Singles 11/28

Clinching a year in which his diminished commercial clout led to mildly bold strokes that served as quite excellent vocal showcases, Usher releases his sharpest single of 2020. He wastes no time explaining the stakes: “I love love but I’m freakin’ bad at it.” How he admits to caddishness without succumbing to Kanye or DrakeContinue reading “Singles 11/28”

Ranking #12 singles, U.S. edition: 1986-1989

Friends know my imperfect, impassioned cover of “Chains of Love,” whose key change in the chorus is the stuff that defeats a less sober vocalist. Kix marched forth as if the problem didn’t exist. Among the most passionately sung metal songs, “Don’t Close Your Eyes” does vocally what Mutt Lange did instrumentally with Def Leppard.Continue reading “Ranking #12 singles, U.S. edition: 1986-1989”

‘Vitalina Varela’ a masterpiece of light and shade

No casual Pedro Costa fans exist. Those who watch the Portuguese director’s films know they demand much. They can expect a supple use of chiaroscuro that subsumes narrative: Caravaggio as a post-modern. In Colossal Youth (2006) and Horse Money (2014), Costa returns to the fates of Cape Verdean immigrants, products of imperialism and the detritusContinue reading “‘Vitalina Varela’ a masterpiece of light and shade”

Ranking #12: 1983-1985

In the present context “Legs” and “Photograph” are indistinguishable in the best sense: triumphs of the best production money can buy. Meanwhile beneficiaries of production gewgaws like The Cars’ “Magic,” Peter Wolf’s “Lights Out,” and Mick Jagger’s obnoxious as hell “Just Another Night” (“CAN’T CHU SEE THAT AH’M HUU-MAAAA-NNN!,” uh, no) scored less well, thoughContinue reading “Ranking #12: 1983-1985”

Ranking #12 singles, U.S. edition: 1979-1982

Although the late seventies had seen its share of novelty songs of the “Short People” variety chart well, the curious who bought Labour of Lust got an album full of taut, well-played sarcastic rockers and country-tinged ballads, written by a singer-bassist for whom comedy was the most serious prisms through which to view life. OfContinue reading “Ranking #12 singles, U.S. edition: 1979-1982”

Ranking #15 singles, U.S. edition: 1976-1979

My judgments on the “musical” “career” of “KISS” are known; suffice it to say, Dr. Hook rivals them in consistent, insistent purveying of pedophiliac schlock. Foreigner appear with one of their best-known and dullest singles (“Hot Blooded,” not at all) and least played and tightest (“Blue Morning, Blue Day”). But…rarely do I see a #15Continue reading “Ranking #15 singles, U.S. edition: 1976-1979”

Being there together is enough: Thanksgiving 2020

Usually I’d be tap-tapping at this post from a picnic table in Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, but not even Walt Disney World is impregnable, despite the crowds braving COVID. Our quietest Thanksgiving will be a good one, perhaps a great one when the family tastes my creamed corn casserole. I’m listening to Jazmine Sullivan’sContinue reading “Being there together is enough: Thanksgiving 2020”

‘Hillbilly Elegy’ brims with resentment

Wary of trailers, I took a peep at the one for Hillbilly Elegy. I survived. The cornpone cliches accumulate like empty cans of Schlitz. Ron Howard’s adaptation of J.D. Vance’s 2016 best-selling memoir isn’t as awful, but its squirms-per-minute (SPM) remain worryingly high. Regarding subtlety as if it were a deep state scheme, Howard offersContinue reading “‘Hillbilly Elegy’ brims with resentment”

Ranking #15 singles, U.S. edition: 1988-1993

At last: hip-hop hit the chart, but just a little, as the #15 charting hits show. And the decade’s most assured New Order rip (from Canadia!) got this high! Nothing to say about Genesis’ most enduring song after 1987: a menace on recurrent A/C. The Hague Genesis – Hold On My Heart Aerosmith – Cryin’Continue reading “Ranking #15 singles, U.S. edition: 1988-1993”

Ranking #15 singles, U.S. edition: 1984-1987

I dare my readers to find a miscellany as varied as the top category: from Paul Hardcastle’s sample-mad “19,” Luther Vandross’ MIDI-mad highest crossover hit to date, and a Joe Jackson top twenty that might’ve appeared on Joel’s contemporaneous An Innocent Man. A superior showing to what The Hague’s prisoners offered. Kenny G and DavidContinue reading “Ranking #15 singles, U.S. edition: 1984-1987”

Reading Barack Obama

Writers overestimate the erudition of politicos. Alfred Kazin, watching with amazement at the number of poets and novelists cozying up to John F. Kennedy, suggested a sentimentality at work whereby writers, shunned by mass culture, suddenly find validation when a president has memorized one of their book titles.