An Open Letter to Fox

To the Powers That Be at the Marvel Filmmaking Division of Fox,

Recently, it was announced that Josh Brolin was cast in the upcoming Deadpool 2 as Cable, the grimacing, pouch-adorned, highly Liefeldian sidekick to the titular merc with a mouth.

This makes Josh Brolin an interesting case, as he will now have played a character in each of the three major studios’ superhero properties [^1]. It also creates a much more interesting world, as Thanos the Mad Titan, who seeks to cause death and destruction across all of the multiverse, is going to be Cable, the man whose backstory is constantly-shifting to whatever is plot convenient.

 [^1]: he’s ubervillain Thanos in the Disney MCU (soon to be, assumedly, seen in full-action in The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1), he played obscure, largely-forgotten superhero Jonah Hex in the DC-owned Jonah Hex film, which is itself largely forgotten (the villain was fellow Fox Marvel/DC crossoverer Michael Fassbender! Also Megan Fox was in it!), and he’ll be Cable for Fox Marvel.

One could argue, in fact, that Cable, a time-shifted mutant who is also a cyborg 1, and Thanos, a traveler of timelines, galaxies and universes, could reasonably be the same person.

Stay with me here.

Thanos fails to take over the universe (his conception of “the universe” being, of course, the MCU) 2 and immediately seeks out other universes to conquer. Since the exact sequence of events and items that led to his ascendency wouldn’t necessarily exist in all multiverses 3, he would need to disguise himself in a form that would be able to acquire information without too obviously being a power-hungry godling.

Thanos is a tricky character with a long history, and therefore a sort of garbled sense of his powers, but at various times in the past (and, presumably, present) he has definitely been capable of being telekinetic and telepathic. Handily, he is also capable of the sort of “matter manipulation” that, with a little judicious, comic-book style application, could lead us to the sort of “pretending to be a cyborg and/or afflicted with a techno-organic virus” situation 4 that we would need for a believable Cable disguise.

Admittedly, I’m not sure where you go from “Cable is introduced to be a sidekick to Deadpool but is actually a power-hungry mad titan.” Maybe there are psychic blocks, or some other sort of claptrap. Or maybe you let him be Cable for a few movies (I think he’s contracted for four) and just kill him off. Cable is a fun character in the Cable & Deadpool series, but he’s pretty much “Cyclops with a huge gun and a cyber-arm” outside of that. Like father like son 5, I guess.

In any event, you obviously have a perfect opportunity here. The arrival of Thanos/Cable into the Fox!Marvel timeline would give you yet another post-trilogy reset option 6  – you could have it, I dunno, fold spacetime or whatever it is you would need to do there and you could retcon all sorts of handy things into it 7, thus making the whole thing more streamlined and easy-to-enter for new fans. I know how much you folks love new fans.

Now, I understand what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “but you are expecting that one studio will control both of these properties.” Yes, I am. I understand that the sort of lease arrangement that gave Disney!Marvel access to Sony’s lucrative Spider-Man property is not really going to work here – the House of Mouse would have to lease out basically an entire universe.

But I’m prepared to do something unorthodox. You see, I am a fan of X-comics going back a pretty long way. They were some of the first things I read, in fact. And, frankly, Marvel Publishing is shooting themselves squarely in the crotch, over and over again. You see, I don’t actually care about the quality of the movies themselves 8, I just want the comics to have their full range of motion once again.  

But the comics won’t have their full range of motion 9 until the movies – the far more lucrative income source for the corporate overparent – are developing more revenue for Disney. So, while a co-parenting arrangement similar to the Sony deal is unlikely, it is necessary for the continued existence of what could be an excellent comic-book world full of vibrant characters with a lot of history.

So here is my proposal: you let Disney!Marvel make your movies, and manage your continuity, using Thanos/Cable as your keystone 10, and whatever money you feel is lost – whatever revenue you feel you could have held onto as a result of not leasing these things to Disney!Marvel – you can call a charitable donation to Make the X-Men Not Stupid Again, a charity that I am starting and seeking 501(c)(3) certification for devoted specifically to letting you take a direct write-off on whatever you feel is lost. Call it a gift-in-kind and you won’t even have to prove anything beyond your own in-house valuation.

Think about the benefits for you: you could still have whatever percentage you were able to contractually negotiate for the use of the x-universe, and we would get cool comic books 11 again. You would be doing the world a genuine service! The messy business of contracts and stars that age and/or price out of their parts would be solved! Well, for this property. Obviously you’d still be on your own for the rest of your IP. 

You know what the right thing to do is, here. Turn Thanos into Cable. Give us a future where a man from the future doesn’t force us apart with his huge scary nineties guns, but instead brings us all together, as though we were all gems in the gauntlet of his life.

 

You can make the world a better place.


  1.  He’s a regular-old cyborg now, after a period of time where he was infected with a techno-organic virus, which he kept at bay with his telekinesis, which was stunting his powers (this is blatantly the same thing that was going on concurrently with Wolverine, his healing factor, and the adamantium in his body. There was a lot of this sort of thing – and by “this sort of thing” I mean “making every character as Wolverine as possible” – in the nineties. Also the phrase “techno-organic virus” is the sort of thing that I just took as a reasonable thing at the time, but now that I look at it, well, see above vis a vis Marvel in the nineties. 
  2.  the assumption in this case is that the heroes of the MCU do not, in fact, fail to stop Thanos, an assumption I’m comfortable making because “the complete and total end of the universe except those parts of it which Thanos deems necessary or worth keeping” is a hell of a way to end a fifteen-year project in superhero storytelling. Although if that is what happens, I’ll be happy to be wrong, because whoa. 
  3.  if Kurt Busiek is to believed (and I make it a personal point to always believe Kurt Busiek), then the Infinity Stones are definitely not consistent across universes: in a crossover event, Darkseid has the fully-assembled Infinity Gauntlet, and the thing is completely useless in the DC Universe. So we know that there is something circumstantial to its power. It’s not the M’Kraan crystal, in other words. 
  4.  obviously I consider this to be the most elegant solution, but there’s always solutions available along the lines of “Thanos invents a device that does exactly what he needs it to”, which is also fairly common in the Mad Titan’s history. Probably you should say a lot of stuff about energy signatures. 
  5.  yeah so, Cable is Cyclops’s son from the future. Specifically his son with Madeline Pryor, who is a clone of Jean Grey and not actually Jean Grey, but was presumed Jean Grey at the time, because Jean Grey was dead. The Phoenix Force figures into this story as well, but I’m leaving most of that out. 
  6.  And, since we’ve been paying attention, it’s still apparent that Days of Future Past didn’t clear everything up like you’d want, and that it’s still the case that the second X-Trilogy (the one that ended with Apocalypse) is in a different time than Deadpool, which is itself in a different time than Logan, and, frankly, there are just a lot of questions without answers and a bunch of holes and loops in the tri-fold timeline you’ve got going on there. 
  7.  which would include, in this case, re-casting some of the characters whose actors have, say, priced themselves out of the job, or are no longer interested. 
  8.  I mean, yes, good movies are better than bad movies, but I genuinely like the Fox!Marvel movies, and I have no particular illusion that combining the two movie!Marvels is going to do much of anything to the quality – it might make them a bit better because obviously Disney is better at taking a hands-off approach, but that’s not my concern here. 
  9.  to wit: there has been an edict against the creation of new mutant characters (mutants being the purview of Fox), and they’re currently on yet another “end of all mutants” storyline. 
  10.  you know, like the puzzle box from Mulholland Drive, which I realize was distributed by Universal and therefore has no place in this conversation. 
  11.  honestly, given that the x-titles have been declining for basically the entire eight years that Disney has owned them (and they weren’t coming from a particular strong place at that point, but that’s a story for another time), your window to do anything at all about it is pretty small. 

How to Feel About All the Upcoming Superhero Movies, 2017 Edition

It’s the time of year where we examine the upcoming release schedule for superhero movies 1, and where I guide you lost lambs through the complicated field to the greener pastures of cinematic enjoyment.

As the years go by (this is the third year I’ve done this), two things become apparent: 1) these movies are relatively unchanging and 2) I still get most of this stuff wrong.
To the first point: corporate money, and global investment, mean that each of those movies is basically like the other ones in its corporate stable. That is to say: the movies have similar tone, similar levity, and similar endings 2 within any given over-arching rightsholding company.

To the second point: I have no idea why that is. I will say that at this time last year I predicted Logan would probably be a dumb cash-grab, and it’s probably the best movie I’ve seen so far in 2017.

Nevertheless, this is the year I get it completely right, so it’s worth your time to read on!

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

WHAT IT IS: It’s the sequel to one of the best superhero movies ever made! High adventure in space! Wisecracks! Seventies radio music on the soundtrack! This time with Kurt Russell!
WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: I mean, even if the fact that it’s the sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy and it has Kurt Russell in it 3, it’s probably worth pointing out that while the cracks are starting to show in the MCU, GOTG was a pretty out-there idea for a successful superhero movie, and James Gunn has yet to have a misstep in pretty much his entire career.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: Well, there’s always the chance that this whole thing could collapse under the weight of its own cleverness, but I don’t see much call to worry about that. Nope, this thing is gonna be great.

Wonder Woman

WHAT IT IS: The first female-led superhero film, and also the first successful deployment of this property in something like a decade straight of trying 4, so that’s cool. 

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was clearly a lone bright spot on the endless grimdark blight that was Batman V. Superman. She was positively delightful, and clearly has the charisma to handle a larger part. The trailer at least has some colors in it, which is something. For most franchises, the mere presence of color in the trailer wouldn’t mean anything, but in this one it means a stark shift in the way the movie is presented. Sigh.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: Lots of movies can’t get past the use of color and a charismatic star. Hell, Suicide Squad had no fewer than six people 5 who I have thought of as charismatic people that couldn’t possibly fail that hard, and that’s even if you don’t count Jared Leto, and that was a garbage fire. The DCU has pretty much failed to capture anything that’s good about superheroes, and has put on a masterclass in what’s terrible about them, and, frankly, while I have hopes that this could be the vehicle that changes everything, it probably won’t be.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

WHAT IT IS: It is, somewhat unbelievably, another new Spider-Man. This time the film is made in an unprecedented show of cooperation between Sony (who owns the rights to the property) and Marvel (who makes good movies out of superheroes). It focuses on the youngest Spider-Man yet, and somehow involves a battle with Spider-Man’s oldest – I mean literally oldest as a character, not, like, first, dude is meant to be geriatric 6  – villain, the Vulture.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Tom Holland was just great as Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War. It was probably my favorite portrayal of Spider-Man on film to date. Disney has promised that there is no origin story in this one, which throws out my most major misgiving about the thing, and the supporting cast (Keaton as the Vulture, with Marissa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr. reprising their CA:CW roles, and Donald Glover as one of the Vulture’s mooks or whatever) is pretty great. Spider-Man is a strong enough character to be the central character of movies as excellent as Spider-Man 2, so we know the possibilties are there.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: The Vulture is such a fucking stupid villain. I mean really. He’s the worst. But that’s kind of it, really. Without an origin story, there’s not a whole lot to complain about bogging the film down that I can see coming from here.

Thor: Ragnarok

WHAT IT IS: The third Thor movie, and the putative end of a trilogy. It is also, if the press and rumor mill are to be believed, heavily dominated by an adaptation of the excellent Planet Hulk storyline, which deals with the problems of the Hulk being alive and running around in the world. But also probably Loki is doing something which will be dealt with in act 3.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: The Thor movies have been pretty good in general, and Taika Waititi is turning out to be a tremendously talented director. It’ll be interesting to see him tackle the action concerns that go into a Thor/Hulk movie. This is also probably the last solo Thor movie with Chris Hemsworth in the role – his contract includes this and the two Infinity War movies – so they’ll pull out all the stops. In the wake of Logan, I’m generally up on the end of an actor playing a role.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: Thor movies are always poised on the edge of too much – too big, too operatic, too long. “Pulling out all the stops” could mean giving the enormously charismatic Hemsworth a big finish to go with his also-impressive start 7, but it could also mean “piling on the heavy meaning and ‘significance’ until even the enormously-charismatic Hemsworth 8 collapses under the weight. 

Justice League: Part One

WHAT IT IS: The Avengers of the Snyderverse, this is (as the recently-released trailer shows) evidence that there is basically no force on Earth that can stop the DCU movies from happening. Unlike The Avengers, most of the members of the Justice League will not have received their own solo films yet 9. Nevertheless, here they’re all going to team up to stop Steppenwolf from assembling Mother Boxes.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Steppenwolf and mother boxes come from Jack Kirby’s peerless New Gods series, which is as weird and wooly as DC comics ever got, so it’s at least a sign that they could be going in some strange directions. The cast seems great. We’ve already watched Henry Cavil struggle to imbue his Superman with any kind of life, but Batfleck turned out fine, as far as things go, and, as previously mentioned, Gal Gadot was just delightful as Wonder Woman. Jason Momoa has a good track record, and the kid from We Need to Talk About Kevin was a pretty good child actor with a knack for conveying some dark, brooding material.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: Leaving aside my general feelings about Zack Snyder, it sure seems like the direction the DCU is moving is “more like the MCU, only with more gritting of the teeth and bloody explosive punching”. Steppenwolf is a herald slash underling for Darkseid, and they’re assembling mother boxes for some grand scheme of Darkseid’s, which is, y’know, an awful lot like The Infinity War, and the infinity gems and Thanos 10 . So that’s not exactly promising. Couple the fact that the last couple of DCU movies have had real problems with the scripts being rushed out 11, and the editing being tinkered with up to the last minute, and you have the makings of something that is tonally the same drab blah that the other DCU films have been, plus derivative, plus possibly-incoherent, and frankly, I have no idea why anyone would be looking forward to this to begin with.

Black Panther

WHAT IT IS: Black Panther, as introduced in Captain America: Civil War, is the current king of Wakanda, a fictional nation, and a place we got to see only briefly. Black Panther in general is the ruler and defender of Wakanda, and is a dude with no super powers, just a lot of cool gadgets and the support of a nation. Sort of an alternate Sub-Saharan Captain America.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: The look we got at Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War was pretty great, and Chadwick Boseman did a great job with him. Ryan Coogler is 2-for-2 when it comes to making great movies, and  Creed shows that he’s got a reasonably effective way with at least some kind of fight scenes 12. The characters that are returning to this one are Martin Freeman’s inexplicably American antiterrorism/antisuperhero military dude and Andy Serkis’s Ulysses Klaue (nee Klaw), who is a prominent Black Panther villain 13 and was last seen in The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Both of them did a good job and will be welcome back, along with Michael B. Jordan, whose last superhero outing was the disastrously terrible Fantastic Four reboot (Fan4stic?), but who can generally be counted on to deliver the groceries 14, and also character-actors extraordinaire Angela Bassett and Forest Whittaker.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: It’s unlikely, but it’s not exactly all the way out of the question that the Black Panther movie could be a well-intentioned but insulting mess. But that’s really quite unlikely. What is more likely is that there won’t be a lot to differentiate this one from, say, the Iron Man or Captain America movies, although I hope there is: I like the creatives involved a whole lot, and I generally like Black Panther.

The Flash

WHAT IT IS: By this point we will have seen The Flash in a full movie – Justice League Part 1 – in addition to his brief 15 appearances in both Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, but this is his first full solo movie. Naturally it will have nothing to do with the beloved television show. Naturally.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Well, Miller and Lord (The Lego Movie, the Jump Street movies) wrote the story, and Seth Grahame-Smith (The Lego Batman Movie) wrote the screenplay, so there’s some real talent behind the pen there. It doesn’t currently have a director, and because I am choosing to be a complete optimist here I’m going to hope that that’s because they are going to want to make a major shift in tonal and artistic direction for this one, and that it’ll be a comedy 16, which would be just ducky. I mean, it’s years away, so a boy can dream.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: This is all pretty unknown-horizons here. The post-Justice League DCU is going to be a kind of interesting thing to watch develop – the movies are generally reviled (critically, publicly, all of it), although they certainly have their defenders, but they also make truckloads of money. So do you plan to change up the formula, or do you just keep making truckloads of money with literal flaming nonsense all the time? The Flash will, as the first thing that we see after The Justice League Part 1, probably let us know. The reason this is a reason to waffle is 1) I’m conjecturing that entire situation and 2) I do not have a lot of faith in the executives at Warner Bros to manage and/or shepherd any of this anywhere good. Plus they’re already making truckloads of money, so it’s not like there’s any real incentive to do anything different than they already are.

Avengers: Infinity War Part I

WHAT IT IS: The proverbial it. As in: this is it. Thanos almost certainly has the gems, and then Earth’s heroes have to go stop him. This is Part 1, so they probably get their butts kicked up and down the multiverse for a while and it ends on a major bummer.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: If it’s possible to trust the creatives behind the MCU to build toward something and then pay it off, then this is that thing. All the people we’ve built cinematic relationships with over the last decade or so culminate in this, or actually in the sequel to this.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: Well, for starters, this is part 1 of 2, and part 2 comes out a year later. So that’s…not great. But also splitting a finale into two parts 17 has not worked out once – not one time – and I think that maybe it’ll be overstuffed and bloated. I mean, those are the reasons I’m waffling, but keep in mind that the intensity of my waffling is not much to speak of – I’m still pretty excited about this movie.

The Incredibles 2

WHAT IT IS: Please not that it says superhero movie, not comic-book movie. This is the sequel to one of the greatest superhero movies ever made.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Because The Incredibles was a basically perfect movie. Because there was a lot of clamor for this sequel, but no contractual or deadline-related reasons to make it. That means the whole thing could wait for the conditions to be right and inspiration to be present, which is great. I mean, you probably know why you should be excited for this.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: Well, for starters, no pressure to make it is not the same as there being no commercial or business reasons for making it, so it could still be pretty mercenary, although that seems unlikely. Also, Brad Bird is a Randian weirdo, and there’s always the danger that could come into play.

Ant-Man and The Wasp

WHAT IT IS: The second outing for Paul Rudd’s shrinking (and growing!) ex-thief, this time with more Janet Van Dyne in the title! I mean, probably also in the movie as well, but definitely in the title. We all thought she was going to be in the first one more than she was, so I’m trying to manage my hopes here.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Well, Paul Rudd is always delightful, certainly. And there’s nothing wrong with the first Ant-Man  18, so a sequel could be fine. He was great in Captain America: Civil War. Adam McKay has a writing credit! He wrote Anchorman! Which had Paul Rudd in it!

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: It is just really hard to get excited about this movie. There wasn’t anything about the first one that made me hope desperately for more. I dunno. Maybe I’ll be surprised again, but I pretty genuinely do not have a great deal of excitement here. Although it is also the case that while there aren’t a lot of reasons to be excited for it, I suppose I can’t think of any real reasons not to be.

Aquaman

WHAT IT IS: Drogo, Khal of the wa….oh, I made that joke last year. I mean, that’s what it still is, and it doesn’t come out for another couple of years, so I guess I’ll have to come up with something new next year. Jason Momoa plays a guy who talks to fish.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: I am always willing to stand up to the memetic, nonsensical idea that Aquaman is somehow not cool. He can control water creatures. Just because the writers of Superfriends didn’t know what to do with him doesn’t mean we need to pretend like that word is gospel 19. While it’s impossible to know what any given movie is going to do, it is worth pointing out that before James Wan was the guy behind the Fast and/or Furious movies, he was the guy that created both Saw and The Conjuring 20. Anyway. I like Aquaman as much as I like pretty much any DC superhero, and I like Jason Momoa just fine, so if there’s a movie that’s going to get me to go see it, it’s probably this one.  

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: I mean, still a DCU movie, but beyond that: the reason that people think that Aquaman is lame (Superfriends joke above notwithstanding) is that he is forced to appear in ensembles where the fact that his powers have an identifiable locus is a liability. It is possible that James Wan – coming from a horror-movie background – could do something with the fact that the deep ocean is super-scary. It is also possible that he could just have Jason Momoa flex, bounce a cannonball off a dude’s head and, I don’t know, eat a fishing boat or something. I’m saying this could be both ridiculous in the James Wan way and the DCU way, in which case I can’t imagine how it would even be watchable.

Captain Marvel

WHAT IT IS: Marvel’s first female-led superhero, and participant in the events of The Infinity War. There are a lot of different Captains Marvel. This one is Carol Danvers 21, and is going to be played by Room’s Brie Larson.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Brie Larson is just great, and the current run of comics (from maestro Kelly Sue Deconnick) is as good as the character has ever gotten, and includes lots of run-ins with the Avengers and with the Guardians of the Galaxy, so the whole thing is sort of primed for the time and place into which it’s being released. Plus, Carol Danvers’ Captain Marvel is of the knockaround, high-spirited sort 22, and so far that has made for some highly entertaining Marvel films.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: Well, the big thing is that Marvel hasn’t been very enthusiastic about the idea of a woman-led film (and the recent announcement that there would be two directors, only one of which was a woman), and so who knows what sort of meddling they could get up to? That said, meddling to make something more marketable hasn’t been something they’ve dabbled much in to this point, and this will probably not be the point that they start. But they could is all I’m saying.

Shazam

WHAT IT IS: A little boy who, with the help of his trusty magic word, has the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury 23. This piece only covers movies with a definite release date, but somewhere down the line this is going to have a companion Black Adam movie. The Rock is attached to this movie, even though he’s been cast as Black Adam. So clearly we’re doing a thing here.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Well, Shazam can be a lot of fun. The Rock is generally pretty great, and Black Adam is the sort of anti-hero opportunity that is usually pretty satisfying to see fun action-movie types play. It’s hard to get more excited about it than that without knowing anything else about what’s going on (a result of the fact that it won’t come out for years yet), but if you’re inclined to look forward to a movie about Billy Batson’s superpowered alter ego, then I guess you’ve probably got plenty of reason.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: I just don’t find Shazam that compelling, and at this point it’s hard to believe that I’m going to have any leftover faith or goodwill for the people of the DCU. Maybe they’ll change their approach or whatever by then, and this will be a quirky little movie about a bland superhero who, nonetheless, has a really weird history, but that seems like betting for the underdog.

Avengers: Infinity War Part II

WHAT IT IS: The second half of the big banana. The end of the Thanos era. Possibly the end of the current MCU 24. Expect it to have a significantly different ending from the book, and if you don’t want spoilers about how the book ends avoid the footnote that follows this sentence 25

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: This is it! You’ve watched (or, y’know, wikipedia’d) a decade of superhero movies to get to this very point. It’s the knockest-downest, draggest-outest fight in superherodom, and it will involve every single bit of business that has been set up in every single one of these movies thus far. Plus, really, we could hope for that ending.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: as with pretty much every ending to something this big, there’s always the chance they’ll swing real hard at “significant” and “load-bearing” and end up with “overwrought” and “inappropriate”. Plus it’s going to be kind of anticlimactic if what actually ends up happening is Thanos walks out of a blue portal, punches everybody a bunch of times, and then is defeated by everyone using their powers on him together. So we’ll see.

Justice League Part Two

WHAT IT IS: Presumably the big banana and all that other stuff, only now instead of mucking around with Steppenwolf, they’re bringing the fight straight to Darkseid and including Shazam and Black Adam and all the rest. Probably not Gleek, though.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Because maybe after this we will all get a break from the DCU.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: It will make a billion dollars and we will never be free.

 


  1.  through 2020! 
  2.  X-Title movies end with a big “everyone in the pool” showdown, Disney Marvel movies end with a blue portal that has to be closed after someone gets punched a bunch, DC movies are going to be extraordinarily dark, and the ending fight is going to cover a lot of ground and a lot of extra-close-up extra-brutal punching. 
  3.  also Sylvester Stallone, which means we could have the Tango & Cash reunion that we are all so desperately hoping for. 
  4.  Remember when David E. Kelley was going to make into a television show with Adrianne Palicki? Good times, good times. It seemed like the saga of this property had been going on forever then. 
  5.  Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Ike Barinholtz, Viola Davis, Ben Affleck (albeit briefly) and David Harbour 
  6. I mean, he did once fight Turner D. Century, but I think in order to be a “villain,” you have to 1) hold your own in some kind of conflict and 2) not have been killed off by Mark Gruenwald’s table-clearing Scourge in the eighties. 
  7.  the first Thor movie has managed to age very well, and I think I like it more now than I did even at the time, and a big part of that is the amount of life with which Hemsworth fills the character. 
  8. not to even mention the enormously charismatic Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk. 
  9.  Technically only Wonder Woman and Superman will have, but we got basically a batman movie out of Batfleck in the form of Batman v. Superman. 
  10.  there is a circularity to all this: when Jim Starlin invented Thanos (and the rest of the Titans), he was pretty specifically keying (or, y’know, ripping) off Jack Kirby’s New Gods, of which Darkseid was the villain. So Thanos, the current big bad of the MCU, was originally a cut-rate version of Darkseid, the assumed big bad of the DCU. 
  11.  this was most noticeable with Suicide Squad, a movie that feels like it was assembled from parts that were leftover after they made another, completely different Suicide Squad movie. 
  12.  really, even the kind of fight scenes that one would need for a Black Panther movie, which is to say: punching.   
  13.  he deals in Vibranium, which is the metal that is used to make Captain America’s shield and also the body for movie Ultron (in the comics it’s adamantium, which belongs to the X-Men, and is therefore ineligible for inclusion in Disney’s MCU). 
  14.  actually, given that his other creative misstep is the execrable That Awkward Moment, I’m comfortable saying that Michael B. Jordan only really has a problem when he as to share screen time with Miles Teller. 
  15.  and, frankly, dumb 
  16.  but not a comedy like Suicide Squad was ostensibly a comedy, because nothing should be an anything like Suicide Squad was that thing, whatever the thing is. 
  17.  and even though this isn’t a YA series with a love triangle and a bunch of teenagers, make no mistake that’s what’s going on here. 
  18.  I mean, I liked it, but I’ve only watched it once, so obviously not enough to watch it more than once. 
  19.  and, as always, I am obligated to point out here that if Hawkman somehow gets a fucking pass for being a dude with big dumb-ass wings strapped to his dumb body, then Aquaman deserves none of the shit he gets for his powers, which are literally 10,000,000 times cooler. 
  20.  I mean, he should probably be prosecuted for what eventually came of Saw, but there’s nothing wrong with the first one, and it’s a pretty solid vision. 
  21.  Nee Ms. Marvel – a completely seperate character in current comics continuity, and whose mantel is borne is Kamala Khan – and also, in an odd historical footnote, the person who was near-death for a long time because Rogue (from the X-Universe, and therefore never in the movies) drained her powers permanently, which is why comic Rogue was night-invulnerable and could fly and was super-strong and stuff. 
  22.  other versions have been blander, or at least more serious. It’s not a character that has, historically, been very interesting. 
  23.  he was also a blatant ripoff whose original name is a matter of one of the funnier instances of early comics copyright shenanigans. See previously, FN20, for more information. 
  24.  I mean, I’m sure there will still be Marvel movies, but I’m equally sure they will take a different form, and will be about some decidedly different folks. 
  25.  the comic has a great, nigh-comedic anti-ending, in which Thanos has the entire universe in his grip and his daughter, Nebula (played by Karen Gillan in the movies), turned into some bizarre undead science project to woo the personification of Death (actually, everything Thanos does with the gauntlet in the comics is to get Death to pay more amorous attention to him. It was weird and also fucking awesome), snuck up behind him and yoinked the glove off his hand. Cue sad trombone. 

A Considered Look at the Best-Selling Records of All Time, Part 6

What makes an album a gajillion-seller is a combination of factors so incoherent that it’s more-or-less impossible to list or talk about them in any real sense as a class – each gajillion seller is different in its genesis. At a certain point, however, the primary force behind a record selling a bunch of copies is momentum. More copies sold means more chart presence which means more press presence means more people exposed to it means more people hearing it means more copies sold. These records have reached a point where they have a kind of gravity – they accrete sales at this point, rather than achieving them, planetary bodies around which other records orbit, touchpoints for people to find and recognize while they find other, more personal planets.

That said, many of the best-selling records of all time are not specifically good or bad. I’m not going to bat for most of them here, but there’s usually a reason. What that reason is is sometimes anybody’s guess (and sometimes it’s more a success in marketing and stuff than it is in actual music). So, in the interest of figuring it all out, I listened to them. All of them. Even when it was painful. Even when it was really painful.

So I bring you part 6 of this extensively-researched, closely-examined regarding of the biggest-selling records of all time 1Part 1 can be found here. Part 2 can be found here. Part 3 can be found here. Part 4 can be found here. Part 5 can be found here.

Eric Clapton – Unplugged

WHAT IT IS: The best selling Unplugged album 2, and also the best-selling Eric Clapton album, which is a weird circumstance of record sales that just boggles the mind to contemplate from the vantage point of the sales graveyard of 2017.

WHY IT’S HERE: Well, Unplugged was big business in 1993. Eric Clapton’s is credited with being the first Unplugged episode released as an album 3, and part of this is because, for better or worse, he altered his songs to suit the environment 4, including the execrable “Tears in Heaven” (which had previously been a single that had been released to the sensible response of complete obscurity) and, of course, the strummy, chummy campfire version of “Layla.” A couple of to-this-day huge hits, a comeback story for a high-ranking classic rock figure, plus a pabulic, completely frictionless presentation – those of you who have been following along know this is the recipe for an all-time huge seller.

AND…?: Eric Clapton’s music in general ranges from still-ok to badly-dated, and huge whacks of it are “you had to be there” stuff. In the case of Unplugged I was there, such as it is (albeit as a child), and it is admirable that he aged his songs up, and that’s about it. As a listening experience, it’s godawful.
THE BEST SONG: “Hey Hey”, a Big Bill Broonzy song that started out a solo acoustic blues, which helps somewhat 5

Def Leppard – Hysteria

WHAT IT IS: It seems weird to think of Hysteria, one of the biggest-selling albums in history, as the follow-up to anything, but it is. It is very much the follow up to Pyromania. It’s the one with “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” The two things that are interesting at all about it are that it was the record they made after their drummer lost his arm, and that, at sixty-two minutes long, it’s one of the longest single-LP vinyl records ever made 6. So there you have it. 

WHY IT’S HERE: Pyromania launched Def Leppard into the upper-echelon of rock-stardom, and played no small part in creating the sound of radio rock going into the second half of the eighties. Some of this is to be blamed on the band, and some of it on ACLATBSAOAT mainstay (and general scourge of human decency) Robert John “Mutt” Lange, who at that point had made his career on defining the course of radio rock music for about five years or so. Also it’s the one with “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” which means that in addition to classic rock stations and general nostalgia, it’s also responsible for at least 12% of all karaoke performances.

AND…?: I feel that an important story regards the chosen producer of the album. For awhile (the album took a number of years to record), Mutt Lange wasn’t going to do it, so the band tapped Jim Steinman. Jim Steinman thought it would be a good idea to record the band as they actually sounded, and create a document of the songs as they were played by the band, and the band said “no thx”. Mutt Lange subsequently returned to the fold, and the gated-drum overtweaked nightmare that became Hysteria was saved. The point of this anecdote is: Def Leppard thought that Jim Steinman would underproduce them. That’s the mindset that went into this album, and that’s what it sounds like. It sounds like the sonic embodiment of overproduction.

THE BEST SONG: “Armageddon It,” because the title is the answer to the question “Are you gettin’ it?” and, frankly, I am unable to think of anything in the history of recorded music that could possibly be dumber than that, so it should hold some sort of title as a result.

George Michael – Faith

WHAT IT IS: The debut solo album by a bona fide pop music genius.

WHY IT’S HERE: Faith was the first album by a white artist ever to top Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop chart, and, as touched upon in the Eminem write-up previously, that sort of thing is a pretty useful key to unlocking huge numbers of sales. George Michael’s sales were also, in fine pop star tradition, leveraged by his videos. Dude was a real hunk.

AND…?: Oh, you know, it’s still a pop album. There are moments of genuine brilliance here (“Faith,” “Kissing a Fool,” “I Want Your Sex”), but they come with a great deal of filler, and this is prevented from being George Michaels’ best album by also being the source of his worst single, “Father Figure.” Blech.

THE BEST SONG: “Kissing a Fool”

Green Day – Dookie

WHAT IT IS: The highest-selling punk album of any description 7. They are sort of the Van Halen of nineties radio rock – a lot of unbelievably shitty music followed them, but at least Green Day (or Van Halen) got there as an actual band doing actual stuff, so it seems not as bad 8 as it would be when it was ripped off wholesale later in the decade.

WHY IT’S HERE: The record-selling industry had, for a few years of the nineties, a real ability to turn bands that had built up their own following by going out and being bands into commodities, and Green Day was perhaps the most directly benefited by this ability of any band at the time. They wrote extremely likable, catchy rock songs that were pretty easy to produce into radio hits, which they then were. Pretty open and shut.

AND…?: They’re fine. There’s nothing particularly to hate here, and I quite liked it as a kid (I especially liked the song “Basketcase”), and heard it a lot growing up, and so it can be somewhat hard to divorce from its context. Which, I suppose, is also either a cause or a symptom of its general gajillion-selling status.

THE BEST SONG: “Having a Blast,” which was written in and about Cleveland, an early foothold for the band commercially.

Lionel Richie – Can’t Slow Down

WHAT IT IS: It’s a Lionel Richie album. Specifically it’s the one with “All Night Long” and “Hello” on it. So the all-ballads one.

WHY IT’S HERE: As this project winds down 9, it’s fair to say that some of these albums have been surprising. There have been a lot of albums that achieved a kind of cultural ubiquity that aren’t here, and some albums that are here that seem like leftover relics of a very specific point in time. None of them – and I mean absolutely, positively none of them – are as hard for me to explain the popularity of as Lionel Richie’s Can’t Slow Down. I have no idea what happened here. I mean, I can tell you that, historically, the singles were real monsters, and that it received the full marketing push of the then-flagging Motown Records. I can tell you that it worked. I can tell you that Lionel Richie is like an American Phil Collins  10, only without as much charisma or compositional skill. I cannot tell you why that is a thing that people wanted.

AND…?: I mean, it’s not the worst album that appears in these pieces. It’s not even particularly bad, such as it is. It’s bad enough, and it sounds dated in the way that a lot of these records sound dated, but the songs pretty much fall out of my head as soon as they enter. Which makes me wonder how anyone remembered them long enough to go out and buy the goddamn thing, and that’s without even trying to address the issue of how they stayed awake through it.

THE BEST SONG: “Hello,” because at least it has that one part that’s kind of memorable and Lionel Richie’s voice sounds good on it (a thing that cannot be said for every song on the album)

Michael Jackson – HIStory: Past, Present and Future Book 1

WHAT IT IS: The studio follow-up to Dangerous 11. See previously w/r/t Dangerous and move it forward a couple of years. It’s the same, in most terms that matter.

WHY IT’S HERE: Because it’s the same as Dangerous, in most terms that matter, including having a bunch of singles (about the same percentage as Dangerous), and also a bunch of videos and stuff.

AND…?: I mean, I hate to only have one thing to say about these records, but it’s a lot like Dangerous. Oh, the production is different, but that’s about it.

THE BEST SONG: “Scream”

Michael Jackson – Off the Wall

WHAT IT IS: The first Michael Jackson album released on Epic, the label he would stay on until he died. It was also the first of his major blockbuster solo records 12. This is sort of the birth of the Post-Jackson-5 Pop Star phase of Michael Jackson’s existence, and you can sort of see it as a blueprint that he would follow until the end – it’s the template he would use for Thriller and thus every subsequent record 13, and also a lot of pop records in general. 

WHY IT’S HERE: Well, mostly for the reasons listed above, and because Michael Jackson set the template for mega-selling popstar, and he started setting it here, but he didn’t work out all of the kinks until his next solo album, Thriller, so this one is way down here. I mean, relatively speaking.

AND:…? it’s an interesting case in that the eighties and their digitally-assisted productions had only kind of started to arrive, so a lot of what you see here, while heavily produced and synth-assisted, is still played rather than assembled, which makes it probably my favorite Michael Jackson solo album.

THE BEST SONG: “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough.”

Prince & The Revolution – Purple Rain

WHAT IT IS: The soundtrack to Prince’s first 14 movie. Also, yet another soundtrack on this list.

WHY IT’S HERE: People love soundtracks, and also people love Prince. At this point, the movie was made because he was massively popular and also critically respected, and could seemingly do no wrong. The movie proved that there were some things that he could do wrong, but it did a hell of a job promoting the record.

AND…?: To be clear, the thing that the movie proved Prince couldn’t do was act. This record is one of the very rarest of animals – an album that is as well-liked as it is legitimately great.

THE BEST SONG: Probably the title track. But maybe also “When Doves Cry”.

 


  1. according to Wikipedia 
  2.  so, for those of you who are somehow very young or didn’t remember or something, Unplugged was a show where chart-topping types came on and played acoustic (or mostly acoustic) sets on television. It went off, inexplicably, like gangbusters. Some of them are good, some of them are bad, and most of them are a kind of curiousity, and very little else. A couple of years ago, Miley Cyrus did one, and I wrote about it – and some more about Unplugged in general – here. 
  3.  Paul McCartney released his as Unplugged (The Official Bootleg), and the reader is left on their own to figure out which of those words to take seriously. So Eric Clapton doesn’t have the weakest claim, is what I’m saying here. 
  4.  a lot of Unplugged performers didn’t, really, instead just running through the songs like normal, only with acoustic instruments. That’s why so relatively few of them are remembered specifically. 
  5.  although “Malted Milk” is a Robert Johnson song, so is of similar origins, and is not at all helped by being performed by Eric Clapton
     
  6.  Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell II somehow squeezed seventy-five minutes into its grooves. I cannot even imagine what a nightmare it sounds like, or why anyone would even try, but it’s also a special case, since by the time of its release vinyl LPs were between their period of biggest popularity and their period of resurgence, so the fact that any exist at all is kind of a curiosity. In any event, if you’ve ever tried to listen to anything that closely-packed onto the album, let me know how it went. 
  7.  this space is not concerned with arguments vis-a-vis “authenticity” as concerns punk as a genre marker. Pop-punk is still, in genre terms, punk, and Dookie is, as far as genre is concerned, a pop-punk album. Any of you inclined to argue are welcome to eat my whole entire butt. 
  8.  because I was 11 years old when Dookie came out, I enjoy Green Day an order of magnitude more than Van Halen or Def Leppard, but if I was a different age or whatever I’m reasonably certain this would be different. It’s not like I pull any of them out to listen to of my own volition anyway. 
  9.  there is, after this, two more installments I think. One in which I pick up the last few records and one in which I say some things about the set of them as a whole (and probably rank them in terms of quality). 
  10.  both men spent time in much, much better bands (both men were, in fact, the drummers for those bands). Both men were seemingly concerned primarily with communicating the emotional state of “maudlin”. Both men seem like just great guys – really, Lionel Richie, if you should happen to read this, you seem like you’re just fantastic, and I’ve neer heard otherwise, but your music, dude. – who can’t seem to get past making braindead treacle music. 
  11.  did you forget I was doing this? Don’t worry, this is the last time. Also usually in this footnote I have to mention that there was a best-of between this one and the last one, but this time I don’t have to do that because there wasn’t. Just a cold, silent four-year gap. 
  12.  although it was his fifth solo album, and there was also, of course, a best-of. Because lord amighty did MJ have a lot of best-ofs. 
  13.  as meta-noted by every single Michael Jackson record except this one and Thriller having the same write-up text. 
  14.  But not only. Rainbow Bridge – never forget. 

Making a Living Selling Buggy-Whips, Part 6

When last I talked here about the state of the record-selling industry, and its thrashing, grasping corpse, I decided that it was clear that they were landing on streaming 1. I rounded up the problem with thinking that they were ever going to re-capture the glory days. And it appears they’ve listened! Or at least they have come to the same conclusion 2

We’ll start with the fact that, over the course of 2016, Nielsen reports that streaming is, by far, the number-one way that music is consumed among listeners, which is something that had been coming for a long time. However, the key piece of information here is this one:

The industry did experience sales decreases in nearly all formats, particularly digital sales. However, the growth in streaming was more than enough to off-set the declines, which resulted in a positive year for the music business.

That positive year was also the best year the music industry as a whole (which includes the record-selling industry) had in eight years. So there we have it. Finally the buggy-whip industry has realized that people are interested in buying cars, but only because the particular kind of car driven by the people has been good (relative to previous business models) for the buggy whip industry.

Clearly seeing this fact as a fulcrum upon which they can leverage an attempt to more tightly-control the sources of their profits 3, two separate things have been announced recently that make it clear that they are working on slotting into this brave new environment (in which the RSI is profitable again, rather than just trying to stanch the bleeding for another year) the remnants of the old mechanisms of their former glory.  

The first of these is the announcement that Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo has officially become the first-ever digital-only release to be certified platinum. On its face, this is a new acknowledgment that the record-selling industry is coming into this century, which is, y’know, inevitable and belated. But it also manages to do something else, which is a little bit more interesting, and in a way that’s completely inexplicable.

The RIAA’s certifications of high-selling albums spent the first three and a half decades 4 being more-or-less arbitrary: sales data was self-reported 5, and the labels just had to estimate, using this approximate information, what was selling and let the RIAA know. Then with SoundScan’s point-of-sale tallying, it was out of anyone’s hands (this, among a number of secondary factors, is why successful artists/the charts were so weird in the nineties). So for a number of years that sort of thing was a lot harder to control – units were actually being counted, and they were verifiable.

That said, the certification is still a wonderfully effective sales tactic – sales beget sales, and the knowledge that everyone is already buying a record is incentive for other people to go out and buy the same record. This is, really, why the RIAA had anything invested in it as a system in the first place – sure it’s fine as an achievement that is acknowledged, but if that was the only deal, then the original system (whereby labels presented performers with “gold records” for whatever sales target seemed appropriate) would have been fine. No, this system had to be regulated because it was a powerful promotional tool, and it couldn’t be allowed to lose its potency by every two-cent cheap-jack label being able to call their small-time piddle-puddle a “Gold Record”. It needed to not only be controlled, but it needed to be controlled by a centralized body that represented the interests of the record labels (and no one else) – it couldn’t be any one record label because, of course, that is an imbalanced system.

That’s how it comes to be that, in 2017, there can be such a sharp turn into what was previously vilified – this is the RIAA, effectively, cosigning the fact that streaming is the form of consumption that matters. So why is TLOP the first platinum album? The ostensible reason given is that it sold some equivalent of a million copies (via what is reported to be over 3 billion – billion – streams). Whether this means it was responsible for a chunk of revenue that is equivalent, in terms of industry profit, to a million album sales, or whether it means that it crossed some sort of new-media rubicon into the land of platinum sales (i.e. the target for streaming albums is a thing that is said to exist, and therefore can be crossed by others), the fact remains that the data that got it this status is literally unavailable to the rest of us schlubs 6. I am here to posit that the opacity is by design – that if the data used is made more byzantine and confusing, then the regular folks who are observing such things are unable to see all the moving parts, and it’s therefore easier for the RSI to say “this is the album that everybody is buying.”

Now obviously I’m not suggesting that they’re making up sales data out of whole cloth – pretending something is ubiquitous is awfully difficult when most people are just straight-up never encountering it – nor am I suggesting any sort of conspiratorial bent, merely an ability to take advantage of a system that, to this point, has not been in use – namely, the ability to fudge the situation a little bit with some chicaneric numbers-movement so that you can take advantage of sales goals that only you know about 7. In any event, I wouldn’t be surprised if the success of streaming monetarily didn’t also, magically, lead to a higher number of platinum sales in the future, as opposed to the last couple of years, which have yielded (maybe) a couple.

To a similar “funneling our resources more efficiently into the bank account” end, there is also the news that some labels will be holding their releases back from Spotify for two weeks, unless you are a premium member, effectively creating a two-week paywall. I’m presuming here that this is an attempt to capitalize on the fact that most of an album’s buzz/sales/reaction is set quickly, and albums are getting shorter windows for release 8, so the idea that you can withhold the actual album itself so that people will want to be in on the initial reactions is a gamble that the RSI is willing to take. The idea appears to be that people will either pay the ten bucks to subscribe to Spotify premium or will buy the album, in which case, either way, the RSI gets some measure of the profits (see below). This is probably borne out in the fact that the streaming-exclusive model worked out pretty well from a business standpoint in 2016 (although shoutout to Frank Ocean for making a record label a bunch of money and still getting them mad enough to not ever do the streaming-exclusive thing again).  

If people sign up for Spotify to not be left out of the hot-taking that accompanies an album’s release, or just to get at an album that means something to them 9  then they are signing up for Spotify either way. The Record-Selling Industry (i.e. the labels that are distributing the albums that would received the “two-week paywall” treatment) has, for many years, owned 18% of Spotify. So 18% of every customer’s expenditure goes to the coffers of the labels that own the albums 10, That’s why this is happening with Spotify and not, say, Apple Music or Tidal or whatever.  

Because, ultimately, that’s where we are here: an album that was available on Spotify (eventually, anyway) was named the first entirely-streaming platinum album 11, in conjunction with a new plan to convince people that in order to have access to the next would-be streaming platinum release, they’re going to have to shell out for premium, and stream it that way. All of which will, if the record-selling industry is correct, lead to Spotify actually turning a profit for the first time since its launch, which will, in turn, make the labels richer.

Whether or not this works is probably anyone’s guess, but I have to say here at the end: I don’t care. I’m content that whatever exploitative system this has morphed into is still better for (at least) the consumer than the old exploitative system 12, which is a victory by degrees, and probably the best anyone can hope for, since there’s probably always going to be a corporate interest in the way music is presented and commodified.

I mean, I’m still going to have to use Bandcamp for everything anyway. Man, I wish I had some news about Bandcamp. You know, other than it’s fucking awesome. What a great thing that is. Much better than Spotify, or than record labels for the most part. Everybody go get involved with Bandcamp.


  1.  since I am only very rarely correct about these sorts of predictions, I am going to happily bask in this one. Especially since, if you read the piece in question, you also know that I got a bunch of the specifics wrong, but hey. I’m not going to let it interrupt my basking. Bask bask bask.   
  2.  but, almost certainly, the answer is “they listened to me, a blogger from Ohio with no formal record-selling-industry ties.”  
  3.  known to regular humans with souls and no vested business interest as “the life’s work of artists and performers” 
  4.  from 1958, when the RIAA took control of the certification process from the individual record labels themselves, to 1992 when Nielsen SoundScan was implemented and completely automated the system using point-of-sale data. 
  5.  as in the record-sellers would be asked “what is selling?” and the record-sellers would tell the RIAA literally whatever the hell they wanted, whether it was a carefully-counted set of real figures, a fabricated self-serving report, or just some half-assed half-remembered nonsense. 
  6.  Even this Billboard piece seems kind of baffled, which is especially telling as it was Billboard that, a short time ago, elected to make TLOP the first streaming-only album to make the Billboard album charts. 
  7.  it’s also worth noting that I do believe that these sales goals exist, and that they aren’t so much “invented entirely” as “probably fudged around in a weird, industry-advantageous way.” Although given the history of major-label music promotion, there’s probably a lot more underhandedness in the works.   
  8.  the other thing 2016 , in addition to the best year for the RSI in eight years, was the year of the surprise release, a thing that has been happening for a few years, and has officially reached some kind of critical mass. Or, at least, I’m willing to call it critical mass. 
  9.  telling your potential customer base that they might not be ABLE to have something is a great way to drive sales 
  10.  a major label almost (like more than 99 times out of 100) always owns the material itself. The label gets a percentage of whatever is generated by the stream itself and then passes on whatever contractually-obligated portion (less whatever they’re taking out for whatever “administrative” costs that are also contractually-mandated) to the artist, which often means nothing. IN ADDITION to this revenue stream (which is, admittedly, probably more like a revenue rill, or a revenue creek), they own 18% of Spotify outright, which means that one in every five and a half (or so, the five is repeating in the decimal) dollars goes directly to the labels themselves, free and clear, as shareholders. 
  11.  and not Lemonade, which probably did similar numbers, but is from the not-label-owned Tidal. There are probably a small handful of other reasonable contenders, but that would seem to be the big one. 
  12.  A Spotify premium user (a group of people to which I belong) is still only paying ten bucks, which is the price of an album or whatever. 

The Best Albums of March 2017

Diamanda Galas – All the Way/At Saint Thomas the Apostle Harlem (a not-quite-entirely studio album for the first time this century, and a live album for the first time in a decade, and it remains simply incomprehensible how Diamanda Galas can be so creatively proficient, and so mechanically talented as both an experimental vocalist and a piano player. Unlike anything else in the world, and utterly essential)

Spoon – Hot Thoughts (it seems like it’s impossible to read a review of a Spoon album that fails to call them “consistent,” but honestly, after two decades of doing this with only one real misstep, that’s exactly what they are. They are a rock-solid, always-delivering rock band, and Hot Thoughts is another in their unbroken [at least since 2001] streak of winners)

Pharmakon – Contact (America’s best power electronics musician develops her voice further, bringing it to some really impressive places. I mean her actual literal voice here – this record has really impressive vocals. Not her, like, abstract artistic voice. Although that’s clearly in good shape also.)\

Thundercat – Drunk (Everything about this record is compulsively likable, and in a month that saw two Diamanda Galas albums and a Pharmakon album, I’ve been coming back to it a lot)

The Jesus and Mary Chain – Damage and Joy (I mean, see previously for the whole rundown or whatever, but man is it good to have a new Jesus and Mary Chain record)