Worst Songs Ever: Jet’s ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl’

Like a good single, a terrible one reveals itself with airplay and forbearance. I don’t want to hate songs; to do so would shake ever-sensitive follicles, and styling gel is expensive. I promise my readers that my list will when possible eschew obvious selections. Songs beloved by colleagues and songs to which I’m supposed to genuflect will get my full hurricane-force winds, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t take shots at a jukebox hero overplayed when I was at a college bar drinking a cranberry vodka in a plastic thimble-sized cup.

Jet – “Are You Gonna Be My Girl”
PEAK CHART POSITION: #29 in April 2004

ROCK IS BACK! a Rolling Stone cover announced in 2002, pretending Creed, Lenny Kravitz, and 3 Doors Down weren’t still having hits and that cover stars the Vines looked like N Sync in Strokes drag Continue reading

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Do or die: The best third albums

“Three, that’s the magic number,” the artist with today’s #1 album once rapped on their debut. Bet they didn’t think they had “In the Woods,” “Area,” and “Breakadawn” and other astonishments from Buhloone Mindstate in them. The rest of this list picks up on what are for many of these acts impressive debuts and followups that consolidate. In the case of Stranded, Dig Me Out, Aquemini, Dare, and True Blue, among others, they amount to re-introductions.

1. De La Soul – Buhloone Mindstate
2. Janet Jackson – Control
3. Prince – Dirty Mind
4. Sleater-Kinney – Dig Me Out
5. Outkast – Aquemini
6. Led Zeppellin – III
7. Funkadelic – Maggot Brain
8. Roxy Music – Stranded
9. Al Green – Al Green Gets Next To You
10. The Go-Betweens – Spring Hill Fair
11. Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel (Melt)
12. Human League – Dare
13. The Smiths – The Queen is Dead
14. Nirvana – In Utero
15. Blondie – Parallel Lines
16. Van Halen – Women and Children First
17. The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night
18. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Green River
19. Steely Dan – pretzel logic
20. Big Star – Third
21. Burning Spear – Marcus Garvey
22. A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders
23. Public Enemy–‘Fear of a Black Planet
24. Curtis Mayfield – Roots
25. Bjork – Homogenic
26. Peter Murphy – Deep
27. New Order – Low Life
28. Luna – Penthouse
29. Spoon – Girls Can Tell
30. Sonic Youth – EVOL
31. Can – Tago Mago
32. Talking Heads – Fear of Music
33. New Pornographers – Twin Cinema
34. Madonna – True Blue
35. Pet Shop Boys – Introspective
35. The Clash – London Calling

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‘Our House and Senate are willing to pass this stuff’

I’m trying to imagine a similar vote effort on the part of abortion activists.

But as national attention focuses largely on the Supreme Court confirmation, movement leaders are hoping for political wins as well. In Minnesota, anti-abortion activists are zeroing in on the open governor’s seat, considered a tossup. The Democratic governor, Mark Dayton, has vetoed seven bills supported by abortion opponents during his time in office.

“Our House and Senate are willing to pass this stuff,” said Scott Fischbach, executive director of the Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, a group whose political arm helped push the State Legislature to an anti-abortion majority in recent years. “We are going to do more on this governor’s race than we’ve ever done in the past.”

Students for Life, a youth movement that calls itself “the pro-life generation,” is starting a van tour in early August to six states — West Virginia, Indiana, North Dakota, Missouri, Alaska and Maine — to drum up support for Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Conservative statewide Christian groups, like the Ohio Christian Alliance, are urging thousands of local churches to have their members contact lawmakers to do the same.

Next month, the Susan B. Anthony List plans to host news conferences in front of the offices of vulnerable red-state Democrats, organizing petitions and digital ad campaigns in an attempt to ramp up the political pressure to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.

This is how they win.

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Worst Songs Ever: Peter Cetera’s ‘Glory of Love’

Like a good single, a terrible one reveals itself with airplay and forbearance. I don’t want to hate songs; to do so would shake ever-sensitive follicles, and styling gel is expensive. I promise my readers that my list will when possible eschew obvious selections. Songs beloved by colleagues and songs to which I’m supposed to genuflect will get my full hurricane-force winds, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t take shots at a jukebox hero overplayed when I was at a college bar drinking a cranberry vodka in a plastic thimble-sized cup.

Peter Cetera – “Glory of Love”
PEAK CHART POSITION: #1 in August 1986

In The Karate Kid Part II, Daniel-san (Ralph Macchio) fights jet lag, puberty, and a fearsome Okinawan opponent in what looked like an hibache joint within Mount Fuji yet Peter Cetera sings the theme song. Such exertions called for, say, Lemmy Motörhead, John Lydon, Prince, or Peter Murphy. But Cetera wasn’t wearing his Bauhaus T-shirt, the source of his superpower, in the studio when recording “Glory of Love.”

Appearing at the dawn of the Me Decade as a sprawling fusion collective whose albums revisionists haven’t yet turned into forgotten Earth, Wind & Fire masterpieces, Chicago had a pop instinct that it tried to shoo away, as if to avoid a contact high. Then bassist Peter Cetera had other ideas—softer ones. The band scored its first #1 with the MOR evergreen “If You Leave Me Now,” a song that coaxes out hatred in my readers like few do; every time I’ve opened the suggestions box “If You Leave Me Now” flattens the competition 2 to 1.

Why it does I’m not sure. Thanks to well-placed brass punctuation and a lilt that I might say fuck it and call winsome, “If You Leave Me Now” had no problem settling comfortably amid Ambrosia, the Doobie Brothers, and Carly Simon. A bloodless coup ensued. Cetera and producer David Foster, the latter pretending like Boz Scaggs was a bad trip, co-wrote “Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” “You’re the Inspiration” and a series of faster non-entities that someone played. Seduced by the lure of milk-white solo stardom, Cetera left the group he had done so much to disembowel, although with “Look Away” and “I Don’t Wanna Live Without Your Love” guitarist Bill Champlin was ready to do his part in turning the remaining organs into a paste; and replacement bassist Jason Scheff with “Will You Still Love Me?” and “What Kind of Man Would I Be?”

1986 was good to Peter Cetera—the decade’s second most schizoid pop year after 1984. “West End Girls,” “Kiss,” “Rock Me Amadeus,” “Addicted to Love,” and “Live to Tell” hit #1 in the same quarter! Sandwiched between Peter Gabriel’s humpin’ around pseudo-Stax “Sledgehammer” and Madonna’s fucking-with-Tipper-Gore anthem “Papa Don’t Preach” in the late summer was “Glory of Love,” pledging its troth to the kind of courtly love that Ronald Reagan might have approved. When Cetera sings, “I am a man. Who will fight. For your ho-nah,” he doesn’t sound like Galahad—he sounds like George Schultz. No one on earth could believe he could pick up the sword without putting out his back. The spongy synth string presets offer no resistance, no tension, no presence.

But the High Reagan year 1986 was like that: Ric Ocasek, that known romantic fool, appeared in the video for “Emotion in Motion” with magic horses, princesses, and pools that steam. If the most desiccated of new wave avatars could debase himself thusly, what hope had we for Cetera? And he wasn’t done yet. Secular America met Amy Grant when she joined him for the winter #1 “Next Time I Fall in Love,” then egged her on as she surpassed him in pathos and craft several years later with 1991’s magnificent Heart in Motion. Now there was a woman who would fight for your ho-nah.

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The best second albums

In many cases the second album is a band’s legacy item: the consolidation, often boasting songs tested years on the road, further toughened by either failure or anticipation of success. Here is the group I still enjoy.

1. Alexander O’Neal – Hearsay
2. The Stooges – Fun House
3. Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique
4. Brian Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)
5. Prince – Prince
6. Talking Heads – More Songs About Buildings and Food
7. Hole – Live Through This
8. The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat
9. Ghostface Killah – Supreme Clientele
10. Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
11. Elvis Costello and the Attractions – This Year’s Model
12. Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Everybody Knows This is Nowhere
13. Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
14. A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory
15. Vampire Weekend – Contra
16. Arctic Monkeys – Favourite Worst Nightmare
17. Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
18. Belly – King
19. Joy Division – Closer
20. Fiona Apple – When the Pawn…
21. Franz Ferdinand – You Could Have It So Much Better
22. The Beatles – With the Beatles
23. The Go-Betweens – Before Hollywood
24. Dizzee Rascal – Showtime
25. The English Beat – Wha’ppen?
26. New Order – Power Corruption and Lies
27. Strokes – Rooms on Fire
28. The Replacements – Hootenanny
29. Digable Planets – Blowout Comb
30. Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, M.A.A.D City
31. The Feelies – The Good Earth
32. Pet Shop Boys – Actually
33. Miranda Lambert – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
34. GZA – Liquid Swords
35. Heaven 17 – The Luxury Gap
36. Migos – Culture
37. PJ Harvey – Rid of Me
38. Roxy Music – For Your Pleasure
39. Bjork – Post
40. Eryah Badu – Mama’s Gun
41. Gang Starr – Step in the Arena
42. The Chills – Submarine Bells
43. Ice Cube – Death Certificate
44. 808 State – Utd. State 90
45. Eric B. & Rakim – Follow the Leader
46. Anita Baker – Rapture
47. K Michelle – Anybody Wanna Buy a Heart?
48. The B-52’s – Wild Planet
49. Funkadelic – Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow
50. Psychedelic Furs – Talk Talk Talk

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Worst Songs Ever: Joe Cocker’s ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’

Like a good single, a terrible one reveals itself with airplay and forbearance. I don’t want to hate songs; to do so would shake ever-sensitive follicles, and styling gel is expensive. I promise my readers that my list will when possible eschew obvious selections. Songs beloved by colleagues and songs to which I’m supposed to genuflect will get my full hurricane-force winds, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t take shots at a jukebox hero overplayed when I was at a college bar drinking a cranberry vodka in a plastic thimble-sized cup.

Joe Cocker – “With A Little Help From My Friends”
PEAK CHART POSITION: #68 in November 1968: #1 in England, November 1968

Y’all still don’t appreciate Ringo — an expert drummer in a certain style, and he sang John and Paul’s greatest valentine to him. Continue reading

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The Trump-Bannon war on faith in government

Daniel Drezner has a column posted about the Trump administration’s “lowering morale and encouraging trained senior civil service employees to leave the government” – the aim of the since departed Steve Bannon all along. Continue reading

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Sacralizing the profane: Florence + the Machine and Years & Years

Years & Years – Palo Santo

Underwhelming and weedy on first listen, this British trio’s electropop benefits from car play. That’s how I absorbed 2015’s Communion and how “Shine” became my single of the year. Continue reading

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Worst Songs Ever: Enigma’s ‘Sadeness (Part I)’

Like a good single, a terrible one reveals itself with airplay and forbearance. I don’t want to hate songs; to do so would shake ever-sensitive follicles, and styling gel is expensive. I promise my readers that my list will when possible eschew obvious selections. Songs beloved by colleagues and songs to which I’m supposed to genuflect will get my full hurricane-force winds, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t take shots at a jukebox hero overplayed when I was at a college bar drinking a cranberry vodka in a plastic thimble-sized cup.

Enigma – “Sadeness (Part I)”
PEAK CHART POSITION: #5 in March 1991

For high schoolers taking an honors humanities course in which we studied Cimbabue and Giotto and marveled at how the representations of the Christ Child tended to look like Ernest Borgnine, Enigma hit at the right time – too perfect. Continue reading

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The ‘overblown’ fears of Democrats in Trump states

So polarized is our culture that I give Democrats no credit for Working Across the Aisle, not when doing so eviscerates Social Security/Medicare, turns voting rights into a noble idea in a textbook, and turns the First Amendment into a rapier to bury into the hearts of gay and lesbian citizens. In 2016, Donald Trump or more likely his strategists had a plan: increase turnout in a shrinking demographic, compensating with enthusiasm what it will lose in lives. Democrats must focus on their base too, but it’s an expanding one. In 2028 a Democrat seeking office won’t convert a Republican voter by supporting the gutting of reproductive rights; what the Democrat does is alienate other Democratic voters.

But the minds of party solons are not easily changed. In these minds it’s still 1988 and every Democrat is Mike Dukakis. While Chuck Todd delivers the conventional wisdom about Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana “boxed in” as Democratic senators in Trump states, voters have moved on. The essential Jane Mayer reports from the ground:

Nan Aron, the president of Alliance for Justice, a progressive group, who was also involved in the Thomas confirmation fight, agrees. “The conventional wisdom is that a vote against the nominee will hurt Democrats, but the reality that we’ve seen in the past is that it’s sometimes the right vote for Democrats politically. Votes for Thomas deflated the Democratic vote” afterward in some Senate races. As for this year, she says, “Look—Democrats in red states need the progressive base. You don’t need them staying home.”

On Saturday, two progressive groups—Demand Justice, a new organization focussed on judicial issues, and the Center for American Progress—planned to release a poll, conducted in the battleground states of Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, and West Virginia, that seeks to convey a similar message to vulnerable Democratic senators.

According to the poll, conducted by Hart Research Associates, Democratic senators may actually be better off politically, even in states that went overwhelmingly to Trump in 2016, if they cast votes against Kavanaugh. The polling data, which was gathered between June 30th and July 5th from about twelve hundred voters in those four states, are, of course, self-serving. But it makes the case that, if Democratic senators in conservative states frame their opposition to Kavanaugh clearly as a matter of conscience, based on one of three possible arguments, a majority of voters will likely accept and support the decision.

The thing is, Tester is doing okay. So is Joe Manchin. Among Democrats oly Manchin, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota voted for the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch last year; Tester, my boy Bill Nelson, and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, one of the other endangered Democratic senatorial candidates, voted no. Kavanaugh is as terrible if not worse than Gorsuch. If Nelson has a brains in that ancient skull, he’ll understand how a vote for a future member of this Fuller-era Supreme Court risks the lives of his Floridians. Hoping that the senior in Apalachicola may think, “Gee, isn’t Bill Nelson independent? Might as well vote for him” instead of, “Gee, isn’t Bill Nelson independent? Gonna vote for Rick Scott anyway” is like believing in tax cuts that pay for themselves.

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You tried it just for once/Found it all right for kicks: The best debut singles

Thinking about Lana del Rey’s “Video Games” kicked off this list, and even though I adore her now I still have trouble accepting its ethos; she’s done better. The rest of the entries constitute a series of singles that delineated a whole world: if all you knew about, say, Wu-Tang Clan, Buzzcocks, and Kate Bush were the singles below, you could die a happy listener. These songs encompassed everything these acts would do.

1. Roxy Music – Virginia Plain
2. Culture Club – Do You Really Want to Hurt Me
3. Luther Vandross – Never Too Much
4. Pet Shop Boys – West End Girls
5. Suede – The Drowners
6. Sam & Dave – Hold On, I’m Comin’
7. Wu-Tang Clan – Protect Ya Neck
8. M.I.A. – Galang
9. Eric B & Rakim – Eric B for Presidnet
10. New York Dolls – Personality Crisis
11. Tracy Chapman – Fast Car
12. Dwight Yoakam – Honky-Tonk Man
13. Superchunk – Slack Motherfucker
14. Spice Girls – Wannabe
15. A-ha – Take On Me
16. Britney Spears – …Baby One More Time
17. Sex Pistols – Anarchy in the UK
18. Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights
19. Azealia Banks – 212
20. Frank Ocean – Novocane
21. Fiona Apple – Shadowboxer
22. Buzzcocks- Orgasm Addict
23. Erykah Badu – On & On
24. Joy Division – Transmission
25. Kanye West – Through the Wire
26. Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott – The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)
27. New Order – Ceremony
28. Morrissey – Suedehead
29. Miranda Lambert – Me and Charlie Talking
30. Aaliyah – Back & Forth

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‘On the Seventh Day’ plays ball with communitarian values

The Mexican rapists, murderers, and vermin of Donald Trump’s malarial imagination are the delivery guys and cotton candy salesmen in On the Seventh Day. If they work seven days a week without a breather, a manager may reward them with a promotion to busboy. To Jose’s coworkers, the devotion to his futbol team mystifies them – it’s leisure activity, hence suspect. Vibrant, thick with the smell of the warm Brooklyn streets on which it was filmed, Jim McKay’s feature examines the ways in which communities of color navigate between work and leisure. Who knows — in this summer of World Cup hysteria, it might be a modest hit. Continue reading

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