The 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees

It’s Rocktober, everybody! And while many of the Rocktober traditions are pushed aside by one thing or another, there’s always time to take a look at the potential future inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 1. This year, as with most years, there’s a whole bunch of first-time nominees, as well as some real left-field folks. There are also some people that should be real shoo-ins, but almost certainly will not be

So let’s dive into this years potential nominees, and retch at the numerical majority of them!

Def Leppard

So, I do not like Def Leppard. I do not like them even a little bit. I do not even have some spare affection for them, for a number of reasons. The primary reason is that they did more than any other single band to create the eighties “hard rock” radio sound, which was a bane to the ears 2, although I suppose not moreso than any other predominant radio-production-style. Secondarily, their music is terrible, devoid of anything except slicked-out signifiers of “rockingness” without actually, you know, rocking 3. They were, in these regards, influential, because there were a tonne of bands that came after them that adopted the style – because that’s pretty much all Def Leppard was, and all you could take from them – without actually managing to make music out of it. So they were undoubtedly popular, and undoubtedly influential, but they were popular in a way that was not specific to the rock audience, and influential in a way that made everything they touched worse.

THE VERDICT: Absolutely not.


Northeast Ohio’s third-best punk band 4Devo are responsible, in all, for one flawless album, followed by one slightly-less-great album, followed by three reasonably-solid albums, followed by a slow decline that they never really pulled out of. If the only thing they’d ever done is Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo they’d still belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Actually, if they’d stopped after the one record they’d have been just about perfect. But still.


Janet Jackson

She’s nominated all the time. She was just feted by the Billboard awards, so maybe this is a sort of cultural-undercurrent situation and she’ll get in. As with every year, I will say this: her music is largely not my cup of tea, but she’s undeniably her own thing and did a lot more to pursue her own furthest corners than her brother did. She’s not rock and roll even a little bit, but when has that stopped anybody?

THE VERDICT: Not really, but I still won’t be mad if it happens.

John Prine

I have no idea where this is coming from. I guess the fact that he made a new album made people reconsider him? I don’t know. I mean, I love John Prine, and I’m happy to see him here. He’s not really a rock and roll guy, but, again, that clearly isn’t actually a factor. He’s made good records for as long as anyone on this list, he’s influenced the hell out of a bunch of singer-songwriters. He may not have sold much, but he isn’t particularly obscure, either. I’d love to see him in there. He’s better than Cat Stevens, for example.

THE VERDICT: Yeah sure.


So here’s the deal about Kraftwerk. I get basically nothing out of their music. They were clearly great – they worked very hard about music that they used to express a bunch of ideas, and people love it. They were hugely influential, especially among non-rock concerns, but even rock bands took a lot from them. They were popular for awhile in the seventies. Their case is airtight, and I begrudge them nothing. They should have been inducted many years ago. I’m not going to go listen to them for pleasure, but they absolutely should be the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 5.


LL Cool J

Some of these folks that I’ve written about every year for the past few years have been pretty-well covered. LL Cool J is, like many of this year’s crop, not a Rock and Roll artist in any way, but they’re clearly not going to stop including rappers anytime soon, and LL Cool J was good at it, and influential in his time, and his popularity has been surprisingly durable, so he probably deserves it as much as any currently-excluded rapper of his generation.



So previously I have mentioned that the MC5 are one of the clear-cut candidates for single songs being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As of last year, they are! This is great news, because the MC5’s body of work itself isn’t very impressive 6. It’s hard to argue against “Kick Out the Jams,” though.

THE VERDICT: No, but “Kick Out the Jams” should absolutely be there.


Radiohead checks literally all of the boxes that could possibly be required of a band for Hall of Fame induction: they’ve sold squillions of records, inspired countless bands, and sought out their furthest corners musically. They made a string of records 7 that are among the strongest periods of output in rock music history. The fact that they clearly don’t care about it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be inducted, even though it probably has more effect than I think.

THE VERDICT: Unquestionably

Rage Against the Machine

Last year at this time I pointed out that RATM ran afoul not of the HOF’s rap problem, but of their heavy metal problem, which is real 8. They did a lot to combine the audiences of both forms, introducing a lot of suburban metal kids to rapping and including a bunch of more aggressive rap kids in their metal-ing 9. They made good records, they sold a bunch of them, and then they quit while they were ahead, which is always worth praising.


Roxy Music

This is Roxy Music’s first time even being nominated, because the RRHOF hates prog rock, even when it’s a prog band dressed up as glam, as Roxy Music is. Obviously I’m in favor of anything that gets Brian Eno in there, so I’m in favor of this, but Roxy Music have plenty of reasons to be inducted. I’m not sure why it’s taken them this long to be up on the block.


Rufus featuring Chaka Khan

Every frigging year with this. At least this year it’s Rufus and Chaka Khan, as opposed to just Chaka Khan herself 7, because at least it includes her band. Anyway, I don’t think that she should get in at all, because her music is stupid and derivative and boring.


Stevie Nicks

I’m not the record as not having the highest possible opinion of Fleetwood Mac, but I do sort of understand their place and the appeal and all that. Stevie Nicks as a solo act, however, can absolutely heck straight off 8. I understand that she had plenty of her own hits and whatnot, but I can’t imagine that the world would be significantly different without them.


The Cure

The Cure are so goddamned great. They were great in, like, four different ways. Great musicians, amazing songs, incredible records, and they’ve not lost much steam or quality along the way. On top of which there are so many bands that try to sound like one version of The Cure or the other that if you stacked them all like cordwood, you could fill the inside of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with them. The Cure are great, better than nearly every band on this list or just about any other. They should have been in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame years ago.


The Zombies

Every year we do this, and every year I remain baffled. The Zombies belong in for all the same reasons as The Cure, with a modification that their best work is better than The Cure, and they didn’t have quite so many major stylistic shifts as The Cure. The Zombies were great and I have no idea what’s keeping them out of there.


Todd Rundgren

I am open to whatever arguments people want to make for Todd Rundgren being inducted as a performer. He seems like a great guy, and I’m glad he’s out there in the world. He absolutely belongs in the HOF as a producer – he’s great at it, and has made some all-time amazing records. As a producer, not as a performer. Because as a performer he has made like, three good songs 9, and that’s not a great track record.

THE VERDICT: Not as a performer, no.

And that about does it for this year, and we’ll find out in May how wrong they are about everything. I wouldn’t bet on The Zombies yet again, is all I’m saying here, guys.

  1.  I suppose it’s interesting and worth considering that, eventually, the Considered Look at Every Inductee Into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will catch up to the things I’ve already written about here, and we’ll see how consistent I am about how I feel about these things. True story: I actually have no idea, and in fact would not be surprised to find out that I am wildly contradicting myself about some of the marginal cases. 
  2.  they were abetted in this nonsense by Mutt Lange, about whom I have spoken previously, and upon whom I continue to wish bad things. 
  3.  in the interest of being completely fair to a band that I loathe, I will concede that parts of the first couple of records do rock genuinely, and that “Photograph” would be a good song if it didn’t sound so much like Def Leppard, and therefore just remind me of all the parts of Def Leppard that suck real bad.
  4.  they come in ahead of the Electric Eels and behind The Cramps. If the Cramps don’t count (they relocated to New York) then they’re still behind Pere Ubu. But then, almost everybody is. 
  5.  I maintain that they should be inducted after Can, but I think I’m marching in that parade more or less alone. 
  6.  it also ages somewhat poorly. 
  7.  which it has been for some years in the past, although her past few nominations have all been with Rufus, so maybe the RRHOF has made their official decision vis-a-vis the importance of Rufus to Chaka Khan. 
  8.  this opinion is at least somewhat exacerbated by the fact that the last thing I heard Ms. Nicks perform was her eight-hour-long song on her guest appearance on American Horror Story 
  9.  I like “Bang on the Drum All Day” and The Nazz’s “Open My Eyes,” and I’m assuming there’s another one in there somewhere, but my survey that I embarked upon to write this piece did not yield it. 

The 2018 BET Hip-Hop Awards

So, on the heels of the American Music Awards’ definitive proof that the sort of pop music that captures the corporate interests of ABC is godawful comes proof that most of the hip-hop that captures the corporate interests of BET is also godawful.

Not all of it, mind you, there are still some outliers that are not godawful, but as a set of things, the sort of hip-hop that is given awards at the BET hip-hop awards is in decline 1. Or temporarily set back or whatever.  

That said, it’s not nearly as dismal as some other music-awards shows, even just considering the awards. They’re still mostly there to prop up the BET Hip-Hop Awards Cyphers, which are, historically, the best part of any of the music awards shows.

Plus, Lil Wayne will be receiving the I Am Hip-Hop award, which is the more awkwardly-named lifetime achievement awards 2, so that’s something.

Impact Track

You know, in most years the existence of this category is enough to send me into a state of apoplexy! You can probably see evidence of this elsewhere on this very site. I think it’s dumb for  a number of reasons – I’m not opposed to people making political/philosophical stands in their music, but I do think that awards categories like this are a way for the show to shield itself from having to do anything else responsibly, because they can point to the existence of a category where something “woke” is honored, and it is used, therefore, as a tacit shield. That said, “This is America” pretty much exists for things like this, and is great, so it’s easier than it normally is to choose a winner, which is nice.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Childish Gambino, “This is America”

Sweet 16: Best Featured Verse

So I realize that there are plenty of reasons for Cardi B to be nominated for “MotorSport” instead of Nicki Minaj 3, but Nicki Minaj’s verse is better. Her verse on “Big Bank” is also pretty good, although it’s not the best of these. It’s definitely better, for example, than Drake’s verse on “Look Alive” or 21 Savage’s verse on “Bartier Cardi”. It is true that it is boring to point out that Kendrick Lamar is the best of a group of rappers, but it is kind of remarkable how well just about everything he does works, and his feature on “New Freezer” really is that good.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kendrick Lamar, “New Freezer” (Rich the Kid)

Best Mixtape

Speaking of remarkable consistency, here’s Future again. This time with the also-quite-consistent Zaytoven. It’s impressive how long this run has gone on. BlocBoy JB’s “Simi” is better than I would have thought, as is Zoey Dollaz’s Sorry Not Sorry 4. I have fewer nice things to say about Juicy J (which is about how it usually goes), and while Dedication 6 was the best Dedication in awhile, I think that Lil Wayne is still pretty much out of the running these days. That Future mixtape, though.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Future, Beast Mode 2

Made-You-Look Award

Being forced to consider the vagaries of the way Nicki Minaj dresses vs. the way Cardi B dresses is pretty much enough to drive anyone insane. Migos are all stylish gents, though, so I don’t need to worry about it.


Hustler of the Year

My argument for this one last year was that DJ Khaled is only a public figure at all because of his ability to hustle 5, and that’s still the case, but this year he really earned it. There aren’t a lot of people that watch The Four, which is fair: it’s not very good! One of the things that was missed in its second season, however, was witnessing some portion of the light in DJ Khaled die. It was apparent that that dude did not want to be on the tv show anymore 6, but he did it anyone, and he Khaleded it up the whole time, albeit in a much sweatier way, with considerably less joie de vivre. So here’s to DJ Khaled, I guess, who is somehow not a situationist prank, and is instead the living apotheosis of Hustle.


Best New Hip-Hop Artist

Oof. This one’s tough. Juice Wrld is fine, but indistinguishable from half a dozen other rappers exactly like him, including Rich the Kid, who is fine, but still more of the same. BlocBoy JB may have peaked with the shoot dance, and that was years ago. Quality Control’s Lil Baby is alright, and he’s the best of this bunch.


Album of the Year

Several years ago, I would have been pretty confident in saying that Jay-Z was done being in serious consideration for “Album of the Year” in any given awards, but Everything is Love really is quite good. It helps that his role is largely as hype man for his wife. KOD is an ok J. Cole album. Scorpion is a dismal Drake album. Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy is a lot of fun, and has some great singles, but isn’t really the right call. Culture 2 was way too long, and while the best bits are better than a lot of things, the signal-to-noise ratio is way out of whack. So it’s The Carters.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Carters, Everything is Love

Single of the Year

So “God’s Plan” has already come up rather more than I’d like, and it’ll probably continue to be in here for awhile, and it’s still pretty bad. I suppose it’s better than “Nice for What,” though. “This is America” is a great video, but the song itself doesn’t really do much for me. “I Like It” is ok, I suppose. “Apeshit” is a great song. So it’s The Carters again.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Carters, “Apeshit”

MVP of the Year

I mean, in a race between Drake, Travis Scott and J. Cole there can be no real winners. At least not in 2018. So that leaves us with Childish Gambino, who is definitely a force for good in the world, even if his music is, as I keep mentioning, not my cup of tea.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Childish Gambino, but mostly for not-entirely-musical reasons.

Producer of the Year

This category doesn’t move around very much from year to year, which makes it hard to figure out another thing to say about, say, Benny Boom. Of these people, Metro Boomin’ had the best year.


DJ of the Year

I’m assuming that I have, in fact, cracked the code, and that in this context, “DJ” is separate from “producer” in the sense that these people all make records with their own names on them. The Rosetta Stone here was DJ Mustard’s inclusion, since he’s been moving out in front of the laptop recently. Anyway, it’s probably him, because the rest of this field is pretty dire, and DJ Khaled is not a DJ in any meaningful sense of the word, including this one.


Video Director of the Year

Hiro Murai was so good at directing a video that it made me praise a Childish Gambino song. It’s a seriously great video.


Lyricist of the Year

I appreciate that this category exists, as lyrics are an important part of the experience for a bunch of people, and hip-hop is especially words-focused, and it should be here. Yay for this category. I never know the words to anything, however. So I guess I’m going to say that it’s Kendrick again, because what I do know of his words is very impressive, and also because it’s not going to be anybody else here, right?


Hot Ticket Performer

You know, I don’t really like Childish Gambino’s music, but he’s a good enough performer in general that I bet whatever he does live is pretty good and worth watching. Not as good as Kendrick, but pretty good I bet.


Best Collabo, Duo or Group

While “Best Song With More Than One Person On It” isn’t really the way to go about naming a category, it does avoid usage of the term “collabo”, which is nice. Just putting it out there. Anyway, several of these songs are comically bad. “I Like It” is mostly alright, but it still melts down in front of “Apeshit”. This seems like it’s specifically paving the way for the Carters to take it home here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Carters, “Apeshit”

Best Hip-Hop Video

It’s rare that the last category that I write about here 7 is the best category, but this one might be, especially once you throw out “God’s Plan”. The “Walk it Like I Talk It” video is funny, even though it includes Drake. The “I Like It” video is at least kinetic and brightly colored. The “Loyalty” video is great and has been much-ballyhooed elsewhere (including on this very site), but I think I’m going to stick with “This is America”

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Childish Gambino, “This is America

And that’ll be that until next year, when I’ll probably be mad about J. Cole all over again.

  1. Solid reminder – I am old 
  2.  which is saying something, because Lifetime Achievement awards almost always have very stupid names. 
  3.  among them: it’s good for ratings, because the hip-hop media insisted loudly that the two had “beef” until they actually did, thus creating a rivalry that didn’t need to exist, and also it’s probably good for them to nominate as many different people as possible in each category, and Nicki Minaj is also rightfully nominated for “Big Bank,” see further on. 
  4.  it’s an awful title, though. 
  5.  after several years of screaming his own name in the intros to various songs/mixtapes, he rose significantly in prominence by shouting catchphrases at consumer goods – mainly shoes – on Snapchat. 
  6.  I may find some things to say about The Four next time it airs – assuming that the call for auditions at the end of season 2 do in fact lead to a season 3 – but one of the main questions I have about it is how it’s filmed – I suspect the whole thing is done in a day or two, and that it must be one tremendously long, exhausting day (or couple of days), and that this contributes to the effect. 
  7.  which tends to be the “headliner” category – the one the audience is ostensibly all here to see. 

The 2018 American Music Awards

So the American Music Awards have moved! They’re in October now! I do not have an explanation for this, other than that they wanted to make the eligibility period as short as possible I guess?

The AMAs are one of the more existentially funny awards shows – they’re transparently a way for ABC/Disney to have an in-house awards show 1, and they consist of roughly seven billion categories, but have one of the smallest pools of nominees out there – you see the same dozen or so names over and over and over again, category after category 2.

They are, as such, interesting in the main – it is always interesting to see where the business concerns of the awards show are willing to align themselves, and since the AMAs are 100% business concern, with literally no other covering 3, they are in and of themselves a fascination. This year they are slightly less tedious than in years’ past, which is something of a relief. I mean, relatively, because this is also a particularly awful field of nominees.

Nevertheless, here are the rightful winners.

Favorite Artist – Electronic Dance Music

You know, every year there’s someone in this category who I kind of almost like. This year that person is Marshmello. Thanks, Marshemello, for keeping this from being impossible.


Favorite Artist – Contemporary Inspirational

Lauren Daigle has been declared the rightful winner every single time I’ve covered an awards show that she was nominated for an award within. I want this to be different, but it isn’t, because MercyMe are pretty bad, and Zach Williams is even worse.


Favorite Artist – Latin

There are pluses and minuses to the “only three nominees per category” thing that this particular awards show does. One of the primary pluses is that these are super-easy to consider – there’s only three of them, you don’t get bogged down. The minuses, however, are in a category like this, where I have to make a very finely-considered choice between J. Balvin and Daddy Yankee, which requires me to devote a whole bunch of my thinking brain to two guys that are….fine. Like, they’re not bad. They’ve both made songs I like. It’s not even a problem. It’s just that I have no ability to quantify which one is more fine. In the bigger categories, I can just find a different outlier and go with that. In this one, the odd man out is Reggaeton snoozefest Ozuna, so that’s just right out. So it goes.


Favorite Artist – Adult Contemporary

P!nk is pretty much the only option here, as Ed Sheeran and Ed Sheeran’s Living Photocopy Shawn Mendes definitely are never going to be worthy of anything ever as long as I live.


Favorite Artist – Alternative Rock

Imagine Dragons has been nominated for the AMA for Alternative Rock artist every single year I’ve been doing this except the first one. This is astonishing for a couple of reasons, 1) they are not a rock band 4 and 2) they are godawful. Panic! At the Disco continue to exist, which I also find dismaying. Thus it goes to Portgual, the Man.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Portugal, the Man

Favorite Song – Soul/R&B

I have nothing in particular to say about Ella Mai. While I admire the pandering to the sort of old people that would admire the throwback-y vibe and video to the Bruno Mars/Cardi B song, “Young Dumb and Broke” is actually a great song that does a better job at pandering in a satisfying fashion.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Khalid, “Young Dumb and Broke”

Favorite Album – Soul R&B

It seems almost impossible to believe that Ctrl is still out here getting nominated for awards, but the AMAs are in a weird spot in the year, and it definitely deserves the nomination, so I’m happy to see it.


Favorite Female Artist – Soul/R&B

I still have nothing in particular to say about Ella Mai. Rihanna is fine, but most of her interesting work is in the sort of, y’know, existing-as-a-famous-person-in-public realm, rather than the musical realm. I still really like SZA.


Favorite Male Artist – Soul/R&B

You know, at various points I would have found this category much more difficult. Bruno Mars has basically taken himself out of the running. Khalid is interesting, and has a great voice, but it remains to be seen what’s going to come from that. The Weeknd has sort of fallen into the lane I feel like he’s going to remain in for some time now, where he’s not as wildly good as he started out being, but he’s still better than, say, Bruno Mars and Khalid.


Favorite Song – Rap/Hip-Hop

Given that two of the nominees here are perhaps the two most irritating songs of the past 12 months, this really seems to be paving the way for “Bodak Yellow” here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Cardi B, “Bodak Yellow (Money Moves)”

Favorite Album – Rap/Hip-Hop

This has no such savior as the “song” category, so I’m forced, once again, to consider some things much more than I’d like. I guess Lil Uzi Vert’s album isn’t as bad as the other two.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lil Uzi Vert, Luv is Rage 2

Favorite Artist – Rap/Hip-Hop

Given that my opinions about these three in the “songs” category can pretty much be extended to all of the work they made within the eligibility period 5, so this one is rather predictable.


Favorite Song – Country

This is doing no damage to my “pop music fans are into the worst country music” argument, quite frankly.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: I guess it’s Kane Brown? I guess? For “Heaven”?

Favorite Album – Country

I don’t actually like “Heaven,” the above-mentioned song, and it’s worth mentioning down here because as I was listening to these albums to figure out which one of them was the one I’d like the most of the three of them, I got furthest into the Kane Brown album before I bailed on it, and “Heaven” was a song that I didn’t even notice as it played, which means that this field is literally competing against zero. Like, something that was even a little bit positive would get more notice.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kane Brown, Kane Brown

Favorite Duo or Group – Country

Hilariously, clicking the link to Lanco on the American Music Awards of 2018 Wikipedia page takes you to the page for the airline, because the Wikipedia editor that entered all of the AMA information didn’t bother to check his links. I’d correct it, but it’s 1) funnier this way and 2) the only entertainment it’s at all possible to get out of this category, so I’m hopeful that it’s still there by the time you’re reading this.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lanco, but mostly their Wikipedia page.

Favorite Female Artist – Country

You know, in years past, the problem with the Country categories is that the rollover in Country music is so low, and it tends to be the same set of people over and over (and over and over) for every awards show for several years. So we’ve largely rolled over a set 6, but it’s still pretty awful. I mean, I’m happy to see Kelsea Ballerini I guess? That’s a pretty bleak state of affairs.


Favorite Male Artist – County

This is the same situation as the albums category, but you can all rest assured that I don’t like Luke Bryan more than Luke Combs. I mean, I suppose I don’t like him less, either.


Favorite Song – Pop/Rock

In keeping with the spirit of this year’s write-up, I will point out that another of the things that happens here every year is that the “Rock” is utterly superfluous in this cateogry name. It’s all just pop music, guys. Anyway, I don’t love (or even much like) “Havana,” but up against “God’s Plan” and “Perfect” it might as well be “Hey” fucking “Jude”.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Camila Cabello, “Havana” (f Young Thug)

Favorite Album – Pop/Rock

I’m reminiscing about the good old days when I had that Camila Cabello song to prevent me from deciding that I like Scorpion best of any given set of things. Remember those days? Those were good days.


Favorite Duo or Group – Pop/Rock

Hey, one of these is actually kind of a rock band! This means the “Rock” is not entirely superfluous every time! Also one of these (obviously not the same one) is actually good! That means I don’t have to go drink bleach!


Favorite Female Artist – Pop/Rock

Hey! Things are turning up! I don’t even have to settle for Camila Cabello in this one!


Favorite Male Artist – Pop/Rock

All of that is to say: at least none of the other categories have Post Malone in them. I mean, he’s going to continue to pop up, and it’s going to be infuriating every time because: no.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Drake. But big sigh at “Rightful” and at “Winner”.

Favorite Soundtrack

I’ll give a dollar to anyone who can tell me why Fate of the Furious is in here. A whole American dollar. The Greatest Showman was a valiant effort, but unfortunately total garbage. Black Panther had a pretty cool soundtrack.


Favorite Social Artist

I feel like the “Social Media” categories are in a nightmare reign for BTS, but I think that there could be other options soon. See, the logic is that BTS managed to be bona-fide pop superstars in America with little other than their rabid fans and their equally-rabid social media support from said fans. That means it’s de facto BTS, because they don’t have any of the non-online aspects of, say, Cardi B 7, Ariana Grande 8, Demi Lovato 9 or Shawn Mendes 10


Tour of the Year

Well, this one had two tours in it that I would attend, which is one more than this category usually features. I only considered going to see U2 very briefly, but I did consider it. I very nearly went to see Beyonce and Jay-Z, so that’s the one I suppose, in the most practical sense of “Rightful Winner,” I am once again going with the one I would have been most likely to see.


Video of the Year

While “Bodak Yellow” is the only actually good song here, the video is just kind of…there. The “Havana” video at least has the telenovela bit at the beginning that I quite like. The “God’s Plan” video is self-aggrandizing nonsense.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Camila Cabello, “Havana (f Young Thug)”

New Artist of the Year

It’s funny that this category, usually the market-stunt-iest category, is one of the strongest fields going. Camila Cabello isn’t really “new,” having done time in Fifth Harmony. Dua Lipa and Khalid are both people with extremely nice singing voices. Cardi B is probably here to stay, and doesn’t need to “come into” her material at all, like Dua Lipa or Khalid would.


Artist of the Year

Aaaaaand we’re right back to the misery. Taylor Swift hasn’t come up, but she is in several of these categories, and her output in the eligibility period is extraordinarily bad. I’m usually mildly positive on the Taylor Swift scale, but this last record was just awful. Ed Sheeran is execrable, although he’s better than Post Malone. Imagine Dragons’s singer made that cool documentary thing. That was neat. It’s probably better than Drake, so why not?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Imagine Dragons (but not their music)

That wraps it up for this one! I suppose next year at this time I’ll have to start tracking whether it’s the American Music Awards that make this field so dreadful, or whether it’s just that pop music itself is in a down period where it doesn’t much appeal to me! Whee!

  1. despite having what could accurately be called “minimal” record-selling-industry connections these days. 
  2.  sub to footnote 1, this is probably down to the record-selling interests Disney does have, lack of record label notwithstanding. 
  3.  that is to say, they lack the Billboard awards’ house-organ connection, the Grammys seriousness, or even, say, the People’s Choice Awards’ idea of a democratic winner 
  4.  I litigate this every time it comes up, but if you’re not a dedicated reader, the argument is this: they are not a band in any meaningful sense (ie the assemblage of people that are onstage or whatever bear little relationship to the music as it is played on their albums, as their album credits and, y’know, the actual sound of the actual music bear out), they do not play rock music in any meaningful sense (the music is not built on the interplay of the musicians, it does not feature the guitar/bass/drum lineup that typifies rock music, it is not played primarily in dynamics and texture, instead relying on the language of dance music – hooks, drops, godawful vocals, etc. – to make its point). There are rock bands that offer exceptions to rules, certainly (Suicide, for example, is one of the finest rock bands the world has ever known), but Imagine Dragons aren’t one of them. 
  5.  you know, one of these days I really should evaluate whether Take Care and Nothing Was the Same are actually good records, or if they just sounded better at the time. 
  6.  although Carrie Underwood persists, because it’s not like they send them out on an ice floe or whatever. 
  7.  who used to be on tv, after all 
  8.  who used to be on tv, after all 
  9.  who used to be on tv, after all 
  10.  fuck Shawn Mendes 

The Best Records of September 2018

Low – Double Negative (Would that we could all make such a startling change to our approach 25 years into doing whatever it is we do. Also: Low made a noise record, so obviously I am here for it.)

Tim Hecker – Konoyo (September proved itself to be a real banger for Kranky records alums – Low started out on Kranky – and also, Tim Hecker found a bunch of super-modern inspiration in a bunch of super-old Japanese instruments)

Spiritualized – And Nothing Hurt (Jason Pierce’s level of consistency remains much higher than I feel it should be. I have nothing new to add to the conversation about Spiritualized, but if this is indeed their last record, then this is a hell of a way to go out)

Joey Purp – Quarterthing (Most of the time when rappers try do this many different things on a record, it’s a little bit like watching someone try on clothes – it’s just better if they make a decision about the approach and go forward from there. Somehow Joey Purp made the decision to try things out, and it worked all the way through)

Milo – Budding Ornithologists are Weary of Tired Analogies (this is Milo’s third record of the year, and all three of them are top-flight incredible. I have no idea where this is coming from or how he’s doing it, but it’s amazing)

The 2018 Trainie Awards

As always, as “the year” turns its face toward “the end of the year,” and as “the sporadic summer awards season” becomes “the awards season”, I turn my face to the fact that this site, which has something to say about just about as many awards shows as I can manage to come up with things about 1, is also the occasional granter of its own awards.

Of course, the Trainies aren’t the usual awards ceremony, they’re more of an opportunistic and variable sort of ceremony 2, and as such, they are presented to a variety of categories for a variety of achievements. This year, in keeping with the general trend, I will also do my very best to keep them brief.

Outstanding Achievement in Continuing to be the Worst Possible Fanbase

Star Wars sure oughta inspire better than it does, right? I mean, lots of good/neutral people like or don’t like Star Wars for lots of good/neutral reasons, certainly. I, myself, don’t like plenty of Star Wars. I, however, have never been so overtaken by rage that I had to help chase someone off the internet, as has happened with Kelly Marie Tran 3. It’s also never driven me to do anything as goofy as create, disseminate and sign a petition to remove The Last Jedi from canon, which would be ordinary internet windmill-tilting-at (see last year’s business with Rotten Tomatoes and the DC movies) if it weren’t for the fact that it generally seems to be the same people who are motivated to yell at Kelly Marie Tran (and, to a somewhat lesser extent, John Boyega) that aren’t merely happy knowing that they’ve made the people that they blame (wrongly) for their displeasure with a movie miserable and afraid, but that the rest of the movies in that series need to not even make mention of this thing. The presumption, of course, being that if the movies that come after are not the product of a complete disavowal, that the people doing the harassing/petition signing will just keep on doing it.

Of course, if Solo taught us anything, it’s that they also can probably be taken at their word just not to see anymore Star Wars movies, which, ultimately, is fine, and brings to mind the one thing that remains true of every single generation of Star Wars fan: what Star Wars fans really hate is Star Wars.

Outstanding Achievement in Convincing People to Poison Themselves

The great Tide Pods-ening of late 2017/early 2018 came and went, and since every day of the news cycle is 6,000 years long, it’s easy to forget that it was just a few months ago that it all happened.

But it did. A joke about how Tide Pods look like candy became a meme, the meme got out of control, and people started posting videos of themselves eating or allegedly eating soap for YouTube 4. This became a media circus – where it was reported that 11 out of every 10 teenagers was eating Tide Pods three meals a day – and then a series of jokes about the media circus. At the end of the day, YouTube banned eating Tide Pods on YouTube, the joke floated off into the ether, and that one dude in Florida (who made candy that looked like Tide Pods, in a nicely recursive step) and that one pizzeria in Greenpoint probably had to find new gimmicks for their menus.

At almost exactly the same time, in an interview with one of the founders of Juicero, the community of people who drink the soup of minerals, animal excreta, dirt and algae that presents itself as “raw” water saw some of the harsh light of day. This is, to just about anyone who thinks about it for more than a few seconds, a terrible fucking idea. Like, a truly terrible idea. Among the first things we did at every step of the way as humans achieving civilization was figure out how to treat water so that we could drink it, reliably, and not die.

The idea, though, is that water that is filtered is filtered of the things that give it life 5, and this is bad for all of us, plus they pump it full of fluoride 6 and it has drugs in it. Whereas highly-marked-up completely untreated water has all that, y’know, stuff in it. To keep you alive or whatever 7.

The entity receiving this award, though, is neither the group of people that ate (or didn’t eat but were reported to have eaten) the Tide Pods, nor is it the Silicon Valley tech bros that are right now incubating healthy populations of glorious and thriving dysentery in their gut. It’s the American food industry, which has simultaneously told two populations contradictory things all through the magic of nothing more than their own marketing. You see, the reason that Tide Pods look like candy is because the marketing-driven decision that caused their appearance comes from the exact same research that decided how candy should look – the same appealing, bright, friendly qualities are wanted for both potentially-dangerous household chemicals and potentially-dangerous sugar garbage treats.

Similarly, the food marketing angle that leads people to believe that “less treated” is “more natural” and that “more natural” is “more healthy” has given the tech bros the idea that this is a concept that should be taken all the way to its most extreme position, that even the water that we drink should be untouched.

Kids aren’t going to admit to being swayed by advertising, and tech-bros aren’t going to blame the marketers that provide so much of their own lifeblood, so basically you have the two populations that are most likely to believe the marketing wing of the food industry’s nonsense uncritically, and they’re killing them. This seems like bad business.

Outstanding Achievement in Being the First to Do Something That Will, Eventually, Work

Beating out Amazon Go 8 and Bodega 9 is Air France, and their utterly preposterous Airline for Millenials, which features VR entertainment, fancy dress and….something called a “rooftop bar.” When I think of reasons why this is absurd, I think of many things, but none of them so much as the idea of a “rooftop bar” on a fucking plane. I suppose if there’s a bunch of deaths on a plane because people were enjoying coldbrew or oat milk smoothies or kombucha or whatever on the top of it, I’ll be proven wrong, but otherwise: there’s no reason to call it that. It’s just a bar. Go heck yourselves.

Anyway, there are many businesses I approve of less than this one, but this is here because it’s about to start happening more, and, eventually, it will work. Someone will start a business in this fashion, it will hang on, and no one will pour any out for poor ol’ Air France, whose only real business sin was not waiting until millennials had the money to spend on weird novelty flights. It’s going to work because one of the things that does mark the set of people who are in their mid twenties to mid thirties 10 is a weirdly-consumptive level of brand engagement (c.f. Wendy’s Twitter, allegiances to social networking sites that seems extra-absurd) and an ability to believe that they’re (we’re, I guess) impossible to market to. A company is going to crack this code, and it’s going to be stupid. But it ain’t Air France, and it ain’t this.

Outstanding Achievement in a Field I Didn’t Know it Was Still Possible to Have an Outstanding Achievement In

My love of newspaper comics is not news around these parts (and my saying so goes back to almost the very beginning of this blog). I love ‘em. I love ‘em in 2018. So it warmed my heart when long-running gentle humor comic Nancy got, for the first time in its 80-odd years of existing, a female comics artist.

She goes by Olivia Jaimes, and she’s currently anonymous 11, she’s said to have already been a successful webcomicist, and her run on Nancy is funny. Like, genuinely funny for a newspaper comic strip. She’s got a good, updated, line on who the characters are and how they interact, and she’s willing to drag the strip back in the twenty-first century, while bringing back to the strip a sense of playfulness that it hasn’t had for years.

The comic’s creator, Ernie Bushmiller, was a genius. A genius of minimalism, a genius of form, a genius of the sort of playfulness that should, quite frankly, inhabit the comics page. It’s only ever been drawn by a handful of people, including Jerry Scott (the Zits guy) 12, before Guy Gilchrist drew it as the leaden thump that it’s been for the last couple of decades. James’s arrival manages to start the comic back into the air, and, of course, by changing something on the comics page, it has also caused no small amount of cranky yelling about how much better things were in the halcyon days of Guy Gilchrist 13

HONORABLE MENTION: Occasioned by this piece in The Outline, as well as public remarks by Nick Wiger and (as always, and he’s been on this beat forever), the Comics Curmudgeon, people really seemed to get into present-day dadaist masterpiece Heathcliff, which warms my heart to no end, but isn’t quite as cool as Olivia Jaimes.

Outstanding Achievement in Terrible Ideas That Are Still Developing

The Oscar for Popular Film is a colossally bad idea. That’s not new – the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences comes up with four bad ideas before breakfast – but the fact that everyone agreed that it was a colossally bad idea was a nice time for internet dwellers. The idea that shunting off an entire uh….OK, so it was clear that something was being shunted off 14, but it was never entirely clear what they were doing. Popular films win Best Picture all the time. Several years ago, they tried their cockamamie thing where they made the field of Best Picture nominees super-big, and that didn’t really work for them either. So this time they played their hand super-close to the vest, and didn’t even tell people what this category was for, other than, y’know, popular films.

Never mind that there still isn’t an academy award for casting, never mind that they could have very easily – and to much fanfare 15– brought back the “Unique and Artistic Picture” Category, thus inverting the equation. They never would, of course, because it would start to wear away at their “acceptable genres” idea – they didn’t do this in the wake of the boomlet of musicals in the early aughts, or the period-drama onslaught of the nineties, they did it during the superhero years, making it entirely clear which side of their bread is buttered.

Anyway, there may be some more about this in February, when the whole thing will have shaken out, but the upshot is: they did a dumb, unpopular thing, then, after everyone got mad at them, said “well we definitely weren’t actually going to do that anyway,” which means that AMPAS is officially a recalcitrant eight year old. Way to go, guys.

Unless, of course, they totally do it anyway, or continue to make gestures at it, in which case this will in all likelihood be around next year to be the first repeat Trainies winner.

Outstanding Achievement in Public Speaking

We always like to go out here on a high note, so allow me to present to you, Ursula T. Vernon’s speech at last year’s Hugos 16, where she won for her incredible story “The Tomato Thief” 17. The Hugos had a rough few years, and have largely settled into being more fun than they were before the puppies arrived, at least for me 18, and Ursula Vernon (who has won Hugos before) decided that this time, she was going to do the thing that everyone wishes they could do: she was going to talk to a huge crowd of people about something cool: whalefall. It’s all in the link above, and it involves zombie worms, and, frankly, it’s more memorable and meaningful than a list of “thank you”s would have been, or a brief speech about where a story came from (although I understand the utility of the thank yous, and begrudge no one his or her need to thank people). But it’s nice, isn’t it? Whalefall.

HONORABLE MENTION: Patton Oswalt, who in this Vulture interview walked back what is easily the worst of his earlier jokes, and generally proves himself to be a pretty stand-up guy. That’s a funny joke that I gave you all for free because I love you. Also if Patton Oswalt turns out to have done sex crimes or whatever I’m burning this country to the ground. So.

  1.  and have time to genuinely consider. 
  2.  specifically, they are meant to “honor” things that I tried to write about in this space, but either didn’t have the time, couldn’t find the angle, or didn’t have enough to say about them to involve making an entire separate post about them. 
  3.  That’s Comedy Bang! Bang!’s own Kelly Marie Tran! 
  4.  this, coupled with the last few weeks’ reportage of the frequent mental terrorism undergone by YouTube creators, means that the Tide Pod thing was only the first time YouTube’s algorithim encouraged creators to literally attempt to kill themselves. 
  5.  the idea that if something is a healthful environment for one thing, it is necessarily healthful for all things has given us pseudoscientific dumbshit ideas from Avicenna all the way through to Jordan “We Are All Made of Lobsters” Peterson. 
  6.  this is already the longest award granted, and I’m trying to keep this brief, but if anyone reading this hasn’t ever encountered the fluoride conspiracy theorists, gird your loins and jump onto Google because it’s terrific material. 
  7.  interestingly (?), one of the things that the raw water folks are insistent upon is the preponderance of healthy probiotics in their water, and the touters of probiotics have also themselves come under some scrutiny for not being the panacea that they were sold as being. PS: there is no such thing as a panacea. There are no one-stop solutions. 
  8.  which wasn’t specifically targeted at “millenials”, and also which I’m embarrassed by how much it appeals to me. 
  9.  which held onto this spot for much longer than it would have in other years for also being one of the first things shouted down as cultural appropriation became something people were more vocal about not liking in 2018. 
  10.  NB I am at the early end of “millennial,” having been born in 1983.  
  11.  although she’s going to make a public appearance at CSC, a comics convention, so she probably won’t remain so for much longer. 
  12.  and, famously, not including Ivan Brunetti, who was justifiably not hired – his Nancy was, even by his own admission, not the best use of his talents, which are otherwise entirely worth seeking out. 
  13. GoComics is weird to navigate, but here you can see some of Gilchrist’s…uh….work, and here you can see not only Jaimes’s, but also the comments, where you can see some real yelling-at-clouds shit, even as late as July (where that second Jaimes link is from) 
  14.  that “something” was almost certainly set to include Black Panther 
  15.  because it would have been elevating something that was less-visible, and also because it would have been celebrating the kind of brainy smart people film that folks like the receive credit for liking. 
  16.  I’m fudging the dates on its inclusion, because the speech itself didn’t become public until November, which was within the eligibility period. 
  17.  as was declared rightfully so. 
  18.  I have never been anything but open and honest about the fact that I thought the pre-Puppies Hugos were dumb, the Puppies themselves were dumb, and that the post-Puppies Hugos are a step in the right direction, and that having that editorial position is way better for me as a reader. 

Who the Fuck Listens to This: Third Eye Blind

Pity the once-popular band that is still alive and shambling around 1. Years and years past the time when they were selling records and were a going concern, now stuck in a position of wanting to continue to do the thing that impelled them to start a band in the first place – i.e. write and perform songs for an audience – and stuck in a place where they have to figure out how to do that while also pleasing the people that want to hear them play, say, “Jumper”. This is the situation that the current incarnation of Third Eye Blind find themselves in, and it 2 is what leads them to record a covers EP, Thanks for Everything, which is what we find ourselves confronted with today.

Muddling that position is the fact that Third Eye Blind, the band itself, is currently a band containing one original member – singer and notorious blowhard Stephen Jenkins 3, while a version of the band, XEB, containing multiple original members 4, is out there playing the hits that people would be compelled to want to hear. I suppose there’s some calculus in the minds of the Third Eye Blind fan (?) to decide whether to go hear the songs they’re going to enjoy, or to watch some hired guns play new songs by the guy that wrote roughly 50% of the old songs.

The new material, then, appears to also be something of a mess. Like a lot of bands that depend on the record-selling industry’s support (such as it is), Third Eye Blind decided to go the “frequent shorter release” route in 2012. They released an EP, then announced a second one, Summer Gods, which sort of came out – they released an EP called Summer Gods that was not an album of new material, but instead of live versions of songs, most of which were hits from the before times, when Third Eye Blind had hits. One can assume, given this ambivalent-seeming interview in which Jenkins says his plan is to eventually release a full-length album comprised of songs from the EPs, that this was not the actual plan – unless he planned to release an album of half original songs and half live versions of songs everybody already knew 5. It would appear, to the casual observer, that the band is spinning its wheels. Jenkins even basically admitted as much, stating that “[t]he idea with this EP was to amplify some of that music and art, and in doing so, catch inspiration for our next album”. Sounds like a plan.

In the band’s defense, recording an album full of covers is a classic wheels-spinning move. The Rolling Stones were just praised to the rafters for doing it. Metallica did it and it revealed that they needed to fire their bass player 6. Rage Against the Machine did it to delay breaking up. But hey, it kind of worked for Slayer 7 and the aforefootnoted Tori Amos 8

It has, at least, drummed up more press for the band than anything else they’ve done in awhile – I was previously unaware of the whole “recording only EPs thing,” or anything about their continued existence. I suppose I was dimly aware that they were still out there, but I hadn’t considered them. Jenkins has filled the press with quotes about how much he likes this version of the band, and how intergenerational the audiences at Third Eye Blind shows are 9. Nevertheless, the whole project has a sort of “trying to get out of this box” quality that makes it seem more put-on than it maybe is.

The assemblage of songs – seven in all – is a white elephant sale of cover versions. Power-pop journeymen Happy Diving and sort-of-big indie band Chastity Belt make a little bit of sense, I suppose. Covering Babyshambles (the least-good of Pete Doherty’s bands) is always a publicity move, since there isn’t, y’know, anything going on in any of their songs 10. Tim Buckley and Bon Iver are the “respectability” bids, and Santigold and Queens of the Stone Age the “cool” bids 11. It’s hard to tell who is being communicated to, and what the communication is, other than “we are a band that likes popular songs and can learn to play them.”

The surprising end result of listening to them steamroll their way through the songs I was familiar with 12 was a sort of fugue state, where I thought about what “songcraft” is and what it means to be a rock band. That probably seemed loftier than it was, but I actually thought that a professional, relatively well-played cover band is not a terrible thing to be, and wouldn’t be a terrible thing for Third Eye Blind to be. It might even be easier than whatever it is they’re trying to revive here – it seems like it’s easier to learn a bunch of cover songs and use them to fill the set in between, y’know, “Jumper” and “Never Let You Go” or whatever. Obviously I have no business or artistic concern with Third Eye Blind, and am more than happy to let every band do what it is that they do, without it having anything to do with me. Preferable, really: it’s the only way to be surprised or have any kind of genuine moment of communication. Nevertheless, I think there is nothing dishonorable about deciding to perform other peoples’ songs, and that they would be well served by considering it more often 13.

So, in its way, it’s probably the Third Eye Blind that I found most interesting, and most genuine: even if they’re just trying to give the people what they want, they’re doing so by interpreting other people’s’ songs, and somehow managing to make them all sound their own thing 14even if that “thing” is utterly free of nuance or anything that would mark it as distinct – it’s like someone turned seven really interesting dishes into seven soups – it’s not that there’s anything wrong with soup, as such, it’s that soup is hard to make distinctive under most conditions, and none of these things were actually soup to begin with.

And so we come back to the question: who the fuck listens to this? Leaving aside the obvious evergreen answers (Stans, trufans, whatever you want to call them)? It raises its own kind of curiosity, so maybe that would be enough to answer the question. But as with a bunch of these things, the question then is: who the fuck listens to this twice? I can’t imagine that question has an answer.

  1.  in some form, see below. 
  2.  in addition to some other factors, see below again. 
  3.  to his (or the band’s) credit, he is also the only distinctive element of the band, as, as far as I can tell, no instrumentalist has ever played even a single distinctive note, but Jenkins’s voice is at least somewhat-memorable. Or recognizable, at least. 
  4.  formed, dizzyingly, as a result of Kevin Cadogan, the band’s original guitar player and the leader of XEB, having been ousted from Third Eye Blind, Inc. because of a record deal that left Stephen Jenkins with sole control of the band.  
  5.  a thing that almost kind of worked when Tori Amos did it on To Venus and Back 
  6.  The efficacy of this move is, of course, a matter of some argument 
  7.  I mean, Diabolus in Musica is the one right after Undisputed Aggression, but the album after that is God Hates Us All, and that’s a pretty effective comeback right there. 
  8.  which actually tells me that Slayer might be the magic ingredient, as Strange Little Girls contains a cover of “Raining Blood”. 
  9.  Although in the AZ Central link, above, he also states that their audience includes “a whole generation of millennials and even Gen Zs”, which is….not that large a range. 
  10.  Jenkins explained it to Consequence of Sound by saying  “There’s a raised fist in this song and that’s what we need right now.” Which, I mean, I guess so? But not really. It’s not as much of a “raised fist” as it is a “Can of lighter fluid doused all over oneself, and a struck match.” 
  11. twenty years ago, one of these would have been replaced by an “ironic” song, and it came as a small relief to me that none of these really qualified. At least the world has moved forward in this one small way. 
  12.  Tim Buckley’s “Song of the Siren,” Queens of the Stone Age’s “In the Fade,” and Santigold’s “Not Our Parade” are songs that I knew outright. Babyshambles’ “Fuck Forever” and Bon Iver’s “Blood Bank” are songs I recognized from hearing them incidentally. I did not really know Chastity Belt’s “Joke” or Happy Diving’s “10” well, although I listened to them again to compare them for this, because I do research, people.  
  13. it brings to mind Beach Slang, who are known for playing an almost-absurd number of cover songs in their live sets, which are great. 
  14. including the extraordinarily ill-advised decision to perform “In the Fade” as a weird pop-funk reggae-lite bit of business that suits neither the band nor the song.  

The 70th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards

Emmy time is here again! The joys of the big-time network-television awards show are to be rained down upon us! It’s time to gather around our televisions and listen to the people that make television tell us about the joys of television, as well as who made the best television!

They are, of course, wrong 1, because any decision made by committee about artistic endeavors is liable to be wrong at least twice as often as it is right, but that is, of course, a discussion for another time 2. For now I will take their consensus decisions and apply my own obviously-infallible judgment to them, to help you all understand what is Right, even if it is not necessarily what is correct.

Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story was very well-received by the Emmy folks, which surprised me, and I’m even more surprised that it’s here in this category, given that the writing is absolutely not what impelled the show. Black Mirror: USS Callister and American Vandal are both reliant on a kind of twist, which is fine from a viewing perspective, but also which demeans the writing somewhat from an awards perspective 3Patrick Melrose is, mechanically speaking, a real interesting exercise, as it is the product of a novelist 4 adapting the work of another novelist 5. Too bad the show is terrible. Godless is probably well-written, but it is also a Western, which means most of the things it trucks in are things I have no use for, and little response to, so it’s not the winner here. That leaves us with Twin Peaks, and I must say, it’s probably much more difficult to write something that is non-linear and doesn’t seem to make much sense.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mark Frost and David Lynch, Twin Peaks

Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special

The only one of these that isn’t a stand-up special is Samantha Bee’s Puerto Rico special, which is wonderful, but it was written by a room full of people to be taped in advance, and has a bunch of advantages in the “writing” sense over the ones that one person (or, in one case, two people) wrote alone to be performed all at once. Steve Martin & Martin Short made a fine special – they have both been among the funniest people on the planet at one time or another 6, but it’s not that good. John Mulaney and Michelle Wolf both made specials that were as good as you could want them to be – they’re very good comics, and their specials reflect that. There’s not much else to say about that. Patton Oswalt’s Annihilation deals with tragedies personal and global, and does so on the way to being one of his funniest hours yet 7, and one of the funniest anythings of the entire year.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Patton Oswalt, Annihilation

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series

A television show’s first season is hard to do well. You have to establish your show and let people know what they’re in for, start a bunch of balls rolling and manage to do so in a way that also clues people in to who the characters are and where they’re going to be doing their interacting. That makes Killing Eve’s writing a real achievement. It’s also hard to keep the ball rolling on a series, and The Handmaid’s Tale managed it, more-or-less. The Crown has shown itself to be pretty reliable as well, and while I suppose it’s possible to win an Emmy for stolidity of craft, I don’t think this is the ideal position. Stranger Things wobbled pretty hard without the novelty of their presentation 8. Game of Thrones’ nomination for writing after their weakest, most-ridiculous season yet seems a bit like a joke. One of the things that’s harder to do well than a premiere is a series finale – you have to put a button on a story people have spent literally years following, and have grown attached to the characters in varying ways, and The Americans managed to pull that off, so I think the award probably goes there.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg, The Americans (“START”)

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series

I should probably be careful not to come out too hard sounding like a broken record already. So I will acknowledge that Amy Sherman-Palladino has made a very good set of decisions in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and the writing is lovely. Silicon Valley continues to be a very funny show, and tightening up the ensemble 9 has clearly done it some good, although that doesn’t have much to do with the writing itself. Barry is a very good show that has the unfortunate coincidence of coexisting at the same time as Atlanta. Atlanta Atlanta Atlanta Atlanta Atlanta 10.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Donald Glover, Atlanta (“Alligator Man”)

Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special

See what I mean about The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, though? It’s like it’s cracked some sort of code for being nominated for everything despite not being better than any of the other stuff particularly. I mean, it was good and I liked it, but I don’t think it was “a nomination in every category” good. Anyway, I’m still in the same boat w/r/t Godless as I was in the writing category, and you can throw biopics right in the same boat, so Paterno is right out. Patrick Melrose is still dumb and bad. The Looming Tower is definitely weirdly-timed, and is probably fine, but also is trying so very hard to say more than it does 11, or at least it seems that way. Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert was the filmed adaptation of a stage musical. That leaves us, once again, with Twin Peaks, which was, in point of fact, directed by an actual literal genius.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: David Lynch, Twin Peaks

Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special

The difficulty of directing stand-up specials is in the capturing of a live event in such a way that it makes the audience member – who is viewing an immersive experience at remove of both time and space – seem like they are watching the thing happen in front of them. The point of The Oscars and the Super Bowl halftime show are not exactly the same thing – the idea behind those is merely to get them on the screen. There’s no real way to transfer the experience of being at The Oscars, and there isn’t the time or space involved in the Super Bowl halftime show to do much more than get it up there. Of the three standup specials here, they’re all pretty staid as all that goes, but the Steve Martin and Martin Short special is necessarily more movement-oriented, and so seems like it a better job was done with the directing.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Marcus Raboy, Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Never Forget for the Rest of Your Life

Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series

So all of the shows here are pretty bad, but they’re all well-directed. I don’t have the particular inclination to go back through and see how many times that’s happened 12. Ozark is beautiful and boring, and most of its good qualities are actually down to the cinematography 13, and neither episode here distinguishes itself for its directing. Game of Thrones abandoned all pretense of being anything other than a show of giant spectacle and soap-opera melodrama, and I think that that probably means the directing was not quite as good as it could have been. Also, it is awful. That said, even in a case like The Handmaid’s Tale, where most of the show is an interactional, people-oriented drama, they still end up nominating the giant setpiece episode, so I guess “huge spectacle” is what we’re doing here. That seems to set it up for Stranger Things, which at least had the most effective spectacle 14, but I’m feeling ornery today, and I think it should be The Crown. So there.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Stephen Daldry, The Crown (“Paterfamilias”)

Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series

Barry is very good. GLOW is very good. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is fine. The Big Bang Theory is a war crime, but I get it. Atlanta’s “FUBU” episode is wonderful. Only one of these things is “Teddy Perkins.”

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Hiro Murai, Atlanta (“Teddy Perkins”)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

As previously mentioned in the Creative Arts Emmys, I thought Jesus Christ Superstar was ok, but not particularly great. I think that Sara Bareilles’s performance is sort of indicative of most of what it presented: she did an adequate job with some very familiar material that transformed nothing, but was distinguished by being On Television. Merritt Weaver and Letitia Wright are, as far as I can tell, great in everything, but I’m still not the guy who’s super-into Godless or Black Mirror. Adina Porter did a fine job (as she always does) in American Horror Story: Cult. I think that there are still too many nominations generally for The Assassination of Gianni Versace, and I definitely don’t think that Penelope Cruz’s impression of her friend Donatella is any particular kind of award-worthy, but I do think that some of the acting was quite nice, and Judith Light really did a fantastic job with her part 15.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Judith Light, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

So here’s some more Jesus Christ Superstar, although I will say I liked Brandon Victor Dixon a lot more than I liked Sara Bareilles, I still don’t think it was doing anything particularly award-worthy with the character or the performance 16. Jeff Daniels is occasionally-great, but Godless is still not the best showcase for any given actor’s talents. John Leguizamo did a great job playing against type in Waco. Ricky Martin, Edgar Ramirez and Michael Stuhlbarg all did admirable “real people” impressions, but since that was the bulk of the nominations, then it probably should go to the best one of them, and that was Finn Wittrock, who was so good at it that I didn’t get annoyed by his acting or the fact that he was playing a real person. Well, I didn’t get more than a little annoyed by the acting part.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Finn Wittrock, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Surveying the drama series each time they come around makes me feel like the crankiest old person in the world. Game of Thrones has been chugging along for years now, and as much as Lena Headey is good in the role, and as much as she might be the person who is the most fun to watch in the role, it’s still the same damn role every year. Westworld is fine, and presents its acting challenges and whatever else to the people that act in it, but Thandie Newton isn’t giving us anything I think should be singled out, as such. I don’t have much to say about Millie Bobby Brown 17 on Stranger Things or Vanessa Kirby on The Crown, other than that I’m more-or-less glad they’re both there. Yvonne Strahovski is fine on The Handmaid’s Tale, but not as good as Ann Dowd, who was in turn not as good as Alexis Bledel.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Alexis Bledel, The Handmaid’s Tale

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

If it seemed like I was upset about the same people getting nominated for the same performances every year in the lady category, you can only imagine what I’m feeling about this one. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has been baseline-acceptable the whole time, but what’s especially galling is that Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister has been Destiny-level phoned in, and getting worse, for the last couple of seasons now. So it’s probably not the time to give him an award. I’m OK skipping Mandy Patinkin and citing the “enough with the same people all the time” rule 18, and while David Harbour isn’t quite there (it’s only Stranger Things’ second season, after all), it still isn’t the kind of thing that rises out of the pack. Matt Smith did a fine job as real-live person Prince Phillip on The Crown. Good for him. Joseph Fiennes did a better job as the made-up-fictional person Fred Waterford on The Handmaid’s Tale.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Joseph Fiennes, The Handmaid’s Tale

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

This was a particularly weak year for Saturday Night Live, and none of the women here were necessarily to blame for that, but none of them were particularly consistent enough to make their Emmy-receiving seem logical 19, so that’s Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones all out. Megan Mullally and Laurie Metcalf both create an interesting sort of loophole thingy in my aforestated frustration with people getting nominated for awards, as they are both revisiting characters that they played for many years prior. I think it’s fine that they are nominated 20, but I also don’t think they’re the best here, even though each is the best part of their respective shows, in a comedic performance sense. Alex Borstein is great in everything 21, and maybe in a less-competitive year she’d be up there. Betty Gilpin is also fantastic, and really does deserve praise for GLOW. Her only real fault is that she’s not on Atlanta. I mean, you all saw where this was going, right? There’s no D’Arcy Carden or Jameela Jamil here (The Good Place is shamefully left out of several categories), and they was the only real competition for Zazie Beetz in the first place.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Zazie Beetz, Atlanta 

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

This is a much better field 22, especially once you discard Kenan Thompson, who, again, is fine 23, but also not doing much that he hasn’t already done and also doing that not very much on a subpar season of Saturday Night Live, and especially especially once you set Alec Baldwin’s weak-ass Donald Trump impression on fire and push it out to sea 24. Henry Winkler is as good as he always is on Barry, but he’s also just kind of doing what he’s done ever since Arrested Development, even if he is super-funny at doing that particular thing. Louie Anderson is terrific on Baskets, but he’s not quite in the same class as our last two. Bryan Tyree Henry is going to be the only person in the primary cast of Atlanta to not be the rightful winner of an Emmy because, although he is a better actor than Tituss Burgess (probably), he isn’t as funny, and this is the comedy Emmy, so it goes to what I think must be – second-for-second in terms of screen time – the funniest character on television.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Titiuss Burgess, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

Bully for this dumbshit Law & Order spinoff for actually including the phrase “true crime” in its title. Truly Dick Wolf is a genius. Anyway, nobody on that stunt-cast ratings-bait 25 show gets an award, no matter if one of them is Edie Falco. I probably don’t have any more stuff to say about Godless, even if I do generally like Michelle Dockery. Sarah Paulson is definitely one of the reasons to keep watching American Horror Story every year, but I don’t think what she’s doing qualifies as “good acting.” The Tale is certain affecting, and it’s very hard to criticize, but it’s also sort of critic-proof: are you going to be the one to tell this documentarian that her real-life story about her real-life sexual abuse is not as good as, say, Seven Seconds 26, but here I am, the person saying it. Between being pretty good in The Sinner and absolutely brilliant as a guest star on Bojack Horseman, Jessica Biel is really turning me around on Jessica Biel, but even she just isn’t in the same league as Regina King, who I’m pretty sure has been the rightful winner of more of these than anyone else in the time I’ve been constructing these writeups.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Regina King, Seven Seconds 

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

So Benedict Cumberbatch isn’t the reason why Patrick Melrose is dumb and I hate it, but he’s a part of it, and he’s not making it any better. Jeff Daniels did an ok job playing a real person in The Looming Tower, Darren Criss did a slightly more-good job playing a real person in The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, and Antonio Banderas did a better job playing an even more daunting real person in Genius: Picasso, but again, I’m still not into giving awards for that kind of thing. John Legend was pretty good as Jesus, but, again, not that good. That leaves us with Jesse Plemons by default, which is ok, but not where I wanted us to be at this point.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jesse Plemons, Black Mirror: USS Callister

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Elisabeth Moss is probably going to be a contender in this category until The Handmaid’s Tale goes off the air 27, and rightfully so, but this year I don’t think he did the best job. Claire Foy is being nominated for Emmys for The Crown that she should have been nominated for for Wolf Hall, and I’m not into apology awards. Sandra Oh did a very good job (doesn’t she always?) with Killing Eve, and Evan Rachel Wood was perfectly fine in Westworld. But Orphan Black and The Americans both ended satisfyingly, and each of them required a number of unique acting challenges to be met by their actors 28. I’m going to go with Keri Russell here, but if Tatiana Maslany wins that’ll be fine.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Keri Russell, The Americans

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

I would genuinely be pretty happy to never have to think about This is Us again. Honestly, it would make me happy. Sorry, Milo Ventimiglia and Sterling K. Brown. At least one of you is liable to go on to better things. It’s true that Westworld isn’t old enough for me to cast it into the cornfield for its acting performances being the same, but it is also true that this is a pretty Ed-Harris-by-numbers acting performance, so what would the award be for? Jason Bateman is clearly reaching for something with Ozark, and I hope he doesn’t hurt himself doing so. Jeffrey Wright is the person I have the least to say about, except that he isn’t Matthew Rhys, and therefore he isn’t the rightful winner.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Matthew Rhys, The Americans

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

This is a pretty strong field, but more than that, it’s quite possibly the tallest field of actresses in awards history. Except for the two people who are quite short. All or nothing, really. Am I stalling? I’m stalling a bit. These are all pretty good performances. Allison Janney is turning in the same job she always does on Mom, which is sort of the pinnacle of “adequate network sitcom.” Lily Tomlin is similarly hitting her own bar on Grace and Frankie, but nothing that stands out from normal. Issa Rae is playing a fictionalized version of herself, and her acting is good, but it’s also the least-noteworthy of her credits on Insecure. Tracee Ellis Ross actually dodges the “everything the same all the time” angle of being nominated for a character she’s played for years as the events of last season’s Black-ish really made a change to the way the character is played. Good job, Ms. Ross. Rachel Brosnahan is delightful, and may come into a better performance as her show goes on. Pamela Adlon certainly did, elevating Better Things to something really special.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Pamela Adlon, Better Things

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

I like Curb Your Enthusiasm. I like it a lot, in fact. But, of course, as I am dead-set against granting an Emmy for your foreverth year of playing him, I am doubly dead-set against it when that character is, y’know, a very very thinly-veiled version of yourself. Anthony Anderson gets the same pass as Tracee Ellis Ross (see above), and did a nice job. William H. Macy receives no such pass. Bill Hader is great, but he’s also overpowered. Ted Danson is the only person in the absolutely-flawless cast of The Good Place to be nominated for an Emmy, and that is a crime. Maybe next year it might even belong to him. But this is the year that “Teddy Perkins” happened, and that makes this an open-and-shut case.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Donald Glover, Atlanta

Outstanding Reality-Competition Program

Every year there is very little permutation in this category. Every year I give it to Top Chef, because even though it’s not as good as it used to be 29. This year it gets some competition for the surprisingly-effective American Ninja Warrior, but honestly, it’s still just Top Chef, guys.


Outstanding Limited Series

By the time we get to the series categories I generally have less to say about them. That means these things get really asymmetrical. But I don’t like Patrick Melrose, I don’t think Genius: Picasso did very much in terms of the genre, other than be tasteful 30. So it comes down to a western, a fictionalized true crime story, and a biopic. This is why I hate making these decisions. Well, Godless didn’t even have the decency to be any fun, and while I admire that The Alienist took plenty of liberties with its story and admitted it right up front, I don’t admire much else about it 31. So that leaves the bonkers, weirdly-paced, unfocused, but occasionally brilliant The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story as the winner.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

Outstanding Variety Sketch Series

Portlandia finally ended 32, so it’s here, but it probably oughtn’t be. Saturday Night Live will almost certainly never end, but it shouldn’t be here either. I Love You, America never really seemed to get off the ground in a way that would explain its nomination here. Tracey Ullman’s Show, Drunk History and At Home With Amy Sedaris are all very entertaining shows, and I’d be happy to see any of them go home with it, although I think it’s kind of a weak category overall.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Drunk History, I guess?

Outstanding Variety Talk Series

This is a much stronger category, especially when you throw out The Late Late Show with James Corden. Actually, since Jimmy Kimmel also isn’t the rightful winner, it’s fair to say that this comes down entirely to The Daily Show and shows run by former Daily Show correspondents. What a thing The Daily Show was, y’know? That’s a long shadow. As much as as I like John Oliver, I think Stephen Colbert and Samantha Bee made better shows, and honestly, I really think Samantha Bee did better, even if her show is much smaller.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Full Frontal with Samantha Bee

Outstanding Comedy Series

You know, if The Good Place were nominated here where it belongs, this might be a contest. Black-Ish is good for a network sitcom. Silicon Valley is reliable if no-longer spectacular. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has a lot of promise. Curb Your Enthusiasm is wildly uneven, but worthwhile. GLOW is fantastic, but doesn’t have the same impact as our front-runners. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a tough one to turn down – it really is an all-time great show, and has a super-high batting average in terms of “things about that work.” It’s also purely a comedy, which seats it well in this category. But Atlanta is…well, it’s Atlanta. And it’s nearly untouchable.


  1.  although they didn’t do as badly with the Creative Arts Emmys 
  2.  a discussion I really should table for a future piece where I write about why awards shows are both a useful barometer of who is trying to sell me what, and why they are basically never right about anything, a thing I have talked about previously w/r/t The Oscars and The Grammys. Weirdly, the Emmys have largely avoided the kind of large-scale controversy of the other two. 
  3. it’s unavoidable, and I’m not always super-public about this opinion, but it means that you’re throwing away any chance that people would enjoy it again for the chance at getting people to react to it in the first place. While this is less of an issue for television than it is for other media, it’s still annoying. Note that later on I will praise The Good Place (and decry its relative lack of nominations), and it does twists all the time. So I’m not saying it can’t be done well or that it precludes good writing, just that it tends to lessen the writing somewhat. Also The Good Place isn’t built around its twists, it just contains them. 
  4.  David Nicholls, who wrote Starter for Ten and One Day, among others. 
  5.  Edward St. Aubyn, who wrote, well, the Patrick Melrose novels, which are, editorially, about how rich it is to be rich etc. and are awful, and who was, in all likelihood, a formative influence on David Nicholls from back there in FN4. 
  6.  although it’s true that they, respectively, got bored of comedy for several years and wandered off to write novels and play the banjo (Martin), and lost the plot of their own skillset and career for a while and are just now righting the ship (Short). 
  7.  It might actually be his funniest hour yet, but I’d have to spend some more time with it to give it the mental space over something like Werewolves and Lollipops, which I’ve spent years and years with. 
  8.  by which I mean when you get past “it’s kids! In the eighties!” it has a little bit more of a hard time generating momentum under its own power. 
  9.  by allowing TJ Miller to drift off into drug-fuelled insanity elsewhere 
  10.  although it was probably going to be Atlanta the whole time, I will say that it is a shame that the writing for The Good Place was not nominated, because it is also an incredibly well-written show, and it’s better than, well, everything in this category that isn’t Atlanta. 
  11.  it’s not really appropriate to anthropomorphize entire tv networks, but it also seems nakedly ambitious in a way that it doesn’t really live up to (NB: I normally think ambition is an unreservedly good thing, it’s the flavor of this ambition that I’m not super into) – it’s a Lawrence Wright adaptation, which worked out for HBO a few years back, it’s a Big Serious Topical Issue, which they kind of backed into with The Handmaid’s Tale, and it’s got a bunch of Big Serious Actors in it. 
  12.  I suspect, given that I don’t much care for television drama and it’s where a lot of the serious direction is done, that it happens quite often, to be honest. 
  13.  well, most of its good qualities are actually down to the naturally-occurring qualities of the setting, but it’s put on television by the cinematography. 
  14.  especially considering that these episodes of Game of Thrones and The Handmaid’s Tale are both trafficking in grief pornography and the shock of seeing a bunch of people dead. 
  15.  especially since I assumed, in admittedly bad faith, that it would just be some more Ryan Murphy stunt-casting. 
  16.  NB that I think this is more-or-less intentional: I don’t think anyone is meant to be broadening horizons or pursuing the audience to their furthest corners in these televised musical jobbers.   
  17.  well, I will say this: I think her performance in Stranger Things was probably the best part of the second season, so good on her for that I suppose. 
  18.  a quick reminder for anyone who might not remember – or hasn’t read long enough to know – why I feel this way, which is worth laying out here because it’s going to figure into the further proceedings: the performance is created initially, and if nothing materially or procedurally changes for the performance (as in the actor is, on paper, giving the same performance year in and year out), then I see no reason to keep nominating, given that it takes less work to maintain a performance than it does to just create one. This is a sort of “static point” argument, with the “floating point” argument being that the environment around the performance – the other shows in competition, and the actors on those shows and their performances, change every year, so maybe it’s re-nominated in light of the difference in those performances. I don’t think that washes, because acting is still acting, and it’s still about the job the person did under the circumstances, and managing to maintain the same job while the field moves on around you is still not the sort of things I feel awards for “outstanding”ness ought to be given out for. 
  19.  that said, their head writers – Colin Jost and Michael Che, recently confirmed to continue to be the head writers – are the hosts of the show, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see one of them receive it. 
  20.  meaning that the intervening years have created enough of a material change in the condition for the actress/character that it’s not the same thing as when they were both nominated all the time the first time around, which would have made me hop up and down like an upset person had I been writing in this space at that time. 
  21.  except Family Guy, but that’s ok, because no one is great in Family Guy because it’s a flaming garbage pile. She did, however, just win this year’s Creative Arts Emmy for her vocal performance in Family Guy, so good for her. 
  22.  this is not usually the case in the supporting actor/actress categories, actually. Usually it’s the supporting actresses who put up the better category. 
  23.  where would this writeup be without the word “fine,” I ask you? It would definitely be full of the world “acceptable” or something, that’s where. 
  24.  you’d think if SNL was going to reverse stream to get the PR benefit of going after the dude they fellated into hosting the show in the run-up to his eventual presidential election that they’d try a little hard to right the ship of that decision, but no, we’re just stuck with Alec Baldwin’s stupid mugging every week. I’d say it should’ve been Darrell Hammond, but I’m on the record as thinking that the problem with this last season of SNL lies squarely with the writers, so I don’t think a change of performer would have helped that much. I mean, Darrell Hammond would have been better than Alec Baldwin, just still not good, y’know what I mean? 
  25.  “But,” I hear you asking, “in what sense is television not awards-bait all the time?” Well, in the sense that some of it doesn’t feel like it was smooshed together algorithmically to take robotic advantage of a bunch of floating search terms. 
  26.  this, in a nutshell, is my problem with the fictionalization of real events, especially in this kind of autobiographical context: I get the need to tell your story, I really do, but I think that it’s manipulative to do so in this way, and it puts people that don’t like it in the position of saying “I don’t like you”. I’m not saying it should never happen, and I’m pretty sure I’m out here dying alone on this hill, but I still think they should be considered separately in stuff like this, because otherwise it’s tremendously difficult to evaluate. 
  27.  so expect some cranky yelling in this space about WHY IS SHE STILL BLAH BLAH BLAH that will last until, oh, 2024 or so. 
  28.  to wit: The Americans required a twisty-matryoshka set of personalities/acting performances form Keri Russell, and Orphan Black required Tatiana Maslany to play a bunch of clones. 
  29.  actually last season was awfully damn good, even with the weird John Besh thing that they kept having to cut around. 
  30.  I’ll concede that it did have its moments. 
  31.  it’s definitely not as good as the Psychic TV album of the same name, I’ll tell you that much for free. 
  32.  in true Fred Armisen fashion, it did so years after it should have. 

The 70th Annual Primetime Creative Arts Emmys

It’s the two-week Emmy period, everybody! Last year I started covering the Creative Arts Emmys, both out of a sense of completeness and because it is a chance to think about the way things are honored, and selected to be honored, which is a thing that I genuinely enjoy, no matter what it sounds like below, and is a big part of why I write about so many awards here in this space.

Of course, this is also giving myself a hill to climb, because there are a whole bunch of these, so I’ll try to keep everything brief and moving, much like the ceremony itself, which is shunted off to a whole other weekend and honored somewhat-cursorily.

I’m sure it’s still cool to win one, though.

Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series

This could go happily to Full Frontal or Last Week Tonight, as long as it doesn’t go to Saturday Night Live, which genuinely had a terribly-written season, and the inclusion of which is utterly baffling. I think Samantha Bee made better points in general, even if John Oliver was better-researched. I suppose this makes me part of the problem.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Full Frontal with Samantha Bee

Outstanding Writing for a Non-Fiction Program

It’s easy enough to go for the Mr. Rogers documentary here, and also I like Ken Burns as much as anybody, but I do think Parts Unknown was always great, and Anthony Bourdain’s death makes this a fitting occasion.


THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain, “Southern Italy”


Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special

Outstanding….video control? Ok. All of these were too long, and three of them were actively boring, if technically-demanding, so I guess it’s Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, which was also too long, but wasn’t boring the whole time. Only part of the time.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert

Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control for a Series

I am genuinely curious what it is about the finales of Dancing With the Stars or The Voice, or even that one episode of The Big Bang Theory, which use a more-or-less constant video-setup 1 that make them the thing being awarded here. I assume that they want to honor the show, and they just chose a big episode, but it still seems like there ought to be separate awards for things like live competition reality shows and three-camera sitcoms where they’re honored for the setup, and not any kind of arbitrary individual effort. I mean, it’s not any of those anyway, but I think they’re hurt by being included with things that actually have to change their thing from time to time.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Saturday Night Live, “Host: Donald Glover”

Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Drama Series, Limited Series, or Movie

Aw, hell, I don’t like Game of Thrones, but it does seem like figuring out how to get all of those people dying on screen on there without hurting anybody and without rendering the action incoherent 2 is a pretty huge hurdle. So good job, stunt coordinators.


Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Comedy Series or Variety Program

It has got to be hard to convince the world that Annie Edison is a wrestler.


Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role

I have literally no idea what “in a supporting role” means in this category. Like…visual effects that aren’t the stars of the show? That seems weird, is all I’m saying here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Alienist, “The Boy on the Bridge”

Outstanding Special Visual Effects

While it’s true that every single one of these shows I either found disappointing or outright stupid, I can’t deny that there’s a tight race in terms of visual effects. Since it’s the only part of Altered Carbon that I liked, I guess it’s them.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Altered Carbon, “Out of the Past”

Outstanding Sound Mixing for Nonfiction Program (Single or Multi-Camera)

Once again, I’m kind of reduced to giving this out to the job that seems the most difficult, which I think is the most impressive. There may be some subtleties that I’m missing by doing so, but I think it’s got to go to the war miniseries. Because wars are rather loud, and academics and/or talking-head veterans are rather quiet.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Vietnam War, “Episode 6: Things Fall Apart (January 1968-July 1968)”

Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Variety Series or Special

The Grammys were terrible, but they did manage to sound ok despite including a bunch of different performances in a bunch of different manners, a bunch of talking, and an audience that (presumably) was louder than it would have been at, say, The Oscars. I am not an expert at what goes into television sound, guys.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: 60th Annual Grammy Awards

Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (Half-Hour) and Animation

I do find it funny that the Emmys people would have us believe that you use different skills to mix a half-hour show than you do a full hour. Maybe it’s like that thing Fezzik said about fighting more than one person.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mozart in the Jungle, “Domo Arigato”

Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Limited Series or Movie

Shout out to Twin Peaks for managing to make the sound as weird and interesting as everything else. It’s really head and shoulders above everything else here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Twin Peaks, “Part 8”

Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One Hour)

Totally different from the job of mixing for a half hour. Totally.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Stranger Things, “The Mind Flayer”

Outstanding Sound Editing for Nonfiction Programming (Single or Multi-Camera)

Like all forms of editing, sound editing is the kind of thing I only notice when it’s gone wrong, and all of this seems fine to me. So probably the war thing again.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Vietnam War, “Episode 6: Things Fall Apart (January 1968-July 1968)”

Outstanding Sound Editing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special

You guys, I completely forgot about Waco. Like, completely. It had Tim Riggins in it! And it was on the Paramount network, which is a thing that exists! Probably it was not super-easy to forget Emmy nominees in non-peak-tv years!


Outstanding Sound Editing for a Comedy or Drama Series (Half-Hour) and Animation

Man, they simply are not going to have made enough awards to honor “Teddy Perkins” in the manner that it deserves to be honored. What an incredible episode of television. The sound was certainly as impressive as the rest of it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Atlanta, “Teddy Perkins”

Outstanding Sound Editing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One-Hour)

Eh, what the hell, Star Trek always has cool sound. Some of that is probably down to the editing, right?  I’m just happy to be out of the sound categories.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Star Trek: Discovery, “What’s Past is Prologue”

Outstanding Production Design for a Variety, Nonfiction, Event, or Award Special

Thankfully, there’s a live musical in here, otherwise I’d have to consider the production design of awards shows, and that would probably drive me insane.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert

Outstanding Production Design for a Variety, Nonfiction, Reality, or Reality-Competition Series

I mean, I would be even more thankful if I didn’t have to consider the production design of reality shows, but hey, I suppose I can’t expect to get that lucky twice.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Bill Nye Saves the World, “Why All Our Friends are Dying”

Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Period or Fantasy Program (One Hour or More)

I was going to complain that there wasn’t a category for half hour period or fantasy program, but then I remembered that there aren’t any. Ah, well.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Alienist, “The Boy on the Bridge”

Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Contemporary Program (One Hour or More)

It is odd to me that three of these are single episodes and the other two are entire series. I mean, I don’t know how you’d separate individual episodes of Twin Peaks out, production-design-wise, but they do it for everything else no matter what, it’s weird that it falls down here.


Outstanding Picture Editing for an Unstructured Reality Program

I think this really should be a primary award. Unstructured reality programs 3 are made almost entirely by their editors, so this is a much bigger job than the other kind of thing, where the expectations on the video editors are much more straightforward. Ah, well.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: United Shades of America, “Sikhs in America”

Outstanding Picture Editing for a Structured or Competition Reality Program

Although it must also be said that the editors are also the stars of competition programs, where people’s personalities and storylines emerge and become apparent. It’s thankless work, I tell you. Thankless.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Queer Eye, “Series Body of Work”

Outstanding Picture Editing for Nonfiction Programming

This is a real grab-bag of highly-regarded nonfiction programming, let me tell you. When people want to know what the state of nonfiction programming in 2018 was, we can just point them right to this category, yes sir.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, Hunter Gross (“Lagos”)

Outstanding Picture Editing for Variety Programming

The specifics of my biography mean that I am the prime audience for a fake movie trailer about the life of Warren G. Harding, so this one was a pretty easy decision.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Last Week Tonight, Anthony Miale (“Wax President Harding”)

Outstanding Multi-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series

Of all the distinctions in all of the technical categories here, I think the difference between picture editing for multi-camera vs. single-camera shows is the easiest to grab. I have very little else to say about it, but it’s nice to know exactly where I stand here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: One Day at a Time, Pat Barnett (“Not Yet”)

Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Limited Series or Movie

You know, for whatever value The Assassination of Gianni Versace may have actually had 4, that “Manhunt” episode was tense and well-plotted, and told a bunch of different parts of the story at once. Good job, editors.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, Chi-Yoon Chung (“Manhunt”)

Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series

No, but seriously I cannot think of a single aspect of “Teddy Perkins” that I wish was any different than it was.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Atlanta, “Teddy Perkins”

Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series

Some of the time I’m able to figure out what’s being evaluated in the technical categories by the things that are nominated. In this case, clearly huge action setpieces are tough to edit, so let’s just go with the hugest action setpiece and move along.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Game of Thrones, Tim Porter (“Beyond the Wall”)

Outstanding Music Supervision

“Alligator Man” isn’t quite the triumph of television that “Teddy Perkins” is, but it’s got some awfully great music in it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Atlanta, Jen Malone and Fam Udeorji (“Alligator Man”)

Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music

This is maybe the easiest category to gather information about and judge that I’ve ever encountered. What a great idea. Anyway, The Tick has always had a great theme song, and it continues to have a great theme song in this incarnation.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chris Bacon, The Tick

Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics

I find it hard to muster up any sort of feelings about any of this.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Big Mouth, “Am I Gay?” (“Totally Gay”)

Outstanding Music Direction

In this case, the fact that the Super Bowl halftime show sucked doesn’t matter, and I can just be impressed that they put together a stage, held a show on it, then tore it down all in the span of the show. I mean, they do that every year, but it’s still impressive.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Super Bowl Halftime Show LII Starring Justin Timberlake

Outstanding Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special (Original Dramatic Score)

Black Mirror does have good music, whatever else may be going on with it, and however uneven it may be.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Black Mirror, Daniel Pemberton (“USS Callister”)

Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic Score)

I like Ramin Djawadi just fine, enough to understand why he’s here twice, and while I have basically no use for Westworld, the music is pretty cool.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ramin Djawadi, Westworld (“Akane No Mai”)

Outstanding Motion Design (Juried)

This is a new award, and it’s for graphic design onscreen. It’s distinct from Title Design (see below), so I’m not entirely sure what they’re going for. It also only has two nominees and is decided by jury. It’s a mystery wrapped in an enigma.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: I’m going to go with Broad City (“Mushrooms”) on general principle.

Outstanding Prosthetic Make-up for a Series, Limited Series, Movie, or Special

The other thing The Assassination of Gianni Versace had going for it was that they definitely made the people on the show look like the people involved in the crime, etc. Good job, make-up folks.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

Outstanding Makeup for a Limited Series or Movie (Non-Prosthetic)

I’m making them share the decision because 1) I don’t want to make it twice and 2) figuring out what counts as a prosthetic and what doesn’t using the resources available to me just gave me a headache.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

Outstanding Makeup for a Multi-Camera Series or Special (Non-Prosthetic)

So only the Limited Series, Movie, or Special category has a prosthetic makeup award. I’m sure there are perfectly good historical reasons for this, but again I find myself boggling to consider what they might be. Anyway, it may be a shadow of what it once was, but pretty much any makeup award has to go to RuPaul’s Drag Race.


Outstanding Makeup for a Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic)

I think Game of Thrones takes some big makeup swings that it doesn’t often connect with. I think GLOW takes some reasonably-sized swings that work every single time.


Outstanding Main Title Design

Eh, I’ll just say on the train for GLOW while I’m already here. It’s got great main titles.


Outstanding Lighting Design / Lighting Direction for a Variety Special

You know, I don’t know that I would have thought of it directly, but as I consider it, I really did like the lighting for Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert

Outstanding Lighting Design / Lighting Direction for a Variety Series

There are no other lighting categories. I think that is weird. Like, super-weird.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Saturday Night Live, “Kevin Hart”, but this is probably the most arbitrary this decision has ever been.

Outstanding Creative Achievement In Interactive Media Within An Unscripted Program

So this generally refers to the “second-screen” bit of a show, except where it’s Watch What Happens Live, which is, y’know, Andy Cohen on a couch with only the very realest of housewives.


Outstanding Creative Achievement In Interactive Media Within A Scripted Program

I think, categorically, that all of this is stupid, but I’m here to say that the Silicon Valley thing is the least stupid one here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Silicon Valley – Interactive World: Not Hotdog, VR & Twitter-Powered Pizza Drones

Outstanding Interactive Program

I suppose, given these selections, that it may be possible that I do not, in fact, know what “interactive” means.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Full Frontal With Samantha Bee Online (?!)

Outstanding Original Interactive Program

At least all of these things are actually interactive. That’s nice.


Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program

I like being forced to consider whether RuPaul does a better job with Drag Race than W. Kamau Bell does with United Shades of America. It keeps me on my toes.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: W. Kamau Bell, United Shades of America

Outstanding Hairstyling for a Limited Series or Movie

I’m just going to say the thing here that I said about the makeup for The Assassination of Gianni Versace and leave it at that, since in this case I find the same thing to be impressive.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

Outstanding Hairstyling for a Multi-Camera Series or Special

I mean, I know that hairstyling and make-up are two different things, but I also have to say that I’m recycling my earlier comments about RuPaul’s Drag Race here also.


Outstanding Directing for a Reality Program

What the actual hell is Shark Tank doing in here? Every single one of their episodes looks exactly alike. This is stupid.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: American Ninja Warrior, Patrick McManus (“Daytona Beach Qualifiers”)

Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series

Well, Portlandia isn’t a static-set show and it was directed well by a non-professional, so what the hell. Those sound like good enough reasons to me.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Portlandia, Carrie Brownstein (“Riot Spray”)

Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming

Ah, it’s probably Ken Burns, isn’t it?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ken Burns, The Vietnam War (“Episode 8: The History Of The World (April 1969-May 1970)”)

Outstanding Costumes for a Variety, Nonfiction, or Reality Programming

It’s not that I don’t have a lot of opinions about RuPaul’s Drag Race, it’s that for our purposes here I only need one.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: RuPaul’s Drag Race (“10s Across the Board”)

Outstanding Contemporary Costumes

The delineations in these categories 5 require a definition of “contemporary” that goes back forty years, and a definition of “period” (see below) that starts at, like, sixty years. The events of the past of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel were lived through by the parents in This is Us. This annoys me and I don’t know why.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Empire. It doesn’t have much else going for it anymore, but the costumes are great.

Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes

Hey wait, this makes me realize that A Series of Unfortunate Events should have also been in the makeup and production design categories. THIS IS A TRAVESTY. I AM OUTRAGED.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: A Series of Unfortunate Events

Outstanding Period Costumes

It’s The Crown, the show on this list whose costumes are both “outstanding” and “period”


Outstanding Commercial

I loathe that this category exists.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: “In Real Life”, I guess

Outstanding Cinematography for Nonfiction Programming

Blue Planet II is basically “Outstanding Cinematography: The Series”, and the ocean episodes seem especially technically demanding, so that’s the clear standout here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Blue Planet II, Gavin Thurston (“The Deep”)

Outstanding Cinematography for a Reality Program

I think I’ll go with Deadliest Catch. That’s some more ocean stuff.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Deadliest Catch (“Battle Lines”)

Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (One Hour)

Cinematography is one of the more difficult ones for me. I know exactly enough to feel like I know something about it, but not enough to feel like an actual expert. I know precisely the wrong amount about cinematography, is what I’m saying here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: M. David Mullen, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (“Pilot”)

Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or Movie

My assumption is that, given what Twin Peaks: the Return accomplished, that it represents basically everything going as well as it could, so I think it’s the winner here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Twin Peaks: The Return (“Part 8”)

Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (Half-Hour)

I probably don’t have to keep going on about “Teddy Perkins,” you know?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Atlanta, Christian Sprenger (“Teddy Perkins”)

Outstanding Cinematography for a Multi-Camera Series

I do have to wonder why there are only three nominees in this category.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Superior Donuts, Paty Lee (“Grades of Wrath”)

Outstanding Choreography

I have a pretty terrible memory for specific routines, even when I’ve watched the dance show episode in question, but I know that I always like Mandy Moore’s.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mandy Moore, So You Think You Can Dance (“Brand New”/”To Make You Feel My Love”)

Outstanding Casting for a Reality Program

The Queer Eye casting department had a harder time, I would think, as they had less to go on – the other shows have a measure of talent and general televisual charisma, and the Queer Eye folks didn’t have talent as a measure, they just had to hope that the audition/video talent that they saw was enough to make for a good episode. That seems much harder.


Outstanding Casting for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special

I suppose I’m supposed to be impressed that they successfully cast actors to play real people in a numerical majority of them, but I’m not particularly. Most of these are triumphs in stunt-casting, and since Godless isn’t really, it’s the best job done here.


Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series

Finding kids is harder than finding adults, even for a second season. So there.


Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series

Atlanta has an approach and style that’s different than any other show on television, and still manages to populate its episodes with people that are able to work within it. That’s good casting.


Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation (Juried)

This one is also juried, which is also weird. I don’t know how they decide that the experts are necessary to come up with the winner in these categories. Anyway, next year this will be Adventure Time’s to win for their finale 6, this year it goes to the holocaust one.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm, Jeff Sher

Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series

What about….multiple Emmys for Megan?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Megan Amram, An Emmy for Megan

Outstanding Actor in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series

Uh….huh. Well. This one’s a stumper.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Melvin Jackson Jr., This Eddie Murphy Role is Mine, Not Yours

Outstanding Narrator

Whatever there is to say for Morgan Freeman, he’s no David Attenborough.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Sir David Attenborough, Blue Planet II

Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance

This category is infuriating. We live in a time with more good animation than any other time in human history, and a wide variety of voice actors, and this category is all people who, even when they were good, are nominated for things that do not deserve awards even a little bit. I refuse to choose.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: None of these people.

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series

Boy, Samira Wiley is just delightful in everything she’s in, isn’t she?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Samira Wiley, The Handmaid’s Tale

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series

Because my first exposure to Matthew Goode was his weird, wooden Ozymandias in Watchmen, I’m always especially jazzed when he’s in something in which he can actually act. It’s nice.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Matthew Goode, The Crown

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

Maya Rudolph is reliably incredible, but even her presence wasn’t enough to prepare me for how great Judge Gen was on The Good Place. What a thing that was.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Maya Rudolph, The Good Place

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

Katt Williams’s appearance on Atlanta very quickly elevated him to the level of “comedian I don’t ordinarily have any particular feelings about who managed to do some amazing work in a guest role on an FX tv show” 7, so that’s some good work there.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Katt Williams, Atlanta

Outstanding Short Form Variety Series

I can’t say I much like any of these, but Honest Trailers is at least trying. Kind of.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Honest Trailers. Kind of.

Outstanding Short Form Comedy or Drama Series

No, seriously, An Emmy for Megan is great, and fulfills all of the minimum requirements to win an Emmy. It should win an Emmy.


Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking

Your boy over here is a big Jane Goodall head. Big time.


Outstanding Short Form Nonfiction or Reality Series

Love of Anthony Bourdain aside, the companion series Explore Parts Unknown was a nifty little sub-documentary that was always pretty interesting.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Anthony Bourdain: Explore Parts Unknown

Outstanding Variety Special (Live)

If it seems like I loved Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, please be assured that I did not, it’s just the best thing going in each of these categories.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert

Outstanding Children’s Program

Man, I love A Series of Unfortunate Events.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: A Series of Unfortunate Events

Outstanding Short-Format Animation

Each of these is a fine candidate (except for We Bare Bears), but I think Steven Universe edges it out, if only because I’m prepared to gush crazily over Adventure Time next year.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Steven Universe (“Jungle Moon”)

Outstanding Animated Program

You know, Rick & Morty has a really irritating fanbase. This is exacerbated by that fact that the show is also incredible, so I’m happy to use this opportunity to praise “Pickle Rick”.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Rick & Morty (“Pickle Rick”)

Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special

While it’s hard for the contrarian in me to not praise the chutzpah of making a documentary about self-important weirdo Jim Carrey’s absurd “relationship” with the role of Andy Kaufman, it also isn’t a documentary I can say with a straight face is any good. So that leaves us with Mr. Rogers.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mister Rogers: It’s You I Like

Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series

There’s plenty of good stuff here, but only one of these was a bona-fide sensation, so it’s probably got to be that one.


Outstanding Informational Series or Special

I’m going with Anthony Bourdain here, but I can’t in good conscience do so without mentioning that I thought Scientology and the Aftermath was a lowbrow, witless good time.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown

Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-Recorded)

I know it seems downright silly to pass up a chance to fellate one of these once-great comedians, but I’m going to have to throw this one to the actually still-great Samantha Bee. Especially since it has a footnote right there in the title 8.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Full Frontal with Samantha Bee Presents The Great American* Puerto Rico (*It’s complicated.)

Outstanding Television Movie

While I like Michael Shannon a lot, and love Michael B. Jordan without bounds, and love Fahrenheit 451 even more than I love Michael B. Jordan, I have a hard time calling Fahrenheit 451 “outstanding.” It’s still the best thing here, though.


Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program

Who – I ask again, who – is watching Naked and Afraid and saying “yes I do believe this, in 2018, the time of peak tv, is among the best we have to offer”. If it is you, feel free to drop a line and tell me why. I mean really. I get liking it. But this is an award. It says “outstanding” right there in the name of the thing.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: United Shades of America

Outstanding Structured Reality Program

Everything I said before about Naked and Afraid you can repeat down here for Lip Sync Battle except for the bit where I said “I get liking it.” I do not get liking Lip Sync Battle. Not one little bit.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Antiques Roadshow. Suck it.

  1.  by which I mean the sets and cameras are as placed as they’re going to be, and it’s the same week-in and week-out 
  2.  see Netflix’s The Punisher for an example of this not working but getting nominated anyway. 
  3.  a term that I also have serious misgivings about: they are, in fact, structured by the time they’re programs, they just take place over an unstructured event or set of events. 
  4.  it lacked the pathos of The People vs. OJ Simpson, and ACS never goes full-out Murphy-bonkers, so it’s already at something of a loss there. 
  5. you know, one of these days I’m going to follow through on my threat to really get in there and figure out what, exactly, defines each category in these awards shows. It’s both the thing I find myself yelling about the most, and the thing that I find the most fascinating. 
  6.  or, rather, it’ll be probably an individual animator’s thing to win, because that’s what this category is for. 
  7.  a club he is in with Doug Stanhope 
  8.  I love footnotes! 

The Best Records of August 2018

Blood Orange – Negro Swan (It might be the best Blood Orange album yet. It’s definitely the best album of any type to have Puff Daddy on it in at least two decades. At least.)

Nothing – Dance on the Blacktop (Shoegaze bands aren’t usually as dead-on consistent as Nothing has proven to be, which is a nice surprise)

Amanda Shires – To the Sunset (It’s not that I didn’t expect to like any given Amanda Shires record – I almost always do – it’s just that roughening up the sound and turning the dial a bit toward “rock” made for a much better Amanda Shires album than I would have thought)

Steve Hauschildt – Dissolvi (Steve Hauschildt continues to take his time, and that continues to work out for all of us. Also, Dissolvi beats out Roy Montgomery’s Suffuse for “Best experimental record with Julianna Barwick on it this month”)

Milo & Elucid – Nostrum Grocers (each of these men has made a perfectly fine record this year, but the team up is pretty welcome)

A Considered Look at Every Inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Part 8

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a place that I find, as an institution, vexing. The actual, physical hall of fame – the pyramidal building on the lake in Cleveland – is pretty cool, but it is spoken and thought of often as an intangible – as a sort of arbitrating body on the worthiness of the body of rock musicians. My thought, for many years upon surveying lists 1 and the like was to think that they have about a fifty percent success rate for getting it anything like right.

But what if it doesn’t? Previously I listened to and considered each of the best-selling albums of all time, and learned that they were considerably more of a mixed bag than I had thought 2So what if the inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are the same sort of deal?

And so it’s time to dive in and take a look at what the nominees and their enshrinement actually are.

Click the links for Part 1,Part 2,  Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6 and Part 7 of this series.

Class of 1998


WHO THEY ARE: Our nation’s foremost country-rock ruiners 3, recently re-re-considered.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: The number of records they sold in their unaccountably long career can only be called “staggering”. And, y’know, as it goes, they certainly inspired a bunch of other bands by being technically proficient at and capable of the individual elements of being in a rock band, but never really doing anything to them except putting them together in the most basic, least-interesting way in the pursuit of “smoothness”.

AND…?: I, obviously, am not the dude that wants the Eagles to be enshrined in anything.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Popular and influential they may have been, but they were garbage. So no.

Fleetwood Mac

WHO THEY ARE: Well, they’re also a radio-friendly California band that sucks, but they suck significantly less than The Eagles.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: Same reasons, really. Trainloads of records and all that. Fleetwood Mac are also pioneers of being able to sell records on the back of your band having a really interesting gossipy backstory behind it also, which has certainly been influential, although one has to wonder how much of that influence is actually “good”.

AND…?: They’re also having something of a moment right now, with kid bands praising them and web outlets “re-evaluating” them. They have, like, three good songs. I can’t imagine why all of this would be necessary.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Well, they really were tremendously popular and people really do like them, and they aren’t as overtly harmful as The Eagles, so sure.

The Mamas & The Papas

WHO THEY ARE: Entry #3 in the “boring Californians” year, this one also comes with a….erm….colorful back story.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: You’re never going to believe this, but it’s because they made blandly likable music that got extremely popular.

AND…?: I like The Mamas & The Papas more than The Eagles and less than Fleetwood Mac, and obviously thinking about the details of John Phillips as little as possible is good for everyone’s mental health.


Lloyd Price

WHO HE IS: Mr. Personality, known mostly for being the pioneer of having basically two careers – once as the one-hit wonder behind “Personality,” and once as a sort of ambassador of the New Orleans sound, where his records were much better, but not quite as popular.

WHY HE’S HERE: Uh…he’s an old R&B guy? The New Orleans R&B sound was great, but its impact on rock and roll as such is pretty limited, and he wasn’t Leon Russell 4 or The Meters 5. But, y’know, old R&B guys were a hot HOF commodity in the nineties.

AND…?: His later records are great. I’m not as familiar with his early stuff, but he was a good singer and I’m sure it’s fine.



WHO THEY ARE: The amorphous set of musicians that coalesce around noted guitar-hotshot Carlos Santana.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: They played at Woodstock, for starters. They also did more than anyone else to include “world” musics in their rock and roll schema, building on the Latin music that Carlos Santana had grown up on and welding it, basically, to Jimi Hendrix.

AND…?: I don’t have much of a relationship with Santana’s records, but they were undeniably important and their innovations were certainly very influential.


Gene Vincent

WHO HE IS: A fifties rockabilly guy, behind “Be Bop a Lula” among other things.

WHY HE’S HERE: He was the last of early white rock and roll dudes, and an early rockabilly dude. A double dude!

AND…?: I like Gene Vincent’s records a whole lot, but he was basically the first person to build a career on ripping off Elvis. Someday I’ll make my grand argument about why derivativeness isn’t a sin, and Gene Vincent will be a part of that, but he didn’t do much that was original to him, even if his music was effective anyway.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: As much as it pains me to say it, no.

Jelly Roll Morton

WHO HE IS: He was quite possibly jazz’s first arranger. He was almost certainly the first person to have jazz music published as sheet music.

WHY HE’S HERE: Well, he’s obviously hugely important to…jazz. Which would eventually be important to rock and roll.

AND…?: 1998 was a big year for New Orleans at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Jelly Roll Morton was indeed an early influence on several important New Orleans folk who were then, in turn, important to Rock and Roll. But of course the way this works is that this guy is the early influence and those guys are the performers and Rock and Roll never actually enters into it.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: I suppose so, but only by the rules hereby established, where influencing a genre that would influence rock and roll (eventually) counts as influencing directly. It’s tortuous, y’know?

Allen Toussaint

WHO HE IS: Would you believe he’s…a guy from New Orleans? I’m not sure why 1998 was the year they all got in.

WHY HE’S HERE: Well, he wrote a bunch of songs you know, and produced a bunch of other ones.

AND….?: The selection of record producers they’ve selected would, if considered in isolation, give one a supremely weird view of rock-music-based record production, but it’s not like he’s not deserving.


Class of 1999

Billy Joel

WHO HE IS: THE piano man! The very one himself!

WHY HE’S HERE: He wrote a bunch of songs that became hits in a bunch of different subgenres. Two of them are even pretty good.

AND…: He was likable enough to sell squillions of records despite the fact that most of his music is dull as toast. That’s an accomplishment. He was like Elton John without the flair. Or Randy Newman without the…well, without anything that makes Randy Newman 6 great.


Curtis Mayfield

WHO HE IS: A guy who branched out of The Impressions to become our foremost conscious soul singer for awhile there.

WHY HE’S HERE: “Superfly” was a giant hit, and his socially-active hitmaking created a sort of template for not only R&B singers with a conscience 7, but also provided a huge influence (and set of samples) to backpack rap as well.

AND…?: He was pretty great, and he continued to be great as a performer and recording act even after he got paralyzed by a light rig onstage in 1990.


Paul McCartney

WHO HE IS: The former singer of Wings. He was also in a band in the sixties.

WHY HE’S HERE: The important question wasn’t “will he get in” it was clearly “how long after we induct John Lennon do we let him in”. The answer: four years.

AND…?: He was the least-consistent Beatle always – his high points are unimaginably high, and his low points are unlistenable. But, y’know, he’s got a lot of high points, even as a solo artist.


Del Shannon

WHO HE IS: The “Runaway” himself!

WHY HE’S HERE: Well, Wikipedia tells me he had hits that were not “The Runaway”, so that’s neat. Good job, Del Shannon.

AND…?: I mean, “The Runaway” is an ok song in a sort-of-forgotten kind of way.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: I’m going to say no here.

Dusty Springfield

WHO SHE IS: A chanteuse, and an early purveyor of blue-eyed soul.

WHY SHE’S HERE: She had some hits and, in so doing, made a lot of people (i.e. the people that originally performed the songs she had hits with) more famous than they would have been otherwise. She also more-or-less created the space for sad white ladies to sing soul music, which is something.

AND…?: She is cultishly adored by the people that like her. Even now she continues to have a crazy-rabid fanbase. This is always a sign that there is more going on there than I am necessarily grasping, and I’m willing to concede that point.


Bruce Springsteen

WHO HE IS: The Boss!

WHY HE’S HERE: Because he’s one of the most widely-copied dudes in all of rock music. Because he wrote a bunch of great songs on a bunch of great albums. While he has bad albums, he also doesn’t have any disqualified periods of albums – any given album is at least as likely as not to be good work. He assembled one of rock and roll’s greatest big bands 8, and he made his best album without any of them. Dude is a powerhouse.

AND…?: He’s the only absolute dead-nuts slam-dunk candidate other than Paul McCartney in this entire induction class.


Staple Stingers

WHO THEY ARE: Would you believe that they are a group of sisters whose last name is Staples? You should. Mavis is one of them, and has made a bunch of late-career albums here in the last few years that are wonderful.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: They were fantastic and had a bunch of hits, and then they decided to be weird as hell. Their willingness to jump out and do more experimental stuff should have been more influential than it was, quite frankly. As it was plenty of people took plenty of things from their records, and they were very successful.

AND…?: Oh, I love the Staple Singers.


Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys

WHO HE IS: The King of Western Swing. I am always happy when these people have nicknames, so I can use them to fill this line without actually having to do any work, guys. It’s just great.

WHY HE’S HERE: Well, he helped invent Western Swing, which was important to country music which, once again, is not rock and roll, but here we find ourselves anyway.

AND…?: Bob Wills was great. Without Bob Wills we don’t get Buck Owens or Merle Haggard, and that oughta be enough.


Charles Brown

WHO HE IS: Piano blues guy. Not the round-headed son of a barber from Minnesota.

WHY HE’S HERE: Well, his major innovation was “what if the blues….but slower and played on a piano,” which I guess was influential to people who would be into that sort of thing.

AND…?: I have no capacity to evaluate this music because I can’t stand listening to it, but it also has fuck-all to do with rock and roll, and even the tenuous “blues —–> rock and roll” thing that gets most people into the “early influencers” category is pretty well wiped out by the fact that what Charles Brown did was basically take the parts of the blues that would influence rock and roll out of the blues.



  1.  also the centerpiece of the museum itself, for those that have never been there, is a very long video encapsulating each inducted class, with clips of performances by most of them and things like that, and is generally a pretty cool thing to behold. 
  2.  although they did, as you can read here and going back from there, skew toward “pretty bad” 
  3.  in the sense that they did their best to ruin both country and rock. 
  4.  who is not in as a rock and roll performer, but whos status as a piano man was still hugely influential on other rock and roll piano men, and thus belongs here more than Lloyd Price. 
  5.  who are not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at all, in a gigantic miscarriage of justice. 
  6.  Randy Newman would not be inducted until 2013, but he would be inducted by Billy Joel, and Billy Joel’s induction speech of Randy Newman is my favorite thing Billy Joel has ever done, supplanting his role in Oliver and Company. 
  7. currently visible in the form of John Legend, Alicia Keys, Alessia Cara, etc. 
  8.  this is obviously not meant in the sense of “big band” music, which is not what he played, but in the sense that the E-Street Band includes basically every resident of New Jersey.