Today many music fans focus on the Internet for quick information about the latest in pop music. However, music magazines still play a key role with excellent writing and analysis. This is a list of 10 of the best for the committed pop music fan.
Q modestly calls itself "The World's Greatest Music Magazine," and it is difficult to argue. Although it is based in the UK, there is plenty of information in Q to keep an American pop fan coming back for more. Each monthly issue is a mini-book stuffed with loads of reviews of albums and music-related movies, DVDs, and books as well as current download lists, great interviews, coverage of key events in pop music history and writing that revels in an edgy sense of humor.
2. Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone is the granddaddy of US rock music magazines, and it is still well worth reading. There have been moments when it appeared that Rolling Stone was dipping a bit too far into the fashion world, but some of the best pop music writers still work for the magazine. Also, don't miss some outstanding writing on political and societal issues. A 5-star review in Rolling Stone still carries much weight in the music world.
3. Entertainment Weekly
Entertainment Weekly has only been in existence since 1990 and is therefore still a relative newcomer to the world of popular music reporting. However, although its broad focus includes film, TV, books, and video as well as music, the access EW writers and reviewers receive (the magazine's parent company is entertainment behemoth Time Warner) makes their insight worth reading. Also, outside of music industry bible Billboard, Entertainment Weekly is the only US publication bringing you music news in paper form on a weekly basis.
If it's not on a Billboard chart, most of the music industry says it's not on a chart. Its origins go clear back to 1894, but it is only since about the 1930's that Billboard has been a major player in the music industry. You don't go to Billboard for criticism in reviews or for witty writing. However, the data makes it the weekly magazine of record for popular music worldwide.
If you like lists about music, Blender is the magazine for you. The controversial magazine first appeared as a CD-ROM based publication in 1994 before re-organizing as a print magazine in 1999. Snarkiness and a fondness for female flesh frequently find their way into Blender's pages, but there is some very useful and informative pop music commentary lurking behind the scenes.
6. Alternative Press
Alternative Press is one of the deserved kings of niche music magazines. Since 1995 AP has championed underground alternative music. A significant number of key bands such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fall Out Boy, and My Chemical Romance have received important early boosts in their careers from the pages of Alternative Press.
Paste was first published as a quarterly music magazine in 2002. It became a monthly in late 2006 and has very quickly positioned itself as the discerning (i.e. intellectual) pop music fan's publication of choice. This approach has already helped the magazine to rake in a series of awards and kudos from elsewhere in the publishing industry.
Founded by legendary producer and artist Quincy Jones, Vibe is the key magazine for a good look at urban music and culture.
NME, short for New Musical Express, is a venerable UK music weekly. Publishing weekly since 1952, the magazine is known for its sense of hype. Bands can be touted as the next big thing before they've even released a recording. NME is also known for a willingness to turn on a band just as they've begun to benefit from the magazine's previous support. If you like your music news breathless, check this out.
Founded in 1985, for many years Spin positioned itself as the alternative to Rolling Stone. The magazine flourished in that role and featured top-level writers, among them Chuck Klosterman, but in 2006 the editor-in-chief was fired when the magazine was sold to new investors and a former Blender editor was put in charge. This caused a radical shift in focus for Spin and howls of protest from subscribers. The new editor was dismissed a few months later and Spin has quietly returned to its former focus on rock and alt-rock.