Louder: Luke Combs, Country’s Everyman, at a Crossroads

Plus: Bartees Strange, Drake, Kate Bush and More
Author Headshot

By Caryn Ganz

Pop Music Editor

One week, two surprise album announcements: Beyoncé is returning with her first solo studio album since “Lemonade” at the end of July, and Drake unexpectedly released “Honestly, Nevermind” — and a video in which he gets married 23 times — today.

Next week, Luke Combs, one of country’s biggest stars, will put out “Growin’ Up,” his third album. Combs has earned his fame “not with virtuosic musical innovation, genre-crossing celebrity collaborations or by hosting a television singing competition,” David Peisner writes in an excellent profile, “but by cranking out one irrepressibly catchy, widely relatable meat-and-potatoes country anthem after another.” Now, the 32-year-old musician is at a bit of a crossroads: “How do you maintain that man-of-the-people vibe when you’re literally living in a mansion on a hill?”

Also this week: Jon Pareles names the new album by Bartees Strange a Critic’s Pick; Jon Caramanica chats with Ben Sisario about what the archives of Bob Dylan and Lou Reed reveal on Popcast; and Jonah E. Bromwich and John Leland from Metro take a fascinating look at the tragic fall of Kidd Creole, the member of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five who was convicted of manslaughter in April.


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Pool photo by Steven Hirsch

The Fall of Kidd Creole: Inside a Rap Pioneer’s Tragic Descent

As a member of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, he helped invent hip-hop. He spent the rest of his life trying to recapture that glory. Then, in seven minutes on a Manhattan street, it all came to an end.

By Jonah E. Bromwich and John Leland

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Valerie Macon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

BTS Ponders Its Future, and South Korea’s Economy Warily Takes Note

The band’s label saw its stock price plunge, and the possibility that the K-pop group won’t tour as pandemic restrictions ease threatens to reverberate through South Korea’s economy.

By Jin Yu Young

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Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Nipsey Hussle Murder Trial: What to Know

More than three years after the Los Angeles rapper was shot and killed, the trial of Eric Holder Jr., the accused gunman, is finally underway.

By Joe Coscarelli



Lizzo’s Lyric Offended Fans. She Changed It, and They Forgave.

The song “Grrrls” was released Friday and updated Monday to remove a derogatory term for people with disabilities, which she said she did not use with an intent to offend.

By Daniel Victor

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Eurovision rules out Ukraine as host of next year’s song contest.

The Eurovision Song Contest’s organizers said on Friday that Russia’s invasion meant Ukraine could not stage next year’s event, even though it won this year’s contest.

By Alex Marshall

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Jennifer Hudson becomes an EGOT as a co-producer of the winning musical, ‘A Strange Loop.’

The singer and actress was added as a producer of the show as it transitioned to Broadway.

By Julia Jacobs

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Toby Keith Says He Has Stomach Cancer, but ‘So Far, So Good’

The country music star has been undergoing treatment, including chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, for the last six months, he said in a statement.

By McKenna Oxenden

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The Rolling Stones postpone a concert in Amsterdam after Mick Jagger tests positive.

The band said the show would be rescheduled. Hugh Jackman, who plays Professor Harold Hill in a strong-selling revival of “The Music Man,” on Monday said he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

By Ben Sisario and Michael Paulson

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