A Numerical Majority of Artists that Played Each Woodstock, Ranked

So upon the announcement of a new Woodstock 1, my interior Old Rock Dude scoffed, thinking that it would, of course, be terrible. This is a reflex that I’m always a little curious to see rear its head, because it’s not something that I generally indulge in. I’m always pretty happy to see things that currently exist given their proper weight and name, and not just buried under a morass of “this is a pale shadow of that which is sacred” 2. That said, there is a very simple explanation for why this happened.

You see, Woodstock has always been largely garbage. There have been some moments that are justifiably famous, and some acts have played that have been fine 3 without being spectacular, but mostly it’s been a survey of “bands that were popular and available, and largely disconnected from each other and often inexplicable”.

The 1969 Woodstock is the most worked-over and talked about one, certainly. There were a number of bands (The Who, Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Ravi Shankar, probably also The Grateful Dead but see below, etc.) that played at the height of their powers, and the aforementioned nothing-special rank and file was at least stuff that worked out well live, and translated pretty well to a giant outdoor festival. That said, there were plenty of duff acts in there, and a pretty unseemly reliance on Country Joe, which is completely inexplicable if you weren’t “there” I guess. Country Joe, man. People love that “Fish Cheer”. The world is a strange place.

The nineties Woodstocks used returning acts as a crutch, and 94 seemed especially willing to talk about the artist who played 94 who didn’t play 69 as a kind of marketing hook, so we see Dylan here, as well as sort of demographic-adjacent stuff as The Allman Brothers. The good parts of 94, then, are these kinds of legacy acts – Bob Dylan, Jimmy Cliff, Gil Scott-Heron – with occasionally-interesting acts that were good, but also had little to do with the original Woodstock milieu (Rollins Band, Cypress Hill, Metallica). It also, given that I just watched several hours of footage from the whole thing, looked like it was the most fun – more put-together than 69, and less on-fire than 99.

Woodstock 99, then, is rightfully the reason to have shut the brand down for 20 years. The median quality of the bands that perform is significantly lower – the low points are so very low, and are more numerous, and aren’t enough to counterbalance the high points, which were actually mostly hip-hop acts (Rage Against the Machine, The Roots, DMX, etc.) anyway. The artists involved are often more of a piece – there’s a lot of radio metal in there, interspersed among the scattered jam bands and pop acts – and it’s all just a dreadful slog to get through most of them.

But then, it’s often a slog to get through the mountain of these bands. That’s sort of the point. To answer the question “was Woodstock really so unquestionably amazing”, I have ranked every band that played at every Woodstock so far, to get an idea for how often it was actually something worth seeing.

Well, almost every band. There are some that are left out. In 1994, for example, WOMAD got one of the stages for a sort of mini-WOMAD. Since this is basically another festival that was arranged to be part of this festival, I didn’t include it, which is a shame, because most of it was pretty good. I also didn’t deal with the rave tent at 94 – that kind of thing is entirely dependent on the audience you’re in, rather than the act that’s pushing the buttons and doing the mixing, and it’s basically impossible to get any kind of idea about what was going on from a youtube video in my house 4. I also didn’t deal with the Emerging Artists stage, where a bunch of bands that were meant to be famous but mostly never were (with the exception of Muse, who did get famous, The Supersuckers who didn’t get famous but continue to be great, King’s X, who played the regular stage in 94, and Bijou Philips who was famous as an actress/Scientologist/notable homophobe, but who sang at Woodstock 99, which is weird), because it seemed unsporting, and also because I have no idea how to evaluate that kind of thing. Oh, and there was a “pre-concert” at Woodstock 99 at which, like, G Love and Special Sauce and George Clinton, among others, played, and I didn’t include those either.

In the interest of fairness, also, if I couldn’t find any footage or recordings of a band during their time at Woodstock, they were also not included. I mean, it’s not a scientific operation here, but if anyone knows where I can find any of them 5, that would be interesting. They’re largely obscure and/or local-to-upstate-New York white-blues-based jam bands. So. No big loss.

So, with those caveats in place, please to enjoy this completely-correct, obviously-worthwhile ranking of every act that has played every Woodstock so far, and feel free to compare them out when (if?) the performers at this next thing are announced.

Jimi Hendrix (1969) I mean, this seems fairly obvious

Bob Dylan (1994) All existing recordings of this make it seem pretty incredible, and Bob Dylan sure could be

The Roots (1999) Obviously it’s easiest to make the top of this list when you’re a great band at the top of your game

The Who (1969)

The Band (1969)

Richie Havens (1969) He famously had to go on a couple of hours before he was originally scheduled to do so, which is pretty awesome on top of how good it is in general.

Rage Against the Machine (1999)

Joe Cocker (1969)

DMX (1999)

Sly & The Family Stone (1969)

Rollins Band (1994) When the Rollins Band’s reputation is rehabilitated, I will be up here at the forefront: the second incarnation of this band, which this is, was a pretty great jazz-metal act. This is “Liar”-era material, here.

Nine Inch Nails (1994)

Metallica (1999) This is the later performance because in 1999 they were pretty firmly in crowd-pleasing hits-playing mode, which is better

Santana (1969)

Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969) They weren’t in the movie or on the album, but the setlist is amazing, and all existing recordings make it seem like this was a real corker

Guster (1999) I confess to having seen Guster in the last six months. I like Guster. They’re a good live band.

Jimmy Cliff’s All-Star Reggae Revue (1994) Did you guys know that Shabba Ranks was present at a Woodstock? The nineties were weird.

Janis Joplin (1969)

Metallica (1994) Metallica is always Metallica, but at this point they were gearing up for Load, and thus at their least crowd-pleasing, which doesn’t really work for a Woodstock

Ravi Shankar (1969)

Cypress Hill (1994) Bonus points for overcoming DJ Mugg’s malfunctioning microphone.

The Band (featuring a bunch of dudes from Hot Tuna and the Grateful Dead) (1994) Even without Robbie Robertson they were still pretty much The Band, and as far as the thin gruel of this stuff goes, they were pretty good

Jefferson Airplane (1969)

The Cranberries (1994)

Wyclef Jean (1999) Who knows how much of his mind he’d already lost at this point. I’d still watch him play above a lot of these other folks

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (1969) Ranked so highly for the idea of the novelty of seeing the act, and also because some of this performance is in the movie and on the album, but Neil Young isn’t.

Neville Brothers (1994)

Everlast (1999) I like Everlast. Fight me.

Green Day (1994)

Red Hot Chili Peppers (1999) This has the advantage because at least John Frusciante is their guitar player in 1999

Mike Ness (1999) He played the covers you’d have wanted him to, and “Ball and Chain”. Hard to get mad at that.

Bush (1999) I’m not a Bush fan, exactly, but I think they were better than the shake they got.

Primus (1994)

Arrested Development (1994)

Insane Clown Posse (1999) Clown Na Na

Rusted Root (1999)

Joe Cocker (1994) The key document here is “With a Little Help From My Friends,” which in 1969 was a barn-burning Beatles cover, and in 1994 had been the theme song to The Wonder Years and was a very different thing when he performed it.

Salt n Pepa (1994) More of these acts need elaborate choreography, it really helps in making the thing visually interesting

Youssou N’Dour (1994) He fared better than Peter Gabriel, certainly

Elvis Costello (1999)

The Violent Femmes (1994)

Red Hot Chili Peppers (1994) Their guitar player was Dave Navarro here, which is less interesting, although I wonder if he and Perry Farrell saw each other backstage. I wonder if they were still bros.

Zucchero (1994) NB: I am not entirely sure ths wasn’t WOMAD-related, but as far as the general worldbeat-jam-blues undercurrent that runs through these things goes, this is a pretty good example. I was pleasantly surprised, having no previous relationship with this band’s music.

Johnny Winter (1969) As far as the interminable rank and file of white blues jammers go, this is more or less the top of the pile

Sisters of Glory (1994) This is a bunch of gospel superstars. It sounds good, it’s a clever wag of a thing to do on Sunday morning, and Mavis Staples is pretty much the best, so it’s got its good points, certainly

James (1994)

Gil Scott-Heron (1994)

Grateful Dead (1969) This is basically impossible for me to evaluate. I know nothing about how to even go about appreciating this kind of thing. I like plenty of improvised music, I like plenty of non-dynamic music, I like plenty of abstract music. The Grateful Dead manage not to trigger my interest at all in any of those things. I understand that they’re an institution, and that people love them, and spend whole lifetimes obsessed with them, and I’m willing to admit to being wrong – or at least unable to be right – about them as a result. I just don’t hear any of it. I’ve tried an awful lot, including for this very writeup and I’m just not here for any of it. So they’re here, kind of in the middle, because that’s about where I can imagine them being. But they’re actually uncategorizable.

Counting Crows (1999)

Blues Traveler (1994)

Blood, Sweat and Tears (1969)

The Tragically Hip (1999)

Porno for Pyros (1994) This is really elevated several steps above where it would be otherwise by dint of there being a lecture about UFOs and a clown that did interpretive dance.

Brian Setzer Orchestra (1999) Swing Na Na

George Clinton & The P-Funk All Stars (1994) This, or maybe Ravi Shankar, is sort of the “reliable workhorse” line. George Clinton was pretty much done doing what he was doing in 1994, but he was still George Clinton, and this still sounds fine, such as it is.

Joan Baez (1969)

Ice Cube (1999) By 1999 Ice Cube had already lost most of what made him Ice Cube, but he was still a good rapper and still put up a good setlist, so he earns some extra points

Chemical Brothers (1999) I’ve seen their movie, so I sort of get the idea, but I can’t imagine what this sounded like from that fucking field.

Crosby, Stills & Nash (1994)

Kid Rock (1999)

Collective Soul (1994)

James Brown (1999) James Brown in 1999 is a depressing prospect.

Swami Satchidananda (1969) Even I am not here to hate on a benediction, but it’s still just a benediction

Dave Matthews Band (1999)

Blind Melon (1994) I mean, this sucked, but it sucked historically and with much verve. It sucked pretty genuinely, is what I’m saying here. Honorably. With many drugs and much addlepatedness.

Paul Butterfield Blues Band (1969) The second best harmonica-driven band in the history of Woodstock, now proven with science!

Melissa Etheridge (1994)

Peter Gabriel (1994) I mean, I’ve definitely seen Peter Gabriel do cool shit, but this was not that.

Everclear (1999) True story – I haven’t thought about Everclear in so long that when I saw them on the list of performers, I forgot about them entirely and briefly thought it was weird that Everlast had performed twice. All told the world would have been better off had Everlast performed twice.

Collective Soul (1999)

Paul Rogers (1994) Like Joe Cocker, Paul Rogers aged pretty well as far as “doing that thing” goes, so I guess there’s that.

Live (1994)

Alanis Morissette (1999)

Canned Heat (1969)

Sheryl Crow (1999) The difference between this performance and the 1994 performance is that by 1999, she had been a giant touring concern for five more years, and thus was in better control of it.

Sheryl Crow (1994)

Los Lobos (1999) No but seriously – Los Lobos? In 1999? The fuck?

Korn (1999) Woodstock 99 was shot through with tonnes of nu-metal, and Korn did not actually weather being rock stars very well.

Megadeth (1999)

Aerosmith (1994)

Quill (1969) Although bonus points for throwing maracas and shit into the audience. It was definitely better than their music, and it meant they had fewer instruments in their possession with which to play said music

Allman Brothers (1994)

Lit (1999)

3 And a Half Hours of Pouring Rain (1969) Yep. Every band below this line failed to improve upon the weather. Ah, Woodstock!

Spitifre (1999) This is a weird spoken-word thing assembled or produced or curated or whatever by Zach de la Rocha. It’s not better than rain, but it’s, y’know, extremely nineties so it’s up this far.

Melanie Safka (1969) Joni MItchell Na Na.

Sha Na Na (1969) On the one hand, I want to praise any act that was there to be entertaining first and foremost – just look at how high Insane Clown Posse is, for example – on the other hand, Sha Na Na were awful. Just awful.

Ten Years After (1969)

Mountain (1969)

Jamiroquai (1999) I don’t have another place to insert this story, and the chance may never come again so: the bartender at the brewery closest to my house used to work at the grocery store that Jay Kay from Jamiroquai shopped at, and assures me that he always wore the hats. I’m charmed and delighted by this information.

Tim Hardin (1969)

Jewel (1999)

John Sebastian (1969) It’s weird to think that by 1969 John Sebastian was already working on his fallback career – The Lovin’ Spoonful had already broken up. Anyway, he’s boring.

Santana (1994) I’m not a huge fan of Santana under any real circumstances – Woodstock being one of the things I genuinely like about his body of work – but in 1994 I just am not feeling it.

John Sebastian (1994) Still boring, now with even more oldness

Our Lady Peace (1999) True story: I really liked Our Lady Peace in 1999. Follow-up true story: I don’t remember why.

Traffic (1994)

Bruce Hornsby (1999)

Arlo Guthrie (1969)

Godsmack (1999) Their guitar player wore a pretty cool Johnny the Homicidal Maniac t-shirt though

Sweetwater (1969) Remember when VH1 made that movie with Felicity’s friend slash the Pink Ranger and it was about this band? That movie sucked, and this band sucked, and also they got pulled over on the way to Woodstock, which is why Richie Havens had to perform on such short notice.

Sevendust (1999) This is a band that genuinely lives up to their name. By which I mean: they are terrible and their name is terrible.

moe. (1999)

King’s X (1994) Their set features one of the world’s worst Jimi Hendrix covers!

The Keef Hartley Band (1969)

G Love and Special Sauce (1999)

Buckcherry (1999)

Limp Bizkit (1999)

Bret Sommer (1969) This dude originated the Treat Williams role in Hair (that’s his hair on the original playbill, in fact), and also he sucked real bad.

Creed (1999) Robbie Krieger joined them for a cover of “Roadhouse Blues”. That sentence is more interesting than anything they did on stage. It is also not that interesting.

The Incredible String Band (1969)

Mickey Hart and Planet Drum (1994) He plays what very much appear to be electronic steel drum pads. Like, drum pads that make steel drum noises when he hits them. They are tremendously dumb.

Country Joe and the Fish (1969) Country Joe MacDonald spent an awful lot of time onstage at the first two Woodstocks. None of that time was well-spent.

Del Amitri (1994)

Candlebox (1994) They at least called out that Madonna made them famous when they started their set. That was pretty funny.

Live (1999)

The Umbilical Brothers (1999) Not just comedy at Woodstock, but awful sound-effect novelty comedy at Woodstock.

Jackyl (1994) AC/DC Na Na

The Offspring (1999)

Oleander (1999)

The Spin Doctors (1994) Have they ever not been the worst band at any given show they’ve ever played?

Country Joe MacDonald (1969) Country Joe without all those pesky fish

Country Joe MacDonald (1994) Country Joe without all those pesky fish 25 years later.

Country Joe MacDonald (1994) Country Joe without all those pesky fish 25 years later for a second time in one weekend.

  1. see last week 
  2. sort of the defining feature of Old Rock Dudeism – the notion that nothing could possibly be as good as it was when the Old Rock Dude was a Young Rock Dude, rather than simply a shifting of taste on the part of the ORD. 
  3. the rank and file of bands that are neither great nor terrible are the ones that seem to be most in Michael Lang’s wheelhouse – blues-oriented and/or jam-oriented bands that are tremendously not something that I care about, with rare edge-case exceptions. 
  4. the Chemical Brothers played the main stage in 99, and so are ranked, but it doesn’t really translate through the “from my house on youtube thing”, as you can see below. 
  5. the complete list of band so disqualified is: 3 (you try figuring out how to find material from any given specific show by a band that’s just called “3”), Futu Futu (whose studio recordings sound like they’re great live), The Goats, Huffamoose (each of the latter two of which had an actual hit), Lunchmeat, Orleans (who played twice and are local to the upstate New York area), the Paul Luke Band, Peacebomb (when you google Peacebomb, you get links to the aforementioned 3, and also to Joe Stole), Rekk (if they’re the German band called that, then they’re pretty terrible actually), Roguish Armament, Nenad Bach (who’s a Croatian sideman with five bajillion credits), Erice Gales (another sideman, this time a whiz-kid guitar player), which are all from 1994, and Abba Rage, who played at Woodstock 99. 

On Whatever This New Woodstock Thing Is, And Music Festivals Generally

Woodstock! The Summer of ‘69! Max Yasgur’s field! Truly, of all of the aging-rock-dudes thing to still be talking about, this is very much among the aging-rock-dude-est of them. I’ve written much previously (most notably here) about how the constant “you had to be there at the time, and nothing now will ever be as good as anything then” attitude of aging rock dudes is a direct-line contributor to the fact that rock music as a commercial and mainstream concern is basically a moribund prospect 1, and I suppose it’s inevitable that this particular well, which has only ever been profitable, even when it’s been a disaster.

The rock and roll nostalgia market seems to be turning over pretty well in a bunch of forms anyway. I mean, it’s pretty much the entirety of the portion of the rock and roll environment that does well commercially 2, even down to the most popular rock acts being straight-up flat-out nostalgia acts, for the most part, even when they’re composed of veritable children.

On top of all this, the music festival has grown from being an occasional landmark event to being a constant nightmarish plague that destroys summer touring schedules and makes it much easier for people to marginalize bands by cramming them all together on bills and staring at them idly while they take drugs or pictures of each other or whatever. But they’re commercial juggernauts for the people that put them together, between ticket prices that steal the breath out of your lungs and sponsorship deals for being seen on the livestream or whatever.

The point here being that it seems perfectly reasonable that someone would get it in their heads to try to bring back one of the biggest, most storied names in the music festival scene to try to wring some more dollars out of it, because 50 is a big, round number, and it can potentially reveal an enormous, even rounder number after a dollar sign for the people that are willing to put this together.

Woodstock, however, also comes freighted with some baggage, given that they brought the name back a couple of times already. The 1994 event went well enough that they brought it back in 1999, which event is the one that is talked about in terms of its infamy. It was a poorly-managed, cash-gouging, anti-human dystopia, full of poor sanitation, overpriced water, and ultimately people getting assaulted and setting things on fire. Depending on who you talk to, this event was either apocalyptic or the crisis was overstated, and “only” half a dozen people reported being sexually assaulted 3 and “only” some of the event was set on literal actual fire.

The person who’s putting this together is Michael Lang, one of the organizers of the original Woodstock 4, and he seems pretty willing to acknowledge that he is choosing to revive a brand that has some…baggage attached to it, in addition to the good name that will inspire, theoretically, people to dig into their wallets and assume that this is going to be a one-of-a-kind event, and pay (I’m assuming – the ticket prices haven’t been announced yet) accordingly.

Except that while Lang seems to be holding onto the idea that he can recapture the hippie magic of the first Woodstock, rather than being at all clear-headed about the things that need working on. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he seems happy to acknowledge the mercenary nature of Woodstock 99 only obliquely, stating that the problem is that, yes, it was price-gougey, but it was also “just a musical experience with no social significance” 5, which I’m sure is a big relief to those who thought that maybe an event that became publicly known for unpunished property destruction and sexual assault might be “significant” to the people who were assaulted or had their things set on fire 6.

I guess what I’m saying here is: this still seems pretty blinkered, and is clearly a case of someone not seeing the forest of infrastructural issues for the trees full of money. His concern is that people paid too much for water (which, in his defense, did become a sort of synecdoche for the whole price-gouging issue at the festival itself) and some people did some destructive and dangerous things, but it’s all going to be ok, because he’s also going to include a tent for activism 7. And this is why this seems so onerous to me: Lang has come out and said that the way to make sure that the music festival at which he’s going to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the most famous single music festival ever is to make sure that it’s engaged with more than just the music, all while not actually engaging with anything except the artists and activists that he’s paying. This is dumb.

There’s probably no way to stop this, and, honestly, it looks like it’s already not going well: the thing was sort of soft-announced in November of last year, with some publicity finally happening more-or-less now. There is no announcement of the bands beyond a cryptic acknowledgment that someone from the original Woodstock is playing, and that the dude wants some people to do tributes to Jefferson Airplane and whoever else. If there were bands clamoring to do this, they would be telling us that. If they had secured anything more than a facility, they would be telling us that. But for the love of god, don’t go to this thing, for a couple of reasons.

The first is that music festivals are awful. They’re awful for fans, who are shunted around like cows, and they’re awful for the bands that play them. While I can sort of imagine the appeal of paying an absurd amount of money to go to a field to do drugs and watch an endless procession of god-knows-who play god-knows-what in front of me, I can’t imagine doing so under the auspices of someone who 1) has said more about toilets than music in the promotional materials for this thing and 2) almost certainly has no connection to anything other than the name of the music festival that made him famous half a century ago, and it seems to me that this is just a way to have a weird, highly-public bad time.

But the second is that we all deserve better. Yes, we all deserve better from something called “Woodstock” that now appears to be a directionless, amorphous thing without any sort of clue about what it will hold, but we deserve better than most music festivals. This is another of the results of the bottom falling out of the record-selling industry: the ticket-selling industry is now trying to get the most people out there so they can make as many secondary dollars on them as possible.

Most music festivals are nightmarish, and are built to suit the people who are the least interested in the “music” part of them: a million bands playing in several simultaneous heats over the course of several full days is great for people who want to enumerate experiences for social media purposes or whatever, but terrible for anyone who wants to further any kind of relationship with a musician or set of musicians. Even your favorite act in the whole world isn’t going to be nearly as worthwhile sandwiched between “that band you kind of like” and “That rapper that had that song on the radio all the time six months ago” 8. It’s just not going to happen. It’s definitely not going to contribute meaningfully to any existing relationship you might have with any given act, and it’s highly unlikely to contribute meaningfully to any new relationships.

Music festivals are a huge part of the economy surrounding popular music, and I suppose that’s just something I’m going to have to live with. Every year I consider trying to figure out how to write about them – this is a blog, after all, focused on what is popular and honored in the culture at large, and music festivals are a part of that – and I just come up short. I don’t get it, and I don’t think anyone does outside the economies of scale: if you get enough people in a field together and make it seem exclusive enough, people with more money and more concern for being seen than sense will buy tickets, and you will make a profit.

I don’t have any particular reverence for Woodstock in any of its incarnations (see next week when I talk a bit about the music at previous Woodstocks, because that sort of thing is more in my mien hereabouts), but this is a particularly naked cash-grabbing opportunistic thing, and it is gross.

And so I’m here to say: fuck whatever this turns out to be, and fuck music festivals generally, and fuck whatever dumb brain disease makes it so that people can’t be satisfied that something happened, and keep needing to make things that are called the same thing happen again and again.

  1.  as I almost always note after this sort of statement, I think this is generally a good thing: the things that have dropped out of rock culture generally are at the margins, and the millions of people who were part of the rock “fanbase” that weren’t in fact people interested in rock music, but rather interested in the significations thereof, and that the field of rock music is now considerably more populated by people who are there intentionally, and because they want to be for its own reasons, and this is generally a good thing for any genre, with the commercial trappings being more able to view as having been their own stupid shackle in the first place. 
  2. which, again, I don’t care about, and rock bands still exist and are productive in such number and to such an extent that it’s still impossible to keep up with it all, especially in the more interesting and more experimental corners. Rock music: still pretty great, guys. 
  3.  the sexual assault at music festivals thing is a real problem, and one that mostly people just shrug their shoulders about, because I guess there’s got to be some sort of critical mass of these things before money is spent on the solution. 
  4. he’s the taller guy with the curly hair that they talk to a bunch in the movie, which, incidentally, is maybe my favorite concert movie, and which I love very much and will watch any time it is on. 
  5. he also is weirdly focused on the technological/comfort advances in portapotty technology, which is….something I guess. 
  6. this is not to come to the defense of the people that organized and/or price-gouged the business, but merely to be comfortable speculating that there could have potentially have been some collateral there that was “significant” to someone. You know, socially. 
  7. a thing that Jay-Z does at Made in America, which is fine, but is not the same thing as structurally supporting things. 
  8. and let us remember that even the original Woodstock, whose ghost is being chased here, still featured, say, Sha-Na-Na and Country Joe and the Fish, in addition to The Who and Jimi Hendrix. This dude has always been willing to just fling shit at the wall to see what would stick. 

The Best of the Second Half of 2018

Hey guys! So ordinarily I make this list and I write some words about it, but due to some unforeseen scheduling stuff I didn’t make it through doing so. I might come back and replace this post with one with words in it later, but as of right now I thought it was better to get it out and take a mulligan on this set of songs. I’ll catch up next time, I promise. 

The thing that hasn’t changed is that there’s a folder full of songs available for download here, and there’s a Spotify thing (that is, inevitably, missing some of the songs) at the bottom, and you can listen to all the stuff and be made very happy, like a very happy person, because these are absolutely, unquestionably, no-questions-asked the 50 best songs of the last six months of 2018. I’ve also made the list here in case you don’t like folders full of songs or Spotify, and just want to look at a list of songs. They’re in alphabetical order on the page here, obviously, but in more like a playlist order in the Spotify list.

Anderson.Paak – Tints (f Kendrick Lamar)

Arabrot – Maldorer’s Love

Armand Hammer – No Days Off

Meg Baird & Mary Lattimore – In Cedars

Blood Orange – Charcoal Baby

Nathan Bowles – Ruby/In Kind I

Busdriver – The Year I Became a Motherfuckin G

Anna Calvi – Don’t Beat the Girl Out of My Boy

Cloud Nothings – Offer an End

Daughters – Guest House

Deafheaven – Honeycomb

Flatbush Zombies – New World Order

Four Fists – Annihilation (f Sims)

Steve Hauschildt – Saccade (f Julianna Barwick)

Tim Hecker – This Life

Hypnodrone Ensemble – Monotransitive

The Internet – Look What U Started

Mick Jenkins – Smoking Song (f BADBADNOTGOOD)

Lil Wayne – Uproar

Low – Poor Sucker

Makaya McCraven – Atlantic Black

Milo – Failing the Stress Test

Nicki Minaj – Coco Chanel (f Foxy Brown)

Roy Montgomery – Landfall (f Liz Harris)

Georgia Anne Muldrow – Overload

Murder By Death – I Have Arrived

Marissa Nadler – Blue Vapor

Open Mike Eagle – Relatable (peak OME)

PC Worship – Shell Shower

Petite Noir – Beach (f Danny Brown & Nukubi Nukubi)

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – GNT

Joey Purp – Elastic

Adam Remnant – Sourwood

Marc Ribot – The Militant Ecologist

Emma Ruth Rundle – Control

Saintseneca – Ladder to the Sun

Amanda Shires – Swimmer

Slowthai – Drug Dealer

Smino – Krushed Ice (f Valee)

Jon Spencer – I Got the Hits

Spiritualized – I’m Your Man

Vince Staples – Fun!

Sumac – Arcing Silver

Swearin’ – Grow Into a Ghost

Earl Sweatshirt – Nowhere2Go

Thou – Supremacy

Jeff Tweedy – Having Been is No Way to Be

Chester Watson – 40 Acres

Yowler – Where is My Light?

03 Greedo – Basehead

HM: Black Thought – Streets, Brotzmann/Leigh – It’s Almost Dark, Lando Chill – Peso (f Quelle Chris & Rey), Kilo Kish – Elegance, Nothing – I hate the Flowers, Vic Mensa – Klonopin, Panopticon – (Cowering) at the Foot of the Mountain, Soccer Mommy – Scorpio Rising, Thalia Zedek Band – Fighting Season, Throat – Shortage (version), Cloquet – Call It

The 76th Annual Golden Globes

The new year dawns, and with it, the new awards season. More than just a necessity for getting people talking about the film industry in the face of the fact that nothing good is going to come out for a couple more months, and people are trying hard to get back into the drudgery of their day-to-day lives coming off the bender of performative aspirational consuming and daydreaming that the holiday cycle begets, the Golden Globes are also an award given entirely by film critics.

The Hollywood Foreign Press is a fascinating body in its own right, and I’m not going to touch on too much of it here, except to say that I’m probably spending 2019 being even more considerate of who it is that’s sending the message in each of these awards shows.

Because 1 it is a message, and it’s being sent by a body for a set of reasons, and those reasons, it turns out, matter. We live in a world where a man can rise out of the trashiest corner of popular culture and declare himself expert enough to lead a nation. Our consideration of popular culture matters. Again, this is a point for another time, but as the first awards show of the year, it gets into the headnote here.

But all of that is a look ahead, here in the middle of what’s supposed to be a look backward at the year that just happened. The Golden Globes themselves continue to shift, but only in the direction they already had been – the “television miniseries” category continues to be the place where heavyweight prestige dramas duke it out, regardless of whether or not they have continuing seasons and all that, and a dismaying percentage of the movies involved are fucking biopics.

So it goes.

Best Miniseries or Television Film

I will give Escape at Dannemora this: it has a premise that could very easily go wacky, and a cast that basically reads like a comedy, and still manages to pull a boring-ass “based on a true story” execution out of that. Great job, Ben Stiller. Similarly, I’m surprised Russell T. Davies managed to write an entire miniseries – in this case A Very English Scandal – that managed to stick more or less to its plot, sort of. Great job, Russell T. Davies. I would have sworn that The Alienist aired more than just one year ago, but it didn’t 2, so here it is. The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story had some really great moments and a couple of truly great performances 3, but was also baggy through the middle and didn’t actually help itself out any with its reverse-chronology storytelling. My misgivings about Gone Girl aside, Gillian Flynn is a very good screenwriter, Amy Adams is a very good actress, and Sharp Objects was a very good miniseries.


Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries or Television Film

Thandie Newton continues to be underappreciated for her work in Westworld, even as I also believe that Westworld itself is somewhat over-praised. It’s not enough to get her the win here, but I think it’s worth acknowledging. She’s certainly better than Yvonne Strahovsky is in The Handmaid’s Tale. Penelope Cruz did a good job playing her literal actual real-life friend 4, but it wasn’t that good, and I’m also not sure how much of a feat that is. Patricia Clarkson did a good job on Sharp Objects, a generally good show. Alex Borstein was the only thing that was watchable about The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, so it goes to her.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries or Television Film

It’s nice to know Alan Arkin is still out there, certainly. He’s still a good actor or whatever, even if he’s basically given a fat ball down the middle playing a cantankerous agent. Given that latter information, though, I have decided not to reward pandering. Kieran Culkin continues to be the more interesting Culkin, acting-wise 5, but still not actually very good at it. Edgar Ramirez is in The Assassination of Gianni Versace for like twenty total minutes, despite being the title character, and while he does a fine job, he’s not that impressive 6. A Very English Scandal is very English boring awards-bait, and Ben Whishaw (who I like, generally) does not rise above this. So that leaves us with Henry Winkler’s excellent turn in Barry.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Henry Winkler, Barry

Best Actress in a Miniseries or Television Film

Longtime readers will remember that it used to be a running joke that when I couldn’t come up with a winner or didn’t have an opinion about a category in any given awards show, I would give the award to Mrs. Coach’s Hair. I abandoned the practice a few years ago, as all running jokes must eventually be allowed to run their course 7. Everyone in this category except Patricia Arquette (which: what?) did admirable work in the category. But, with apologies to Amy Adams, Mrs. Coach’s Hair is only attached to one of these women, and she also did a great job of actoring.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Connie Britton (and, by extension, Mrs. Coach’s Hair), Dirty John

Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film

Hugh Grant and Benedict Cumberbatch could have one hell of a boring-off for their work this year. It pains me to say that, and yet here we are. This is why more people should consult with me before they nominate people for awards. Or, alternately, before they write stupid television. Anyway, Antonio Banderas is a fine Picasso. The Alienist was fine, and Daniel Bruhl is a big part of the reason why. I must, however, single out Darren Criss, for doing such a great job of capital-A acting that I was able to put aside – if only briefly – how annoying I find capital-A acting and be impressed by his abilities. He really turned himself into Andrew Cunanan, and I can’t help but be really impressed by it.

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

Best Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy

Candice Bergen joins the “inexplicably nominated for awards for playing a character she played for many years many years ago.” She can join Debra Messing up at the head table of that particular club. Rachel Brosnahan does a fine job as the Standard Issue Amy Sherman Palladino Protagonist. She’s not very convincing as a standing-up comedian. Alison Brie is doing truly incredible work on GLOW, and is genuinely impressive episode after episode. Kristen Bell is the central part of the best ensemble, as part of the best television show currently on the air.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kristen Bell, The Good Place

Best Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy

Oh, right. The best show except Atlanta. Maybe. I have a hard time choosing, guys. Anyway, this is the season with “Teddy Perkins,” and Donald Glover is nominated in part of rit, and frankly, that’s the best television episode to air in a very, very long time, Good Place be damned. The rest of these people are fine and did fine work, and maybe next year that will matter.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Donald Glover, Atlanta

Best Actress in a Television Series – Drama

This Golden Globes has the misfortune, for Caitriona Balfe, of appearing after a season that disappointed pretty much everyone 8. Much was made of Julia Roberts’ television work here, and her finally deigning to appear on some prestige television. She’s still just Julia Roberts, though, so while I suppose kudos for jumping on the thing of the times, fewer kudos for being the least of the acting Robertses. Elisabeth Moss is fine. Sandra Oh was fine in the surprising Killing Eve. Keri Russell managed to deliver a series of really excellent performances, that remained surprising and worthy of praise all the way to the end of The Americans, and that’s something to appreciate.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER:: Keri Russell, The Americans

Best Actor in a Television Series – Drama

Pretty much all the stuff I just said above except this time for Matthew Rhys. Pose was a nice surprise, and Billy Porter was a big part of why. Stephan James on Homecoming and Jason Bateman on Ozark, on the other hand, continue to be indicative of why this whole peak-tv prestige business is pretty underwhelming. I have very little to say about Richard Madden in Bodyguard. See? Matthew Rhys. He’s great, he deserves it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Matthew Rhys, The Americans

Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy

Welp, Atlanta isn’t here because the Hollywood Foreign Press is dildos, so it’s gotta be The Good Place. Now, admittedly, I think I’d have a much harder time choosing, but it’s only the one, so it’s obviously The Good Place.


Best Television Series – Drama

Eh. Killing Eve and Pose are at least entertaining, but I really don’t see how anything tops The Americans, which climbed the mountain of figuring out how to stick the landing. You heard me. I said they climbed the mountain to stick the landing. Blow me.


Best Animated Feature Film

So, Isle of Dogs was a fun little variation on the Wes Anderson thing. Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks the Internet were both worthwhile sequels to great movies, even if neither scaled the heights of the original. Mirai is beautiful. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is not just the best Spider-Man movie ever made 9, not just among the very best superhero movies ever made, but might have actually been my favorite movie of the year, animated or otherwise. It’s so good, you guys.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Best Original Song

It really should be one of the songs from the Christmas-adjacent Spider-Man tie-in thing, but I suppose “All the Stars” is an awfully good song. Especially when put up against “Shallow” 10. The matching up of Jonssi and Torye Sivan is fine, and kind of inspired, but ultimately kind of boring. I have very little to see about “Requiem for a Private War”.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: SZA, “All the Stars” (f Kendrick Lamar)

Best Original Score

We got another example of Alexandre Desplat doing what Alexandre Desplat does. I’ve never much cared for Marc Shaiman, and I’m not super into it here either. With First Man, Justin Hurwitz may finally have done something that wasn’t the coolest part of the movie for which he was hired. Ludwig Goransson has done every Ryan Coogler movie, and while I here his music basically every time I look at Michael B. Jordan as a result, I actually didn’t think that Black Panther was his best work, although I did like the score. Marco Beltrami finally got to put his horror-movie-scoring talents to use in an interesting and creatively-fulfilled way with A Quiet Place, and that’s pretty cool.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Marco Beltrami, A Quiet Place

Best Screenplay

I have a fear that Green Book is going to be nominated for too many things. I really genuinely have this fear. I do not like this fear, because it implies that I am a joy-hating jerk who doesn’t like nice things, and that’s kind of true: I am a joy-hating jerk who doesn’t like nice things, and Green Book is very, very nice. I think that there’s nothing wrong with Roma, and I appreciate that Alfonso Cuaron wanted to at least do something interesting with the biopic, but none of that is the screenplay. Adaptations are tricky, and If Beale Street Could Talk is based on one of my actual all-time favorite novels, and I’m almost always unable to glean how much of that sort of thing is the source material and how much is the screenplay. It’s nice that they didn’t drop the ball, though. The problem, then, is that The Favourite is a goddamn period drama full of inter-court machinations, and Vice is a period-piece about the relatively-recent past. So maybe I’ll just call it for If Beale Street Could Talk and be happy with it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk

Best Director

Alfonso Cuaron and Bradley Cooper are both here for their passion projects. They both got to make the movies they wanted to make the most, and the result in both cases was so unspectacular that I kind of wonder why they were so hung up on it 11. I think I’ve already made it clear that I’m not here to praise Green Book. I think Vice was an interesting bit of business, but I dunno. Spike Lee is surprising in his continued ability to surprise and make the most of his work, and BlacKkKlansman was astonishing.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture

Well, at least nobody from Green Book is here. Two of the people from The Favourite are, though. It’s not going to be any of them. Amy Adams did an Amy Adams-y job in Vice, and that’s good for her. Claire Foy did a uh…job in First Man, and that’s I guess good for her also. I’m left praising Regina King for If Beale Street Could Talk, which is good for me.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture

Here’s some more of that Green Book! Gosh, I was almost worried I wouldn’t have to keep considering it every goddamn time. Timothee Chalamet remains delightful, but I have no idea why he’s nominated for his nothing-special work in Beautiful Boy. Perhaps because he’s him. It’s nice to see Richard E. Grant doing good work again 12, but I’m not really sure this is winner-caliber stuff. I love Sam Rockwell, and I love Adam Driver, and Adam Driver was in the better movie.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman

Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

The very least I can say for The Favourite is that Olivia Coleman is very Queen Anne-ish. Emily Blunt had the willingness to take on a giant, iconic role 13, and that’s a worthy decision, but, y’know, not the thing that wins here. Constance Wu was as good as everybody else in Crazy Rich Asians, a movie that I’m happy exists and that I’ll also be happy to stop thinking about. Charlize Theron was dunked back into the Jason Reitman/Diablo Cody well, and while it’s a fine outing for the triumvirate, it’s not as good as Eighth Grade. Eighth Grade is a pretty admirable piece of storytelling, and Elsie Fisher does a great job.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade

Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

There is no way that Lin-Manuel Miranda deserves an award for his performance in Mary Poppins Returns. I’m willing to die on that hill. Green Book is also back, here, and I’m not happy about that either. It’s a shame, because I generally like both Lin-Manuel Miranda and Viggo Mortenson, and here I am being upset with them. Life is pain. Christian Bale and John C. Reilly both played real people, and I’m not a fan, although I appreciate that there’s a Laurel & Hardy biopic out there in the world. That brings us to Robert Redford for The Old Man & The Gun, which is pretty good, and he’s pretty good in it. Hell, he’s Robert Redford.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Robert Redford, The Old Man & The Gun

Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama

The Wife is a serious attempt to grapple with an important and timely issue, and Glenn Close is very good in it. I shouted out Richard E. Grant for Can You Ever Forgive Me earlier, and I’ll do the same for Melissa McCarthy: she’s a gifted actor who doesn’t stray outside of her usual lane often enough, and I really wish that she would. Probably not the best here, but still pretty good. Destroyer is at least an earnest attempt to make Seachers-style rescue movie with a woman, and I think it brings Nicole Kidman one step closer to her character-actor-identifying magic phase 14. A Private War is trying really hard to do a big job about an embedded journalist, and it’s got some interesting parallels to Destroyer in execution, if not in philosophy 15. I’m not giving this award to Lady Gaga, because A Star is Born is stupid.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Glenn Close, The Wife

Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama

I suppose 2019 is, in addition to the year where I talk about awards shows and what they’re here for, also the year where I make it clear that I do not like biopics. I do not think they are a good thing for the world in general. I think that there is no way to fictionalize someone’s life in such a way that doesn’t diminish the people around them, I think that narrativizing something as complex and disordered as a human life is a great way to sell the idea of the human experience short, and I think that even good (or, well, “good”) biopics unfairly set the story of something in stone in a way that does violence to the world that it existed in, even if minorly, even if unintentionally. The acting in biopics, then, is even worse than usual acting, but also works to support my point in microcosm: it’s an impression with feelings in it, and its relationship to creating a performance out of words is the same as creating a story out of the cannibalization of events from the past – I think that it’s diminishing and not as good as, y’know, literally any available alternative. All of which is to say: Rami Malek is a good actor, but not as Freddie Mercury, and Willem Dafoe is a good actor, but not as Vincent Van Gogh. Lucas Hedges is probably a fine actor, but not as Garrard Conley, even with the names changed. Bradley Cooper worked very hard to make A Star is Born, and then turned in a Kris Kristofferson impression to anchor it to, which makes the whole thing seem even weirder. John David Washington was good in BlacKkKlansman.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: John David Washington, BlacKkKlansman

Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical

I don’t wish specific harm to any of these movies, except maybe Green Book, but I also can’t imagine getting particularly excited about any of these. The last couple of years the Golden Globes have made some really left-field choices in these categories, and this year it’s just super-boring. Ah, well. I guess it’s a good thing Crazy Rich Asians was good enough.


Best Motion Picture – Drama

This is a surprisingly good field, considering that every category up until now has been pretty lackluster, but I have to land in favor of Black Panther if only because it avoids the Dork Age trap that superhero movies are on the edge of. When superhero movies want to add moral ambiguity, they generally do so by having the character teeter on the edge of interpersonal violence or brooding or whatever. Black Panther did it by having a philosophical difference between the good-hearted but imperialist protagonist, and the well-intentioned extremist antagonist. There are lots of reasons to love Black Panther, and that one is very much the result of it being a masterful example not just of that kind of storytelling, but of superhero storytelling in general, and it’s always impressive when something can carry out a story that works beyond its genre while still remaining of its genre.


  1. and, again, I think this is probably the year where I really buckle down and finish the thing where I limn the reasons why I do this all the time, which will double as a sort of defining document for the site itself. 
  2. 2018 was, as has often been remarked, one of the longest years on record. 
  3. Finn Wittrock isn’t nominated for the episode that dealt with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but very much should have been. 
  4. although the rumour has it that they’re not exactly such anymore. 
  5. this used to be more meaningful than it is now. 
  6. see also Penelope Cruz, above, although Edgar Ramirez and Gianni Versace were not in fact personal friends. 
  7. also it seemed unfairly reductive, and it had become pretty far-removed from its own origins. 
  8. although if I’m not mistaken, she’s nominated here for the season prior. 
  9. meaning Tom Holland got like a year and a half as the best one 
  10. the other radio song 
  11. please note that I don’t actually think either movie is bad as such, I just don’t understand what the draw was – how did the ideas contained in those movies sustain their directors through the process of not only making them, but of managing to convince people to help them make them. 
  12. I really love Withnail and I 
  13. iconic is not a word I use lightly, but jeez, if anything is iconic it’s Mary Poppins. 
  14. I think it’s coming, guys. She’s got a super-crazy intensity that’s almost Cage-ian, and I think she could really pivot into some truly insane work if she tried. She’s already made Practical Magic and The Paperboy 
  15. although I suppose they’re also entrants in a contest to ugly-up two of the literal most beautiful women in the world, which is an interesting development, such as it is.