Warnings and dreaming: tUnE-yArDs and Lana Del Rey

tUnE-yArDs – Sketchy Merrill Garbus doesn’t write complicated songs. Closer to chants, they depend on splashes of dub bass and manically stacked harmonies to create the impression of forward motion. Sketchy works as description and, for skeptics, judgment; I have colleagues who still shake their heads remembering Garbus’ triumph in the Pazz and Jop pollContinue reading “Warnings and dreaming: tUnE-yArDs and Lana Del Rey”

Ranking #27 singles, U.S. edition: 1991-1996

Profane, prolix, joyous, “Juicy” is everything I want from hip-hop. Few songs of any era capture the thrill of making it, the self-consciousness of making it, and not giving a fuck anyway (“Stereotypes of a Black male misunderstood/huh/and it’s still all good.” My favorite D’Angelo track from my favorite D’Angelo album is its only match.Continue reading “Ranking #27 singles, U.S. edition: 1991-1996”

Ranking #18 singles, U.S. edition: 1994-1999

Ten years after its peak, exploiting a cultural moment, thrashcore invaded the American top twenty. “Spin the Black Circle” is a mess: Pearl Jam get quite loud for the sake of a theoretical ode to vinyl. It doesn’t cohere; it’s a gesture, a bow to Minor Threat and the bands of Eddie Vedder and co.’sContinue reading “Ranking #18 singles, U.S. edition: 1994-1999”

Singles 3/26

Laura Mvula’s “Safe Passage,” self-determination set for COVID-free arenas, divided colleagues. The synth squiggles bother me; the rest sounds in my COVID-free Honda. By this point the 1980s are so far away that they’ve never felt closer, what with Grand Theft Vice City and Instagram metonymizing the decade into a “blue-pink vaporwave aesthetic,” to quoteContinue reading “Singles 3/26”

Ranking #19 singles, U.S. edition: 1993-1998

A period stuck between post-Soundscan exigencies and Bad Boy Records’ stranglehold on the pop chart, 1993-1998 encompasses Cypress Hill’s early triumph and The Lox’s later one. By spring 1992 Paula Abdul looked like an Edwardian throw pillow, and, worse, Bruce Springsteen sounded like Joshua Kadison, the latter an ancestor of James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful,” thusContinue reading “Ranking #19 singles, U.S. edition: 1993-1998”

The GOP hates queer people, pt. 32426

Behold what John Roberts and His Furious Five, particularly Samuel Alito, have wrought: legislation in Arkansas awaiting the governor’s signature which will allow health care providers to cite “religious liberty” as an excuse to deny treatment. Opponents have said types of health care that could be cut off include maintaining hormone treatments for transgender patientsContinue reading “The GOP hates queer people, pt. 32426”

Ranking #5 singles, U.S. edition: 2000-2003

I can think of few more grisly horror shows than this crew of whiners, doubters, grousers, and nihilists. A skeptic about Kurt Cobain’s influence on a pop chart he barely grazed, I spent the last years of the 1990s with Timbaland and Missy Elliott and PJ Harvey and UNKLE while casting an obligatory eye onContinue reading “Ranking #5 singles, U.S. edition: 2000-2003”

Ranking #10 singles, U.S. edition: 1995-1999

I continue these lists because they force me to revisit untrodden paths. This hit, “Keep On, Keepin’ On” samples Michael Jackson’s airy spare “Liberian Girl,” nods toward Curtis Mayfield, and collects a series of confident boasts. Fresh, original, crisp. Busta Rhymes’ “Turn It Up” remix, everywhere its release years, hones his gravelly motor-mouthed strength whileContinue reading “Ranking #10 singles, U.S. edition: 1995-1999”

The economic politics of film streaming

Longtime instructors grab from a ready wheelbarrow of accumulated tricks the parables, dad jokes, and double takes with which to hold students’ attention for ninety minutes. At some point in the semester, often in the first third, I watch my film students wince on learning I still request DVDs. Buying movies they understand. The coversContinue reading “The economic politics of film streaming”

Ranking #9 singles, U.S. edition: 1996-2000

Loathe to use screen grabs with OMIGOD VEVO stamped across them, I decided the photo of Barbra Streisand and Bryan Adams promoting the former’s The Mirror Has Two Faces theme epitomizes their intent: let us promote a faded idea of glamour. How Streisand earned a top ten in 1997 defies logic; she couldn’t have bribedContinue reading “Ranking #9 singles, U.S. edition: 1996-2000”

George Segal — RIP

The lead actor in a childhood I was too young to know, George Segal incarnated an adulthood that would effluoresce and vanish by the time his peak decade ended. Men around me looked like him until Hollywood stopped making movies about and for people who looked like him. Like contemporary and erstwhile co-star Elliot GouldContinue reading “George Segal — RIP”