral history of 1991’s iconic ballad. Reggie Ugwu on how hip-hop conquered streaming: Though it’s second fiddle in digital and physical sales to rock and pop, hip-hop has long been the most popular genre on music streaming services. Niela Orr on what Bono does next won’t shock you. David Graham on the surprising history of Guy Carawan’s civil-rights anthem, “We Shall Overcome”. Chris Lehmann on a cover artist, discovered 40 years later: Mingering Mike had all the requisites for a legendary music career, except the music.