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DLC Week of 1/11: Beastie Boys, Foo Fighters, and Queens of the Stone Age

Three stone-cold masterpieces – Beastie Boys “So What’Cha Want,” Foo Fighters “Breakout,” and Queens of the Stone Age “No One Knows” – these tracks helped shape popular music and still pack a punch today! All three are available this Thursday in the Rock Band Music Store.

The second single from Beastie Boys’ third studio album, 1992’s Check Your Head, “So What’Cha Want” remains an enduring hip hop benchmark single. Bridging the gap between rap and alternative rock, the song finds the fellas – Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz (vocals, guitar), Michael “Mike D” Diamond (vocals, drums), and Adam “MCA” Yauch (vocals bass) – exploring and incorporating any number of genres, resulting in a ground-breaking and adventurous sound that’s truly their own.

Powered by Beasties Boys performing actual instruments – a still-novel concept in early ‘90s hip hop – as well as rapping, and bolstered by samples, “So What’Cha Want” is a groove-laden, funky exercise that doesn’t let up for a minute once the song gets going. Starting off with a swirling organ riff courtesy of Money Mark, the track establishes a sepia-toned, ‘70s vibe from jump. The sound of the keyboard is danceable before there’s even a beat to dance to! On the 25th anniversary of “So What'Cha Want” Money Mark explained he had employed a “KORG CX-3 thru a 31H Tallboy Leslie Cabinet on full blast!” to achieve the riff’s distinctive tone. From there it’s into the first verse, with Beastie Boys trading overdriven lines over a relentless fuzzed-out bass-and-drums beat. That recognizable “WHOMP (donk) BA DOMP” rhythm anchors the whole track. At :55 is the first appearance of another of “So What’Cha Want”’s signature sonic elements: a simple yet impactful guitar riff defined by a distorted string bend leading into a repeating three-note figure. From that point you have the fundamental components of the track, mixed up and augmented with clever instrumental flourishes and deft use of samples until the song’s conclusion. Monster groove meets fuzzed out guitars clashing to forge a single that’s somehow simultaneously retro and forward-looking, funky and jazzy at the same time. Like much of Check Your Head, “So What’Cha Want” could be viewed as a marriage of Beastie Boys’ first two albums – the trashy, out-of-control frat-boy shenanigans of Licensed to Ill and the mind-bending, freewheeling experimentation of Paul’s Boutique. The end result is three minutes and 37 seconds of rap/rock mastery and a track that pushed the whole form ahead immeasurably, including a freestyle clinic referencing everyone and everything In the practiced hands of Beastie Boys it all more than works. Odds are good you already know this certified banger; Odds are excellent you’re going to love it if you don’t!


Dave Grohl’s voice, unaccompanied save for a flanged guitar, kicks off “Breakout,” the second track and fourth single from the Foo Fighters’ third album, 1999’s There is Nothing Left to Lose. The confidence to let the vocal melody carry nearly the entire weight of this track’s intro speaks to the level of finely crafted songwriting that Grohl was turning out at the time. Straddling the fences between alternative, grunge, and punk, , the Foos at the turn of the millennium were established torch-bearers of genuine hard rock and “Breakout” is a case-study in the group’s collective strengths.

By 13 seconds in, a kick drum pulse is added and, 10 seconds later, the full group hops on board just in time for the first chorus. That’s all it takes – less than 30 seconds – before it’s clear that we’re dealing with a memorable revved-up rocker with punk rock energy and hooks that any pop artist would die for. Joining Grohl (guitars, vocals) on the recording are drummer Taylor Hawkins and bassist Nate Mendel. With the late Hawkins (RIP), Grohl – who had handled drum duties on all but two tracks off of the first two Foo Fighters albums – had finally found a drummer nearly as good as… well, Dave Grohl. Hawkins’ confident bashing and well placed rhythmic punctuation allows Grohl to focus his energies a little more on his own guitar work and singing – not that either had been shabby (at all!) on previous Foo Fighters efforts – and the results are evident in the compositional and arrangement skill *and* subtle performances on display in “Breakout.” Following verse #2, the band dials the intensity back somewhat, with the rhythm section calling back to the song’s intro at 1:19 before, at 1:32, we get steadily building guitar chugging over snare-fill salvos and Grohl’s impassioned gravelly rasp until, at 1:42, everything stops on a dime and we launch into the next chorus. It’s a truly satisfying moment of tension-building and release – but wait! At 2:12 we have another herky-jerky, all-systems STOP moment, which then segues into a new guitar riff over which Grohl lets out some vocal-chord-shredding screams and Hawkins’ and Mendel’s beat takes on an almost-hardcore-ish feel. Following one more double-dose of the chorus, “Breakdown” heads to the muscular instrumental outro, ending at 3:20 on a powerfully rhythmic finale.

Lyrically, the single seems to be standard relationship-gone-wrong fare, but… gone wrong because of… a skin condition? That is, however, a read that Grohl himself has confirmed: "’Breakout’ started off almost as a joke, just a play on the word and taking the piss out of your typical tortured romance love story. It's supposed to seem kind of ridiculous because I can't imagine anyone wanting to break off a relationship just because they have acne."

There you have it: musically powerful, lyrically irreverent, and melodically memorable. An argument could be made that “Breakout” serves as the perfect example of Foo Fighters, overall!


Inarguably Queens of the Stone Age’s most widely known song, “No One Knows,” the first single from the band’s 2002 LP Songs for the Deaf, is also one of the best-realized guitar songs in the hard rock canon. Killer riffage and seductive groove meet vague lyrical imagery and powerful production for a monster cut that deservedly topped the U.S. Alternative charts upon its release. 

Four full-band shots – drums, bass, and guitar firing on all eight cylinders from the get-go – serve as the song’s beginning before, barely two seconds in, “No One Knows” settles into its unmistakable and unforgettable riff/cadence. From there, Queens of the Stone Age (QOTSA) settles into the sweet spot between straight-up metal, trippy experimentation, and hook-heavy hard rock. Sharp-eyed (eared?) listeners know what they’re in store for very quickly – and the less astute will figure it out soon enough. The lineup for the recording – Josh Homme (guitars, vocals), Dave Grohl (drums), Nick Oliveri (bass), and Ana and Paz Lenchantin (strings) – are on fire throughout the song, with snappy snare and percussive hiccups, guitar hammer-ons and glissando, and rumbling bass keeping things next-level from beginning to end. At 15 seconds in, QOTSA frontman and mastermind Homme’s vocals are added, and the impact is striking. For such a decidedly hard rock affair, his voice is clear and pure, with hardly any of the gruffness or “scratchiness” one usually associates with the genre. At 1:10, after the first verse, things suddenly get interesting – VERY interesting. All of a sudden, as the chorus begins, it’s all cascading, unhinged drum fills and soaring vocals leading to a chugga-chugga power-chord transition before it’s back to the rhythmic insanity for the second half of the refrain. The whole affair has the feel of a mysteriously under-control full-ensemble spill down a staircase – a total wake-up for the listener who, prior to the chorus, had been riding the somewhat laid-back groove along with QOTSA. And then, at 1:33, as abruptly as it began, the instrumental acrobatics of the refrain are over and we’re right back to that same mid-tempo trot that defined the first verse. Speaking of instrumental acrobatics, aside from seemingly being one of the nicest and easiest to get along with dudes in rock, it’s abundantly clear why Dave Grohl is so damn ubiquitous. The drumming on “No One Knows” is simply astounding. Grohl puts on a master class of both virtuosity and restraint – a trick that’s notoriously difficult for those who possess chops to pull off – and the song is all the stronger for his efforts. He brought with him not only undeniable skill, but the power and weight of celebrity – meaning, also, the attention of the powers that be. As Oliveri notes, “When Dave came in, the game changed. It was immediately a game-changer for how we were being treated by the label – as naturally would happen. And we knew the songs were super-strong and we had something super-special." 

Yes they did! And as “No One Knows” careens towards its eventual conclusion at 4:38, we encounter plenty of other instances that demonstrate exactly *how* special. Case in point: after another run-through of the chorus, the band kicks into an energetic instrumental break at 2:59 that features stop-starts galore, bass breaks, and a furious guitar solo from Homme. It’s more of the same, nearly out of control performance that distinguishes the refrains, but ratcheted up to a whole other level. After that section, we return to the “verse” one more time before the song ends on the same type of BAM-BAM-BAM hits that served as the intro. But, in keeping with the stranger aspects of “No One Knows,” Homme isn’t ready to close shop quite yet, as from 4:13-38 the track concludes with the sound of a radio station tuning, with snippets of static and bits of songs including a DJ introducing the next cut on Songs for the Deaf.

An undeniably cool, catchy triumph, what is “No One Knows” *about*? Well, the answer is right there in the title. Per Homme: “It’s a mystery. No one knows.” Like I’ve said about this song, Homme, and QOTSA, overall: cool!

Beastie Boys “So What’Cha Want,” Foo Fighters “Breakout,” and Queens of the Stone Age “No One Knows” are now available as DLC. All three can now be yours for $1.99 each.

· Beastie Boys – “So What’Cha Want”

· Foo Fighters – “Breakout”

· Queens of the Stone Age – “No One Knows”

VIDEO: Rock Band 4 DLC Week of 1/11: Beastie Boys “So What’Cha Want,” Foo Fighters “Breakout,” and Queens of the Stone Age “No One Knows”



*Please note that this week’s DLC tracks will be available for purchase on Thursday, January 11th.