The best songs about visual artists

As startling as it it is to admit, I head Don McLean’s forgotten “Vincent” at Publix today. I’m glad for his sake it isn’t as famous as “American Pie”; had it been we would’ve had major cultural convulsions. In its current form it affirms the standard cliches about artists: we need crazy people like VanContinue reading “The best songs about visual artists”

A coherent ‘Dune’ is a good ‘Dune’

One of the satisfactions I thought the World of Dune offered was the lack of proper names as ridiculous as the Star Wars universe did. No Boba Fett, Commander Cody, and Kylo Ren here. Halfway into the second adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel I dropped my pen. Duncan Idaho. Not Jones Indiana — DuncanContinue reading “A coherent ‘Dune’ is a good ‘Dune’”

Part MCM: The cruelty is the point

Because I live in Florida (the state with the prettiest name!), the new surgeon general thinks COVID vaccines are ineffective and masks an example of lib tyranny. He also thinks senators dealing with cancer deserve not a modicum of compassion, including wearing a mask in their offices when asked.

The best songs about The Beatles

The most moving appropriation of Beatlesmania mythos occurred four years ago when rap duo Rae Sremmurd mimicked the quartet’s rooftop body moves in the video for “Black Beatles.” Even Paul McCartney, PR pro, liked it! Almost as witty is Ella Fitzgerald’s “Ringo Beat,” in which she admonishes her son for not playing as well asContinue reading “The best songs about The Beatles”

Worst songs ever: Drake’s “Hotline Bling”

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 toContinue reading “Worst songs ever: Drake’s “Hotline Bling””

Ranking #23 singles, U.S. edition, 1999-2002

Why does Madonna scowl? She hears the strains of Alien Ant Farm’s Michael Jackson cover. She might also feel the heat from “Love at First Sight,” pure buoyancy, the closest the bubbles of French pop house champagne tickled the nose of the American top 40 listenership. Man, do I feel like a woman!

‘The Velvet Underground’ is good, does what it should, alas

Warm, literate, and unexpectedly puckish, Jonathan Richman looks like a youngish older man or an aging younger one. In the late sixties he got the best education in rock guitar playing a fan could’ve had: he went to every Velvet Underground concert he could. “These people would understand me!” he says in a gosh-darn toneContinue reading “‘The Velvet Underground’ is good, does what it should, alas”

The concept of school seems so secure: Songs about teaching and teachers

“Teacher, there are things I don’t want to learn,” George Michael moaned on his third consecutive #1 in America, a ballad called “One More Try” consisting of a keyboard preset and a live bass. When he died in 2016 I called it the gay “Maggie May.” I assemble this list as a valentine to theContinue reading “The concept of school seems so secure: Songs about teaching and teachers”

In ‘Bergman Island,’ the Swedish master inspires a film of grace and lightness

Amy and Joseph can’t wait to get their hands on each other. As played by Mia Wasikowska and Anders Danielsen Lie, they’re a couple who won’t endure the trauma of losing each other again despite each having a companion. Over three days on Fårö island at a wedding they steal glances and kisses, eventually makingContinue reading “In ‘Bergman Island,’ the Swedish master inspires a film of grace and lightness”

R.E.M’s ‘New Adventures in Hi-Fi’ twenty-five years later

I have no idea whether Michael Stipe reveres Joni Mitchell as much as Patti Smith. Maybe he doesn’t. Listening to New Adventures in Hi-Fi summons Hejira, Mitchell’s 1976 album about flight — what she called the refuge of the road. The wide-openness comes through in the arrangements. The percussive hardness of Mitchell’s guitar keeps theContinue reading “R.E.M’s ‘New Adventures in Hi-Fi’ twenty-five years later”

Me and God, we don’t get along: The best songs about sin

Art depends on reveling in the wrong, and the following — not definitive! — list delineates how everyone from The Kendalls and Tammy Wynette to The Cramps and Kanye West vacillate between expiating sin to accepting the tastiness of sin. With country songs I could double this list.