Who the Fuck Listens to This: Kylie Minogue – Golden

It is, at this point in 2018, not news that pop stars are pivoting to country music, presumably in the interest of revitalizing and/or saving their careers. Country music is the third-most popular format by number of stations 1, but also in economic terms, it’s better off to appeal to a country fan if you’re an artist that prefers the (somewhat and relatively) larger payouts of physical media sales – country is still tops among people that buy actual physical releases – which means that artists who have seen their physical sales slow down and don’t know how to shore up their streaming business would find it appealing.

So usually, when it happens, it’s not even worthy of comment: it’s a thing that’s happening industry-wide, and any individual who does it, it can be assumed, is after some more dollars and/or a renewed audience. But Kylie Minogue has gone country 2 is different, both practically and philosophically.

Practically speaking, I cannot think of a person whose major radio hits are less country-oriented than Ms. Minogue’s. She’s managed to carve out a somewhat-unique sonic footprint by making music that sounds like it was made by robot traditionalists – the disco influence is real, and she never really gave up on the pop-traditiionalism of her first records, but she also manages to fill her records, made as disco music by a traditionalist, with sounds that sound like they’ve been beamed in from the future. But here she abandons that lane to almost, kind, adopt a completely different set of sounds and signifiers 3. She’s certainly a big enough pop star (in parts of the world that aren’t the United States) that she could very easily just keep doing what she’s doing and making her (extremely devoted) fanbase happy, but she’s elected not to.

Which brings us to the more philosophical concern. Kylie Minogue is Australian, with a mostly-European following, and travelled to Nashville at the suggestion of her label to get “inspiration”, and came back with a desire to work in a genre that is not what you’d call particularly popular where her fans are and that, in fact, her music has basically zero to do with. She would have been hard-pressed to find a genre of music that is a currently-going concern, commercially speaking, that her oeuvre generally has less to do with.

 

That said, she has (kind of) made the plunge, and the result is Golden, her sixth UK#1, and eleventh Australia #1. So clearly, at least in terms of sales, she’s doing her usual business. But the question remains: who the fuck would listen to it?

This question is compounded by the fact that, for an album where someone’s gone country 4, she hasn’t actually gone particularly country. She hasn’t really even gone the kind of pop-radio country that is on the fringe of country signification either. She’s just added fiddles and banjos to what sound, to me, like regular Kylie Minogue songs 5. Furthermore, about half of the songs on the record don’t even have those things.

That said, the change is perhaps something that can be easily understood in context. Kylie Minogue has recently survived cancer, and now has to deal with being 49 years old, a woman, and famous, which combine to form a very aging- and death-focused mindset 6. The two most effective songs, the not-quite-titular “Golden” and the double-meaning “Dancing” 7, are also the most country-inflected (and aging and death are as country-friendly themes as you could hope for). It’s also useful to note that this is the first record she’s made in twenty years (since a record called Impossible Princess) where she wrote every song, so clearly it comes from an internal place that she’s gone country 8.

The resulting record, however, is a kind of limp hybrid, a simulacrum of someone’s country conversion It’s not “country” enough to get over as country music, but it’s also not Kylie enough to get over as Kylie music 9. As always with these exercises, it’s hard for me not to think of the version of this record that would be good, and in this regard, I think (as I so often do) of Nick Cave.

In 1996, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds released Murder Ballads, which is sometimes my favorite Nick Cave album 10, and upon which appears the unlikely duet “Where the Wild Roses Grow” with Kylie Minogue, who also does some singing on a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Death is not the End” 11 alongside Shane McGowan and PJ Harvey. A better country-inflected Kylie record would find her tapping into whatever brought her to those collaborations in the first place. I’m not sure what form that would have taken, but she does have the voice for it, and her role in “Where the Wild Roses Grow” is as the murdered part of the murder ballad (spoiler alert I guess?), which would also be a fascinating place to be coming from, although I’d imagine that if you’re already death-focused as a songwriter (as Kylie was when writing this record, see above), it might not be the most appealing way to go about it.

But of course, a record can’t be judged by the record that it isn’t, but rather by the record it is. As it is, it’s not bad. As you can probably tell, I’m not a huge Kylie Minogue fan, or even a relatively minor Kylie Minogue fan, but it wasn’t actively terrible or anything 12, but it doesn’t really have anything going for it. I’m sure it meant a lot to Kylie Minogue to get to record it – the songs seem like they’re coming from someplace genuine, even if they’re smothered under the assistance of Nathan Chapman, who also abetted Taylor Swift for a half dozen or so of her records – but there isn’t much there to reward the listener, be they Kylie fan or Country fan.

It’s Taylor Swift – or rather, the inverse of Taylor Swift – that it’s most often compared to, but I think the better comparison is to Kesha’s Rainbow, which also represented a refuge in country music following a difficult life/media situation, and came out as the latter’s finest hour. Although Kylie suffers in either case – she’s gone country 13 in as commercially-oriented a way as possible, and it provides a sturdy-enough marketing hook, even if there is, after all, very little else to it.

So who the fuck listens to this? I guess Kylie fans. Certainly not country fans, although it’s an admirable effort for all that. As with previous WTFLTT subject Shania Twain, I’m glad she got to write the country record she wanted to write to deal with the things she wanted to deal with, but I think there are plenty of people who could be doing otherwise. Although there could be some nifty frission if she went out on tour with Kacey Musgraves, who just moved in the Kylie direction with her country album. Feel free to put me in touch with either lady’s agent or publicist or media booker or whatever. I work cheap.


  1.  for whatever that may be worth in listeners – radio tends to reach people in younger (kids) and older (people that listen to the radio because they’ve always listened to the radio) age brackets 
  2.  lookit them boots 
  3.  although more on her success in taking on actual country music in a bit here 
  4.  back to her roots 
  5.  although a review that ran in the Melbourne Herald Sun declares that there’s “no classic Kylie dance moments” so it’s possible I just don’t know what a regular Kylie Minogue song is. 
  6.  or so it seems, and so I would imagine. I’ve never been a post-cancer 49-year-old woman who is a pop singer, so I’m not entirely able to adopt the mindset of one I suppose. I’m also significantly taller than Ms. Minogue. 
  7.  the double meaning appearing in the couplet “when I go out/I want to go out dancing” 
  8.  new kind of suit 
  9.  although, again, it went to #1 everywhere you’d expect it to have gone #1, so clearly her fans are into it enough to buy it. 
  10.  when it isn’t The Firstborn is Dead or The Boatman’s Call or Henry’s Dream or Live Seeds. I have a lot of favorite Nick Cave albums. I love Nick Cave. 
  11.  which is itself a Dylan song from Dylan’s late-eighties swamp, an album that is also country-inflected via weird places (the Grateful Dead and Mark Knopfler), and which also kind of sucks for not actually sounding very much like the person who wrote the songs on it. 
  12.  this is a true story: the “Gone Country” runner in this piece actually came from a previous WTFLTT piece that I tried to write for Justin Timberlake’s Man of the Woods, but it didn’t fit into the schedule really, and it wasn’t very good – there’s only so much “oh my god this record sucks” that I can fit into a piece and still be saying something cogent, but rest assured that it’s one of the worst things I’ve heard awhile, and makes this record look like fucking Red-Headed Stranger.  
  13.  here she comes 

The 2018 ACM Awards

So, for two years I wrote about the ACM awards. And then, for two years, I did not. The reasons for this have been covered in other awards-show write-ups, but to make them clear at the beginning of this piece: there are not that many country music people at any given time, and so any time an award goes up, the same set of people are nominated over and over again. Couple that with the fact that the ACM awards are only the first of two major country-music-centric awards shows, and that the other one 1 has basically the same set of people involved with it, and also doesn’t have the fucking songwriter category (see below).

Anyway, this year I decided to jump back in. Mainstream country has some more good stuff! Carrie Underwood is performing a new single 2! The ceremony almost moved from Vegas, but decided it was a better idea not to! It seems, for all intents and purposes, to be a good year to jump back on the ACM train!

That said, I took 3 years off, and this field of nominees is functionally (albeit not precisely) identical. The heavy hitters are the same people, they’re here in the same configurations. Country music has not made significant changes, and yet I am soldiering through anyway, because I feel like significant changes may be coming, and it’d be worth getting some words down about it this year. So I’m soldiering on anyway, but I’m doing this one speed-round style, so that nobody has to spend more time than necessary thinking about Thomas Rhett.

Songwriter of the Year

Above I alluded to a problem with this categroy, and here it is: it is near-on impossible to figure out the elegibility of the people in this category in any way that yields an answer to the question “for which songs are these folks nominated”. That annoys me, and it required a long time to suss out. Anyway, Rhett Akins just got a bunch of press for making the country charts for seven years in a row. While that’s impressive, his songs still aren’t very good, so let’s go with Hillary Lindsay.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Hillary Lindsay

Vocal Event of the Year

This award is not solely awarded to the vocalist – it is also awarded to the record company, and the producer! This probably excludes such notable vocal events as “Blake Shelton clearing his throat that one time” and Luke Bryan saying “gawww-lee” 3 at something. Anyway, most of these are awful, but the Glen Campbell/Willie Nelson song is good, and, y’know, there aren’t a lot more opportunities to award Glen Campbell for things.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Glenn Campbell and Willie Nelson, “Funny (How Time Slips Away)”

Video of the Year

Jesus christ, if this isn’t the most insulting, “country by numbers” set of videos ever nominated, I’ll eat that one guy from the Brothers Osborne’s hat. It’s hard to call anybody the winner, honestly, but at least the “We Should be Friends” video has the Legally Blonde thing going on.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Miranda Lambert, “We Should be Friends”

Song of the Year

Can we just agree that no one outside of actual biologists should be using the word “Female” for any goddamned reason in 2018? Thanks.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chris Stapleton, “Whiskey and You”

Single Record of the Year

This one, as a brief reminder, goes to the performance, rather than the nebulous idea of the songs itself (the song of the year award goes to the songwriters). It also goes to the record label, because I guess of course it does? Man, next time I write about these I’m devoting some damn time to the history of the label’s role in these things 4.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chris Stapleton, “Broken Halos”

Album of the Year

In perhaps a shocking development, I actually liked Old Dominion’s album – taken as a whole album – more than Chris Stapleton’s, who I think is a much more solid singles guy. What a twist!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Old Dominion, Happy Endings

New Vocal Duo or Group of the Year

On the one hand, I kind of like Runaway June, on the other hand, this award has already been given out and it’s gone to Midland, which is, I guess fine.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Runaway June, but it actually went to Midland

New Male Vocalist of the Year

Here’s the thing: I still like Kane Brown somewhat more than Brett Young, just like I did when I wrote about the iHeartMusic Awards 5. But, once more, this award has already been given, and it has already gone to Brett Young.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Brett Young

New Female Vocalist of the Year

So the way that long-term nominees seep into the categories is by first appearing here, but given that there’s, like, one new nominee in the non-”New” categories every year, there’s a one in fifteen shot that any of these people will be it. I suppose it’s nice to acknowledge the newness, but it would also be nice to roll the goddamn fucking categories over more. Oh also, this has already been given to Lauren Alaina.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lauren Alaina, actually

Vocal Group of the Year

Hey, wouldn’t you know? I still like Old Dominion more than Midland. What a thing!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Old Dominion

Vocal Duo of the Year

The fact that a “duo” is of course a “group” of two people apparently carries no weight with the ACM people. How else are we going to wind up with this, the most obnoxious of categories? Seriously almost all of these people are just awful.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Brothers Osborne, I guess

Female Vocalist of the Year

I mean, Reba’s here because she’s the host, right? There cannot possibly be another reason. Not in 2018. I suppose there are worse things than giving it to Carrie Underwood. She’s had a rough time of it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Carrie Underwood

Male Vocalist of the Year

Well, it was a nice break, but we’re back to Chris Stapleton, I suppose.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chris Stapleton

Entertainer of the Year

This is the one for all the marbles! That makes it weird that it’s the only category in which Luke Bryan appears! 6 It would also be weird for it to be the only category in which Garth Brooks appears but, y’know, these things do happen, and Garth Brooks is pretty much always up here, no matter what he’s been doing. He’s Garth Brooks, after all.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chris Stapleton


  1.  the CMAs, which are trashier and dumber, but also less entertaining, which is a shame. 
  2.  a fact that is not much of an exciting development in and of itself, but is her first public appearance since the accident, and so is at least a little exciting, as someone who likes people generally. 
  3.  to be clear, the joke I am making here is that Luke Bryan sounds like Gomer Pyle. 
  4.  I mean, I talk about record labels all the time, but their specific role in country music and in the academy, particularly, is where I’m going here. 
  5.  where the category was more manageable because it was co-ed, and thus I didn’t have to think about as many people to winnow it down. 
  6. although he did appear in a joke in the vocal event category. 

On Steven Spielberg, Once More

So, two and half years after the first time I wrote about Steven Spielberg’s propensity for gnomic utterances about the popularity of various film trends, I find myself moved to do so again. This time because he has again pitched these opinions into my wheelhouse, which is to say: awards shows. Or, if you’d rather, the awards granted by the bodies that put on the shows attached to those awards 1; he told ITV, regarding streaming-only films of the Netflix type, “once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie. You certainly, if you’re a good show, deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar.” He went on to stipulate that he doesn’t think the strategy that Netflix has pursued, of exhibiting it in a theater for a week specifically for awards qualification, should count as a theatrical release.

At its root, what Steven Spielberg, an immensely-successful producer 2 is saying (even with a relatively-charitable interpretation), is that people should not be able to come up to his level of awards-related success unless they do so his way. He’s already inside the gates, and he’d like to see them barred to anyone who finds another way in. This is the very worst kind of old-man bloviating – he’s established, so he doesn’t see any point in making things any different for other people to become established. It is also (and this is less charitable) pretty easy to see the statement itself as being pretty firmly anti-audience. The audience, after all, is presumably made up of people that want to see more movies. He admits himself, elsewhere in the ITV video, that the streaming-only film is the way that studios are making smaller, financially-riskier projects that, in different times 3, would have been given a theatrical release. This means that the system, whereby studios are releasing their films – made as films – to a streaming platform, is an alternative not to a theatrical release, but to the films being released at all. It seems readily apparent (to me, at least) that “more available movies” is a better thing for the audience, and those movies being available for the relatively-inexpensive cost of a Netflix subscription is a double-bonus.

Let’s assume, however, that Steve has a point, and that streaming movies are, in some fundamental way, different for the viewer. The physical experience itself can be somewhat different, as you’re not going into a room to do nothing but watch the movie with a bunch of other people that are there in that same room to watch the same movie. The effect of this – a crowd – to the experience is definitely an additive part of the experience. That is to say, it definitely changes the experience in a way that makes it more of an experience. That “more,” however, can, as with all group-oriented events, be either positive or negative. Everyone has had a movie ruined by someone who wouldn’t shut up, or wouldn’t get off the phone, or whatever. The risk is taken. At its highest form, there’s something to a serious audience there in good faith. How often are movies viewed at their highest form?

The home, experience, is no less intentional, but has its own double-edged sword. While it doesn’t generally carry the threat of the masses, it also represents far less investment on the part of the viewer, who doesn’t have to leave his house or spend his money 4. Since they aren’t attaching a physical currency value to the experience, they are (psychologically) less apt 5 to attach the same value to trying to make it “worth it”, which means they are less likely to engage with it.  

What this means, as far as I can tell, is that the differences come in two places. The first is the enjoyment of the audience (i.e. the choice between going out and risking the masses or staying in and risking the distractions). This seems to be beyond Steven Spielberg’s control and is, besides that, something that is pretty much entirely subjective. It’s not something any of us can answer for anyone else. That leaves the differences that are quantitative, which are all on the business side. Films that are sold to (or produced by) a streaming service are marketed differently (i.e. they are marketed by the streaming service), and make their money differently (generally being sold outright, since a per-sale model wouldn’t work) 6, which would make the difference between the two seem like there was a huge gulf separating them…provided that your investment was in the way that it was sold, rather than in the way that it reached the people.

This last point, then, is the reason Spielberg’s statements are so vexing. He’s presenting his own self-interest 7 as being the ethically-superior option (which is the worst), and he’s senselessly gatekeeping (which is also the worst), but he’s also doing a thing I am on the record as thinking is extra-the worst, which is assuming that the audience doesn’t know the difference between their own best interest and that of the people taking their money to provide a service. It’s so transparently manipulative that it can only ever be insulting, and there could be an interesting conversation there, if the subject were to be engaged with a more good-faith approach.

Ultimately though, even the preceding thousand words are begging the question: so what? This comes after a couple of years of the Oscars being under fire for their lack of diversity and forward-thinking members. This year was the first awards-granting period to have been completed under the newer, more-diverse Academy, and some surprising films got some surprising accolades, seemingly as a result. This is, on balance, a good thing; it means that some changes are being made to the thing that existed for 89 years without ever considering such changes. To say “that’s enough changes, we don’t need any more” is, at the very least, bad optics. I don’t think that Spielberg’s comments are coming, necessarily, from an anti-diversity place 8, but it still seems like it’s shouting “ENOUGH” when too many people are let through the door.  

But even if it somehow has nothing to do with the eligibility of more films in and of itself, there is still the fact that the business practices of the studios are being blamed on filmmakers and/or the audience and/or the nominating bodies of awards-granting institutions. Smaller movies – movies that are funded through production interests that land them on streaming services – aren’t going to be made for the same financial reasons that giant studio-helmed movies are going to be made. They’re going to be made as the result of someone’s desire to do it. If one imagines that there is a sort of critical mass by which movies end up finished, with the twin factors of “money involved” and “artistic motivation” adding together to reach this mass 9, then the two things can be seen to be complementary: you need more of one if you lack more of the other. This means, following on, that the financial risk taken on by the people that end up distributing it drops as the people motivated become more motivated. That’s the part of the market opened up by the streaming-only model: movies made by people who wanted to make their movies for less than the absolute maximum amount of money.

It manages to invalidate the “it’s making the filmmakers bad” argument that came at the end of Spielberg’s comments – the money-end of the film industry has decided that the way to best-capitalize on the films in question is to distribute them through this streaming-only model, and Spielberg has seen this and said “those movies are tv shows and also the filmmakers aren’t learning how to be filmmakers” because of the business-related result of the filmmakers wanting to make their films for less money. If he, a nominating member of the Academy and a person to whom the Oscars matter, is willing to speak for the Oscars in this capacity, then that is proof that, whatever gestures they’ve made toward inclusion, there is still a baked-in mindset that they actually constructed the best way to evaluate films, and that shows itself to be faulty with every year that goes by 10. Right before Spielberg gave his remarks to ITV, Cannes announced that Netflix features will not be exhibited, and while Cannes certainly isn’t the Oscars, it’s a similarly old-guard, established film-evaluating institution, and it shows that this attitude is endemic. This attitude, then, which is focused mainly on praising the largest bodies at the expense of the smallest (and of the audience), is harmful to the state of the art form itself, in addition to being harmful to all of the culture that supports it.

I suppose, given all this, that what I’m saying here is that there’s still more arguments to figuring out a way to evaluate films for long-term praise and memory that doesn’t involve the approval of an awards-granting body that continues to contain members that are only interested in one type or variety of thing winning awards, and that the best way to win this game is not to play. I think the sooner we all get together on figuring out what that should be and how that should work, the better off we’ll all be. The good news is that, as the Oscars decline in popularity and visibility, it’ll sort of happen naturally anyway, and whatever Steven Spielberg thinks about the issue will stop mattering.


  1. the extent to which the spectacle of the Oscars is separate and distinct from the Oscars themselves is a matter of some debate, and something I really should hash out one of these days. Stay tuned, I guess. 
  2.  I mean, he’s also an immensely-successful director, but that matters less to what we’re discussing when we talk about his opinions on the business of distribution and awards consideration, see below. 
  3.  to put a finer point on it, the times in which Spielberg himself came up as a filmmaker and producer. 
  4.  this is obviously modulated by the presence of the necessary subscription, which would add a cost onto the experience if someone, say, signed up for Netflix just to watch Okja or whatever, in which case this paragraph could be safely ignored except for the parts about the masses. 
  5.  this is a generalization, I am aware, but so is the thing about theaters being full of seat-kicking phone-using loudmouths – I’m comparing the potential drawbacks against the potential drawbacks here. If this were at all scientific, each case would be evaluated differently. But I assume that you, the reader, know what I am getting at here. 
  6.  I suppose I would be interested to know who owns the back-end on physical releases – i.e. that of Stranger Things – should they exist. The decision to release them would probably lie with Netflix (otherwise there would be nothing stopping film production companies from releasing them directly), but I wonder if there would be any payout to the production companies that made the movie in the first place or whatever. 
  7.  which may range from something as simple as “just wanting there to be less competition” to something as complicated as a general malaise with the state of the industry – I’m not interested in analyzing it, but I present it here only to point out that his actual motives themselves matter very little to the discussion. 
  8.  I mean, Short Round aside, the guy made a non-racist Tintin movie, for fuck’s sake. 
  9.  realistically, there are an uncountable number of things that play into a film actually getting made and released, but for the sake of argument here I am again simplifying the case to make a rhetorical point. I think most of the factors, anyway, can be largely grouped into “for the money” or “for the artistic satisfaction.”  
  10.  the evidence for this statement is that people are still not what you’d call happy about the Oscars, and the renewed diversity – a Mexican director won best picture, for example – isn’t actually fixing the problems that people are having, because it’s too little, too late. 

The Best Records of March 2018

The Messthetics – The Messthetics (The erstwhile Fugazi rhythm section hooks up with a whiz-bang guitar player, and excellent heavy instrumentals ensue)

Jean Grae & Quelle Chris – Everything’s Fine (Quelle Chris’s hot streak – he’s made this columnlet with his two previous albums in their respective months – continues unabated, and this time he’s making killer music celebrating his marriage to the inestimable Jean Grae.)

Kraus – Path (at this point, bedroom noisegaze from Brooklyn really has to do something to get my attention. In this case the thing it does is be really, really good. And also brief. Which does help.)

DDENT – Toro (Instrumental post-metal had a hell of a month, and DDENT made the best of the records in the clot of great releases, so here they are)

Anna Von Hausswolf – Dead Magic (Whatever Sunn0)))’s Randall Dunn is contributing as the producer here, it’s really Sunn0)))ing up her already pretty-terrific organ music, and this record is her best one yet)

Shamelessly Punting: An Ordinal Ranking of Things

The Good Place

Friday NIght Lights (the tv show)

The theme song to Good Times

Friday (the movie)

Plato’s Form of the Good

“Fridays I’m in Love”

Good Burger

That clip that used to run on The Soup all the time of Ann Curry saying “good morning, good morning everybody, in the news this morning, good morning”

Joe Friday

“Good God, y’all,” as uttered by Edwin Starr

Friday Night Lights (the movie)

“Good Night Ladies”

Friday Night Lights (the book)

Matthew Goode

Friday the 13th (the movies)

Goodreads

Good Morning Vietnam

“Good Lovin’”

“Friday” (the song from Friday (the movie))

You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown

The state of being just some gal Friday around here.

“Friday NIght”

Good Night, and Good Luck

“Last Friday Night”

Good Times

“Good Day Sunshine”

Friday (the Heinlein novel)

GOOD Music

Friday (the character from Robinson Crusoe)

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

“Friday” (the song by Rebecca Black)

Friday the 13th (the day)

Good Morning America

TGIF (the 90s television block)

How to Be Good

Fridays (The 80s sketch show)

“Good Morning, Good Morning”

TGIFridays

“The Good Ship Lollipop”

Black Friday

 

A Considered Look at Every Inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Part 4

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 2. So 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, and Part 3 of this series.

Class of 1990

Hank Ballard

WHO HE IS: He’s a real early rock and roll dude from Detroit. He wrote “The Twist.”

WHY HE’S HERE: The class of 1990 is not one of the R&RHOF’s more explicable classes. I guess they felt they had to get every early rock and roll guy in there? I have no idea, honestly.

AND…?: I suppose there’s nothing wrong with his music, as such. “The Twist” is a pretty good song, although his isn’t even if the version that got super-famous 3, and that’s about it, except for his early stake on the claim of “first.”

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Not really..

Bobby Darin

WHO HE IS: If your memory works like mine, he’s the guy that sang the song from Sesame Street with the elephant. If your memory does not work this way, please be assured that watching this baby elephant get a bath is basically the best way to enjoy Bobby Darin’s music, which aged poorly.

WHY HE’S HERE: Well, he was super-famous, and also people that like him love him, even to this day 4. It’s also hard for me not to think that, because his success is tied to Ahmet Ertegun (he was one of Atlantic’s first huge successes), it improved his chances in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

AND…?: There’s not really much else to say. He was a good singer, made a bunch of hits, people liked them. If they sound a bit like museum pieces now, then that’s probably not any fault of his. “Mack the Knife” is still pretty great. This is probably also the place to mention that his original songwriting partner was Don Kirshner, of Rock Concert fame.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Sure, why not?

The Four Seasons

WHO THEY ARE: This is another vocal group built around a constant (Frankie Valli) 5 and whatever hired-guns are available to sing. They were popular for a long time.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: Well, they exist historically as a way to say that the Beach Boys were not the only American band to be famous during the British Invasion, which is technically correct. And they are very much like a zero-ideas version of the Beach Boys 6.

AND…?: Sometimes the fact that a band was popular is not ascribable to their ability, but rather to their circumstance. It happens a lot, and it’s something that the R&RHOF folks would do better to keep in mind while they’re casting around for people to throw into the mix. I do happen to say this the year that Bon Jovi got inducted. Isn’t that an odd coincidence? 7

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: No.

Four Tops

WHO THEY ARE: The men who brought Holland-Dozier-Holland songs to life in all their velvety, buttery glory.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: Leaving aside my usual grumblings about R&B not actually being rock and roll (which you can see in all sorts of places previously), since by 1990 we have firmly established that the nominating body doesn’t care, they’re here because they were the primary mouthpieces for Holland-Dozier-Holland (see below) during the songwriting team’s time on Motown. During this period they were the greatest act on Motown records, and if they failed to reach those heights in subsequent years, well, so did almost everyone else, so there’s no crime there. If that’s not enough, they also sang backup on other vocal groups’ Motown singles 8.

AND…?: They were versatile, capable, looked great onstage, and each of them could sing the lights out of a place. “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)” is a triumph of not only R&B, but human songwriting and performance 9. “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch” and “Baby I Need Your Loving” are nearly as good. They were phenomenal, genuinely.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: with the genre problem caveat established, yes, they deserve to be there.

The Kinks

WHO THEY ARE: One of the last two British Invasion bands (see below for the other) to be inducted.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: They were great, and effectively bridged early-sixties garage rock with late-sixties psychedelia, and covered an enormous amount of ground in between. They may also have been the first band to say “fuck” on a record 10, which is its own kind of rock and roll legacy separate from much of the other stuff.

AND…?: Oh, The Kinks were great. They were at times tremendoulsy great, and they wrote some songs that are beyond incredible. There are some interesting parallels with The Who, one of which being that The Kinks’ albums were almost never as useful or cohesive as their singles, with a couple of exceptions, but they were as great as you’d want when they were great, and that’s enough for me.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Most assuredly

The Platters

WHO THEY ARE: One of the first successful black vocal groups, and another early-fifties crossover-type act.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: I would imagine some combination of an inclusive spirit and a dogged determination to get every fucking fifties vocal group ever to exist into the goddamn building.

AND…?: They’re fine. They’re really nothing special. I would feel better about this if their music were more noteworthy, but honestly. They’re just….not that big a deal.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Probably not, in all honesty.

Simon & Garfunkel

WHO THEY ARE: I mean, it’s right there in the name of the act, right? Paul & Art! Art & Paul!

WHY THEY’RE HERE: They had a tonne of hits, they continued to be a massive sellout touring presence long after their initial breakup, and people love them to the point of head-crushing obsession.

AND…?: I have come, late in my life, to quite like Simon & Garfunkel’s music. That doesn’t have much bearing on their actual quality, but it is a thing. They were good for rock-tinged folk musicians. I don’t know that I could mount a convincing argument that they were rock and roll on any musical basis, but their music had a rock and roll inflection, certainly, and they worked in a rock band’s mien, so I guess it’s close enough. At least they’re better-suited for this than The Platters.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes

The Who

WHO THEY ARE: The other of the last two remaining major British invasion bands (see above)

WHY THEY’RE HERE: They had hits for a long time, they made a bunch of stylistic changes to keep themselves vital, and they were generally the sort of thing you look for in rock stars. More importantly to the evolution of rock and roll, they pioneered a kind of “brutalist maximalism” in their sound, paving the way for increasingly heavier and more aggressive bands. Most hard rock-derived forms of rock music start, more-or-less, with The Who.

AND…?: Despite a crippling inconsistency that would run through their entire career, the high points of The Who’s output are ridiculously high. Like, nigh-untouchable high. They only managed to put their talent to work in the service of an actually-good record every once in a while, but they managed it over a very long period of time, and the best work, stripped to its essence, is everything you could want in a rock band.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes

Charlie Christian

WHO HE IS: A guy who helped move jazz from the swing era into the bop era, and a really impressive guitar player.

WHY HE’S HERE: He was one of the first people 11 to play the guitar as a lead instrument, rather than as another part of the rhythm section. 

AND…?: I think that the “early influences” section of the HOF takes something of too long a view, and I think it comes up every time. Charlie Christian, as a guitar player, has something more of a claim than most of these jazz guys, but he still made music decades before anyone was considering rock and roll, and is actually more accurately described as an influence to the early influences. But of course that isn’t how we do things here, and I suppose there isn’t an argument against him other than the general restructuring stuff.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes

Louis Armstrong

WHO HE IS: The gravelly-voiced trumpeter of “What a Wonderful World” fame.

WHY HE’S HERE: While his music has fuck-all to do with even the earliest forms of rock and roll, and I suppose the argument can be made that Louis Armstrong, as one of America’s first musical celebrities, helped create a kind of template for the “rock star,” which is something.

AND…?: The celebrity angle is pretty much the only argument that can exist, as nothing about his music or the way he plays would have made any real contribution to rock and roll in any meaningful sense. He was famous, though.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: I suppose.

Ma Rainey

WHO SHE IS: Louis Armstrongs sometimes-partner, and a surprisingly (for the time) frequently-recorded blues vocalist.

WHY SHE’S HERE: The Armstrong association? The aforementioned inclusionist spirit? Who knows, honestly.

AND…?: Much like with Louis Armstrong, the problem isn’t that her music is bad or whatever, it’s that it genuinely has nothing to do with rock and roll. It’s too early to have even been an influence on rock and roll. It was, like Armstrong or Christian, an influence to the influences. It’s silly.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Not really

Gerry Goffin & Carole King

WHO THEY ARE: In addition to them writing some of the most irritating songs known to man (“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” “The Loco-Motion”, etc.), they also wrote the horrorshow that is “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)”

WHY THEY’RE HERE: Because there was a period in the nineties when Brill Building songwriters were revered, and Carole King has been a part of the record-selling industry’s hype machine for a long time, and this all comes together here.

AND…?: My own personal tastes aside, these songs (and the Brill Building approach in general) have nothing to do with rock and roll, and I see no reason for their inclusion.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Nope.

Holland-Dozier-Holland

WHO THEY ARE: The songwriters mentioned above in the entry for the Four Tops.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: Because they’re great and wrote great songs.

AND…?: Great great great great great.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes

Class of 1991

LaVern Baker

WHO SHE IS: A fifties R&B singer. You might know “Tweedle Dee,” but most of her actual hits aren’t particularly well known these days.

WHY SHE’S HERE: See, because I’m going to keep beating this horse until it is completely disintegrated, I think that she would be a good inclusion as an early influence: she was popular in the run-up to rock and roll, and delivered her music in a style that had an effect on the way that rock and roll performers played. Perfect early influence material. Instead we end up talking about people who performed twenty years before she did.

AND…?: Pretty good music with a direct effect on rock and roll music. Seems like a pretty good candidate, even if I may never be used to the stupid distinctions they make up there.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Sure

The Byrds

WHO THEY ARE: The harmonizing folk-rockers most well-known for covering Bob Dylan.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: Because in addition to pioneering folk rock, they are also widely credited with inventing country-rock 12. They had a relentless approach to their own sound, and they also helped pioneer the acrimonious “I will never talk to that guy again” breakup, as well as the odds-defying Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Reunion.

AND…?: Personally, I love the Byrds, but even with that aside, they did all that stuff above plus launched the rock institution that is David Crosby (a double inductee), so I’d say their place is pretty assured.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes

John Lee Hooker

WHO HE IS: The old guy who sings the song in the street before the Ray Charles song in Blues Brothers.

WHY HE’S HERE: He was a hugely influential, completely original performer. His effect on rock and roll (and much subsequent popular music) was to make the rhetorical point that it can always be stripped down further. Fewer instruments, fewer chords, fewer notes in each chord, fewer words. He constructed music out of as little as possible, and then tried to make it even less, forever winnowing down to get to whatever was only essential, and leaving everything else out.

AND…?: Hearing John Lee Hooker play the blues makes a bunch of other blues musicians sound silly. Nearly every blues musician, in fact. In his stripped-down, just-the-facts approach, he got closer than anyone could to figuring out how to express purely what the blues are out there trying to express. It’s not rock and roll 13, but at this point that’s the only quibble there is.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes

The Impressions

WHO THEY ARE: A fifties R&B group that is notable primarily for including Curtis Mayfield.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: They did have their own hits, and Curtis Mayfield was later inducted on his own (in 1999), so honestly I have no idea.

AND…?: I guess it was important to get every single fifties R&B vocal group in there, for whatever reason.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Not really.

Wilson Pickett

WHO HE IS: He’s the guy that wrote and performed “Land of 1,000 Dances” and “Mustang Sally,” among other things. He’s among those that bridge the gap between R&B and Rock and Roll.

WHY HE’S HERE: Well, in addition to the “who he is” bit, he was an aggresive, intense singer whose vocal delivery had a huge impact on the way R&B and Rock and Roll were both sung. But primarily it’s going to be “he wrote a whole bunch of songs that everyone knows” at the top of the list.

AND….?: They’re great songs, he was a great singer. No complaints here.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes

Jimmy Reed

WHO HE IS: A Chicago blues guy of some distinction.

WHY HE’S HERE: I guess because every blues guitar player from Chicago must be included? I dunno, man. Jimmy Reed was a pretty good player, and Elvis sure did like him, but I don’t really think there’s much more to his case than that.

AND…?: That’s pretty much the long and short of it. There are people that really like Jimmy Reed, and obviously there are enough of them to get him in, but I definitely don’t think they have a good reason.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Not really.

Ike & Tina Turner

WHO THEY ARE: Another bridge from R&B to early rock and roll. Even if you don’t any of their songs (which are largely great), you probably are familiar with the nature of the marriage (which was largely hellish and terrible, entirely because of Ike).

WHY THEY’RE HERE: If you believe Nick Tosches, Ike Turner (DBA Jackie Brenston) wrote the first rock and roll song, but did the bulk of his memorable work with his then-wife. It was great work that did a lot to popularize a particularly wild strain of R&B that would lead directly to rock and roll.

AND…?: Well, their music is fantastic, even if Ike Turner is one of the most problematic figures 14 currently in the R&RHOF. I suppose the separation is appropriate, and maybe even necessary, but man was he a dirtbag.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yep

Howlin’ Wolf

WHO HE IS: A Chicago blues guy who is infinitely more worthy of induction than Jimmy Reed.

WHY HE’S HERE: He’s here on the strength of his incredible voice. He is genuinely one of the most intense singers ever to walk the Earth, and a lot of rock singers strove to be him. Very few of them ever really succeeded.

AND…?: He was great. Great singer, made great records. There’s a genuine actual early influence here in the early influences category!

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes

Dave Bartholomew

WHO HE IS: a long-running musician who managed to record as both a dixieland jazz player and a jump blues player, which is some impressive range.

WHY HE’S HERE: He’s inducted as a non-performer, so I presume it’s for his skills as a songwriter and bandleader, which is fair.

AND…?: He was a better songwriter (you probably know the Fats Domino songs he wrote) than player, that’s for sure.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Sure, why not?

Ralph Bass

WHO HE IS: A talent scout who worked with Savoy, King and Chess before eventually finishing out at MCA.

WHY HE’S HERE: In addition to having something of a production career, he was instrumental in helping “race records” break the color barrier.

AND…?: I think that’s enough, frankly.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes


  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.  That’s Chubby Checker’s, which is also much better 
  4.  he may be in the running for “longest-running rabid cult of fans” 
  5.  although his 50/50 partner in the group is erstwhile member Bob Gaudio, who no longer tours with them. 
  6.  which, if you see previously in this series, you can take to mean that they are pretty awful, given that it’s not like I’ve got a tonne of great things to say about the Beach Boys, either. They were better than The Four Seasons at a walk, though. 
  7.  No, no it is not. 
  8.  that’s them on The Supremes’ “Run Run Run”.  
  9.  and, trivially, their lead singer, Levi Stubbs, inspired the actual greatest song ever written, Billy Bragg’s “Levi Stubbs’ Tears”. The apostrophe is, of course, wrong, but that’s how it’s punctuated on the album and also it really is the greatest song ever written. That’s not hyperbole or for ironic effect. Seriously. Go listen to it.   
  10.  The “OH NOOOOO” overdub that is part of the vocal track is an attempt to hear what is, quite clearly, Dave Davies telling Ray Davies to “fuck off.” This is also pretty indicative of their highly-entertaining relationship. 
  11.  he is sometimes cited as being the first, but firsts are hard to prove. 
  12.  Once again, “first”s are tricky, and they most certainly didn’t invent it, but Sweetheart of the Rodeo – which doubles as their best album – is still a high watermark for the genre. 
  13.  add another one to the pile of “these people should be the early influencers, not prewar jazz musicians” 
  14.  His behavior was pretty heinous, so the fact that he’s only one of the most problematic figures says something about the state of problematic figures enshrined in the hall of fame. 

The Comeback Trail: Andrew WK – You Are Not Alone

The one thing that can definitely be said for Andrew W.K. is that, even though it almost certainly was not meant to go down like this, he’s done an admirable job of keeping up with things.

I Get Wet was a singular achievement in…something. In the recent past it has been reappraised by many into the accomplishment that it is: a gloriously dumb, dumbly glorious record, in which one out of every five words seems to be “party,” and whose delivery seems to be predicated on making sure that the other four out of five words don’t even matter. Nasty, brutish and short, the record makes up for the shortcomings that would seem to be inherent in a record with exactly one idea by stuffing it full of sounds. I Get Wet created a sort of brain-dead “wall of sound”, but whereas Phil Spector was piling instruments on top of one another until all that was clearly audible was the singer and the drummer, Andrew W.K. was trying to bury even that, until the remaining elements were the aforementioned bellowed utterances of “party”. It sounds, for all that, like a no-budget shoegaze record that somebody tried to clean up digitally, only the person trying to clean it up also didn’t know what they were doing, and just turned everything up. I mean that as a compliment.
I Get Wet had hits, and made Andrew W.K. something of a celebrity, a thing that he was good at being. He’s still on tv fairly often, where you can see his considerable charm and erudition on display. The contrast was, in the early days, a more interesting part of his public face. On the one hand, the record cover features him gushing blood out of his nose  1, the music sounds like all of the dumbest parts of heavy metal with a heavy digital sheen laid on it, but this guy appears to be normal and well-adjusted.

His celebrity stayed around, but his music mostly didn’t. I Get Wet’s follow-up, The Wolf, isn’t a patch on its predecessor. I Get Wet was recorded by W.K.’s then-live band, and is thus the product of a band acting as a band 2. The Wolf was a one-man job: W.K. played all of the instruments himself, and the result is significantly less forceful. It sounds like an Andrew W.K. cover band that decided to write some originals.

After The Wolf, things get weird. There is a lot of speculation one can achieve by googling, but very little is actually known about the facts of this matter. Andrew W.K. was sued by an unspecified person claiming that the person who was doing business as Andrew W.K. The theories (and there are a bunch), are a widely variegated set of ideas, ranging from “Dave Grohl did it all” to “Andrew W.K. is an actor who replaced the musician” to “there never was an Andrew W.K. in the first place.” There was some legal business – Andrew W.K. was prevented from releasing music for a long time because of legal issues, which could have been label troubles, but also could have been something else – and the whole thing was somehow brought to a resolution when he renamed his label Steev Mike, a name he had (allegedly, or, if you prefer, “allegedly”) used to produce I Get Wet 3. Whatever your read on the theories themselves – and they get pretty extensive, and are entertaining enough to warrant an idle search if you’re bored – the upshot is that there was no new Andrew W.K. music for a long time.  

While he was unable to release music, he became a spoken-word person. The “party” focus was retconned into being a philosophy, and he began touring the country and our nation’s television sets talking about the importance of positivity and making everything a party. Now, his music was always pointedly positivity-focused, so it’s not like I’m insisting there’s some kind of leap here, but I invite the reader to go listen to I Get Wet again and try to figure out a “philosophy”. If you manage to, congratulations, you are better at this than I am. The upshot is, W.K. stayed in the public eye by completely changing the things he did, while massaging his approach into the new (for him) medium. He wrote advice columns (and other columns), and he generally shifted his career into one of being a public positive-guy, and not really a musician so much.

Eventually, nine years ago, some things started to drip out. There was a weird mixtape thing of his productions for the Skyscraper record, and then there was an album of solo piano compositions 4. He had dabbled in other production as well – producing a record for Lee “Scratch” Perry, among other things, such as being one of the Boredoms’ 77 drummers for their 07/07/07 performance – but things seemed to have turned. And then, a couple of years later, an EP emerged with a handful of new songs on it. At that point, W.K. promised that he was making a new album.

And now here we are, and that new album has arrived. It is, in its way, really only the third “proper” Andrew WK record 5. The fifteen years that have intervened have provided a lot of of Andrew W.K., but this is, for all meaningful purposes, really still just the follow-up to The Wolf.

At the end of the whole thing, that’s pretty much what it sounds like: the follow-up to The Wolf. To his credit, W.K.’s time outside of the music does not seem to have stopped his approach – and, without spoiling too much, it is actually better than The Wolf. For starters, it has other musicians on it, which appears to abet the performances. The songs are generally good (although there are too many of them), and if the lyrics are a little different than they would be, well, it’s been seventeen years, I suppose some things are bound to change.

 

The problems with You Are Not Alone can be easily divided into several small problems, and one big one. The small problems are that it sounds busy. Where I Get Wet sounded enormous and impenetrable – a rolling dynamo of party energy – YANA is just stuffed full. The parts that aren’t overwhelming are the spoken-word bits, which are fine for spoken-word bits in the middle of an album, but aren’t really necessary. They add to the album’s already-long runtime – the effect of the whole thing, in terms of both the sound and the time of the record, is that it could all be trimmed. Less time, fewer instruments, fewer words, fewer thoughts.

 

And that brings us to the big problem: it’s not I Get Wet. Oh, it’s all well and good to applaud personal growth, and certainly Andrew W.K. can’t be accused of not meaning what he says and applies his time to. But he’s already made the definitive statement about Andrew W.K., and while You Are Not Alone is an improvement on the changes he made with The Wolf, it still falls short of the brief, lean, efficient I Get Wet as a way of delivering his message. This is the sort of problem that lots of artists who manage to get their “thing” exactly right once face, and I suppose I can’t begrudge him for continuing on in the face of it – indeed, to do any less would be to deny his very persona – I can say that I don’t know that it’s essential for anyone who isn’t already a die-hard Andrew W.K. fan.


  1.  an effect allegedly achieved by smashing his face with a brick prior to taking the picture, and supplementing the resulting carnage with some animal blood. Which earns full points for commitment, and also for being super-gross. 
  2.  albeit with a squillion overdubs 
  3.  the whole thing looks, to me, like someone who was trying to make public entertainment out of what would otherwise be a really dumb and common record-selling industry story: a guy makes a record that sells, changes the way he sounds and it doesn’t sell, and his label holds him hostage for his material, so he spends years unable to do anything. As far as the other stuff is concerned, I take the Gawker stance that he clearly just, y’know, shaved. 
  4.  For all that, he really is a compelling piano player. 
  5.  in addition to the material above there is also a Japan-only record of songs from Gundam, which does actually sound pretty cool, but I’ve never heard it.   

The 2018 iHeartRadio Music Awards

In 2014, ClearChannel Communications, having received upwards of a decade of more-or-less constant negative press, rebranded their radio efforts as iHeartMedia, while changing basically nothing else. Nothing else, that is, except that they decided part of the shiny new face they were putting on their brand was to add a television awards show.

The first couple of these awards were broadcast by NBC, who was then also in the business of flailing around trying to find something that people might watch. After two years of the American public saying “that is not the thing we want to watch,” the awards were shunted off to basic cable. So the thing to keep in mind is: this is an awards show that couldn’t even pull in NBC numbers. Hence, I didn’t write about them.

This year, however, I’ve decided to get in there and take a look. Spoiler alert: they are really bad!

Some notes are that several of these awards have already been given out, which is something. Also they are giving something called an “Icon Award” to Bon Jovi (which is, at least, timely, as it is ahead of their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction). Also an “Innovator Award” to Chance the Rapper and the baffling-to-the-point-of-rage “Fangirls Award” to Camila Cabello, about which I choose to have nothing to say.

I sure do have a bunch to say about the rest of this, however, so here we go.

Best Remix

On the one hand, only one of these remixes was an enormous, world-spanning, everything-conquering hit. On the other hand, only one of these songs is actually any good. This is pretty handy, because it means that I don’t have to spend much time talking about bloodpop 1. So is it the completely-unavoidable “Despacito” remix that forced us all to continue thinking about Justin Bieber, or is the less-unavoidable and much better “Homemade Dynamite” which manages to be pretty good despite involving Post Malone? I think the answer to the question is embedded in the question, quite frankly.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lorde, Khalid, Post Malone, & SZA – “Homemade Dynamite”

Best Solo Breakout

I mean, I understand that the popular usage of “Breakout” makes this category title appropriate, but I still think it’s a little dramatic for the situation. I mean, they all just made shitty records, it’s not like they did anything more challenging or destructive. Also, it’s four members of One Direction and one member of Fifth Harmony. That’s about it. Oh, and Harry Styles’ record genuinely has a couple of songs on it that I like, even if it feels like his “solo breakout” was longer than a year ago?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Harry Styles

Best Boy Band

So Why Don’t We was formed of people who had already failed to set the public on fire with their pop music stylings. That goes some way to explain why their music is so boring. PrettyMuch were assembled by Simon Cowell, which I wasn’t aware was a thing that was still happening. I don’t think it’s helping. In Real Life is the work product of the show Boy Band, which was notable for a judging panel that consisted of the least-interesting member of two different pre-fab vocal groups 2, plus Timbaland (?). CNCO were also formed on a reality competition show, and that is the only thing that seems noteworthy about them. AJR and The Vamps seem like odd choices for inclusion in this category, although I guess they can’t have objected. AJR record their unbelievably stupid music in their own living room, and The Vamps were plucked from YouTube cover-band obscurity. But hey, since neither of them would win in any category anyway, what’s the point in quibbling? BTS is a genuine phenomenon, and even if though their music doesn’t really do anything for me, I’m not blind to what it is they’re doing, and I think it’s fine.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: BTS

Cutest Musician’s Pet

This is, and I’m not kidding, the greatest category in the history of awards shows. All of these dudes are winners, quite frankly. Even leaving aside that I’m not a dog person as such, and that the cat in this competition (Taylor Swift’s) is 1) fucking adorable and 2) named Olivia Benson, which is a great name for a cat, there is actually a better animal here. Despite being half chihuahua, Ariana Grande’s dog Toulouse is a very handsome gentleman who has what might actually be the greatest name I’ve ever heard for a dog, like, ever. So way to go Ariana Grande. Your scream-singing gives me panic attacks, but I’m into your dog.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Toulouse Grande

Social Star Award

It is interesting to see the way that awards shows try to fit in the world. For example, the established, less-thirsty awards shows can suggest their own hashtags and whatnot to people who are interested in interacting with them on social media, because their relationship with social media is as a target – they know that people are going to talk about them already, and they don’t have to do any weird shit to get there. The iHeart Music awards, however, are a flailing, terrible idea of an awards show, so they have to cosy up to the social media folks so they can get some traction on snapchat or instagram or – and I honestly have no idea – they’re expecting to get this traction. It’s interesting mostly because it’s 1) nakedly grasping and 2) an example of a company whose primary business format – broadcast radio – trying to make friends with one of the things that is actively killing them. Thus it is that they nominated a whole mess of these people, in the hopes of targeting as many followers as possible. That said, I am An Old, and I do not know much about who most of these people are, so I am using, as my barometer for the appropriateness of the nomination, the presence of a Wikipedia page 3 . That leaves us with only three to consider, at least as far as the “star” aspect is concerned. Since the other half of the category name 4. Anitta is a Brazilian pop star, and while I’m sure that lends itself to social media success, she’s still a pop star on social media, not a social star. Jojo Siwa got her start on Dance Moms, so even if her primary avenue of fame these days is social, I still can’t in good conscience endorse anything that’s ever come from that dumpster fire. That leaves Gabbie Hanna, who is as famous as anyone in this category, and is also famous entirely for her YouTube videos, and who thus fulfills both parts of the category. And now I don’t have to think about any of this anymore.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Gabbie Hanna

Best Music Video

Given these nominees, I can’t tell if iHeart Radio is just choosing at random from the people that they couldn’t slot into any other category, but still wanted to invite to the proceedings 5, or if they’re trying to de-legitimze the hold that YouTube has on the way people listen to music casually by making it look like even the “best” music videos are boring garbage, but this category is full of boring garbage. I believe my stock answer for music awards shows in the current year or whatever has been to go with the Ed Sheeran video for “Shape of You”, which features Ed Sheeran getting punched and is therefore satisfying for at least a small portion of its runtime, but I do actually kind of like that Harry Styles video, so why not celebrate something instead of complaining about something else? Positivity, it’s not just for ions!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Harry Styles, “Sign of the Times”

Best Fan Army

When they nominated people who are not actually pop stars in the social media category, it’s to get the not-actual-pop-stars to promote the event and their own potential award receiving. But in this case they’re nominating the fans of various and sundry other actual pop stars, and the idea is (presumably) to get those fans to also galvanize on social media, thus giving the iHeart awards some more social media clout. I have no confidence that this will work for them, but at least they’re doing it transparently and graspingly, so it’s entertaining in and of itself. I will say that BTS’s fanbase is very, very vocal, and while it’s impossible for a genuine pop sensation to exist without considerable marketing forces behind it, word of mouth played more of a part in their rise than it did for the rest of the folks in this category 6. That said, I also think the “Selenators” sound like they are pop-music-focused murder robots, so they are also pretty cool.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: BTS ARMY (it’s spelled in all caps on the website, see). Unless it’s the Selenators, because murderbots are cool.

Best Cover Song

I am pleasantly baffled by the existence of this category. Cover songs have always been a pivotal feature of pop music, certainly, and anyone who’s spent even half an hour on YouTube knows that there’s an entire sub-industry devoted to just about anyone – famous, attempted-famous, nearly-famous, or completely anonymous – standing in front of a camera and playing a cover. Most of them are, of course, ridiculous and unnecessary. In this category we see that even professionally-created covers by professionally-inclined pop stars are also largely ridiculous and unnecessary. None of them are as bad as 30 Seconds to Mars’s version of “Tribute,” though. That is terrible. “Issues” and “Touch” are terrible songs, covered terribly (by Ed Sheeran and Niall Horan, respectively). Camilla Cabello and Machine Gun Kelly’s version of “Say You Won’t Let Go”, as well as Shawn Mendes’s version of “All We Got” are merely forgettable songs, covered forgettably. Haim’s version of “Bad Liar” is fine, if unnecessary. Harry Styles’ version of “The Chain” is equally fine, and has at least the benefit of being somewhat ridiculous. Khalid’s cover of “Lost” isn’t anything great or transformative, but the song’s great, and he does a good enough job with it that it isn’t offensive. I would be willing to bet that “good enough job and not actually offensive” is about the best anything nominated for this category can actually be.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Khalid, “Lost”

Best Lyrics

So I suppose, when trying to carve away some space for yourself in the cluttered field of televised awards shows, one must think outside the box. Why not, for example, honor something that no other awards show honors. To wit: the words to the songs. Unfortunately, I never know the words to anything, ever. So I had to look up all of the words to all of these songs, and now I am sad. “Despacito” isn’t really doing anything at all, lyrically. Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect” and Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” are equally unworthy of being nominated of any award for their lyrics. Shawn Mendes’s “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back” is a set of lyrics written by the person who decided on the punctuation in that title 7. Niall Horan’s “Slow Hands” lyrics aren’t actually that bad, for all that. But, y’know, “Bodack Yellow” has the benefit of expressing whatever it is Cardi B is trying to communicate, and it has the effect of making me feel like I’m crazy.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Cardi B, “Bodack Yellow”

Producer of the Year

At least here we’re back in the realm of the actual way that the actual music sounds. That’s something, especially for a radio-station-owning conglomerate. We can throw out Andrew Watt right away, as that guy’s work is just awful. Benny Blanco (who is also last year’s winner) isn’t usually awful, but he hitched his wagon to Ed Sheeran and Cashmere Cat 8 and that does not make for a good year. Justin Tranter is here, presumably, because his records were very successful 9, but I’ll be damned if any of them distinguish themselves sonically. Steve Mac is the first, then, to rise above the pack, and although he seems like a perfectly fine producer, none of his work is actually that good. Just better than the other three in this particular eligibility period. So that leaves us with Pop Wansel and Oak Felder, who made the pretty-good Kehlani album, and also Miguel’s “Shockandawe,” which is a pretty great song.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Andrew “Pop” Wansel and Warren “Oak” Felder

Best New Regional Mexican Artist

The next several categories are Mexican/Latin focused, which is another naked ratings ploy. There have been think pieces, articles, and general punditisms about how the growing Latinx viewership is a real marketing concern – they have a lot of spending money, and aren’t being served by much of the existing television model – so if iHeart jumps in and gives awards to a bunch of Latinx artists (and, in this category, specifically Mexican artists), then they can be the first one on that block also. Once again, I have no idea about the efficacy of this strategy, all I know is that I don’t know tonnes about regional Mexican music, and so for the next few categories I will be breezing through the opinion I have formed after listening to these artists not very much. So, y’know, caveat emptor.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: I quite like El Fantasma, though. That is true. I’ve listened to more than “not very much” of that guy.

Regional Mexican Artist of the Year

Most of this is banda music, and is made with giant bands of winds/brass players, and is decidedly not my thing. I mean, I’m sure they’re all good at it or whatever, but man do I have, like, zero taste for it. So Gerarod Ortiz and Calibre 50, who both perform norteno music 10 have a distinct advantage. Calibre 50 even moreso, because they’re much better.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Calibre 50

Regional Mexican Song of the Year

Having declared myself a newly-minted fan of Calibre 50 a minute ago, I am delighted to choose between the two Calibre 50 songs here, because they are obviously the best ones.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Calibre 50, “Las Ultras”

Best New Latin Artist

And now we open up the purview to all Latin artists, which is nice I suppose. It means that I don’t have to listen to another category in which bandas form the numerical majority, which is a relief. I mean, literally all of these folks are performing something that I would, at least unofficially, call “Reggaeton” 11, so I’m not entirely out of the woods yet. That said, the one of them I like the most is Bad Bunny, for both musical and extra-musical (i.e. he chooses to go by Bad Bunny) reasons.

Latin Artist of the Year

J. Balvin and Luis Fonsi both had major commercial breakthroughs, which seems as appropriate a reason as any to grant them an award, and J. Balvin’s song is better.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: J. Balvin

Latin Song of the Year

In the absence of much else happening in this category, I’m just going to point to the category above and say that it’s exactly the same thing here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: J. Bavlin, “Mi Gente”

Best New R&B Artist

I always have some degree of quibble with the term “new,” which is going to throw an interesting wrinkle into this category. Earlier in the writeup, I leaned on an explicit definition of the categories to decide what was what, and so I feel, in the interest of internal consistency 12, that I should stick with applying the “new”. The upshot is that this eliminates SZA, who’s been around for six years, and a frequent feature act with a handful of mixtapes behind her. Kehlani goes further back 13. That leaves us with Khalid, who genuinely appeared at the end of 2016, and who’s good enough that I won’t be mad about it. 6Lack and Kevin Ross were, obvioulsy, never under serious consideration.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Khalid

R&B Artist of the Year

Everyone in this category has made worthwhile contributions to the world with their artistic endeavors, which makes this category a little difficult. We can throw out Childish Gambino, whose music has never been the best part of his career, certainly. Similarly, Bruno Mars and Rihanna have always been an up-and-down sort of proposition: neither consistently makes good albums, and so taking into account an entire year’s worth of output to evaluate for an award always means taking into account some of the more unfavorable stuff. The Weeknd did a good job of squaring up his material to be much better than his other post-pop star material, but that’s still just grading him on a one-man curve. That sort of leaves Khalid as the last man standing. This is odd, because the best of anyone else in this category completely obliterates Khalid, but they can’t manage to do it all in a year.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Khalid

R&B Song of the Year

Actually, the song category has the same sort of problem. We can toss aside Jacquees, which isn’t really worth considering. “What I Like” is warmed-over Bruno Mars by the numbers, so that’s out too. I kind of like “Redbone” 14. “Location” is not my favorite Khalid song. I guess that leaves “Love Galore,” which is similarly not my favorite SZA song, but which is also the best song nominated here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: SZA, “Love Galore” (f Travis Scott)

Best New Hip-Hop Artist

Look, I know that especially with soundcloud rappers, the “new” distinction can be a tough one 15 but Goldlink’s first mixtape was a big deal, and honestly, just because radio people 16 just started playing his songs this year doesn’t mean that his whole thing didn’t happen several years ago. In short, I’m not being a curmudgeon on a technicality here. The God Complex came out in 2014, everybody talked about it then, that’s when he was new. By contrast, Playboi Carti started about a year later, but since his actual tape didn’t drop until this year, it bothers me less. 21 Savage squeaks by, because his record with Metro Boomin’ came out at the end of 2016, and I’ll allow it. Also, he got famous from a song where the chorus is literally him showing off his ability to count to eight. That’s, at the very least, a sort of stylistic hubris that I can only be impressed by. Lil Uzi Vert has won me over a bit in the last year or so, and that’s worth noting. He also is the one person in this category who does not operate out of Atlanta. Cardi B does operate out of Atlanta, and she had a #1 song (as a solo female rapper, the first to do so since Lauryn Hill) with her debut single, so it pretty much has to be her.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Cardi B

Hip-Hop Artist of the Year

I still don’t know why DJ Khaled keeps getting nominated for things as a hip-hop artist. Whatever else it is that he wants to insist that he does 17, it definitely is not rapping. I’m not even trying to be a gatekeeper here. The dude doesn’t rap. He just full-on doesn’t. Anyway. Drake has continued to manage his career as a sort of masterclass in “diminishing returns”. Future still hasn’t come off a hot streak, which may have even reached its peak with his double releases a year ago. Migos will receive their due praise in the next category. The hip-hop artist who had the best year was pretty clearly Kendrick Lamar.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kendrick Lamar

Hip-Hop Song of the Year

For an entire music awards cycle, the hip-hop categories have come down, invariably, to “Humble” vs. “Bad and Boujee”. I am of the opinion that, while “Humble” is a great song that clearly meant a lot to a lot of people, “Bad and Boujee” is not only a great song, but is the best Migos song there is. Especially in the wash of the overlong, underbaked, stretched-too-thin Culture 2, hearing “Bad and Boujee” is hearing everything great about an act distilled to its essence 18.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Migos, “Bad and Boujee” (f Lil Uzi Vert)

Dance Artist of the Year

Oh good. This is still happening. Good good good. Well, I suppose in the interest of fairness, I should do my best to evaluate this awful category. I will say that I didn’t think there was anything I could find more annoying than The Chainsmokers, but Cheat Codes managed it. Good job, guys. I have nothing much to say about Zedd or about Kygo. I guess that leaves Calvin Harris, who at least seems like he’s trying.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Calvin Harris

Dance Song of the Year

See above for my completely unchanged opinions when this is boiled down to individual songs – I guess that means they’re a represenatitve sample – and note that, once again, it’s the person who is not The Chainsmokers, Chead Codes, Zedd or Kygo who is winning and, once again, this is a very, very moderate sort of “win”.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Clean Bandit, “Rockabye” (f Ann Marie and Sean Paul)

Best New Country Artist

Oh hey, I guess I should be thankful that there wasn’t a “Best New Dance Artist” category. I probably would have had to set my computer on fire, and then nobody would be happy about anything. Anyway, a numerical majority of these folks are actually “new”, so we only have to throw out Luke Combs and Jon Pardi. I think we can all agree that not much is lost there. Lauren Alaina didn’t win American Idol, and she shouldn’t win this either. Brett Young used to play baseball. He was probably better at that than he is at singing. I have no major issue with Kane Brown, although I can’t imagine when I would want to listen to his music on my own.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kane Brown

Country Artist of the Year

I suppose that, in these #timesup, #metoo times, it’s entirely possible that there are just…no women in country music that the fine folks at iHeart think should be given this award. It’s certainly possible. But since these dues are all bad, and there are women currently on the radio who are less bad, it also just seems weird, and, leaving aside everything else, the optics on it are terrible. So let’s pretend that this whole category is a mistake, which lets us all feel better about the fact that it’s just five dudes who are difficult to distinguish from each other, and also means I don’t have to choose one of these assholes to be the winner.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: N/A

Country Song of the Year

Hi! Welcome back! The only woman nominated for a country music award at the iHeart awards is Lauren Alaina, and that was back two categories ago! This is real weird, and seems like total bullshit! I mean, this is being written the week that the Grammys 19 hired the Time’s Up cofounder to head up a task force to see what’s wrong with the Grammy nominators w/r/t women, and you’d think that an awards-granting body as desperate for viewers and attention and eyeballs would probably pay closer attention to the brand-related effects of the actual things they were doing. It’s just baffling. I’m going to assume this is, once again, a mistake.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: N/A

Rock Artist of the Year

Boy, once you start noticing how few women there are in here, it becomes a lot harder to continue on as though you hadn’t noticed it. In the rock categories it seems less tone-deaf, because this is a radio-based awards show, and there aren’t many rock women on the radio 20. That said, this category is also a joke. Highly Suspect continue to be nominated for these awards even though they’re awful. I have no idea how this happens. However, because Papa Roach was nominated here, Highly Suspect is not (as they usually are) the most baffling inclusion in this category. Metallica made one pretty bad album, the Foo Fighters didn’t actively get any worse, so I guess it’s the Foo Fighters. Sigh.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Foo Fighters

Rock Song of the Year

If you’re the people that control the playlists for terrestrial radio, and you’ve done everything in your power to dismantle 21 the means to for new and/or exciting rock bands to become famous 22, does it not seem like just rubbing salt into the wound to look out at the landscape you’ve created and pretend like any of this is actually any good? At least Foo Fighters have gotten their no-longer-exciting thing down to the sort of assembly-line fashion that means it’s not objectionably bad.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Foo Fighters “Run” 23

Best New Rock/Alternative Artist

I would think, if I was a radio-based awards-granting body, that one of the first things I would do is to throw out the old, absurd, outmoded radio formats that I’m still, for whatever reason, beholden to grant awards for. For example: “alternative,” which is decidedly not a thing anymore. It is, however, a better category, as far as the nominees are concerned, than the rock category. I mean, they’re still not all good. The Revivalist are an unselfaware jam band with more “authenticity” signifiers than you can shake a dobro at. Judah & The Lion are plumbing a similarly americana-ish sound 24. Greta Van Fleet are a pack of noble midwesterners who, while not bad, are definitely neither named Greta or Van Fleet 25. Rag’n’Bone man is clearly giving the people what they want, but I’m allergic to novelty rappers. I like K. Flay.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: K. Flay 26

Alternative Rock Artist of the Year

Do you suppose that the Kings of Leon ever dig out their old songs, now that clearly the radio people are looking for country-inflected music, instead of fake-U2? I wonder about this. I mean, not often or for very long, but it’s a reason to wonder. I kind of hope they do, Youth and Young Manhood is the only one of their records I like. I will always appreciate Cage the Elephant’s contribution to the first Borderlands, but I have very little else to say about them. Imagine Dragons are godawful. Judah & the Lion are still ok, if not exactly inspired. Portugal, the Man are occasionally good, and that’s enough to elevate them above this pack.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Portugal, the Man

Alternative Rock Song of the Year

Two Imagine Dragons song and one 30 Seconds to Mars song means I want to spend as little time thinking about this category as possible. The Revivalists aren’t much better (seriously, a jam band? Seriously?). That leaves Portugal, the Man’s “Feel it Still”.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Portugal, the Man, “Feel it Still”

Best New Pop Artist

This is the one where I break with my own rules, for reasons of actually liking one of these people. Julia Michaels is profoundly irritating, as previously noted. Camila Cabello, Liam Payne and Niall Horan have effectively broken with the vocal groups with which they were initially associated 27, and that’s fine. Good for them. I really like Logic, and although he’s been around for awhile, and I would normally quibble with his “new”-ness, I’m glad that he’s famous, and he makes the world a better place for being in it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Logic

Best Collaboration

I have complained, loud and long about various facets of this awards show for the entire time I’ve been writing about it. I always have some grievance with the way things are done in the awards-granting part of the world, but the iHeartRadio Music Awards are, far and away, the ones that aggravate me the most 28. This category, however, is not aggravating for any of the same reasons. I get why they’re all here, and it all makes sense for a radio-based company to give these folks an award. These songs are, to a one, completely unlistenable. I mean genuinely, “skip them when they’re on the radio, plug your ears when they come on at the gym” terrible. I suppose, given this field, that “Despacito” deserves credit for being something different than the rest of them, and that has to be good enough for this category, but I genuinely can’t remember an assemblage of songs in one category of an awards show that I found so completely distasteful.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, “Despacito” (f Justin Bieber)

Best Duo/Group of the Year

Out of all duos slash groups! What a thing! Can you even imagine? The one thing that the iHeart Blah Blah Blah Awards have in common with other music awards shows is that as the categories get less specific, I find myself with less to say about them. Every band in this category has appeared elsewhere, and I have been sad about that with two exceptions. Portugal, the Man are still largely ok, and sometimes even good. Migos are capable of genuine actual greatness.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Migos

Male Artist of the Year

I suppose there is a sort of internal consistency to the dominance of these categories by Ed Sheeran, Charlie Puth and Shawn Mendes – musically speaking there is literally no difference between them other than the physical, audible difference between them as actual singers 29. I guess one of them plays a piano. That’s something different from the other two. They’re all terrible, but at least I get why all three are famous. The people have spoken, and they have said “I want this one thing, and I want it over and over again.” The female category is similar, although the women in that category aren’t quite as categorically identical. Anyway, Bruno Mars did not do anything exciting in the period of eligibility, and The Weeknd did

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Weeknd

Female Artist of the Year

Taylor Swift had her worst year, so it’s not going to be her. P!nk continues to be P!nk, which is its own kind of impressive, but means that there’s not really anything marking this year over other years – it’s just good, generally, to be P!nk. Alessia Cara and Halsey are, while very different performers, united in their seeming inability to have any idea what to do with their (considerable) vocal talent. That leaves us with Rihanna, who in addition to doing a bunch of normal Rihanna stuff, rapped on that NERD song, which was awesome.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Rihanna

Song of the Year

Three of these are re-used from the record-breakingly awful “Collaboration” category. One of these is “Shape of You,” which is somehow even worse. This is how it comes to pass that the world has conspired for me to declare the rightful award-winner to be the terrible “That’s What I Like.” Truly, the iFartRadio Music Awards have turned me against myself.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Bruno Mars, “That’s What I Like” (sigh.)

And that wraps it up for my inaugural coverage of the iHeartRadio Music Awards. I may or may not ever do this again! This was truly terrible!


  1.  a tremendously imagistic name, and one that I don’t like thinking about, because no matter how I put the words “blood” and “pop” together, I am presented with the difficulty and/or reality of that visualization. 
  2.  to wit: Aaron Carter and Emma Bunton 
  3.  under the logic that WIkipedia does apply a burden of “notability” on the people that do or do not get pages, and therefore it’s something, albeit an arbitrary something. 
  4.  once again applying the only standard I know of, which is that established by the list itself. 
  5.  see also the “Best Fan Army” category, below. 
  6.  there are twelve. “Huge number of nominees” is sort of a defining feature of the categories here at this end of this awards show. 
  7.  Why is the “g” in “holding” dropped, but not the “g” in “nothing”? Either drop them both or not at all. It’s stupid, thoughtless, and ill-considered. Just like the lyrics to that song! 
  8.  it’s also worth noting that, while he produced Julia Michaels’s truly terrible “Issues,” the production is the least of that song’s problems. 
  9.  or maybe the iHeart folks just really liked that Gwen Stefani Christmas album, which he also produced. 
  10.  it’s a lot like polka, and it’s related to corridas, which is the kind of music that the aforepraised El Fantasma sort of plays. 
  11.  in my perhaps-limited defense, Wikipedia agrees with me. 
  12.  which is, frankly, the only kind of consistency we’re going to get around here, given the way people are nominated in this nonsense. 
  13. that’s even leaving aside the America’s Got Talent/PopLyfe stuff, which was a decade ago, she’s still been around consistently since then. 
  14.  I think I’m on the record, even, as saying that it’s my favorite Childish Gambino song, for what that’s worth. 
  15.  the field churns all the way through itself every six goddamn months, and I’m an advocate for things slowing down and allowing newness to last beyond the absolute first glint of shiny exposure 
  16.  and honestly, it’s just this specific conglomerate’s version of radio people 
  17.  a list of things that includes: “not playing himself,” “things people told him he couldn’t do,” and “another one” 
  18.  in fact, it’s probably fair to say that if Culture 2 hadn’t come out and been such a needlessly-overstuff letdown – it’s not that it’s bad, it’s that there are too many songs, and it’s too long, and it badly needs editing – then “Bad and Boujee” might not be in quite the same place.   
  19.  I understand that there isn’t really a good reason to compare this awards show to the Grammys, but this is highly situational. 
  20. in contrast to country radio, which has a lot more women on it. Also nb that this situation – the no rocking women on the radio thing – is its own travesty, with its own set of causes and problems, but that’s outside the purview of this awards show. I can’t expect iHeart to even put up a reasonable list of candidates, let alone one that’s going to fix problems, so I’m moving ahead as normal. If this seems like I’m letting rock music off the hook in a way that I’m not letting country music, I assure you that it’s entirely contextual, and that I’m willing to explain myself further if need be, just not in this footnote, which is already long enough as it is. 
  21.  By tightening playlists, creating tremendous barriers of entry via the label/promotion system, and encouraged the music that you play to sound as much like garbage as possible 
  22.  Without going too far afield here, one of the reasons for the relative health of rock music as a continuing concern – which is to say, plenty healthy if you’re willing to make even the smallest effort to get out there and find the people that are doing it – is the removal of the ability to get any kind of famous doing it at all. I have a lot to say on this topic – stay tuned – but the upshot is: rock music as a mainstream concern is basically a locked room, and the bands involved (and the audience for the radio parts of it) are only getting older, so how long can they possibly sustain this sort of thing? I would wager that it’s not very long. I don’t know precisely what that means, in terms of the mainstream continuance of rock music at things like this kind of awards show, but I know that it’s probably just going to get work for any kind of rock band that needs “an enormous number of record sales” to be a part of its thing. I do still wonder how many of those bands can still exist though, and if so, why and how? IF you’re in a rock band that wants to – and expects to – sell a bunch of records, feel free to drop me a line and explain why and how. Please and thank you. 
  23.   NB that as of this writing this is also the actual winner. See above.  
  24. I’m comfortable with my assumption that the countryfication of this category has something to do with the wildfire popularity of Mumford & Sons a few years ago. Maybe the blues stuff comes from Alabama Shakes. 
  25. three of them are named Kiszka, however, which leads one to the question: who stole them? Someone call the cops! 
  26.  NB that as of this writing, Judah and the Lion are the actual winner. See above. 
  27.  two of them from the same vocal group (One Direction) even. 
  28. this is part of why I didn’t write about them for the first three years of their existence – the People’s Choice awards are irritating enough for me, and formed a sort of floor to how terrible a television awards show can be. By writing about these, I am willingly lowering that floor, because on their face, these awards are ridiculous, and I can’t imagine them actually being worth anything. In their sheer pointlessness, they are noteworthy, and I dig on that sort of thing. It’s part of what impelled me to start writing here in the first place. 
  29.  that is to say, I can tell the difference between them physically and literally as singers. 

The 90th Academy Awards

Every. Damn. Year. I write about the Academy Awards, because I’m a person who likes awards shows. And I do like most of the stuff around the Academy Awards – for the last couple of years, the criticism of it has been a useful instrument of bringing to light the heretofore under-spoken-of prejudicial behaviors on the part of the film industry. There are also a lot of heated arguments about things like dresses that I can get behind.

But, by and large, the Oscars themselves are just full of stuff that I find it difficult to engage with – they celebrate a medium I feel very little for, and they specifically exist to value those aspects of that medium (Acting, Producing) that I find least-conducive to constructing a narrative. But, y’know, it’s a good opportunity for jokes and all that, so I continue on.

That said, there’s no reason to take any more time about this stuff than is necessary, so please to enjoy the very fastest Oscars write-up I can manage.

Best Visual Effects

I can’t in good conscience say that it should be Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, since I feel like it robbed Thor: Ragnarok 1. And while it’s really impressive what War for the Planet of the Apes – the greatest Planet of the Apes movie ever made – managed to do visually, I believe it should also be noted that only one of these movies features a man actively milking a giant cow….thing. So that one. It’s that one.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Best Film Editing

Gotta be the one that was cut to non-purpose-built music.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Baby Driver

Best Costume Design

I suppose there’s something to be said for The Phantom Thread, which is, y’know, literally about a designer or whatever 2, but not as much as can be said about a fish-man.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Shape of Water

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Occasionally I am called upon to wonder: why these movies? This is why I used to give awards out to Mrs. Coach’s Hair all the time.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Wonder, I guess.

Best Cinematography

Hey, if Mudbound’s cinematography was so undeniably good that it finally got a woman nominated in this category, then it must be some damn fine cinematography, yeah? I mean, it is, but there’s also a certain logic at work here. I like when there’s logic. Especially when it’s certain.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Rachel Morrison, Mudbound

Best Production Design

Katie Spencer is nominated for Set Decoration 3 twice, which is certainly a fit, perhaps especially so given that the best production design was actually for The Shape of Water.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Paul Denham Austerberry, The Shape of Water

Best Sound Mixing

I always default, in the purely technical categories like these, to thinking that the person who does the most complicated job should be the winner. In that case, I think it’s probably Dunkirk, which has a bunch of different things going on at all times, and a bunch of different contexts, much of which ranges from enormously loud to very, very quiet.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo, Dunkirk

Best Sound Editing

Sound editing seems slightly less subjective than sound mixing, I guess? I’m not sure why I feel that way. Anyway, in this case I generally consider it less as a totality than as a “number of edits that I feel must have been necessary” which basically makes it more like a special effects category.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which has the benefit of also having the part where the sound drops out entirely, which I guess doesn’t seem that hard, as such, but was a cool bit of sound editing.

Best Original Song

Not much to say here, except it’s gotta be Coco.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: “Remember Me” from Coco

Best Original Score

The “Original Score” category of awards shows is so completely dominated by the same names over and over again that when someone who’s even a little bit new, or outside of that set of people, is nominated, it’s tempting to give it to them. In this case that would be Carter Burwell, but the score for 3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri isn’t as good as the score for Phantom Thread.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jonny Greenwood, Phantom Thread

Best Animated Short Film

Glen Keane is nominated here, which I suppose is noteworthy 4, and the film in question, Dear Basketball, is pretty cool I guess. It’s just not as cool as Negative Space

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata, Negative Space

Best Live Action Short Film

I know that this crop of short films is here to take on serious issues and all that, and I think that’s great, I really do, but I’m a comedy sort of person, and I think The Eleven O’Clock is just brilliant.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Derine Seale and Josh Lawson, The Eleven O’Clock

Best Documentary – Short Subject

A movie about a guy on a crusade to give rehabilitated criminals jobs making food in Cleveland? There can be no other winner!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Knife Skills 

Best Documentary – Feature

As much as documentaries about bank crimes and the Syrian civil war are my catnip, even more my catnip are films where people just kind of talk to each other with no particular goal in mind except to communicate who they are. I love that stuff. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Agnes Varda, JR and Rosalie Varda, Faces Places

Best Foreign Language Film

The Square is funny-ish, but actually it’s On Body and Soul that should probably win, for being admirably weird and difficult.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: On Body and Soul, directed by Ildikó Enyedi.

Best Animated Feature Film

I don’t even know how to pretend this would go to anything but Coco. I would boycott this thing entirely for the affront to humanity that is the Ferdinand movie, but there’s no chance it will beat Coco, so I choose to overlook it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Coco, Lee Unkrich and Darla K. Anderson

Best Adapted Screenplay

None of these are bad, as such, which is nice, but it’s still probably a longshot to say that the most deserving is Logan. Nevertheless, this is where we find ourselves.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Logan

Best Original Screenplay

The Big Sick is very good, and maybe even great, but Get Out is definitely great. Like, all-time great.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Get Out

Best Supporting Actress

I don’t even have a witty or clever way to say that the rightful winner here is Noble Midwesterner Laurie Metcalf. Do try to forgive me.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Laurie Metcalf

Best Supporting Actor

When I wrote about the Golden Globes, I decided that the most impressive job was done by Christopher Plummer, who did it in the shortest amount of time 5, but I’ve decided to rethink this position, and instead grant it to Richard Jenkins. So there you have it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water

Best Actress

Once again, one of these people interpreted and conveyed the journey of her character without speaking. That’s impressive, and it was done well enough that it should win awards.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water

Best Actor

If you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time, you know this is going to Daniel Kaluuya, so I’ll use this space to say that he’s also going to play Bluebell in the upcoming Watership Down series, and that is awesome.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out

Best Director

While it’s true that I never actually thought that Jordan Peele would get nominated for this award, he absolutely deserves it, and I very much could not be happier for him.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jordan Peele, Get Out

Best Picture

After all that, the funniest thing to do would be to claim the rightful winner as something other than Get Out, but this clearly isn’t the place where I do the funniest thing. So there.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Get Out

And that’s a big “so there” to the Oscars for another year! Take a bow, everybody.


  1.  I mean, I liked Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 more, but Thor: Ragnarok had better visual effects. 
  2.  He may not be a designer. Spoiler alert: I will never see The Phantom Thread. 
  3.  which is, I guess, a subset of the production design award or something? They’re just, like, listed alongside the production designer.
     
  4.  He’s Bil’s son. In Family Circus he’s “Billy”. The strip as it is is currently written by “Jeffy”. 
  5.  because he was a last-minute replacement for Kevin Spacey, see. 

The Best Records of February 2018

Fire! – The Hands (My favorite of Mats Gustafsson’s bands  makes another surprisingly intense freak-out-jazz masterpiece. For fans of crazy-ass saxophone and crazy-ass bass guitar!)

Black Milk – Fever (Well, I wouldn’t have thought a less-tense, more-open Black Milk album would have been this great, but here we have it.)

Keiji Haino & Sumac – American Dollar Bill/Keep Facing Sideways, You’re Too Hideous to Look at Face On (What Keiji Haino and Sumac have in common is a willingness to embrace the silliness inherent to their respective explorations of extreme music, and to push through to the other side. This album, as a result, is pure heavy-music genius)

Motion Sickness of Time Travel – Circuits (MSOTT had a quiet year last year – y’know, relatively – but this, the first release of 2018, makes me hopeful that there’s a bunch more to come)

US Girls – In a Poem Unlimited (Sometimes it is the case that, when everyone has nice things to say about a record, it’s because it really is that good)

Gnaw Their Tongues – Genocidal Majesty (A lot of heavy music this month, I suppose, but it’s a GTT record that 1) isn’t too long and 2) features Chip King, so it’s a GTT record that I can enthusiastically and without hesitation get behind)