Ten reasons you know you’re gay

We’ve made progress. Yet…

1. Friends ask for opinions about shoes
2. Dancing in place to a Coldplay song
3. The reluctance to say a sentence aloud without stressing unexpected syllables
4. Getting along better with your friends’ parents than you do with your own.
5. You smoke in public
6. Laughing at this stock photo of white dudes
7. Reflexively falling back on impersonal pronouns when discussing the most basic trysts
8. A constant sense of thinking you Went Too Far in conversation
9. Placing too much stress on biography, or, better, blankness
10. Flirting with a friend’s wife or husband

On the luridness of gay conservatives

The New York Times‘ Sunday magazine has run a story about the frustrations of gay conservatives. One Ben Holden, a Suffolk University student, explains himself:

Though he said he is liberal on most social issues and wishes the Republican Party would take climate change seriously, Holden aligns himself with conservatives and libertarians in many other ways — he’s anti-abortion, free-market-oriented and skeptical of big government. But perhaps above all else, Holden rejects what he considers a bedrock of contemporary liberalism: that, as he put it, your “immutable characteristics” — race, ethnicity, sexual orientation — “should determine what your position is on every political issue, or what you’re allowed to express an opinion about.” He added that he feels alienated from progressives on his campus and across the country, many of whom he believes are unwilling to debate issues “without resorting to shaming or name-calling.”

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Period piece ‘1985’ shows how the art of losing is hard to master. 

Watching 1985, the first year of Ronald Reagan’s second term disassembling the federal government, I remembered that my uncle Lelio, who changed his name to Andrew but whom we knew as Tata, joined the Army as a grunt and was sent to Korea, a move kicking off a cycle of peripatetic travel during which he contracted the HIV virus whose complications killed him a decade later. Continue reading

‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ offers confused, necessary myth making

Written during a period of personal tumult, James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk dared to present a young American black couple in love — unusual in 1974 when colleagues Saul Bellow and John Updike avoided love stories, radical for a novelist watching the collapse of the bipartisan consensus over civil rights legislation and nothing with which to replace it. The black family in the Nixon era was on its own. Continue reading

Ranking the five best Magnetic Fields albums

Somebody had to uphold the values of synth pop at the height of American fascination with bands marketed as grunge and British fascination with laddishness.

1. Get Lost (1994)6

“With Whom to Dance?” (excellent punctuation and grammar — A+), “Love is Lighter Than Air” (it makes good on its title), “All the Umbrellas in London (Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo tap-tapping on glimmering rain-slick streets), and “Famous” (with that hook? Why not?) rank among Stephin Merritt’s grandest songs, each offering a lyrical wrinkle to contemplate or melodic fruit to savor.

2. 69 Love Songs (1999)

An album whose utility is exceeded by its length, it promises a song for every occasion using the barest of means on the thinnest of budgets. Like Phil Oakey, Merritt is at his strongest when peeved; his dolor requires a ukulele or two for its Droopy the Dog effect. The cumulative effect is overwhelming but not crushingly so; it’s like entering a clean room and figuring out where to sit. I bought the album one CD at a time, which helped with sorting the supplicants: they asked for my favor, in many cases got them, and I dismissed them like lovers. “Fido, Your Leash is Too Long,” “Nothing Matters When We’re Dancing,” “When My Boy Walks Down the Street,” “(Crazy for You But) Not That Crazy,” “The Death of Ferdinand de Saussure,” and “Busby Berkeley Dreams” are the ones whose numbers I kept and still text; pianist-drummer Claudia Gonson sings “Sweet-Lovin’ Man” and “Acoustic Guitar,” permanent fixtures.

3. The Charm of the Highway Strip (1994)

Joni Mitchell never recorded a travelogue this devoted to train travel, but Merritt, as we know from a documentary, likes scribbling his compositions in a notebook, and he can’t do that behind the wheel of a Chevy. Dinky, devoted to a clumsy electronic futurism that in 1994 did its part to sweeten Merritt’s vocal approach, the arrangements are as homespun as a doily. They work diagetically too: throw the Casio on the train and he could be Gary Numan. The latticework arrangement of “Born on a Train” deserved a singer who could sing into the mic for more than a minute at the time, though.

4. Distortion (2008)

Jim and William Reid never recorded a lo-fi record that didn’t peter out after the record’s lone “Just Like Honey” or “Happy When It Rains.”

5. 50-Song Memoir (2017)

“Sprinkled over this five-disc collection, a song for every year of his life, are tunes as powerful and full of pathos as their cousins on 1999’s epochal 69 Love Songs,” I wrote last year, in a review that also evaluated Sunny Sweeney’s first-rate Trophy (could Merritt write her some stuff?). “The problem: Merritt sings them. All of them.”

Ranking George Michael albums

Approaching two years, I haven’t hardened against the reality of his death — the worst of 2016’s superstar crop. Uet his standing continues to rise.

1. Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1 (1990)

“For those of us too young for the plague years—who can imagine, at least, a life lived instead of convulsing in agony on a hospital bed—chastising Michael for leaning on elegies and ballads in 1990 strikes me as glib,” I wrote for Pitchfork in 2017 on the release of a multi-disc edition of George Michael’s second solo album — an edition that turned an excellent, much overlooked album into an essential one. At the moment when the talons of the boomer generation held fast to conceptions about authenticity, here was an acoustic album whose quiet sprung rhythms depended on its maker’s immersion in dance pop and dance culture. Even Michael’s Stevie Wonder cover has evolved from gesture of affection to fulfillment, a proof of his connection to an R&B language that plumbed an already too febrile imagination and assuaged desires he could no longer suppress.

And then there are the dance tracks

2. Faith (1987)

The Anglo-Greek Sign o’the Times, out six months later and surpassing it in pop appeal, black and white. Chris Molanphy, Morgan Rhoes, and Oliver Wang’s recent podcast adds crucial context, Brad Nelson an aural explication.

3. Make It Big! (1987)

Pure pop for now people, Wham!’s second album courted frivolity, daring its audience to dismiss the duo as another pair of limey whiteheads whose fascinating fashion acted like Samson’s hair or Hercules’ belt when it came time to cavort before the camera. To say that “Freedom” overpowers their Isleys cover in 2018 is less trolling than an acknowledgment of the speed at which Michael’s talent matched his ambitions.

4. Older (1996)

A late nineties smash in Europe, Older was a lesser realized Listen Without Prejudice, a haunted release on which ghosts distract him from doing dudes in his BMW because, as he noted more than a decade earlier, guilty feet have got no rhythm. “Fastlove” and the title track rank among his most elegant compositions, and in general he integrated Brazilian structures better than the competition.

Worst Songs Ever: Bee Gees’ ‘Love You Inside Out’

Bee Gees – “Love You Inside Out”
PEAK CHART POSITION: #1 in June 1979

Imagine a world where people got sick of disco — got sick of the word “disco.” White people. Imagine a world without white people. When Barry, Maurice, and Robin Gibb  unleashed their numinous, terrifying shrieks, like Nazgûl on fell-beasts, many white men in 1979 huddled in terror, hiding beneath their copies of Get the Knack, Van Halen, and Candy-O. Continue reading