Ranking #34 singles, U.S. edition: 1980-1985

Assembling these things can get irritating. Many readers may not know I use this website, then CNTRL-F that day’s chart position. Invariably I get thing wrong if I move too fast. Some positions produce blah results: several once promising posts will never emerge from WordPress drafting. Tonight’s post exemplifies why I keep doing this shit. Beginning strong, it sagged so badly in the middle — were ZZ Top and John Stewart’s forgotten entries the best of this period?! — I almost scrapped the post. As usual 1984-1985 saved my ass. Continue reading

On the perils of aspirationalism

The trouble with political aspirationalism: if you are, say, Joe Biden, you’ve spent decades climbing ever closer to the center of power. You have little incentive to question much less dismantle this ladder. You accept the assumptions because without those assumptions your ascension wouldn’t have happened. This phenomenon works doubly so for minorities. Continue reading

Ranking #33 singles, U.S. edition: 1975-1978

What do fans hear in “Girls School”? Did Paul McCartney think it was sexy? Did Linda belt him across the face with a haddock? I know a chagrined McCartney didn’t get the mega hit “Mull of Kintyre” released in the States, but I would’ve preferred the British #1 to flop on its own terms or, who knows, gone top twenty than to listen to Wings flail at the simple act of rocking. I’ve heard high school bands who can handle the tempo and chord changes with greater finesse. Cat Stevens might’ve. Bobby Vinton might’ve (then again, don’t ask). And I have not mentioned the gross lyrics, Paul’s attempts at being randy or something. Continue reading

The GOP vs LGBT equality: ‘exploiting religion to justify my innate cruelty’

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Aware that a supermajority of Americans are okeedokee with gays and lesbians marrying whomever they choose, Republicans have dressed their revulsion toward us queer folk in different clothes. “Religious freedom” is the new cause. Continue reading

Ranking #20 singles, U.S. edition: 1992-1996

Suspicious as I am of the moniker “Song of the Summer,” Stereo MC’s “Connected” served that function in May-June ’93, pumping out of every car radio and storefront. Because Miami Radio appreciates dance music, CeCe Peniston’s “We Got a Love Thang” prospered the previous summer, the one I would’ve conceded to Sophie B. Hawkins’ “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover.” Continue reading

Ralph Fiennes does solid work in ‘The Dig’

Ralph Fiennes’ career has followed the usual arc of Anglo-Irish actors. After Steven Spielberg cast him as the sociopathic SS officer in Schindler’s List, his aquiline malevolence made him increasingly impervious to conventional leading parts (the cocked-eyebrow irony on display in The English Patient was not the kind of thing one usually saw in a Doomed Romance). He bid farewell to those parts after Maid in Manhattan (2002). The last dozen years have been his glory: In Bruges (2008), Coriolanus (2011; he also directed), and A Bigger Splash (2016). Best of all, his turn as the valet in The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) showed a lither, lighter Fiennes, smart enough to serve as object in a story and to have, perhaps, created himself too. Continue reading

Ranking #32 singles, U.S. edition: 1985-1992

Slim pickins for a couple years, then these #32s start accumulating. Nirvana’s an obvious one — to get “I swear I don’t have a gun” as a refrain into the top 40 was an extraordinary feat in 1992, not to mention bound up in that guitar riff. But U2 wrote an excellent riff and a better concept: an acknowledgment of the role playing that rock and rollers, including Bono and Kurt Cobain, performed as stars. Yes, folks, acting is even better than the real thing.
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Florida GOP’s war against free assembly and speech

Taking cues from the hundreds of gated homes with perfect lawns and three SUVs and Blue Lives Matter flags in my beloved Westchester, the Tallahassee Lickspittle proposed a bill last fall whose intentions regarding the Bill of Rights amount to gobbles, not bites. Continue reading

Ranking #11 U.S. edition: 1967-1969

Every time I post a rundown of hits from the sixties I have to say, “Goddamn it” and restrain my nostalgia, but, really, any chart with “Mother Popcorn” and “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)” and “Is That All There Is” will draw attention. Immune to Simon and Garfunkel, I placed “Scarborough Fair” where it belongs but it’s there because this kind of breathy feyness is not my thing unless Stevie Nicks essays it with backup singers cooing about nightbirds.

But let’s talk about Sammy Davis, Jr. and Bobby Vinton catching up to these artists.

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Ranking #35 singles, U.S. edition: 1984-1990

Other than Rockwell’s forgotten second single , most of these also-rans and weird one-offs deserve their placement insofar as #35 is where I expect to see Device’s High Reagan Era bit of nothingness, Wa Wa Nee’s calorie-rich track, solid but unremarkable things by Del Amitri and Stacey Q, and great freestyle tracks like Stevie B’s “I Wanna Be the One,” which should’ve gone #1 on the basis of its two or three crisscrossing melodies, Metallica’s top 40 debut, Romeo Void’s articulation of what it feels like for a girl, and a jam like “Da Butt.” Continue reading

Singles 2/20

Fat Joe’s track earned my highest plaudits, but I’m not crazy about it. My enthusiasm for Pale Waves as soon as the Chvrches comparison leapt to min, except I substituted Hayley Williams for Heather Baron-Gracie; Squid’s track is just too damn long, too damn self-infatuated; and I will never understand FKA twigs.

Click on links for full reviews. Continue reading