NPR logo Five Pop Recordings for Classical Fans

Five Pop Recordings for Classical Fans

Alex Ross

Music critic and author Alex Ross hide caption

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Even before J.S. Bach set sacred texts to drinking songs, classical composers have been inspired by the popular music around them. The on-going cross-pollination is a thread that runs through the new book The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, by Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker. In this spirit, Ross invites classical fans to expand their horizons by getting to know five seminal pop albums from the past 20 years.

Click here to see Alex Ross's list of 'Five Modern Classical Pieces for Pop Listeners'

1. Joanna Newsom

Joanna Newsom

Sawdust & Diamonds

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Newsom studied composition at Mills College before transforming herself into one of pop's most original singer-songwriters, a postmodern balladeer armed with a harp.

2. Radiohead

Radiohead

Kid A -- "How to Disappear Completely"

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Britain's leading rock band abandoned the mainstream with this astoundingly inventive album, whose opulent textures have fascinated many younger classical composers.

3. Bjork

Bjork

Vespertine -- "It's Not Up to You"

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Björk, Iceland's avant-garde diva, listened avidly to Stockhausen and Cage in her youth; twentieth-century influences seep through this album's darkly sensuous surfaces.

4. Eric B. & Rakim

Eric B. & Rakim

Paid in Full -- "I Ain't No Joke"

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Stravinsky might have been able to learn a trick or two from the everywhere-lurching rhythms of this breakthrough hip-hop album.

5. Bob Dylan

Dylan

Time Out of Mind -- "Not Dark Yet"

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Like Verdi and Wagner, though in a rather different key, Dylan has written some of his deepest music while moving toward old age.

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Ys

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Joanna Newsom
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P-Vine
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2006

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Kid A

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Radiohead
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Capitol

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Vespertine

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Vespertine
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Bjork
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Elektra

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Paid in Full

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Paid in Full
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Eric B. & Rakim
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4th & Broadway
Released
1987

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