Singles 11/16

I know at some point the #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the week’s best song coincided; maybe a devoted reader can tell me — “Blank Space”? Anyway, a wonderful week, led by a shimmer of a track by Simmy, a deepening of Ariana Grande’s pop pedigree, and Charly Bliss affirming those garage-punk verities.

Click on links for full reviews.

Simmy – Umahlalela (8)
Ariana Grande – Thank U, Next (7)
Charly Bliss – Heaven (7)
Prince Kaybee ft. Busiswa & TNS – Banomoya (7)
Cardi B – Money (6)
Post Malone x Swae Lee – Sunflower (6)
Wizkid – Fever (5)
Dua Lipa & Blackpink – Kiss and Make Up (5)
Olly Murs ft. Snoop Dogg – Moves (4)
Shawn Mendes & Zedd – Lost in Japan (Remix) (3)

Axios: make people dumber faster

A few weeks ago I shared with students a couple of journal articles published in the 1980s lamenting the damage that USA Today would cause to journalism. Its sharp cheerful primary colors, reliance on graphics, and avoidance of long articles represented a bowdlerization of news — a rebuke to the intelligence of readers, according to these Serious Men. Continue reading

Ranking my favorite Beck albums

I lost interest in Sea Change, a record so vacuous that when Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was embraced I wondered for the first time whether something was wrong with my brain. The solid Guero, a sequel to Odelay in spirit if not in esprit, restored my faith but the damage was irreversible. I didn’t care about Beck again.

Yet the prankster I dug in 1996 persists. Now he’s a Grammy winner, and, of course, a Scientologist embraced by the industry as an example of what people should listen to instead of Beyonce, a collagist as expert.

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Best singles of 2018, third quarter edition

I’m not ranking these yet, but these are the singles that have driven me mad in 2018.

Jessie Ware – Overtime
Cassie – Don’t Play it Safe
Laura Jean – Girls on the TV
Rae Sremmurd, Swae Lee, Slim Jxmmi ft. Juicy J – Powerglide
Lana Del Rey – Mariners Apartment Complex
Ariana Grande – Thank You Next
Tamia – Leave It Smokin’
Doja Cat – Mooo!
Dierks Bentley ft. Brothers Osborne – Burning Man
Aya Nakamura – Copines
Ravyn Lenae – Sticky
Let’s Eat Grandma – Hot Pink
Arctic Monkeys – Four Out of Five
Kacey Musgraves – Space Cowboy
Roselia – R
K. Michelle – Crazy Like You
Ella Mai – Boo’d U
Hayley Kiyoko ft. Kehlani – What I Need
Ariana Grande – Breathin
Travis Scott ft. Drake – Sicko Mode
Shaun – Way Back Home
Red Velvet – Power Up

Uptight ‘Boy Erased’ can’t loosen its own collar

In his adaptation of a memoir about a male college student who survives gay conversion therapy, Joel Edgerton directs like he acts: solidly, stolidly, without imagination. Boy Erased is not a waste; its vaunted care makes heaving noises at every step. But as the minutes accumulate its cloddishness becomes wearing. A movie depicting social conservative horror of sex, it turns out, is also deathly afraid of gay sex. Continue reading

Ranking my favorite Donna Summer albums

That it took until 2013 for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to induct Donna Summer One of my first long form obituaries of the kind to which my profession would become inured in recent years was for Donna Summer, who died in 2012 a few years after recording a solid comeback record. Her essence would be a collection of 12″ remixes of her greatest hits through 1989’s “This Time I Know It’s For Real.” I’m a fan of this comp.

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Nancy Pelosi should stay

Instinctively obsessed with parity, the Washington press corps turns to classic boilerplate both-sidesism when covering what it thinks is a internecine bloodbath between House Democrats who ran against Nancy Pelosi as speaker and senescent reactionaries. Josh Marshall has the stakes exactly right:

First, I’m ambivalent about Nancy Pelosi becoming Speaker again. Turnovers in leadership are good. The dozens of new House Democrats converging on Capitol Hill this week visibly shows the power of generational succession. The Democrats’ current House leadership has been in place for more than 15 years, an extraordinary length of time by historical standards.


There’s a separate matter. Somewhat like Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi has been so consistently vilified and caricatured by national Republicans that she has become, objectively, a highly charged figure as the face of national Democrats. We can lament that, think it’s the product of things that are vicious and unfair. I do. But that doesn’t make it not true.


At the same time, there are very few people who understand the inner workings of the House, what caucus leaders do and what she managed to get done between 2007 and 2011 who don’t think she’s a legislative leader of extraordinary ability. She also has critical support from a broad array of the parties different factions, in and out of Congress. As important as anything, Pelosi is tough, something particularly important facing Donald Trump for the next two years.

From my vantage point in a moneyed suburb in unincorporated Miami-Dade County, it’s the fault of Pelosi, Hoyer, et. al. for not promoting a new generation of leaders who’ll replace their septuagenarian asses,a point also raised in Marshall’s essay. Otherwise the argument that Pelosi Must Go makes no sense. At this moment she’s irreplaceable. The smarter young guns who ran on replacing her should follow the lead of Alexandra Ocasio-Sanchez, who staged a protest at the minority leader’s office that strengthened her young-fresh cred.

So keep Nancy Pelosi. The most effective speaker since John W. McCormack is the only person tactically shrewd enough to exploit the awed contempt in which she’s held by the GOP (Paul Ryan and the rest attack her precisely because they understand how good she is at her job), not to mention the skills to pass legislation and reduce talking points to essentials. Let her serve one term as speaker with the promise of letting a younger replacement shadow her — I don’t care. But the moment requires a leader who understands the stakes.

The best albums of 2018 — we’re almost there!

In no order. My dedicated team of interns is still sorting through data.


Cupcakke – Ephorize
U.S. Girls – In a Poem Unlimited
Mr. Fingers – Cerebral Hemispheres
Toni Braxton – Sex & Cigarettes
tUnE-yArDs – I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life
Ravyn Lenae – Crush
Tracy Thorn – Record
Migos – Culture II
The Breeders – All Nerve
Ashley Monroe – Sparrow
Tal National – Tantabara
Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
Bali Baby – Baylor Swift
Amen Nunes – Freedom
Speedy Ortiz – Twerp Verse
Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy
Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!
Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer
Pusha T – Daytona
Meshell Ndegeocello – Ventriloquism
John Prine – The Tree of Forgiveness
Rae Sremmurd – SR3MM
Belly – Dove
Superchunk – What a Time to Be Alive
Troye Sivan – Bloom
The Chills – Snowbound
Mitski – Be the Cowboy
Noname – Room 25
Eric Church – Desperate Man
Pistol Annies – Interstate Gospel
Vince Staples – FM!
Alex Anwantder – Latinoamericana
Cloud Nothings – Last Building Burning