The opening credits of Jackie Brown forever transformed “Street Life” for me. So did Roxy’s. Marthand the Vandellas still sounds more incendiary than the Stones’ “Street Fighting Man.”
A metaphor deployed against women who have the effrontery to be active sexual partners, ‘witch’ has also been owned by several marvelous female singer-songwriters — Ella Fitzgerald, who deservedly tops the list, yeah, and today’s birthday girl Stevie Nicks, who transformed the trope into a supple thing suitable for hetero and queer romance. The firstContinue reading “Where no Christian man has been: Songs about witches”
Having already listed songs about the police, let me praise this list for its acknowledging the inexorability of the law when the citizens most dependent on its impartiality are made to quake before it.
Until our society realized the term denigrated Romani women, “gypsy” served as shorthand for rootless people whom singer-songwriters envied for their purported independence, scarf-wearing prowess, and sexual availability, especially if the singer-songwriter thought The Road more romantic than the Ramada Inn bar and a toiletful of smoked cigarettes.
Garth Brooks is not on this thread, but if paid well I may write an essay about the Chris Gaines project. These songs concentrate on characters created by musicians who represent their best or worst projected selves.
To watch a Robert Eggers film is to toss verbs like “interrogate” like croutons in a salad, as in, “Eggers’ films interrogate masculinity,” but it’s the audience that feels interrogated, if not quite tortured. Released three years after The Lighthouse, which turned into a surprise cult hit during lockdown (more than a couple students haveContinue reading “Stories for boys: ‘The Northman’”
Among the horrors of the ’90s was listening rock star interviews in which they professed to admit they didn’t care for fashion. Even acknowledging that every generation reacts against its predecessors, this seemed like an unnecessary self-immolation, for the era’s long-sleeved flannel shirt and the stone-washed jeans signified all their own, yet these dumb clucksContinue reading “The best songs about fashion”
I suppose after a few days of idleness I needed a spur, and I thought about the artists whom I loved and their streaks. Loath as I am to give a shit about Perfect Albums, I asked, “How many of my favorites recorded albums with uninterrupted streaks of listenability and versatility for several years?” And:Continue reading “The best stretch of good albums”
I wanted no artists who appeared on my last list, but luckily the rock/R&B tradition provides many examples of albums named after title tracks. An R&B chart #1 in early ’87, “Give Me the Reason” shows Luther Vandross’ strengths: expressing himself within technological limits, in this case MIDI programming. Sinead O’Connor and Loretta Lynn triumphedContinue reading “The best title tracks pt II”
As long as rock ‘n’ roll has existed, sexual imbalance has defined the star and the fans. When rock was here to stay in the sixties, what we call the groupie became institutionalized, for better or worse — and often, invariably, worse. A gruesome subject regardless, rife with exploitation: an example of dark and goldenContinue reading “Songs about groupies”
I suppose I could extend the list, but it would devalue the idea of mama, no? 1. Merle Haggard – Mama Tried 2. Brandi Carlile – Mother 3. Juan Gabriel – Amor Eterno 4. The Police – Mother 5. Aerosmith – Mama Kin 6. Martina McBride – Teenage Daughters 7. Ghostface Killah ft. Mary J.Continue reading “The best songs about moms”
To realize that perennials like “Juicy Fruit” and “I Want to Break Free” got no access to the American top 40 is to endure brain death thinking about which songs did get in. Former Miles Davis keyboardist James Mtume’s squiggly, squishy, sticky wormhole went #1 R&B and hung around in the ether long enough forContinue reading “Ranking #45 singles, US edition: 1980-1989”