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”

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”

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 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”

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.

Checking out Fromm, some Sartre, Camus: The best songs about writing

As a music writer who values Aurora Leigh as much as Lou Reed’s chords and Ghostface’s metaphors, I’m loath to value literary allusions for their own sake. But listening to “Thieves in the Night” this morning provoked me into wondering how many songs I love refer to literary figures and aren’t stuffy about it. VanContinue reading “Checking out Fromm, some Sartre, Camus: The best songs about writing”

The best songs about being alone

When Lucinda Williams shared her state of independence with me in 1998 as a nascent gay man, I understood. “A little time to think,” she yearned in “Side of the Road,” about loving a boyfriend but requiring time away to think and be herself: she wanted a space where she could exist as a personContinue reading “The best songs about being alone”

The best songs about states

Listening to what is to my ears Public Enemy’s most powerful album, I thought about good songs in which states figure. Ray Charles sets the standard: Georgia as state of mind, like Wallace Stevens’ jar in Tennessee. Many of these tunes are classic in themselves. Which states dominate the imagination? California, whose temperate climes serveContinue reading “The best songs about states”