The 2019 BET Hip-Hop Awards

So here’s a confession: as anyone who may have been paying attention to this space closely (probably more closely than anyone is inclined to, frankly) may have noticed, mainstream hip-hop is currently in a situation that I’m not particularly inclined to like!


I have noted in the past that this may be because I am An Old, and there may, in fact, never again be a day where I like radio hip-hop. That’s an interesting development, and certainly possible, but I’ll have to wait until the current crop of third-rate warmed-over Young Thug mumbles and would-be Future clones get out of here to know for sure.

So, anyway, the BET Hip-Hop awards are upon us. The reason, in fact that this is going up so late is that I wasn’t sure I was actually going to manage to write about it at all. But I’m here, doing so, because if I start abandoning awards situations just because they aren’t to my taste, literally the only one I’d ever write about would be the Nebulas. 

So here we go, the BET Hip-Hop Awards, hopefully at its nadir, so that I can have more fun doing this next year.

And I’ll be doing it quickly, because I believe in bringing positivity to the world, and not just screaming about Travis Scott all the time.

Best Hip-Hop Online Site/App

I will say that at least Complex is a little bit more interesting than most of these, although we’re not off to a strong start in terms of things that aren’t representative of the worst things about mainstream Hip-Hop.


Best International Flow

True story: I had to do a bunch of listening to figure out any of this. I do think it’s hilarious that, while technically accurate, Canada’s Tory Lanes is included here. Heh. Anyway, I like Sarkodie.


Impact Track

Ugh. So this is the track that makes an “impact” on the society or whatever for justice purposes or what have you. I’m impressed they managed to avoid using the word “woke”. Credit to the producers for that one. I’m also, for the first time in the history of this blog, about to declare J. Cole the rightful winner of something, a thing I once swore I would never do. This is where the world has brought me, and I am deeply ashamed of it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: J. Cole, “Middle Child”

Sweet 16: Best Featured Verse

I kind of wish I could bring back the Mrs. Coach’s Hair running joke for this one, because I can’t imagine thinking any of these verses are the best anything. I dunno, maybe it’s time. Let’s dust it off and give it the ol’ last go. The Mrs. Coach’s Hair reunion tour.


Best Mixtape

I’ll interrupt this positivity festival to point out that the world has lost their fucking mind for this Jack Harlow thing, and I am not feeling it, but for different reasons than some of the other stuff here, so that’s fun! Anyway, I do like Kevin Gates.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kevin Gates, Luca Brasi 3

Made-You-Look Award (Best Hip Hop Style)

I think this one almost has to go to Cardi B, although I admit that DJ Khaled’s decision to make his “style” just “carrying his adorable child around” makes him a strong contender.


Hustler of the Year

I wonder what the over-under on people mentioning that every Rick Ross is hustlin’ is? LIke a million? I’d take the over on a million. It’s not that it’s a funny joke, it’s just that it’s easier to make the joke than not to make it. Anyway. It’s Cardi B, not Rick Ross. I don’t think RIck Ross has, in fact, ever hustled.


Best New Hip-Hop Artist

The cultural juggernaut of “Old Town Road” aside, I think that we’re probably pretty well through with Lil Nas X. I think that Megan Thee Stallion has started out pretty strong, and i’m pretty to declare her the best of this outfit.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Megan Thee Stallion

Album of the Year

Hey! I actually legit love that Tyler, the Creator record! Super into it! Can say this without much thought or begrudgement! This is the best category!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Tyler, the Creator, Igor

Single of the Year

Oh fuck it. I still don’t think “Old Town Road” is a very good song, but it’s better than “Money,” which is the only other song here I have even a little bit of affection for, and also I do genuinely love the video, so it can have this one.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lil Nas X, “Old Town Road (Remix)” (f. Billy Ray Cyrus)

MVP of the Year

I’m a big fan of sentimentality, and also a big fan of people finally getting their due, even if it’s only posthumously, so I’m pretty in favor of this going to Nipsey Hussle. 


Producer of the Year

I swear this category is nearly-identical every damn year. I think that I’ve noticed more good stuff coming from London on da Track than usual this year, so by the highly scientific expedient of “stuff I remember”, I’m calling it for him.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: London on da Track

DJ of the Year

Oh my god I don’t care. I guess I appreciate that Mustard is out there trying to do his own thing instead of staying int he background, and I also like the irony of him winning “DJ of the year” in the year that he dropped the “DJ” from his name.


Video Director of the Year

This set of nominees is hilarious, because the nominating powers at BET clearly have specific videos in mind, but they aren’t listed on BET’s website, so we all just sort of have to guess. Some of them are very easy, some of them less so. It’s a fun little mystery here in the middle of the nominations. Good stuff.


Lyricist of the Year

It remains the case that I very much do not care about lyrics, and also that to the extent that I do care about lyrics, I would give this award to Vince Staples. But he’s not nominated, because these awards are stupid. Since I don’t know enough individual lyrics to pass judgment, I’ll just assume that it goes to Nipsey Hussle again and have done with it.


Hot Ticket Performer

I would probably go see The Carters. I mean, I never have, but I think about it every time one or both of them come through Cleveland. Traditionally in categories like this, that makes them the winner.


Best Collabo, Duo or Group

This is sort of what I mean, though. Like, all of these songs are pretty bad. Unlike the Best Featured Verse category, they aren’t so bad that I can’t choose, they’re just pretty bad. This is, sort of, what makes this particular writeup so cursory. If it were more execrable (like the CMAs or the iHeartRadio awards) I would enjoy digging in and trying to figure out which turd was the most finely-polished. If it was better, it would be more fun because it’s fun to like things. None of this is bad in a way that makes me mad (except the DJ Khaled song, which is the worst song Common has ever appeared on), it’s all just….not good. Like, I’m sure Lil Baby is happy with his situation and definitely deserves his place in all this, it’s just not a place that I give a shit about. I don’t like to keep giving these to “Old Town Road”, but, honestly, it’s the only thing I can feel positively enough about to even give the time of day.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lil Nas X, “Old Town Road (remix)” (f. Billy Ray Cyrus)

Best Hip-Hop Video

And so we come to the most frustrating category: “Old Town Road” is nominated for a bunch of these, and it’s not nominated for this, the one category it should actually be nominated for. This is infuriating. Next year somebody better make a fucking pop-rap record that I like or this is going to get even more listless. 

It doesn’t have enough list, is what I’m saying here.

Anyway, To conclude the briefest and most cursory awards-show writeup to date, the best video actually nominated in this category is the video for “Money.” Congratulations everybody.


Alright folks, tune in next time when I’ll be a little more engaged I hope? Or at least things may have gotten terrible enough that I’d be more upset. I didn’t even footnote anything in this one! This is truly a landmark occasion!

The Best Records of September 2019

The Messthetics – Anthropocosmic Nest (look, times are hard, and I’m just here for the greatest rhythm section in the history of rock and roll to support a proggy-ass guitar player all the time)

JPEGMAFIA – All My Heroes are Cornballs (In addition to it being nice to see someone get famous for all the right reasons – ie being great – it’s also nice when they make their best record post-fame)

Brittany Howard – Jaime (On the one hand, I’ve said for years that the reason I like but don’t love the Alabama Shakes was because their singer was clearly head and shouldres above everybody else in the band. On the other hand, I was surprised by just how right I was. It’s good to be right, y’all)

(Sandy) Alex G – House of Sugar (weird enough to be opaque, and straightforward enough to be extremely likable, I might actually end liking this record even more with some more time spent with it. It’s his best record so far)

Will Johnson – Wire Mountain (I remain surprised by Will Johnson’s consistency, for no other reason than he seems like he shouldn’t be this consistent and this prolific. Great stuff.) 

The 2019 Ohio Needs a Train “Trainie” Awards

It’s that time again, where I stop telling other awards shows how to do their jobs, and instead do their jobs for them, by awarding things that feel like they need awarding. Like many of your finer awards situations, I do not publish my nominees, because of course the process is highly secret and highly scientific. 

Please to enjoy.

Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Answering Questions My Audience Probably Didn’t Know That I Had

So, for many years I’ve idly wondered where all the guitars came from. 

To wit: there are blues singers as early as the twenties from the deep south. People writing songs about how they’re so poor they can’t afford a second boot, and that they have no legs up or advantages, and they are playing those songs on guitars. They were common enough that Zora Neal Hurston even writes of ensembles created entirely out of guitars, with one strumming out chords, one playing melodies, and a third playing a sort of “prepared guitar”, making a rhythm by strumming a guitar with strips of paper threaded through the strings to deaden them. This seems to imply that there were a bunch of guitars around, enough that they were more available than any other rhythm-instrument alternative. 

Where did the guitars come from, and how were there enough of them for them to exist in a form that was cheap enough for someone with minimal resources to acquire? The answer, it turns out, is very simple: the Sears catalog

In the Jim Crow era South, the Sears catalog (which launched in 1888 1) presented a readily-available, relatively-cheap way to acquire all sorts of things to people that didn’t have any other way to acquire them, or even find them, and once a guitar was included among the possible merchandise, then people started buying them in large numbers.

Eventually, as today, people sold them when they needed money for even less than they payed, a used market built up, and ever Blind Tom, Thumbless Dick and Flat-Footed Harry could get one for a song, and use it to lament their position in the world. 

I don’t know if it’s come up in this space before, but I’ve long wondered, and now have my answer. Salut, historians! Salut, Sears!

Outstanding Achievement in Me Being a Goddamn Fortune Teller

All I’m saying here is that in July of 2017 I decided it would be funny to declare the General Mills Expanded Universe ripe for the cinematic exploration in one of my extremely-periodic “Somebody Make My Movie” posts. 

In November of 2018, General Mills put out a call for all creatives to give them ideas about ways they can tell stories using their horror cereal characters. That link, incidentally, goes to an AVClub article about the phenomenon, because the original site has been pulled 2 from the internet.

Obviously the folks at Big Cereal are running scared of my powerful fortune-telling abilities and wild creative Hollywood spirit, and decided to change their mind lest I wield my considerable power and influence against these purveyors of corn garbage! It’s only been a couple of years since people realized that millennials were destroying cereal, and perhaps they’re afraid that that’s going to start being taken literally

But I’m not a vindictive sort, I’m perfectly happy to share my ideas. All I ask in return is a crate of Boo Berry whenever I want one, and no further questions asked. 

Outstanding Achievement in Using the Internet to Create Joy, and Also Confusion, and Also Chaos, But Probably Mostly Joy

But mainly chaos. You all probably know the story. A guy who willingly answers to Matty Roberts (I’m shocked at the Matty, not the Roberts, lots of people are named Roberts) made a Facebook event to storm Area 51, stating that if they all just Naruto-run 3 they  can “outrun the bullets,” and thus “see them aliens.” 

It took off and morphed from a funny joke on Facebook to a funny joke on the whole entire internet, and everyone had a moment’s joy considering the idea of a bunch of famous people running at the gates of a government installation, and then….it kept happening.

It grew into Alienstock in Rachel, Nevada, a city with a few dozen people, no gas station, and one bed and breakfast that they partnered up with to get permits and stuff to camp and basically be around. Then the people that put that together had some shadowy, mysterious falling out with the person that runs the hotel, leaving the original proceedings and taking the name with them.

And so there came to be two gatherings meant to celebrate someone’s dumb facebook joke. The first was a massive, disappointing sellout, relocating to Vegas and getting sponsored by Bud Light, converting from a fun gathering of weirdos into yet another neon-lighted nightmare EDM festival, and causing Roberts to abandon his previous life trajectory to be a sort of travelling Alienstock arranger. 

Out in Rachel, meanwhile, a smaller event with fewer DJs and (presumably) less Bud Light was more about the original intent, even without the guy who actually had the intent, and it was certainly considerably less sponsored. People milled around, camping in the desert and, ultimately, were given the photo opportunity to approach the gates and take pictures of them “storming” Area 51. 

Its ability to launch two fairly well-attended events brings to mind this year’s complete failure (and subject of multiple posts right here) of a Woodstock event. It had a similar set of parameters – nothing but the willpower of a person being involved at the beginning, and a very short time frame, followed by a dispute with some people who wanted to put it on and a relocation.

The difference, of course, is the presence of an audience who wanted it. Ul;timately, Woodstock could have had something happen if anyone but Michale Lang had actually wanted it. This was something that people came out for, even when it split into being a brain-dead, UFO-festooned excuse for a Vegas party and a smaller, weirder still-not-actually-storming-anything event in the middle of nowhere. 

Basically I’m saying this is the power for a bunch of weirdos that take something seriously and make something happen for their effort, and I’m all in favor of it, even if this was basically the weirdest possibly manifestation of all that, and even if half of it ended up sponsored by Bud Light. 4

Outstanding Achievement in the Currently-Ongoing Trend of Multiple Documentaries Covering the Same Subject

I had not thought about the Amazing Jonathan in years. It is entirely possible that I had not thought about him in decades 5, and then, all of a sudden, there are documentaries plural about the dude. Now, admittedly, the reason we know all of this is because it’s included in the first of the documentary’s footage, and the whole point of that documentary is that there are a lot of questions about whether or not The Amazing Jonathan is dying, and zero questions about whether or not he smokes meth (he does! on camera!).

It seems, to the person writing this, to be an attempt to manufacture a sort of genre out of the whole thing, after the business with the Fyre Festival last year – which also had two competing documentaries, one paid for by the company that failed to put on the festival in question, the other by some spirited interested parties, with the two providing their own spin on a highly controversial, and also celebrity-adjacent, situation.

Since The Amazing Jonathan is his own highly-controversial (now), celebrity-adjacent situation, it stands to reason that this is an attempt to manufacture something, and capture lightning in this bottle. The problem is that you can’t really do that, and also that the Amazing Jonathan is boring, but it stands as an interesting attempt, and since I like to honor attempts at trying to build a marketing case out of something that very much cannot support one, I’m here for it.

It’s only a shame the folks that tried to make The Amazing Jonathan an icon of “what is truth”-style overmarket storytelling didn’t get ahold of Jared Eams.

Read on. 

Outstanding Achievement in Calling In to Question Literally Everything, and Also in Trying to Fake Everybody Out on a Grassroots Level and also…Aw jeez, here’s the writeup I guess

On the one hand, the story of Threatin is basically the sort of thing that I live to find out about. If it had happened thirty years ago and I read it in a book, I would never stop talking about. Instead, I had the good fortune to live through it, because it only happened nine months ago.

I’m going to try my hardest to keep this brief. Anyone who had conversations with me in early December may just want to skip ahead.

So this dude, Jared Eames, dba Jared Threatin, “starts” a “band” called Threatin, and makes up a bunch of business entities – a booking company, a record label, a press agent, all kinds of stuff – as well as a web presence in the form of YouTube videos of “performances” that feature either the crowd or the band, but never both, and a deeply hilarious set of “interviews” that were clearly just the dude “interviewing” themselves, as well as some sort of ginned-up/aid-for fake following. 

This enabled him to book a tour of the UK, which is when people started to notice that nobody was coming to these shows, even though he (acting as a fake promoter, remember) said that he had sold a bunch of tickets 6, the reaction to which meant that he ended up cancelling a bunch of the tour (forcing his band to figure out how to deal with the fallout on their own, some of which reactions were also uh….interesting) and retreating from social media.

He then un-retreated in spectacular fashion 7, coming out and saying that we all played ourselves, and we’re in the glass onion and he’s not in here with us we’re in here with him, and made up lies about being the person to have leaked the fact that the band was faked anyway. He then acquiesced to interviews with Rolling Stone and with The BBC, in which he told even more lies about how everything went according to plan and actually now he has fans and all that.

Along the way there’s an estranged family (probably true), a possible deeply-disturbing medical condition (probably not true), claims of living like a hermit (almost certainly true) and repeated insistence on a lack of drug use (possibly true, but mind-boggling).

The reason this is nothing less than the greatest story of the last twelve months is the sheer amount of effort and willpower that went into doing this. He took the time and effort to set up web presences for fake companies, he invented human beings to both act in his business interests and to be his online followers (at one point a reporter sees a stack of burner phones that he claims he used to make fake Facebook profiles, which, seriously, so much effort). 

Much of the reporting focuses on the money involved, but that’s less interesting to me. The money is likely to be significantly less than we think – certainly the outlay is a lot, but bands do tour all the time, albeit not made-up bands with zero followings, so the few grand to rent the venues could have come from anywhere, especially if you’re a single-minded maniac with a grandiose delusion. 

Similarly, it’s not actually that hard to see what he was going for. Record labels/marketing companies “help” bands become something more than they are all the time. It gets harder every year, but it happens. Wu Lyf in 2011, System of a Down in 1998, Guns n Roses in 1987, these are the three that come to mind most immediately, but it’s not like it would be hard to find, oh, a hundred or so more that were brought up through this “they started from the bottom” notion – by being marketed through the same channels as the bands that legitimately built their audiences that way and played those shows for their genuine actual earned audiences. 

The difference here is that Eames did it all himself. Well, he did it mostly himself and with the aid and support of his wife (who is also gainfully employed, which probably answers several of the questions about where the money comes from). So rather than spend the time and effort to produce an audience of the size he was comfortable with, or learning how to be satisfied with the audience he was able to collect organically, or even amiably selling out to some larger coroporo-entertainment interest, this dude went through all the business of selling out, just like tonnes of bands before him, but, like, on his own dime

This is completely insane. I mean, it’s probably tragically, pathologically insane in the literal sense. Like I am pretty sure that this guy’s lifestyle and chosen path are not things that healthy, well-adjusted people with reasonable expectations and a full set of fully-functioning neurochemical receptors are things that happen, but I’m pretending that the real-world harm done here is at its minimal potential level in order to say that this particular lunacy is the kind of craziness that I couldn’t imagine actually happening.

It’s like climbing a mountain just so that you can eat a big ol’ turd in front of as many people as possible – there is no possible way it was going to go well, and even at the end, even if you do it, you’re still the dude that ate a big ol’ turd on a mountain. And then following it up by saying that actually, there aren’t enough people eating turds these days, and you wanted to bring back turd-eating.



Outstanding Achievement in Positivity #1

Jeanette Ng, armed with nothing more than an acceptance speech and a lovely hat, started the ball rolling on getting the John Campbell Award’s name changed to honor Astounding, the magazine that Campbell founded and that publishes the new authors that are so honored with the award. 

That’s pretty much it, although I will say that, given that every historically-important figure in the world is a human being, and therefore possessed of foibles that may or may not ever come to light in a way that would make an award seem less award-like to, say, a writer that the person the award is named after would have loathed, why don’t we just stop naming awards after people? Especially not early sff people. Most of those folks are real hard to stand behind.

Anyway, naming it after the magazine is a nice way of continuing to acknowledge that magazine’s editor’s contributions to the genre (which are enormous) by relocating the focus on his work (the magazine he edited) rather than on his name, which brings into it the totality of his actions and whatnot as a person, rather than just a professional editor. 

Naturally, there is much hue and cry from the usual quarters about “erasure” and, somehow, still in 2019, SJWs. This also makes me happy, because I’d rather see anyone that feels that way upset than happy. Double positivity all around!

Outstanding Achievement in Positivity 

Every year I like to write my last bit of these about something inarguably positive, and this year gave me one of the best and most positive things I could ask for in the form of the lovely Sarah’s Channel YouTube series. 

It is true that it’s a long-standing position of this blog that I’m not into spoilers, but I will say this: if it matters to you to not know how things turn out, you can pretend this is the last sentence I’ve written in this post and go about your business, just go watch it, it takes twenty or so minutes and it’s worth every single second.

For the rest of the folks that already know, or that need to know why, the deal is that Sarah (played by the incredible Claudia O’Doherty) is a beauty YouTuber who gets brought to the post-apocalyptic future (resurrected? Cloned? Dragged through time? We never find out) to be the “Savior” of what remains of humanity, and she….does what she can. She blogs about her homemade beauty products and her workout routines, she is oblivious to what’s going on around her, until she isn’t. It starts out a wildly funny thing that turns into something considerably more poignant, and manages the neat trick of laughing at the current samey, jargon-filled YouTube Default Personality while also allowing that Sarah is a human being with a set of feelings and skills, even though we’re only seeing the worst aspects of them. 

It’s beautiful, and it’s hysterically funny, and it really is very short, and it has the best ending it could possibly have. Maybe there’ll be another season, but even if there isn’t, it’s an absolutely perfect jewel of a series, and I wouldn’t change anything about it.

  1. although it would expand for its first few years into the “selling everything under the sun” form that it took for the subsequent century 
  2. there’s a link in the AVClub story, or here’s another one, but please be advised that it literally does not go anywhere, because the website no longer exists 
  3. which is actually Tina Belcher running, if you’re actually a civilized person 
  4. if you’d like to read something more serious about this, written by an actual journalist, here’s Jennings Brown’s account, and he was actually there. It’s entertaining. 
  5. I’d have to look up when that special he did sometime in the early nineties stopped airing every three hours on Comedy Central, because it would have been shortly after that. 
  6. I will say, this is the most obvious weak point in the system – the show promoters/club owners/whatever never checked this against presale receipts? 
  7. the story in that link also contains another story in the comments about Eams paying off a battle of the bands many years ago in order to win, which is just sort of par for the course. 

The 71st Primetime Emmy Awards

It is a fact that remains true that sometimes, some awards shows are easier to write about than others. The Emmys are one of the ones that are always somewhere int he middle. They’re the first serious-Acting awards show that I do in the string of serious-Acting awards shows, which is kind of a bummer, and they honor television, which is basically my least-favorite entertainment medium. 

On top of all that, peak tv has sort of curdled (or congealed, or whatever food-related c-word it’s done) into a sort of scrum of extremely-predictable prestige dramas starring movie stars. The comedy categories remain pretty good, but they’re only about half the things on offer, and the miniseries categories are all “ripped from the headlines” news-adaptation business, albeit often older news. So if this one seems a little cursory, and a little joyless, it’s because I had to be breif to maintain my interest, and also nearly none of this brings me any joy. 

Next year, Game of Thrones will be off the board and Fosse/Verdon won’t have aired, and that will open up some serious real estate in about many of the categories, so it’ll be a lot easier. I hope. 

Until then, please enjoy some very considered and totally-final opinions on which of these winners is rightful, and debate among yourselves whether it does, in fact, matter that the Emmys are flying without a host again this year (they’ve done it several other times, and you don’t remember those times because nothing ever comes of it).

Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series

While it’s true that I don’t always treat the writing categories like technical categories, they certainly 1 have their technical aspects. So while Seth Myers and Stephen Colbert’s writers have the job of being funny a lot more often than other people (which seems hard), they do sort of have the benefit of a definite format – the show has the same basic structure every night, even though the material is demanding. Samantha Bee and John Oliver’s shows are weekly, and don’t run for as many weeks as the other late-night shows, for all that, and so have the major advantage, while also having more expectation. Saturday Night Live has to make a non-comedy celebrity funny most weeks, but is also disqualified at present by the fact that it’s coming out of a particular low point. Anyway, what I’m saying is that Documentary Now is written in a whole bunch of ways, and manages to be funny in all of those ways, and is therefore the winner here.


Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special

Someday, I will get to the bottom of why I think writing a television adaptation of real events is somehow not as hard or worthwhile as any other sort of writing. I suppose, at first gues,s it’s because you already have the story beats plotted out and, if it’s anything that’s happened in the last several decades, some portion of it robably already happened on tv to some extent. I’m not sure how much I want to defend that stance, because it might not be accurate, but I will say that every single one of these things is an adaptation of real life events, and that seems weird to me.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ava DuVernay and Michael Starrbury, When They See Us, episode: “Episode 4”

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series

As much as I thought the technical award nominations for GoT were ridiculous, I’d have loved to watch the people doing the nominating try to keep a straight face while they pretended to actually believe that any portion of this season deserves an award for writing. The merest idea is as insane as Emilia Clarke playing in the NBA, and I’m sure it was entertaining to hear people try to reason out. It is not the rightful winner, obviously 2, but it’s the funniest nomination. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jesse Armstrong, Succession episode: “Nobody is Ever Missing”

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series

Since this is one of those categories where a longtime reader will be able to spot the foregone conclusion here, despite some stiff competition 3, I will just point out that while “Janet(s)” is a fantastic episode with a crazy-ass decision, it also should have yielded an acting nom for D’arcy Carden I’M JUST SAYING.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Josh Siegal and Dylan Morgan, The Good Place episode: “Janet(s)”

Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series

One of the other things that makes Documentary Now! Impressive is that, in addition to the aforementioned commitment to doing a bunch of different things stylistically, they do it with a short schedule and no money, which means that the directors really have to know their stuff ot be able to get it quickly and efficiently. I guess. Also: I only like two of the shows in this category and that’s the only one I can imagine getting a directing award.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Alex Buono and Rhys Thomas, Documentary Now! Episode: “Waiting for the Artist”

Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special

While it’s true that I don’t always know what to associate with the director of any given television enterprise, and what to associate with the writer 4, I’m also going to take the position that neither does the nominating body for the Emmys, and they work in the biz, because this category and the writing category are basically the same. Anyway, I believe that wards are like manure. They’re no good in one place, ya gotta spread ‘em around.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Johan Renck, Chernobyl

Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series

No seriously, there are three episodes of Game of Thrones here. Did they watch the thing, or did they just leave three slots in the schedule because it’s the last season and then pretend like these three episodes are somehow worthy? Because no they are not. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Adam McKay, Succession, episode: “Celebration”

Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series

I get that The Big Bang Theory ended and that means it gets a bunch of courtesy nominations, but given that the directing did not change even one time in eleven years, I’m pretty comfortable saying it does not deserve this. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel episodes here are fine, as is the Fleabag episode, although there’s not much directorially interesting going on there. Of the two episodes of Barry, the more impressive is “ronny/lilly”, so that’s the last one standing.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Bill Hader, Barry, episode: “ronnie/lily”

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

So Sharp Objects starts to be nominated in the acting categories, which makes sense: it’s almost entirely an actor’s show. There’s plenty of stuff in the writing and stuff, certainly, but it’s really the acting that makes it something people want to notice. It’s relatively rare for that to happen, even in the limited series/movie categories, so it’s worth noting. Also, I don’t have much to say about most of these nominees, not even the one that won.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Emily Watson, Chernobyl, episode: “Open Wide O Earth”

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

I will say this, regardless of the fact that I’m not Mr. Acting Fan, I have loved three of the nominees in this category a great deal. I think that Paul Dano is the winner, but I don’t want it to reflect anything about my general opinion of Michael K. Williams or Stellan Skarsgaard. Just in this one case, Paul Dano was better. That’s all.I mean, I also love Paul Dano. I don’t want to overcorrect the other way here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Paul Dano, Escape at Dannemora, episode: “Part 7”

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

I have basically never had a tonne of good things to say about Game of Thrones. I have even less to say about the stupid, rushed, force-finished, lazy ending of Game of Thrones. I will say that, even among circumstances that were terrible, the fact that Gwendoline Christie not only turned in a terrific performance, but also had to submit herself for consideration because the production wouldn’t do it, is amazing, and it means she should win.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Gwendoline Christie, Game of Thrones episode: “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

This category can just go straight to hell. We’ve got a bunch of Game of Thrones phoner-inners, a guy reprising a character he came up with a performance for over a decade ago, and the indescribable horror of This is Us. None of this is ok, but I guess Gus Fring is the closest to an ok thing.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Giancarlo Esposito, Better Call Saul, episode: “Piñata”

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

I was going to single Alex Borstein out like I did Gwendolyn Christie back up there in drama, for being the best part of a show I don’t care about. She still is! But Betty Gilpin is actually the best part of a show I do care about, and should be given many awards.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Betty Gilpin, Glow, episode: “Mother of All Matches”

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Earlier in this writeup I decried that D’Arcy Carden was not nominated for an acting award for the episode of The Good Place that was nominated for its writing. So here I will further state that William Jackson Harper gave a better performance on The Good Place, even just from a regular old acting standpoint, than several of these people. I don’t begrduge Stephen Root his eventual win, and am happy to go along to get along, but I feel it’s worth mentioning that it probably should be William Jackson Harper.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Stephen Root, Barry, episode: “berkman>block”

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

As badly as I want to think that Niecy Nash is the best actor in this category (and she almost is), she, unfortunately, misses it only by the margin of not being the best actor on the show she’s on, and this one goes to Aunjanue Ellis.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Aunjanue Ellis, When They See Us

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

While I think that Hugh Grant’s ability to find roles that allow him to expound upon his own Hugh Grant-ness is pretty impressive, and while I’m happy to see Sam Rockwell return to something high-profile and worth his time (even though I didn’t like it), they aren’t the winners. Benicio Del Toro and Jared Harris, similarly, are delightful whenever they pop up. But Mahershala Ali basically carried an entire tv show on his own back, despite some screwy writing, and it should be rewarded.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mahershala Ali, True Detective

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

LOL Emilia Clarke LOL.


THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Sandra Oh, Killing Eve, episode: “You’re Mine”

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

LOL Kit Harington LOL


(this time with a much smaller “lol” for Milo Ventimiglia. lol.)

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Billy Porter, Pose, episode “Love is the Message”

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

This is a tight category with lots of strong contenders, but I’m pretty here for Julia Louis-Dreyfuss getting handed one more, just because I like a winning streak 5.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Veep, episode: “Veep”

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

After all that, it wouldn’t be very consistent or rigorous of me to not give it to the one person from The Good Place that is nominated, would it? I mean, he has like fifty other Emmys, but I suppose he does also deserve this one. What a great show.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ted Danson, The Good Place, episode: “The Worst Possible Use of Free Will”

Outstanding Competition Program

Generally speaking, I am way more interested in watching people succeed than watching people fail. It is surprising, then – or at least seems surprising at first blush – that I’m so firmly in the camp of Nailed It!, until one considers that you’re not really watching people fail, but instead watching people for whom none of the usual advantages or even skill set applies, and they’re doing it anyway. Here’s to another fantastic and wonderful television show about things being rigged against you, and you going out there and doing it anyway, perhaps one of the more important messages television has to send under the current circumstances. Hurray for Nailed It!! 6


Outstanding Variety Sketch Series

It is the case that there are now forty-odd years worth of people who can mark the moment they became old by the point at which they started to hate Saturday Night Live. Ordinarily I’m not susceptible to this sort of thing, and so am sort of left to wonder if this is something that has finally come and sunk its claws into me, or if Saturday Night Live really has just had an awful couple of seasons. Fortunately for our purposes here, it doesn’t really matter which is the case, because it wouldn’t win even if I had liked it (I guess), because Amy Sedaris’s show is as weird and delightful as every other thing Amy Sedaris has ever done, and it wins.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: At Home With Amy Sedaris

Outstanding Variety Talk Series

While I’m sad that this is the only carryover category for a possible “Carpool Karaoke” joke and I don’t have on in the chamber, I’m glad that I don’t have to sully the category that I’m pretty much always going to give to Samantha Bee with such nonsense.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Full Frontal With Samantha Bee

Outstanding Television Movie

Call it the television climate of 2019 or whatever, but I think I’m probably more attuned than usual to the end of a beloved grim-n-gritty HBO series that actually tied things up and made for a satisfying ending to a series, and so I think Deadwood probably gets this one this year.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Deadwood: The Movie

Outstanding Limited Series

So far the hardest matchup in the whole dang awards program has been that of Chernobyl vs. When They See us, and I really don’t know where I come down on. I think probably When They See Us, but man, it could go either way on any given day. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: When They See Us (today)

Outstanding Drama Series

LOL Game of Thrones LOL


THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Pose, I guess. Or maybe Killing Eve. I didn’t think beyond laughing at the Game of Thrones thing. Let’s go with Pose, final answer.

Outstanding Comedy Series

Ooh! It’s The Good Place! And it better get some Game of Thrones style courtesy noms next year for its final season or I’m LEADING A MUTINY.


  1. like all parts of television production 
  2. it’s not even a rightful nominee 
  3. I love Veep, and was very impressed with Pen15, aand sang the praises for Russian Doll all over the Creative Arts writeup. 
  4. I mean, I know sometimes, but there are decisions that could go either way, and I’m always a little curious about those. 
  5. NB this completely contradicts everything I usually say about people continuing to win for the same performance, to which I say: shut up. 
  6. please note that one of these exclamation points is the one in the official title of Nailed It! and the other is the exclamation point that ends the sentence. 

71st Annual Primetime Creative Arts Emmys

The fortnight 1 of Emmy bacchanalia begins now, with the Creative Arts Emmys. As has become the custom, I will guide you through the process of being right about them, so that you always know where to stand in terms of how to award television shows. 

As with previous years, I’ll be trying to keep the word count down, even though the bulk of my viewing time is spent on the categories honored in this one, and not the other more-attention-getting one 2but there’s also seven hundred million trillion categories. 

Oh, and I’ll be skipping the juried categories because I largely don’t understand them, and they’re listed in this footnote 3.

Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special

There are few things, in any year, in any category, better-written than Nanette, which is one of the very few things in the world that deserves every single bit of hype that it’s gotten. It certainly beats Carpool Karaoke, and it seems offensive to consider them in the same category. Ah, the Emmys.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Hannah Gadsby, Nanette

Outstanding Writing for a Nonfiction Program

Interestingly, both of the once-competing documentaries about the Fyre Festival are nominated for Emmys, albeit in different categories. Also interesting (I mean, for whatever value of “interesting”) that Anthony Bourdain is still getting posthumous nominations. And they’re good ones, so this one, at least, will stand.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, episode: “Kenya”

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

“Oh that Carpool Karaoke, such outstanding video control. Gosh, we sure do need to nominate Carpool Karaoke for a bunch of Emmys because obviously it is a quality program and not just a static camera in a car shooting people singing along to the radio.” Seriously though. If anyone can explain to me why Carpool Karaoke is nominated for multiple Emmys, I would very much appreciate it. The technical direction was just about the only part of Rent worth mentioning, so I guess it wins.


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

You know what, why not let Game of Thrones go out by winning one of the only Emmys it actually deserves? The one for coordinating a bunch of stunts. Good job, guys.


Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Comedy Series or Variety Program

Feels like this is yet another category 4 that The Good Place lost out on. I’m thinking specifically of the big fight in the bar at the midpoint of the second season. Anyway, I’m impressed by the fake fighting in both Cobra Kai and Glow, but Glow has the advantage of having to make it look genuinely fake, which takes some of the pressure off, so I guess I do like something about Cobra Kai after all. I thought I didn’t. Way to go, Emmy nominators.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Cobra Kai. It comes as a huge surprise to me, also. 

Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role

You know, every single year I try to make sense of what the fuck this category name means, and every year I fail. This is the third year running that I have been stopped dead in my tracks by this nonsense. RENAME THIS CATEGORY OR I WALK, MR. EMMY.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chernobyl definitely had good visual effects. I don’t know how supportive their role was, but I’m willing to give them the nod anyway. It’s not their fault this category name doesn’t make any damn sense.

Outstanding Special Visual Effects

Man, with GoT having turned in one of the cheapest-looking half-assed season (visually speaking) 5 so far, it sort of opens up the field a bit. I’m going with Star Trek, then, because I want to.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Star Trek: Discovery, episode: “Such Sweet Sorrow”

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

Boy, Free Solo just seems like the most difficult technical production I can think of, in terms of getting something you could actually show on tv that makes sense and is interesting, even down to the sound. So I’m going to go with that one.


Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Variety Series or Special

You know what, this one I can kind of understand nominating Carpool Karaoke for. I would imagine that it’s more difficult than I think to mix sound in a car with people of various voices/volumes  6. I’m going to go with the Grammys, though, because actual songs of various types are actually performed on that one, and not just weird car singing. 


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

The only way that I could even imagine establishing a criteria that make sense and that any of these fit would lead me to Russian Doll, so it’s got to be Russian Doll, right?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Russian Doll, episode: “The Way Out”

Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Limited Series of Movie

I’m a simple man, and I tend to lean these things in favor of things that require someone to mix singing and stuff, but I think I’m actually going with Chernobyl, where even the sound mixing was spooky.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chernobyl, episode: “1:23:45”

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

I appreciate that they have divided the sound mixing up by length, given that I (who have never worked a day in television in my life) think that it would be a different thing to mix an hour than a half hour – it would, for example, be a program that was twice as long. This is satisfying to me, a dumb outsider. I also feel like there should be a joke here about the sound mixing on “The Long Night” being super-important because the episode wasn’t lighted at all, but since that joke is an invitation for people to weirdly flex about how the problem was that my tv is insufficiently fancy, I’m not going to make it. So there. It’s still a good sound mix, though, and I don’t praise GoT easily. Battle scenes are hard, yo.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Game of Thrones, episode: “The Long Night”

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

Everything I just said a minute ago about Free Solo is still the case here, because I’m sure that editing is also difficult under those circumstances.


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

Everything I just said a minute ago about Chernobyl is still the case here, because the spookiness remains important.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chernobyl, episode: “1:23:45”

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

Everything I just said a minute ago about Russian Doll is still the case here, because I still don’t know what I’m doing.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Russian Doll, episode: “The Way Out”

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

Everything I just said a minute ago about Game of Thrones is still the case here, because they still had to edit the sound without being able to see it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Game of Thrones, episode: “The Long Night”

Outstanding Production Design for a Variety Special

I thought the Norman Lear tribute thing was pretty cool, but it wasn’t really a new production design. Interestingly, all of these variety specials are more-or-less live to tape 7. I really thought I didn’t have much to say about Rent, but it turns out I remember a lot about the way it looked and the way it was staged, so I’m going to go with it as the winner here. Yay!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Rent. Somehow. Again. 

Outstanding Production Design for a Variety, Reality or Competition Series

There’s a sort of existential question about what, exactly, constitutes the production designe for Queer Eye, if I’m being honest, because the final production design of the thing is so in the hands of the people being eyed, as well as the people doing the eyeing. Nevertheless, I think it’s the winner here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Queer Eye, episode: “Jones Bar-B-Q”

Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Program (Half-Hour or Less)

I appreciate that they’re leaving themselves open with that “or Less” for Adult-Swim-style half-length shorts or whatever. Makes me happy. There are, of course, none here, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea to not rule them out.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Russian Doll, episode: “Nothing in the World is Easy”

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

I’m just happy to see A Series of Unfortunate Events nominated, and definitely think that the production design was a clear high point, so it goes to that one. Especially since it’s done, and isn’t going to get more chances. I mean, Game of Thrones is also done, but ASOUE has much better production design.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: A Series of Unfortunate Events, Episode: “Penultimate Peril: Part 1”

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

I don’t have a lot of good things to say about The Handmaid’s Tale, really, but the production design is where it shines. In fact, as I write these, the production design categories are really causing me to consider that it’s the production design that is where television makes its best cases. It’s really a production designer’s medium.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Handmaid’s Tale, Episode: “Holly”

Outstanding Picture Editing for an Unstructured Reality Program

Every year I take umbrage at the term “unstructured”, even though I totally know what it means in this context, because there’s got to be a better word for it. ALL TELEVISION IS STRUCTURED. IT’S ARRANGED IN DISCRETE BLOCKS OF TIME. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: I guess Born This Way (Editing Team)

Outstanding Picture Editing for a Structured Reality or Competition Program

Queer Eye is nominated for the whole season. Hard to argue with that, I guess. I mean, it might not be hard, but I’ll never know because I’m not really arguing with it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Queer Eye (Editing Team)

Outstanding Picture Editing for Nonfiction Programming

There are many things to recommend about both Three Identical Strangers and also Leaving Neverland, but I’m not entirely sure the Picture Editing is one of them.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Free Solo (Bob Eisenhart)

Outstanding Picture Editing for Variety Programming

I am, again, not a television insider, and have but minimal knowledge of how the world of television works, but I am, again, forced to question whether Carpool Karaoke is the miraculous achievement of technical acumen that it is positioned to be here. I just don’t buy it. If it were something that had happened once, maybe, or if it had just started happening and they had to figure something out, maybe. But this is a long-running late night segment that they turned into a whole special, and I can’t imagine that didn’t have that shit dialed in already, so even if it is a special now, and therefore longer (I guess), I still don’t buy it! So I’m going to go with Drunk History, which is sort of built on having a bunch of really impressive editing of all sorts.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Drunk History, (John Cason, Episode: “Are You Afraid of the Drunk?”)

Outstanding Multi-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series

I don’t mean to sound like that guy, but these are all awful, and I can’t imagine caring about how they are edited.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mom, I guess. (Joe Bella, episode: “Big Floor Pillows and a Ball of Fire”)

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

I’m willing to go so far as to say that even the picture editing contributed to the spookiness of Chernobyl, and that “Open Wide, O Earth” was the spookier episode.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chernobyl (Jinx Godfrey, episode: “Open Wide, O Earth”)

Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series

It’s real hard not to keep pulling these for Russian Doll, so I guess I’m just going to give into temptation and do it again.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Russian Doll (Laura Weinberg, episode: “Ariadne”)

Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series

Ah, what the hell, Killing Eve seems well-edited

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Killing Eve (Dan Crinnion, episode: “Desperate Times”)

Outstanding Music Supervision

Since the music supervision is an enormous part of the very fiber of Fosse/Verdon, let’s go with that one.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Fosse/Verdon (Steven Gizicki, episode: “Life is a Cabaret”)

Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics

True story: Fred Armisen’s musical contributions to his comedy efforts are, to a one, better than Trenchmouth 8! Regardless of comparative worth, the fact that Documentary Now contains such multitudes is worth a bunch of awards, including this one.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Documentary Now, Episode: “Original Cast Album: Co-Op

Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music

I hadn’t thought about it until I evaluated it for this very writeup, but I do really like the opening titles of Good Omens. So that one.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: David Arnold for Good Omens

Outstanding Music Direction

I am compelled to choose the one that is explicitly and entirely about the music, quite frankly.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Beyonce Knowles-Carter and Derek Dixie, Homecoming: A Film by Beyonce

Outstanding Music Composition for a Documentary Series or Special (Original Dramatic Score)

I can’t say any of these scores jump out at me, so I’ll give it to Steven Price for basically just not getting in the way.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Steven Price, Our Planet episode: “One Planet”

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

It pains me to pass over T-Bone Burnett like this, but David Arnold’s excellent contributions don’t end with the title music. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: David Arnold, Good Omens episode: “In the Beginning”

Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic Score)

I’m inclined to give this one to Barry merely for being a nonstandard bit of work. Good job, Barry.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: David Wingo, Barry (episode: What?”)

Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Limited Series, Movie or Special

I will say that I really thought that Star Trek: Discovery would get this one, but after some thought, I will say that while much of the prosthetic work on American Horror Story was not exactly groundbreaking, the scoliosis effects were pretty great (NB that they might not have been in the specific episode nominated, I didn’t go back and watch) and there was a bunch of prosthetics on everyone all the time, so I think maybe it goes to that. They made Kathy Bates a robot!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: American Horror Story: Apocalypse Then, episode: “Forbidden Fruit”

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

The only time of the year that I praise biopics for their accuracy and/or verisimilitude is in technical categories at the Emmys, where I praise them for making people look like other people.


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

Not only does RuPaul’s Drag Race have the best makeup, it also has the most makeup. Who says you have to choose between quantity and quality?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: RuPaul’s Drag Race, episode: “Trump: The Rusical”

Outstanding Make-up for a Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic)

So all that other stuff said, I’m not entirely sure what the non-prosthetic makeup that AHS was nominated for would even be. The people look like people, I guess. Ditto for Game of Thrones, although at least they had to paint somebody blue or whatever. So I’m gonna go with GLOW, because at least I know what the non-prosthetic makeup is doing.


Outstanding Main Title Design

I do appreciate that the main titles of Game of Thrones served a practical purpose (laying out the geography of Westeros and the players remaining in the titular game), which is something the rest of them don’t really do.


Outstanding Lighting Design / Lighting Direction for a Variety Special

As with every year, I must acknowledge that it is a herculean effort to put on an awards show, and the technical demands are considerable, but also that any live event is hard, and the people that lighting designed Rent didn’t have the advantage of several decades of this exact thing happening at the same time every year, and so I think it’s a more difficult (and therefore more impressive) piece of work. This is because I have a pretty rudimentary grasp on how this stuff works. 


Outstanding Lighting Design / Lighting Direction for a Variety Series

I feel like America’s Got Talent, even by the finals, is such a grab-bag of different stuff going on, plus there’s the onstage stuff, the backstage stuff, and the judges’ table stuff, that it must be hard to lighting design. That’s how I feel.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: America’s Got Talent, episode: “Semi-Final #1 Performance Show”, which is a perfectly-reasonable title for a show where the titles don’t matter, but which also sounds like it was poorly translated into English.

Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media within an Unscripted Program

Oooooookay. I will buy a hat for the person who can explain to me what Carpool Karaoke is doing in this one. Is this a prank? What the hell is going on? What on Earth was interactive about the thing? Anyway, Conan Without Borders was pretty cool.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Conan Without Borders

Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media within a Scripted Program

As much as I just want every award to go to The Good Place all the time, and as much as I didn’t exactly love Bandersnatch, I do think it was a cool experiment that came out pretty well, and probably deserves to be honored as such.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

Outstanding Interactive Program

Clearly we are using a definition of the word “interactive” that I simply do not understand. NASA and SpaceX: The Interactive Demo 1 has interactive right there in the title though, and it was really cool, so it wins.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: NASA and SpaceX: The Interactive Demo 1

Outstanding Original Interactive Program

Am I in favor of just giving as many of these as possible to the space shit? You’ve probably been reading this blog long enough to know that the answer is: yes. Absolutely.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: NASA Insight’s Mars Landing

Outstanding Host for a Reality or Competition Program

Gosh, but Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman were delightful. I mean, this whole category could pretty accurately be renamed “Most Amiable”, but they were especially delightful. I’m exclusively using that word to describe them, obviously. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman, Making It

Outstanding Hairstyling for a Limited Series or Movie

I think most of my opinions from the makeup categories come through here, so big ups to the Fosse/Verdon people for accurately recreating hairstyles.


Outstanding Hairstyling for a Multi-Camera Series or Special

Once again: RuPaul has not only the best hairstyling, but the most hairstyling. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: RuPaul’s Drag Race, episode: “Trump: The Rusical”

Outstanding Directing for a Reality Program

I will be honest: while I have a pretty good sense of what directors do in many contexts, I can’t get my head around how Shark Tank is nominated here. I don’t get it. Anyway, I’m giving it to American Ninja Warrior, because I like American Ninja Warrior and think it should get awards for stuff.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Patrick McManus, American Ninja Warrior, episode: “Minneapolis City Qualifiers”

Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special

Sigh. Guys. What do I have to do to make the Carpool Karaoke thing stop? It’s not even that I think it’s that bad. It’s pleasant! Sometimes even downright delightful! Why is it nominated for every dang technical Emmy? This is completely insane. The live Norman Lear thing was pretty cool.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: James Burrows and Andy Fisher, Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s All in the Family and The Jeffersons

Outstanding Directing for a Documentary/Nonfiction Program

I think in this case an ability to work with such subject matter in an effective and reasonable matter means that Leaving Neverland wins this one.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Dan Reed, Finding Neverland

Outstanding Costumes for a Variety, Nonfiction, or Reality Programming
Somehow I guess the costumes for Carpool Karaoke just weren’t up to Emmy snuff. I can only imagine this is a tragic oversight on the part of the Emmy nominating body. Anyway, since RuPaul’s Drag Race is predominantly about the costuming, I think it’s got to go to that one.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: RuPaul’s Drag Race, episode: “Trump, The Rusical” 

Outstanding Contemporary Costumes

Of all the technical categories, this is the one I have the hardest time with. I just don’t know enough about costume design to know which of these shows has the best costumes on it. I’m going to go with Grace and Frankie, because the nominated episode had a wedding in it, and that means it was more elaborate. 

 THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Grace and Frankie, episode: “The Wedding”

Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes

I’m still out here riding for pretty much any given visual aspect of A Series of Unfortunate Events, frankly. I love it. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: A Series of Unfortunate Events, episode: “The Penultimate Peril, Part 2”

Outstanding Period Costumes

Ordinarily, as an Old Person, I don’t fight the notion of my oldness. Still and all, when GLOW popped up in “period” costumes and not “contemporary” costumes I still tought “hey wait!”. But thirty years ago is long enough to quality, and also it makes this category much easier, because it’s the only one of these where I can actually be said to like the costumes.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: GLOW, episode: “Every Potato Has a Receipt”

Outstanding Commercial

On the one hand, my reaction to this category is “commercials aren’t even the simulacrum of art that television is”, but I it runs into the fact that television is, in many instances a vessel to keep people looking at the screen in between blocks of commercials 9. So I guess I’m just going to say the Sandy Hook thing and leave it at that, cognitive dissonance be danged.


Outstanding Cinematography for Nonfiction Programming

You know, the only real components of Our Planet are the cinematography, the editing and the narration, so I think it’s probably good that half the field comes from it. It really sells itself on the cinematography. The “Coastal Seas” one is not only gorgeous, but seems like it was especially difficult to do, technically, so it gets the nod.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Our Planet, episode: “Coastal Seas”

Outstanding Cinematography for a Reality Program

Obviously I think the nature cinematographers have a harder job, and while I’m sure the Deadliest Catch folks have their shit pretty well dialed in by this point, the Life Below Zero folks might be less so, and so deserve the award.


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

I genuinely like the camera work in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Not much else, but he camera work is nice.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: M. David Mullen, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, episode: “Simone” 

Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or Movie

See above w/r/t spookiness, etc.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jakob Ihre, Chernobyl, episode: “Please Remain Calm”

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

What We Do in the Shadows isn’t up for enough awards, and I’m still a dipshit about these things, so I’m giving it to What We Do in the Shadows.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: DJ Stipsen, What We Do in the Shadows, episode: “Manhattan Night Club”

Outstanding Cinematography for a Multi-Camera Series

Literally the only one of these television shows I can even pretend to get behind is Rel, which makes this fairly easy.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: George Mooradian, Rel, episode: “Halloween”

Outstanding Choreography for Variety and Reality Programming

Oh come now, certainly someone does some car seat wiggling in Carpool Karaoke, or some hand dancing or something, and can have been worthy of an award here. It’s like they’re not even trying anymore. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Travis Wall, So You Think You Can Dance

Outstanding Casting for a Reality Program

RuPaul’s Drag Race’s casting concerns are both specific and ongoing 10, and I’m always impressed that they put together as many worthwhile contestants as they do every single year. In this case, the show’s longevity works in its favor, which is also kind of novel for an Emmy awards writeup, where I usually get all cranky about such things. 


Outstanding Casting for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special

Many things are not worth the hype about Fosse/Verdon, or at least weren’t worth it to me 11, the casting was superb. One might even use the word “impeccable” if one were so inclined.


Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series

Before I become the latest (and possibly last, speaking chronologically) person to heap praise upon the casting of Pose, allow me to pose (sorry) the following question: given that there were zero new characters in the last season of Game of Thrones, what, exactly, would qualify it for a casting award this year? I get that it’s probably for the series as a whole or whatever, but shouldn’t that be a different award? Should not each year’s Emmys be for that year’s work, in which case the casting department was responsible for, oh, six billion extras or whatever, but zero people that spoke lines? I rest my case, and hereby declare the award should go to Pose.


Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series

Obviously, given the previous entry, I think that casting awards are easier to win for the first season of a show, when everyone is a new cast member and the casting team have to do the most work. So I’m going with Russian Doll yet again. 


Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series

Hack Into Broad City was the best of these, but I don’t want to choose which winner was better, so I’m declaring a tie.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, Hack Into Broad City

Outstanding Actor in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series

Not only an Emmy for Megan, but also an Emmy for anyone associated with An Emmy for Megan.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Patton Oswalt, An Emmy for Megan

Outstanding Narrator

Earlier I said that the three components of Our Planet were the cinematography, editing and narration, and the narration is the best narrator to ever narrate, so my biases should be fairly obvious here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: David Attenborough, Our Planet

Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance

The early awards show write-ups on this here website were heavy on corrective write-in candidates. I’ve stopped doing that, mainly because I believe every running joke should be permitted to die a natural death, and also because it’s not really reacting to the awards show as presented, which is what I’m doing here. That said, in “Outstanding Animated Program,” the actual greatest show on television 12, Bojack Horseman, is nominated for the episode “Free Churro,” which is singled out in FN7 as being one of the series high points, and which is an episode in which only one voice actor (Will Arnett) appears – as both the title character and as that character’s father, Butterscotch. It’s an incredible, cathartic episode of television that really goes to places in terms of dealing with some really tough questions, and it ends on the kind of joke that requires the kind of commitment that I can only stand back and admire. What I’m saying is: Will Arnett should have been nominated in this category for his performance in what the emmy folks agree is one of the best episodes of television of the year, and he is not, and that seems like it’s a mistake. So I’m writing him in, especially since two of the fucking nominees here are for Family Guy.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Actually Will Arnett, for Bojack Horseman, episode: “Free Churro” 

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series

You know, I didn’t think much of Constance Langdon’s return to American Horror Story until I heard Jessica Lange talk about the process of getting into a character she had last played many years before, which involved watching her own performance for (what she claimed was) the first time. Turns out there might be something to this acting thing after all!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Apocalypse, episode: “Return to Murder House”

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series

Kumail Nanjiani is such an all-around great actor that I’m happy to see him in pretty much anything, and I’m especially glad to see him nominated here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kumail Nanjiani, The Twilight Zone, episode: “The Comedian”

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

I mean, whatever praise my outraged footnoting may have made it seem I don’t have for The Good Place does not actually mean that I don’t love Human Treasure Maya Rudolph, and the magnificent Judge Gen, short of Hydrogen, the only other thing in existence at the time she was born 13.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Maya Rudolph, The Good Place, episode: “Chidi Sees the Time Knife”

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

There’s an awful lot of Saturday Night Live in this category, especially considering that it’s all for their worst season in a long, long time. Even in a good season, though, it’d be hard to top Peter MacNicol.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Peter MacNicol, Veep, episode: “Oslo”

Outstanding Short Form Variety Series

Oh thank heavens some form of Carpool Karaoke is back. I couldn’t fathom going on without it continuing to be nominated all the time. I’m glad I don’t have to envision a world in which that happens. Anyway, I quite like Billy on the Street.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Billy on the Street

Outstanding Short Form Comedy or Drama Series
I just don’t understand who can watch An Emmy for Megan and not agree that it definitely deserves an Emmy. Obviously.


Outstanding Short Form Nonfiction or Reality Series

This category is dumb. FX’s Inside Look things are always kind of boring bog-standard pseudo-documentaries, and there’s been so much filmed and written about creating Saturday Night Live that Creating Saturday Night Live could only ever have felt pretty redundant. That leaves us with the RuPaul’s Drag Race specials, of which Portrait of a Queen is better.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: RuPaul’s Drag Race: Portrait of a Queen

Outstanding Children’s Program

Star Wars: Resistance is fine and admirable, but I really, really dug A Series of Unfortunate Events.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: A Series of Unfortunate Events

Outstanding Short Form Animated Program

I suppose I’m the last person on the “praising Steven Universe train,” but I shouldn’t be, and also I think that’s more about how it should be nominated for more awards, which is kind of the only way that I write about television anyway.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Steven Universe, episode: “Reunited”

Outstanding Animated Program

If you’ve forgotten what I’ve already said about the wonderful “Free Churro,” it’s back up at the voice performance category. But also you shouldn’t have forgotten what has it been, two minutes? Jeez.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: BoJack Horseman, episode: “Free Churro”

Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-Recorded)

We interrupt the runner of being baffled by the Carpool Karaoke thing to point out earnestly (and for the second time this writeup) that Nanette is also among the very best things that Netflix has ever shepherded into existence, and should win this award and any other award for which it is eligible.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Hannah Gadsby: Nanette

Outstanding Variety Special (Live)

Finally, I get to not complain about a nomination for the Norman Lear thing, but to celebrate it, because it was outstanding, if not a super-technical achievement.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s All in the Family and the Jeffersons

Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special

It’s sad that the Fyre Festival documentary that was meant to exonerate Fuck Jerry is in here, if perhaps predictable. I’m giving it to Leaving Neverland, for changing and elevating the conversation around Michael Jackson (again) in a way that seems to make it more supportive of the survivors he left in his wake.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Leaving Neverland

Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series

I probably don’t have to come out and say it at this late date, but I love Our Planet, y’all.


Outstanding Informational Series or Special

As impressive as much of this is (and I like the nominees in this category, by and large, quite a bit), only one of these programs actually played a part in getting a serial rapist finally into some sort of arrest situation. So it wins, because that’s above and beyond the call of television.


Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking

I like Three Identical Strangers a lot as a piece of television. It’s got a crazy-ass plot and all sorts of twisty business, and it’s a documentary. That’s pretty cool, and worthy of an Emmy.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Three Identical Strangers

Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program

It seems like United Shades of America was nominated for a bunch of these last year, and this year it’s not in nearly as many categories. That’s fine, it’s still very good and it deserves this one.

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

Outstanding Structured Reality Program

Every year I am perplexed and/or frustrated by this category, and every year I give to Antiques Roadshow out of spite. I’m nothing if not comfortable with tradition.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Antiques Roadshow

  1. not that one 
  2.  the amount that this level of interest is offset by the number of technical categories regarding which I am far from an expert is left up to the reader  
  3. Outstanding Motion Design, Outstanding Innovation in Interactive Programming, Outstanding Choreography for Scripted Programming, Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation 
  4. I acknowledge that it seems weird to say “yet another category” when this is the first time it comes up, but I’m in the future and I know the rest of the categories, both here and in the primetime ceremony 
  5. and also in every other way  
  6. I mean this both in the sense that their voices are of varying degrees of sonic loudness, and also the volume of human tissue in the car probably affects things considerably, in terms of the mix, due to acoustic reflection and whatnot. 
  7. with the caveat that I don’t actually know what all went into Homecoming, as such 
  8. which is strange, because Trenchmouth should have been great: Fred Armisen is a very good drummer, and Damon Locks has made a bunch of great music since then, including the very week in which I’m writing this. 
  9. the other option being that the programming is there to prop up the money made from paid subscribers 
  10. to wit: they have to find people that are good in drag, and that can do all the stuff associated with costuming and performing in a drag persona, and still be competitive – i.e. they have to make sure that the winner isn’t a foregone conclusion every year (some of this is probably on the editors, also) 
  11. I mean, a salacious sensational biopic about a storied choreographer and his favorite dancer was basically never going to be for me, so that might go without saying. 
  12. I know that I bestow this honor on three different shows, but until Atlanta and/or The Good Place can deliver me as many episodes as good as “Escape from LA,” “Fish Out of Water”, “That’s Too Much, Man”, “Stupid Piece of Shit,” “Ruthie,” “Free Churro” or “Mr Peanutbtter’s Boos” then they will, no matter how much more awards attention (and ratings) they get, always be, at best, second. And even then, it is deeply unlikely that any television program will ever top the one-two of “The Old Sugarman Place” and “Time’s Arrow” as actual bona-fide masterpieces of television writing (NB that these episodes are from all over the series’ run, so wouldn’t all be eligible, like “Free Churro”. This is not to say that I don’t love the other contenders very much, but only to say that Bojack Horseman is a genuine actual genius piece of work, and deserves many more awards from all corners. 
  13. I love this joke more than I love some members of my family. 

The Comeback Trail: Tool – Fear Inoculum

I don’t write a lot of Comeback Trail posts. They’re hard to qualify for, for starters: I have to have some kind of relationship with the band, enough that I can situate myself within their context. The “comeback” itself has to be reasonably-easily regarded as such, such that there’s no real quibble with using the term 1. Even more than that, there has to be something to write about.

As far as it goes, Tool’s Fear Inoculum definitely hits the first one right on the head – I’m a heavy-music-inclined white dude born in 1983. I’ve got a personal relationship with Tool. It’s more-or-less the one you think it is, although I’ll add some caveats later when I talk about this record. A thirteen-year break means that this is definitely a comeback by just about any definition of the word, so we’re in good territory there. The problem is that I don’t really think that I have anything worthwhile to say. 

The reason for soldiering forward, then, is because I actually don’t think anyone has anything in particular to say about it. Oh, reviews abound. Everybody’s written one by now, and the odds are that everyone’s review is overwhelmingly positive. It is, in fact, hard to swing a dead cat on the music-focused portion of the internet without hitting a glowing review, talking about long-ass songs and weird-ass time signatures and returns to form and whatever else. The thing is, they’re also going to talk about how it’s just too soon to review the record, and the pleasures of the record will unfold over time.

I’m not here to call these people liars, certainly.

The story of the album is the other thing that it’s pretty easy to hear about: there was a huge, exhausting-sounding legal battle that ended up draining the band’s creative batteries. It then took them forever to put together because they are terrible perfectionists and all the parts had to be right, and also lead singer Maynard James Keenan wouldn’t even consider contributing until everything was done. But, through the concerted effort of the band and a miracle of patience or something, we’re all here at the end of the rainbow, and the new album Fear Inoculum is upon us. 

And it’ll take everybody some time to learn how to like it.

But, furthermore, maybe the reason that I don’t think it’s that good is because Tool is, more than just about any other band I can think of, a band that moved straight out of my wheelhouse – that had once been a band made up of components that I loved in a way that worked out satisfyingly to me. Basically, I think that Tool made a much better heavy metal band than prog rock band, and their move to (now) totally be the latter means that I’m pretty well completely uninterested in what they’re doing.

This move has, however, been pretty organic. They’ve moved from leaden, brutish slightly-pointy sludge metal (Opiate) to much-smarter, more-melodic, technically accomplished art sludge metal (Undertow), to something that’s almost its entirely-own thing, in the form of the proggy but still decidedly rocking (and not, it must be said, much sludgey) Aenima, to the much more conceptual prog-metal “opus”-style (and slightly wittering and determinedly not sludgey) Lateralus to the full-bore proggy-ass barely-metal high-minded 10,000 Days. And here, on Fear Inoculum we have heavy metal somewhere in the background (and, of course, not even a speck of sludge), but mostly are just openly plowing the fields of prog 2

Even with this being the case – that the band’s sound has changed as the result of their organic movement through their own artistic purpose and whatnot – doesn’t change the fact that it’s hard for me to develop any kind of opinion about Fear Inoculum other than a kind of weary shrug. The actual sound 3 aside, the record sounds both obliviously self-assured, and comparatively underworked.

The former makes itself known in several ways. The playing is mechanically impressive – they’re all good players, with a formidable amount of skill, and the pieces that comprise this record seem to have been written with an eye to making that the primary feature. Adam Jones, who was formerly the sort of grounding force, as the metal-est member of the band, the member with the most limited palette of technique, has clearly spent the intervening decade plus figuring out some new stuff, and is a hell of a (prog) guitar player. Lots of his playing is impressive. Justin Chancellor has always been an impressive bassist 4, and Danny Carey continues to be….well, he’s the most frustrating member of the band. He’s clearly got the ability to hit the drums a lot. This album could be an eighty-minute drum solo for the way he plays it. It’s a very impressive drum solo. He should send it into Guinness or something, but it’s a lot more like circus tricks than a rock band’s drummer. Also knock it off with the fucking tablas already, duder.  

And then we come to the singer (and primary contributor to the underworked-ness). Maynard James Keenan is a fine singer – good voice, great range, etc. – and I’m not going to talk about his lyrics, because I don’t talk about lyrics (and don’t know them in the first place). His performances on this record are…kind of phoned-in? I don’t like them, anyway, and they seem super subdued. But he’s older, and he’s in a different place, and this is a different Tool – thirteen years in anyone’s life is a long way from end to end, so it stands to reason that things would be different. It is perhaps Keenan’s contributions where I am most dissonant with Tool fans (or even other ex-Tool fans). To wit, I was pretty much always more into Tool as an instrumental unit, even when I loved them, and a less-feisty, less-engaged Maynard does not help matters much.

It’s not a bad album, though. I’m not enough of a contrarian (there’s that word again, perhaps inevitable when something is glowed about that leaves me completely unmoved) to think that it would be. Every one of the super-long pieces has at least parts that are pretty cool, even if some of those parts are cribbed from other Tool songs or, in one case, provided by noise titan Lustmord. The song that works best as a whole piece, and the song I could see myself slipping into playlists in the future is the titanic “Invincible,” which trucks along nicely and on which everyone seems like they’re part of the same band for the whole track. “7empest” has a stupid number in its title, but is the other song that approaches being something I’d listen to in the future, and may even grown on me – it’s louder, and doesn’t spend as much time building up frustrated, abortive dynamice shifts 5.

As mentioned at the top, the read on this seems to be that it’s something you have to live with for awhile, to let develop for awhile in your head before a judgement upon it can be pronounced. I suppose the argument that I’m making is that maybe that’s more about convincing yourself of the things that you could like about it, because it’s the only Tool album in a bunch of years, and might be the only one for awhile, and if you’re a Tool fan, you’ve got to get into something.

So, to answer the central question of the installments of this series – is it a comeback? Sure, I guess. It seems like a pretty natural extension of the band itself, and while it isn’t a patch on their best work, it’s certainly not as bad as it could have been 6, and it quite obviously is giving the fans what they want, and for good reason – if you stuck with them through 10,000 Days, this album is basically a direct sequel to/continuation from that one, so you’re in luck! – and it’s selling like hotcakes. So sure, they’ve come back. I’m just not a part of their audience anymore.

Maybe some of you are like me, then, and are unmoved and not terribly enthused by the notion of putting on a record the same length as the movie Chicken Run over and over again until it sinks in. Rock music isn’t a competition, nor is it an actual real-life game of RIYL, nor is it an opportunity to flex on people by telling people what’s “like that thing they like, only better”. However 7, also reissued this week is the phenomenal, satisfying, genre-defying heavy music masterpiece Neurosis & Jarboe. While it’s not new (it’s just newly-issued on vinyl and remastered everywhere else), it’s everything a Tool album could have been but wasn’t if you’re pining for a version of Tool that doesn’t exist, and for my fellow “no longer that interested in what Tool is doing”-heads, it’s just what the doctor ordered. Go buy a copy. It’ll make you happy. 

  1.  I have occasionally toyed with starting a sort of companion feature, “Still Going Then?” where I write about things like the newest set of Body Count albums or the last couple of Boyz II Men albums – acts that are still plugging away and have never really stopped, even if their sales and audience sizes are considerably diminished from their hayday. I don’t do it in the end because it’s sort of the opposite of what I write about here – I’m interested in the things that are popular or attempting to be popular, not the people who are able to modify their circumstances to ply their craft under different circumstances. That last thing is something I’m specifically inclined to celebrate, in fact, but it’s not the purview of here. Or, rather, it isn’t until I reverse this decision and decide that it is.  
  2. If it seems like I’m coming down on prog rock here, please understand that I am not: I lik1e prog rock a lot, and you only have to go back to the most recent post on this very blog to see me glow about early-ish Genesis, and I’m happy to talk about Pink Floyd all day, just to name the two easiest-to-hand examples. My problem is not prog-rock, it’s that I don’t think Tool is a very good or interesting prog rock band, and they were a good and interesting heavy metal band.  
  3. and attendant genre quibbling, which I admit is about at its end here 
  4. his addition to the band is what cleared away most of the aforerunningjoked “sludge” – he’s a much more fluid bass player than Paul D’Amour. For a sort of wish-fulfilling alternate-universe where he’s in a heavier, less-frustrating band, I invite you all to revisit Isis’s mighty “Altered Course”, from Panopticon, on which he guests, and which is fucking awesome. 
  5.  it really does seem like an extra-heavily-used Tool move is to build up to a crescendo and then back off of it real quick-like, a thing they’ve kind of always done, but which seems to be their main mode of operation on this record. 
  6. It’s not, for example, nearly as bad as the last A Perfect Circle album 
  7. Yes indeed, this is one of those sentences that can only lead to the writer doing exactly the thing they just said they aren’t actually doing. 

The Best Records of August 2019

Let it be noted that August, 2019 might be the weakest month for stuff that I’ve heard since I started doing this. There’s some exciting stuff on the horizon, though, so let’s get through this. Also I almost always have missed something when I think things are getting thin, so I expect that it isn’t as dire as it seems from right now. 

Brutus – Nest (Another great doom-metal-adjacent record, which is possibly the only genre in my general rotation of genres to have delivered regularly so far this year)

Pharmakon – Devour (I appreciate the shift into making denser, more-sounds noise music, it works for her super-well)

Russian Circles – Blood Year (It’s true that every Russian Circles album is the same, and it’s also true that it’s a great album they keep making)

Tropical Fuck Storm – Braindrops (The dude from the Drones continues his second act, and the result is finally as good as The Drones were)

Oh Sees – Face Stabber (Whichever permutation of the name John Dwyer is using, the results are usually pretty consistent, but this album is the best one he’s made in quite a while)

A Considered Look at Every Inductee Into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Part 14

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

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

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

Click the links for Part 1,Part 2Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, and Part 13 of this series.



WHO THEY ARE: Our pre-eminent Swedish Disco-Pop group.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: Because people that were alive in the seventies like them. I have no idea why, or how, or for what reason. I do know that twenty or so years later 3 a bunch of people my age also decided to like them, for reasons that are equally elusive. Anyway, they sold a bunch of records and had a bunch of hits, like a bunch of the remaining seventies-holdovers we’re dealing with here. 

AND…?: There’s lots of stuff I like about pop music, and lots of pop music that I like, and this contains pretty much zero elements of any of that. I don’t get it, and, frankly, I’m not even interested in it enough upon hearing it to try to get it.



WHO THEY ARE: Sort of the English prog-rock band, or at least the one most people think of first when you say the phrase “English prog-rock band”. 

WHY THEY’RE HERE: They did, in their original incarnation, make some terrific prog albums. Their popularity was such that they sold a bunch of records during a period where they were a weird band with a performance-artist frontman (Peter Gabriel, who went on to be a successful solo musician in his own right), the least-interesting drummer in prog rock (Phil Collins, who went on to be a successful solo artist in his own right), a wildly talented bassist who was also their secret rhythm guitarist 4 (Mike Rutherford, who went on to be….uh….Mike in Mike and the Mechanics), and one of the greatest rock keyboard players of all time (Tony Banks) 5, plus several pretty good guitar-players, all of whom played oddly and didn’t write, y’know, hook-y songs or whatever. It’s impressive that they got big enough to sell a bunch of records, is what I’m saying. And then they became the first of Phil Collins’s bands, and therefore beneath contempt. But those first half-dozen or so records are pretty top-flight. 

AND…?: The Gabriel/Banks/Rutherford/Collins/Hackett lineup did the best work (Nursery Crymes/Foxtrot/Selling England by the Pound/The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway). Everything after that is bad, and the two albums before it are much patchier. 


Jimmy Cliff

WHO HE IS: If you can only name two reggae singers, he’s the other one. 

WHY HE’S HERE: He managed a degree of success starting being the focus of the soundtrack (and, for that matter, the film) The Harder They Come and ending sometime before he’s on the soundtrack to Cool Runnings. He wrote a bunch of songs that were successful but largely forgotten in the meantime, and probably did a lot to let people in on reggae that was a bit more modernist or pop-inflected than Bob Marley’s roots-y variety. 

AND…?: Oh, Jimmy Cliff is fine in his way, and I’m not opposed to reggae having more entrants into the HOF, since every other goddamn genre gets a bunch. My reggae tastes run way more toward the dub end of things, but I suppose he’s there for no worse reasons than anybody.


The Hollies

WHO THEY ARE: Graham Nash’s other band.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: I reckon it’s because Graham Nash was the only member of Crosby, Stills, Hash & Young to not be in the RRHOF twice and they wanted to be fair. That’s about all I can come up with.

AND…?: Oh, I actually like the Hollies more than any other non-Neil Young CSN endeavor, they just weren’t, like Hall of Fame material. 

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Not actually, I’m afraid

The Stooges

WHO THEY ARE: Detroit, Michigan’s finest purveyors of rock and roll. Actually, they’re quite possibly the world’s finest purveyors of rock and roll (sort of, see below), but it’s funnier if it’s just the one city. 

WHY THEY’RE HERE: Well, their influence is basically incalculable. Everywhere they went they planted the seeds that would grow into any number of scenelets/subgenres. Most of the “screaming frontman” subgenres wouldn’t exist without the Stooges, as would a bunch of execreble cock-rock, but let’s not talk about that. They made most of their reputation while they were extant on their shows, which were easy to write about because Iggy Pop is a nutbar, but they also managed Rock and Roll’s finest thirty-six and a half minutes in the form of Fun House, the greatest rock record ever made. Their other records are pretty-good-to-great, but Fun House is a monolithic, life-changing masterpiece of a record, and even if it were the only thing they’d ever done, it would secure their place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And that’s not even the one with “I Wanna Be Your Dog” on it, which probably deserves its own glowing, adjective-filled praise-up, but I’m trying ot keep the word count down.

AND…?: Great band. It’s embarrassing that it took this long to get them in, and hard to imagine what anyone thought a rock and roll hall of fame without the Stooges was meant to be.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: More than almost any other band that was ever inducted, yes. 

David Geffen

WHO HE IS: The guy who founded Geffen records, among other things.

WHY HE’S HERE: OK, so for whatever reason in 2010 there’s a bunch of here receiving the Ahmet Ertegun award, after giving it out once (in 2008) since 2003. I don’t know what this is, but David Geffen is here becuase he was the A&R guy for a lot of people, and he started a record label that sold a bunch of records, and that’s the worst part of the HOF represents, and here he is.

AND…?: I have no opinion about David Geffen.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: I am of the longstanding opinion that I do not care about A&R people or corporate-label-people. So no. 

Otis Blackwell

WHO HE IS: Not an industry dude this time, but a songwriter. He wrote “Fever” and “Great Balls of Fire,” for example.

WHY HE’S HERE: In addition to those two songs, he also wrote a boxcar full of Elvis songs, including a bunch of huge hits. 

AND…?: I’m a fan. I also like his recordings, which tend to be a lot less overblown, vocally. 


Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich

WHO THEY ARE: They were the husband-and-wife songwriting team that wrote a bunch of Phil-Spector-abetted Motown hits.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: You know, for some of these there don’t need to be two of these entires, right? I mean, they’re here because they were the husband-and-wife songwriting team that wrote a bunch of Phil Spector-abetted Motown hits. I’m really constraining myself by my form here. 

AND…?: They’re good songs.


Mort Shuman

WHO HE IS: A pre-rock and roll singer who was huge in France.

WHY HE’S HERE: I guess because the glut of non-performers in this year needed a dude who wrote songs for, say, Bobby Darin. 

AND…?: I dunno, man, seems specious.


Jesse Stone

WHO HE IS: Mainly he was Chuck Calhoun, the guy that wrote “Shake, Rattle and Roll”

WHY HE’S HERE: Well, according to Ahmet Ertegun, he “did more to develop the basic rock ‘n’ roll sound than anybody else”, which I guess is why he’s here winning the Ahmet Ertegun award.

AND…?: I pulled that last bit from Wikipedia because I only know a couple of Chuck Calhoun songs, and don’t have much of an opinion about them.


Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill

WHO THEY ARE: Wildly prolific (and also married) songwriters.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: They wrote tonnes and tonnes of songs that were huge hits that everyone knows.

AND…?: I think I just about like one of those songs 6, although I admire that they went out of their way to be socially conscious, which is relatively rare among pop songwriters. Good for them.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: I mean, I guess so, but I’m not going to be happy about it.


Alice Cooper

WHO THEY ARE: A band who is named for their singer, the first (and best) 7 shock rocker.

WHY HE’S HERE: There’s always been a heavy dose of the theatrical in rock music, but Alice Cooper were out there making the theatre the point. Because they had to make their point by first getting people into the music (a thing that later theatre-based rock dudes would not have to worry about), the music, for the first handful of albums anyway, is also top-notch heavy garage rock. They were great musicians and it’s hard to deny the influence of things like the guillotine on the presentation of rock music for a couple of decades, at least.

AND…?: If you stop at, say, 1972 or so, you’ve got a hell of a body of work and you don’t even need the guillotine.


Neil Diamond

WHO HE IS: A man with a voice as powerful and velvety as his luxurious chest hair.

WHY HE’S HERE: That’s a real head-scratcher! Neil Diamond was a pretty good songwriter who had a bunch of success writing stuff that people liked and that was sometimes rock music, and he sang the absolute hell out of everything he ever sang, but what that has to do with rock and roll is pretty well beyond me. 

AND….?: Oh if you want to hear somebody lead a band in a non-rock-oriented context, and really feel a singer go to town, you can’t do much better than Hot August Night. I don’t know much of the rest of it beyond the singles, but it’s a great record.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: I do not actually think so. 

Dr. John

WHO HE IS: The dude most people think of when they think of musicians from New Orleans, probably. 

WHY HE’S HERE: You know, I suppose the guiding principle of this class of performer inductees is that they’re all very theatrical, – I mentioned it with Alice Cooper, but it definitely includes Neil Diamond and now Dr. John. He sold a bunch of records as a boogie-woogie piano player, which I do genuinely love, even though nobody thinks of him as being one of those. I don’t know that I could say much about his influence (other than on, say, Tom Waits, who was inducted the same year), either, but everybody seemed to like him.

AND….?: Obviously I’m kind of all over the place here. I like Dr. John’s music just fine, but it isn’t rock and roll, and it is probably the least interesting thing about Dr. John himself, or his performances.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: On the one hand, probably not , for the reasons outline above. On the other hand, there are tonnes of single representatives of styles and subgenres and all that all over the HOF, and Dr. John is no less deserving than any of them. So yes, after all that.

Darlene Love

WHO SHE IS: She’s the woman who sang that Christmas song you’ve probably still got in your head.

WHY SHE’S HERE: Well, she’s probably here as an apology for being mistreated by Phil Spector. This induction happened a few years before 20 Feet From Stardom, which makes it seem more genuine than it might otherwise. She was an accomplished singer, and did a lot of intersting stuff on a lot of recordings.

AND…?: She should be inducted as a sideman, given that she was primarily a secondary vocalist, except on that godawful Christmas song.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Not as a performer, no. 

Tom Waits

WHO HE IS: A gravelly-voiced faux-hobo (fauxbo!)

WHY HE’S HERE: Well, he made several of the finest records ever made. He’s also in on the theatricality theme of 2011, since he’s playing a character (conveniently named “Tom Waits”) pretty much every time he does anything in public. He’s a terrific songwriter, a great performer, and while he didn’t sell very much, he did manage to carve out a really interesting sonic/genre space for himself in a way that I would believe was influential.

AND…?: I’m serious about that “several of the finest records ever made” business.


Jac Holzman

WHO HE IS: He founded Elektra Records.

WHY HE’S HERE: At least he got in after Elektra Records’s greatest band (The Stooges) got in. Pity he beat Love. Also: Love should be in the HOF. 

AND…?: Most of the stuff that was on Elektra until 1980 or so 7 represents the absolute worst of possible avenues to be a rock band, and I’m sad that he got in at all. Also, I have never once, not even one time, ever, seen his name and not, for some span of half a second or whatever, thought that it said “Jaz Coleman”, which would be much cooler. 

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Nah. Somebody else would’ve picked up the Stooges, and nobody else should have picked up Bread or The Incredible String Band.

Art Rupe

WHO HE IS: He started Specialty Records in the forites.

WHY HE’S HERE: Specialty Records did big business in “race” records in the fifties, and turned out to be a terrifically important labe.

AND…?: Art Rupe is still alive, and turns 102 next week. That’s fantastic, good for him.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Sure, I’ll put aside my usual label-guy screed in this case. I mean, I still don’t care about label guys, but 102!

Leon Russell

WHO HE IS: The first person to be inducted for “Musical Excellence,” the category that replaced “Sideman” 8. He was a piano player.

WHY HE’S HERE: He played piano on a whole bunch of records by folks who are inducted here, he wrote a bunch of songs that a bunch of people went on to cover, and he looked cool. 

AND…?: That sounds like plenty of reasons to me to get him in there.


  1. also the centerpiece of the museum itself, for those that have never been there, is a very long video encapsulating each inducted class, with clips of performances by most of them and things like that, and is generally a pretty cool thing to behold. 
  2. although they did, as you can read here and going back from there, skew toward “pretty bad” 
  3. I believe it was pinned to the release of a greatest hits album, but I’m not going to do the research necessary to be sure, because that would involve thinking about ABBA for longer than necessary. 
  4. generally he was the other guitar, they had several lead guitar players. He played a lot of 12-string parts. 
  5. Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson are invited to lick ‘em. 
  6. that would be The Animals’ “We Gotta Get out of This Place” 
  7. It was a corporate label, so it always had more clunkers than hits, but at least in the eighties they signed The Cure and Billy Bragg and Bjork. You see what I mean. Stuff like that. 
  8. Which, I guess, means that when I said earlier that I thought Darlene Love should be inducted as a sideman, I really meant she should be inducted for “Musical Excellence”. 

The 2019 MTV Video Music Awards

Well, here I am writing about the MTV Video Music Awards. I does remain my favorite of the awards themselves as a television event, certainly, although I will say that for the second year running my ability to engage with the nominees has dropped.

It is entirely possible that I am An Old Person, and therefore pop music is leaving me behind. There are a couple of cases 1 where I think it is almost certainly me, and several more 2 where I’m pretty sure that it is definitely them, not me.

But, of course, there is no such thing as “definitely them,” there is only the fickle mind of the pop-music audience, and the record-selling companies that market thigns at them by makng brightly colored short-films to varying degrees of success. 

So anyway Missy Elliott will be receiving the Video Vanguard award, which is great, because she’s reliably entertaining, and her videos are great. 

Best Cinematography

As every year, I remain baffled by how to evaluate the cinematography in music videos. I guess some of the camera work is fine, as such, but I tried as hard as I could to figure out how it would make any difference. I will say that Solange’s “Almeda” is a pretty cool video, but seems exactly wrong for this sort of thing. I guess I’ll go with the one that mimics movies and call it a day.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ariana Grande, “thank u, next”

Best Choreography.

So the actual dancing in FKA Twigs’s “Cellophane” looked super-demanding, which puts me in the position of deciding whether that should get a choreography award or just, like, a physical exertion award 3. Luckily the nigh-robotic synchronized moves of BTS are here to present me with a safe option.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: BTS, “Boy With Luv” (f Halsey)

Best Art Direction

There’s a real thing happening in the music video world. Because there’s no more money in any of it, a lot of videos are tremendously low-budget. That makes the art direction, when it works, really pop, and also makes videos that aren’t tremendously low-budget seem both less-impressive 4 and also more noticeable 5. I mean, that’s interesting, but the answer is “Old Town Road”. So I’m not sure that it came into play very much this year.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lil Nas X, “Old Town Road” (f Billy Ray Cyrus)

Best Editing

Much like with cinematography, I have a hard time deciding which video is better-edited under the circumstances, especially given that mostly my opinion of editing is “there’s too much of it”, but that’s also a cranky opinion, and doesn’t really mean much. I guess the “Almeda” video, which has a bunch of different sources, seems like it was harder to edit, so it’s the best one.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Solange, “Almeda” 

Best Visual Effects

So I try, when it’s VMA time, to consider the video itself, rather than the song, since the song isn’t really what’s being rewarded except in the category marked “song.” That said, every single song in this category is terrible, and I hated all of it. On top of that, most of the actual visuals here are garish, terrible and nonsensical. I guess it goes to Ariana Grande again, albeit for a different video. This is a weird year for me vis-a-vis the VMAs, guys.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ariana Grande, “God is a Woman”

Best Direction

This is a category where the separation of song from video benefits the winner, because “Old Town Road” is a dumb jingle as a song, but a triumphant work of genius as a music video, and I have to think that the director is the person responsible for that. Good job, Calmatic. You put Vince Staples, Chris Rock and Billy Ray Cyrus in a music video together, and the world salutes you.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lil Nas X, “Old Town Road” (f Billy Ray Cyrus)

Video for Good

Last year this was called “video with a message”, but I suppose the end result is the same. It’s still got John Legend in it, which in the end amounts to the same thing. I’m not entirely sure why “Nightmare” or “You Need to Calm Down” are actually here, but I guess this is why I’m not an MTV awards-granting executive. The Lil Dicky video is a lot of fun, and prevents me from having to spend even one more second thinking about the cover of “Runaway Train” that Skylar Grey abetted, so it wins.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lil Dicky, “Earth” 

Best Rock

Every year I harbor fantasies of taking this entire category and throwing it out a window, because every year it is terrible and has nothing to do with rock music. It was weird to see Lenny Kravitz again, though, I don’t mind saying that. As always, Twenty One Pilots is again the closest thing to a rock band in the category.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Twenty One Pilots, “High Hopes”

Best Dance

As far as it goes, the actual videos in this category full of awful songs are ok. The weird manipulative dead-dog Marshmello video is a little unnecessary, but it’s more than made up for by the joy of Bebe Rexha murdering the members of the Chainsmokers with the scenes in Memento order.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Chainsmokers, “Call You Mine” (f Bebe Rexha)

Best Latin

None of these songs really did it for me as such, but only one of them brought Snow back to public consciousness, and then put him in the video. That’s a real value add, right there. Anybody can sample “Informer,” but putting the man himself on the track is a real surprise. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Daddy Yankee, “Con Calma” (f Snow)

Best K-Pop

I’m sad that only one k-pop girl group is represented, since that wing of the scene is a little less same-y than the boy bands (and especially the boy bands represented here), but I like Blackpink enough that they probably would have won even with more options. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Blackpink, “Kill This Love”

Best R&B

I’m happier about this category than I am about most, mainly because even the songs that are terrible still have ok videos. I like Anderson.Paak so much, however, that even the worst song on his worst album is better than the rest of the field here. To be clear: “Make it Better” is the worst song on his worst album. Hard not to blame Smokey for that one. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Anderson.Paak, “Make it Better” (f Smokey Robinson)

Best Hip-Hop

Look, I was late to the “Old Town Road” train because, honestly, the song is bad. But I like Lil Nas X so much, and the video is so good, that I’m officially trying to make up for lost ground in terms of playing “Old Town Road”. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lil Nas X – “Old Town Road” (f Billy Ray Cyrus)

Best Pop

I applaud the Jonas Brothers for making excellent use of their wives. I almost, but do not actually, applaud Taylor Swift for filling a video with people more interesting and entertaining than she is, and for trying to make something out of hugging Katy Perry. I applaud Khalid’s bravery for appearing on film in that fucking shorts suit. I applaud Ariana Grande for making a music video out of one of the greatest movies of all time. There are reasons I have, variously, applauded Bruno Mars and Card B, but another boring music video collaboration isn’t one of them. I don’t really applaud 5 Seconds of Summer for much, nor Billie Eilish. I gues that means Ariana Grande, by being the only person whom I liked something about unreservedly that wasn’t “the girl who played Jean Grey in the X-Men movies”, is the winner again. I write all this out so that you can see what I’m up against, here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Arianna Grande, “thank u. next”

Push Artist of the Year

So “Push” is the name of what amounts to an “Artist of the Month” program over at MTV, and this is the award they give to the one of those artists that, I guess, turned out the best? I don’t know. Of the twelve artists they decided were gong to be big news, these six were the ones they felt they were most right about. I can’t really quibble with the selection, and I’m as happy as anybody to see such an award go to Lizzo, even though she should also be up for many other such awards.


Best Collaboration

I think the winner here is obvious, so I’m going to point out that, like most movie songs, “Shallow” doesn’t do much work outside of its own context like this, and also that the “Boy With Luv” video is super-weird to watch because Halsey is obviously cut into it post-facto. If there was an award for “worst editing” it would go to whoever’s job was to AfterEffects Ashley Frangipane into that BTS video. Anyway. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lil Nas X, “Old Town Road” (f Billy Ray Cyrus)

Best New Artist

So one of the reasons that I’ve shortened my VMA writeups from the former “write something about everybody and consider” to the lightning-round style “just make a joke and pick the best one” is that the arena of pop music is in a place right now where I’d have to find, like, eight things to say about each thing that I liked, of which there are a teeny tiny number. So even under the circumstances, where I’m not saying as much, I’m still stuck with the following: I do not think that Lil Nas X rises above his novelty presentation, and as much as I like the video, I do not care about him as an artist, and while I think Billie Eilish clearly has something that has captured the attention, and H.E.R. is better than most, I’m going to have to go with Lizzo yet again, the only one of these people that I have any real enthusiasm for.


Best Group

I laughed for a good ten seconds when I saw the Backstreet Boys were here. I will never stop finding mirth in the hilarity of the pop-music wing of the record-selling indsutry trying everything they can to get somebody back on the map. Also I hate all of these groups’ output, but I respect the way that BTS did their thing, and I guess, just like every single year I do this, I have to shout them out for successfully cultivating a giant record-buying fanbase through none of the conventional means 6.


Song of the Year

All of these songs, as songs, are awful. There are not two consecutive listenable minutes in any of these songs. Chris Rock saying “Boogity Boogity” is the best part of this entire field, but it’s not nominated. Nevertheless, it’s the winner, because I can’t think of any other way to make any of this work.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chris Rock, “Boogity Boogity” (as appears at the end of the video for: Lil Nas X, “Old Town Road” [f. Billy Ray Cyrus])

Artist of the Year

Cardi….B? I guess? Despite the fact that she did nothing but feature on things during the period of eligibility? Is that good enough? It has to be, because the second-best artist here is Halsey, and the third-best is Billie Eilish and like, I can’t live this way. We need a better group of pop stars, y’all. 


Video of the Year

Here it is. The cream of the cream. The let there be no sailing beyond. The foreign phrase that means something that’s the best. This would all be much easier if I liked Billie Eilish or 21 Savage I guess. Actually, 21 Savage isn’t bad. Generally speaking, he’s better than Lil Nas X, but I’m going to need to watch the “Old Town Road Video” again, because it really is the video of the year.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lil Nas X, “Old Town Road”

That does it. Here’s hoping that some of our better pop stars manage to put something out in the next year or so. Also, if you know any aspiring pop stars who are better than this crop of folks, feel free to let me know and I’ll do everything in my power (which is nothing) to make them famous enough to get nominated for a vma.

  1. most of the k-pop, most of the latin stuff and Billie Eilish, generally 
  2. Ed Sheeran, Drake, Sam Mendes, the usual suspects 
  3. that is to say, is it impressive that she met up with the choreography, or did the choreographer just say “do some really difficult pole work” and that was it? I mean, I’m sure it’s not that last thing, but I still have no idea how any of this works. 
  4. because of course a Taylor Swift video can be extremely art-decorated, there’s a budget and they can just do what they want. 
  5. because of course that Taylor Swift video is well art-directed, they could afford to hire whoever they wanted to do it. 
  6. you know, for a pop group, since every other band on Earth has to do it this way more or less by default, and this statement only applies in America. So there you go. 

The 2019 Hugo Awards

The Hugos are back! Mercifully, they come with considerably less controversy (as far as I’m aware) this year than even last year 1. There’s some issues with kids having to be supervised at all times (which apparently has to do with Irish alcohol laws), and the super-weird decision to stop allowing supporting memberships to be purchased two weeks before the event, which baffled just about everyone. 

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this year’s Hugos from the non-awards-announcing perspective is the attempt to rollback the “five of six” amendment, which was one of the attempted safeguards against puppy-style block nominating. It’s due to expire soon anyway, but the assertion is that it creates more administrative work for Hugo-party-attenders. It’s further stated that the other puppy-avoidance-tactic rule, E Pluribus Hugo, does most of the heavy lifting where that kind of thing is concerned, and it’s not going anywhere. I have no major opinion on the matter, other than that I like more nominees rather than fewer in general, I guess. 

Beyond that, and some necessary clarification to make the internet itself count as public display and a counting error on the Retro Hugo ballot, it’s all pretty smooth sailing for this, the first Irish Worldcon. Very exciting stuff, and it leaves us with nothing left to do but talk about the actual nominated works.

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Everyone here has done pretty good work and, it seems, is destined to do even more. Jeannette Ng is perhaps the least to my taste 2 of these folks, but she’s still not undeserving. Katherine Arden certainly earns full marks for showing up fully-formed and remarkably prolific. While I haven’t read all of the Winternight books, I liked The Bear and the Nightingale just fine. She also writes young people books, which I have not read but am told are excellent. R.F. Kuang is previously covered in this space 3, and I maintain the opinion that The Poppy War is a tremendous display of talent that I absolutely did not like, although I do look forward to what she writes in the future, given that she’s as good as she is already. Rivers Solomon wrote An Unkindness of Ghosts which is a terrific generation ship novel, and I’m super-excited about what happens next from her. It must be noted, however, that I thought Vina Jie-Min Prasad was the rightful choice last year, and her work this year has only gotten better, so I still think it should be Vina Jie-Min Prasad.


Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book

Without casting major aspersions over things that people otherwise like, this is probably the most difficult this category has gone down in the three years I’ve been writing about the Hugos 4. Rachel Hartman’s Tess of the Road was a convincingly-rendered character study in a character whose thoughts and behavior are tremendously difficult, and who learns how to live in the world in a more comfortable fashion, after some degree of tribulation. She definitely takes on the subject matter directly and unflinchingly (which is admirable), but her style wasn’t something that I ever really engaged with, and I found it (especially in the early going) to be frustratingly repetitive 5, to the point that I had a hard time getting through it. Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince is a court drama about faeries and humans, and is fine for all that, but none of that is anything I engage with as a matter of course, and I didn’t really get into this one either. Dhonielle Clayton’s The Belles takes a big swing at depicting a society that has gone mad in its obsession with “beauty” as the result of an apparently-divine en-uglyfying. The world-building is good, and there are a few moments of pretty effective horror as the nature of the titular belles reveals itself through the narrative, but it’s glued to a pretty standard narrative. The end of the book was very good, however, and made me wish that the first seven-eighths or so had been dismissed in a foreword or something so that we could get the story that happens after this book. It has a sequel, which presumably is that story, and I’ll probably read it because it’s that promising, but this book doesn’t have a whole lot going for it other than several hundred pages of table-setting. Peadar Ó Guilín’s The Invasion is a lot of fun, with a lot of really effective body horror. It’s the sequel to The Call, which was much better, but also blissfully completes the story in two books rather than drawing it out, which I appreciate a lot. It’s nice to see a book that’s so very Irish nominated at the first Irish Worldcon, and it’s definitely a book I’ve recommended, but it’s not got a lot of weight to it, and the first one was better than the second. This category, then, comes down to the same books it did at the Nebulas. Tomi Adeyimi’s Children of Blood and Bone remains more interesting and thought-provoking than well-rendered, and a few months ago, when I had just read it, I was a little more caught up in the emotional content and the richness of the world, and now I just sort of think that perhaps it’ll be better later, when the series develops a bit more plot and a bit less incident. That’s a quibble, though, since it’s still an excellent book. The one at the top for me is Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation, which is probably the first time I’ve  called the win for a piece of alternate-history work (a subgenre I’m not usually super-into), but which is a super-readable, super-affecting, and really well-told bit of Western horror-adjacent writing.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Justina Ireland, Dread Nation

Best Art Book

Hokaaaaay, so. I am familiar with all of the books here nominated, but as I’ve mentioned again and again previously, I’m not much for visual art, and have very little to go on in terms of evaluating these other than “I liked the pictures” or “I didn’t like the pictures”. Spectrum 25: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art is largely fine – there’s some good pictures in there! – but runs afoul of my general belief that best-ofs in this kind of thing have to be really exceptional to be competitors, and it isn’t really. Daydreamer’s Journey: The Art of Julie Dillon has the benefit of being about one artist, and it’s much more consistent, but I also find the pictures in there, devoid of their context, to be not as interesting as some of the books that do more story-telling with their art assemblage. The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition is a cool collection of Charles Vess’s excellent art, but it also manages to, however well-rendered, limit the visual representation of one of sf’s finest works to one guy’s idea of it. The pictures are good, but some of the stuff doesn’t look right, and so it’s hard to really get behind it as a thing. It would probably rate higher if I thought of things visually the same way that Charles Vess does, I guess. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – The Art of the Movie has a lot of subtitles and is, as suggested by the title(s), a collection of the concept art of the movie. It’s a wonderful movie (see below), but the concept art is a nice little addition to my enjoyment of the movie, and not really essential to the world. Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth uses a collection of letters and pictures and things to tell the story of J.R.R. Tolkien, and it’s an interesting way to do it, but ultimately it’s not as good a history as the book that I believe is the rightful winner. Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History is not only a collection of art that I’ve spent an enormous amount of my life looking at, but it does a pretty good job of also telling the history of Dungeons & Dragons, and does so better than the Tolkien book, so is the winner here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History,by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, Sam Witwer 

Best Fan Artist

This category was made easier for me by containing the work of artists who don’t work exclusively in pictures, which I appreciate a great deal. Of the “pictures” artists, Likhain is my favorite – her pictures tend to be really busy ink-y things, all spindly lines and color gradients. It’s really effective 6. Meg Frank is also an excellent painter, whose work is more impressionist than representational, although I don’t know if I like it more than the other stuff in the category. I like pretty much all of it more than Grace P. Fong, who’s a good-enough drawer that draws pictures that fail to move me pretty much at all. Spring Schoenhuth works metal into fannish items, all of which look pretty cool, if not actually to my taste. It’s good work, though. Sara Felix is a mixed-media artist whose work is remarkable, and is admirable in its simplicity and directness. She also designs awards, including the 2018 Hugo. But it’s Ariela Housman who does the most interesting stuff to me – mostly text stuff, and she’s a fantastic calligrapher, but she also does illuminations that are terrific 7. She’s probably my favorite of this set.


Best Professional Artist

There are some extra-heavy hitters in this here category this year. Charles Vess is Charles Vess, and has done fantastic work, but is here primarily for his Earthsea illustrations, about which see above. John Picacio works in a style I actively do not like, and when I encounter one of his covers, I sort of wish I hadn’t. I’m sure it’s someone’s thing (he’s nominated here, after all), but it is decidedly not mine. Jaime Jones did the covers for Martha Wells’s Muderbot books, among others, and those are pretty good, but they’re also not so good that I would declare them deserving of an award of their own. He’s done tonnes of other stuff as well, but those are the things I think of immediately. He’s a highly-realistic artist, which never goes very far with me. Victo Ngai, whose work I’ve praised here in the past, is here largely for covers that I’m not into and her contributions to the Spectrum book, which I was also not into. Shame, really. I’m a little sad that I don’t get more out of Yuko Shimizu’s work – it’s clearly excellent 8, and I suspect that if I knew more about Japan or about visual art generally I might be in better shape as far as appreciating it goes. But I don’t. So it goes. Galen Dara’s work is terrific, and I like her use of color and form, and I often find myself wishing there were more of it, especially her excellent cover for The Future is Blue, which I love.


Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

Ok we’re out of the picture-evaluating woods, guys. It gets a lot smoother from here. I’ll start off here by addressing Dirty Computer. This here website is all over the place, content-wise – it sort of has a generalized idea of “looking at the way popularity manifests itself and how we decide to honor things in the popular culture sphere”, which is why so much of it is focused on awards shows. It also has a decided music bent, because most of what I consume in my free time is music 9, so that’s mostly how it comes out. So among the things I champion are pop music, science fiction, and weirdo R&B. Dirty Computer would seem to be directly inside my wheelhouse, and would, in fact, seem to be driving the very wheels of the wheelhouse themselves. It is not. For whatever reason, I have spent most of the last decade bouncing squarely off Janelle Monae. It’s weird and I can’t explain it. I like it fine, and some of the songs are quite good. I admire her as a person who exists out there in the world and does cool stuff. I do not much like Dirty Computer as an album. There. Now we have to wade through a bunch of tv first. Like The Expanse, which is about as good as it can be I suppose, but which I only watch around awards time, and then kind of slog through as much of it as I need to to get the idea. “Abaddon’s Gate” was a good episode, for what it’s worth, but it’s a good episode of an ok tv show. “Rosa” was also a good episode, this time of Doctor Who, a much better tv show, and “Demons of the Punjab” was better still, but since they aren’t comedies, and it’s my long-state belief that television is for comedies 10, they aren’t winners here. Luckily, the best show on television right now is a comedy, and as much as “Janet(s)” is the episode to talk about due to D’Arcy Carden’s tour de force performance as literally everyone in the show, “Jeremy Bearimy” is the better piece of sf, mainly because it does away with the issues that the show necessarily creates timeline-wise, and because it has Chidi’s breakdown, which isn’t great sf, but is one of the funniest things ever committed to television.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Good Place, “Jeremy Bearimy”

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

This is a surprisingly strong field, given that it’s a field of movies. A Quiet Place is a scary good time, but the world itself falls apart if examined at all, and since these awards are meant to be about the fiction itself, rather than the spectacle, I think it probably fails to rise to the occasion. Annihilation was an ambitious swing at making an adaptation out of a work that is particularly hard to adapt, and, while I applaud the effort, certainly, I don’t think it quite passes muster either. Avengers: Infinity War is fine, but is the first three hours of six hours worth of fan-service, so also doesn’t quite make it over the line. Black Panther was nearly as good a superhero movie as has ever been made, and certainly the best one that Disney has accomplished – it has a great villain, a solid authorial position, and a bunch of other stuff that you’d want out of a movie. It comes in third because the other two are just…better. Sorry to Bother You is fantastic and funny, but sort of flops over under the same criteria as A Quiet Place, which is to say that it’s better at being satisfying in the moment than as a piece of narrative 11. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the best superhero movie made during my lifetime. The alternate-universe stuff is great, the cast is great, the story is whippy, the villain is evil, the heroics are super, and the whole thing manages to buoy along its message by being, essentially, a perfect movie. Great job, everybody.

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

Best Graphic Story

It is the case that I like comics considerably more than I like movies, but also that this field wasn’t as good as it sometimes is. Much of the work was fine, but a lot of it was middle installments of long-running books, which can make it kind of hard to get into choosing it as the recipient of this kind of thing. For example, Saga did just fine with its ninth volume 12, and Paper Girls continues to get better with every volume, but they’re both just middle chapters of longer stories. Monstress has some of the best art currently happening in comics, but I still find the story somewhat difficult to engage with, and it’s never my favorite thing. Nnedi Okarafor’s Black Panther: Long Live the King offers an excellent look at the world in which Black Panther operates, and has a couple of really moving stories in it, but kind of doesn’t stand alone very well, and so doesn’t quite make the cut. Saladin Ahmed’s Abbot is a pretty cool socially-conscious supernatural noir, and is a good beginning to a story that I hope continues for awhile, but also doesn’t seem like it has a real ending. That brings us to On a Sunbeam, which also used to be a webcomic, but which contains an entire story in a really interesting world (or set of worlds, as it were). It’s also about interstellar construction/restoration workers, which pushes all my buttons where sf stories about working-class people are concerned. It’s very good, but it kind of wins by process of elimination, which is why I’m a little down on the category this year. Ah, well. At least none of it is bad.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Tillie Walden, On a Sunbeam

Best Related Work

This is a pretty far-reaching and exciting set of nominations. The books are all fine, but none of them really rises above “fine”. Jo Walton’s An Informal History of the Hugos was a great set of blog posts, but reading it as a book is a little more difficult, because it’s easy for it to read like someone just listing books at you. It’s cool to get someone’s read on the set of Hugo nominees and the world around them all, but not a very good reading experience. Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing is good, and a good central repository for Le Guin’s opinions on art and the reasons for making it, but it’s all stuff she’s said elsewhere, and so, while it’s excellent, it’s also not essential. Alec Nevala Lee’s Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard and the Golden Age of Science Fiction is a very good account of four very difficult people, and if you have a lot of interest in the subject matter is about as good as one could hope for, but requires a level of interest that the other works nominated here don’t require. Lindsay Ellis and Angelina Meehan’s The Hobbit Duology is terrific, but similar to Astounding, is probably much better if you’re already obsessed with the material it covers. The Mexicanx Experience at Worldcon 76 is important and essential work, and mostly just isn’t quite as important or essential as An Archive of Our Own. AO3 winning would be a major win for fan culture, and specifically for fanfiction, which has always been a huge and active part of fandom. Since the Hugos are a fan-granted award, it seems to make sense for the thing that would be fan-related would be the one that is fan-focused and fan-driven, and I can’t think of a single reason why it wouldn’t be the best choice in the field.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: An Archive of Our Own

Best Series

This is one of the toughest categories to evaluate. It was introduced last year, and is here again this year, and I’m basically over the same barrell. I’ve read some of all of them, and all of only two, so I’ll make this easy and decide it’s got to be either Yoon Ha Lee’s The Machineries of Empire or Becky Chambers’s Wayfarers. Wayfarers is good, and contains a lot of excellent utopianist humanism, which is right up my alley in the first place, and gets better as it goes, even if the second and third books are shockingly lacking in Dr. Chef-related content. The Machineries of Empire also gets better as it goes along, and in addition to a mind-bending set of rules about how the ships and the people that are on the ships work, and the way that the conflicts are resolved and basically every other aspect of the world-building, it’s also got a twisty plot that actually feels earned and not cheap, and a terrific ending. So I’m going with the Lee, here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Yoon Ha Lee, The Machineries of Empire 

Best Short Story

For whatever reason, the Hugos seem to skew more fantasy-oriented this year. This is fine, and happens from time to time, but it does some damage to the short story category since, as an extremely generalized tendency, fantasy tends to work better at longer lengths, and science fiction tends to work better at shorter lengths. Sarah Pinsker’s “The Court Magician” is, as I have mentioned previously, my least-favorite Sarah Pinsker story yet. It’s still fine, but it’s not really a standout, and while it does its job as a short story well, the other stories here are better. T. Kingfisher’s “The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society” is also a fun but kind of slight work by one of my very favorite authors. It concerns a young lady and her charms, and specifically the way those charms hold sway over several of the fey, in a nifty reversal of that kind of story. It’s clever and funny, but not the winner. Brooke Bolander’s “The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat” is similarly funny 13, but also kind of slight, although it’s got a very satisfying ending. P. Djèlí Clark’s “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” is a very good story about the lives of the slaves whose mouths used to hold the titular teeth. I can easily see it being someone’s favorite, but it isn’t really mine. Alix E. Harrow’s “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” is a top-notch story that literalizes both the magic of libraries and the importance of escape through literature. It’s the best of the fantasy stories here by a long chalk. Sarah Gailey’s incredible “STET” is not only a terrific and thought-provoking story, but plays with the form (the actual story itself is told in the editor’s notes and stuff, including the many invocations of the title) in a way that makes it even more impressive, and is the clear winner here.


Best Novelette

I usually mention at this point how I think novelette is a weird length, and how I also think that it’s weird that I have an opinion about the word count of a story. There, now I’ve said that. I mention it primarily because this category, as it has for every “novelette” category in any awards so far, has an eight hundred pound gorilla in it, so I’ve got a little space here. Naomi Kritzer’s “The Thing About Ghost Stories” is a surprising story about an anthropologist who studies ghost visitations and the way that people tell their stories about them. Zen Cho’s “If At First You Don’t Succeed Try, Try Again” is about a dragon that strives to ascend to more, and his relationship with a woman who believes in him. Daryl Gregory’s “Nine Last Days on Planet Earth” is a set of vignettes, and is excellently-drawn, but works better as a sort of tone piece than a story as such. It’s good, though. Simone Heller’s “When We Were Starless” is a fantastic story about memory and robots, and an apocalypse of our devising, and what is forgotten and what is remembered, and the importance of the latter. It’s as beautiful a story as I’ve ever read in which an AI museum docent is a primary character. Tina Connolly’s “The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections” involves a terrific magic device, and is an excellent revenge story (of which there are not very many) 14. But really, this category has belonged to Brooke Bolander the whole time, and The Only Harmless Great Thing is the best.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Brooke Bolander, The Only Harmless Great Thing

Best Novella

This is a pretty good category, not much out of the ordinary or noteworthy about it in and of itself. P. Djèlí Clark’s The Black God’s Drums is pretty good alternate-history stuff, but feels more like a prelude than an actual story. If there’s no follow-up or sequel or whatever, it will be a strange little orphan in his bibliography. Martha Wells’s Artificial Condition is probably my favorite of the murderbot books, but suffers from being another middle installment 15. Aliette de Bodard’s The Tea Master and the Detective is an effective and surprising detective story with some really well-done world-building in the background of it. Seanan McGuire continues to invent really interesting portal lands for her Wayward Children stories, and Under the Sugar Sky might be the oddest and most interesting one yet. It doesn’t have quite the same quality of story of the other installments, although I do like the protagonist a lot. Kelly Robson’s Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach is the best story about a time-travelling squid-woman I’ve ever read, and is therefore the winner. I may have made this exact same joke back at the Nebulas, but I apologize for nothing.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kelly Robson, Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach

Best Novel

And here we are, the most exciting of the categories. Or at least the one that requires the most time investment 16. I’m already in a minority here, mainly by thinking that The Calculating Stars was fine, but not that great. It’s a real crowd-pleaser, though, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see it win. I also wouldn’t harbor any bad feelings about it – it’s good, it’s just not as good as the other stuff in the category. Cathrynne Valente’s Space Opera, by contrast, could not be more directly up my street, from the first word to the last, and so it’s probably the book I enjoyed reading the most and will re-read the most often of all of these, but it’s not really the best book here, so I don’t think it should win. I’d be pleased if it did, though. Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning has a great protagonist and is in a great world 17, but I was a little let down by the ending. NB that this is kind of a recent development, and I liked it a lot more back when I read it around Nebula time. Yoon Ha Lee’s Revenant Gun is the best part of the series I just said was the best series back there a couple of categories ago, but very much does not stand alone, and so is kind of hard to evaluate as its own thing, and thus isn’t really a winner here. Becky Chambers’s Record of a Spaceborn Few is also the best part of its series, and does stand alone very well 18, but just isn’t as good as Spinning Silver. It’s odd for me to call a fantasy book the best of the category, but here I am doing so: Spinning Silver is amazing. It uses a fairy tale as a jumping off point to talk about inequality and privilege, as well as intentions, and the fact that actions have consequences. It’s a real triumph of a book, and it’s the winner here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Naomi Novik, Spinning Silver

  1. where there was some business with panels being handled terribly, and nominees being treated badly, and which I wrote about in last year’s Hugos piece. 
  2.  or, at least, the stuff of hers that I’ve read isn’t to my taste.  
  3. for the Nebulas 
  4. I fully acknowledge that three is not that many years. I get it. 
  5.  probably intentional, I understand, to reinforce just how baked-in to Tess the thoughts and attitudes that she felt governed her life were, but also: still hard to read.  
  6. Gosh I hope that sentence sheds some light on why I don’t talk about pictures more often. 
  7. it’s also worth mentioning here that she’s the woman who is the impetus for there being a reconsideration of “public display” in the nomination guidelines. 
  8. I did like her covers for Unwritten, but those were years ago 
  9. even more than books, in fact 
  10.  primarily for narrative reasons – it’s hard for me to ignore the constraints of the form when it’s telling a purely dramatic story, and I’m sure I’ve written about this somewhere else before, or you can buy me a drink and I’ll explain it to you at great length if you really want to know. I got reasons, is what I’m saying here, although I don’t think they’d be very interesting to anybody else. Or even apply to anybody else.  
  11. Note that I think this makes for a better movie experience, but also probably shouldn’t win awards. I’m trying to be consistent about the place I come from for all these things, is what I’m saying, and I’m not a naturally-consistent man. 
  12.  it’s nominated every year, and I suspect next year, when the tenth volume comes up, I’ll feel it’s more deserving, since the tenth volume represents the halfway point and kind of has a caesura, if not an actual ending. Also it’s followed by a hiatus, so I’ll be desperate for more Saga at this time next year. 
  13.  Well, it is funny, as is “The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society,” but they are not actually similar.  
  14.  excellent revenge stories. Non-excellent revenge stories are a dime a dozen and I usually hate them.  
  15. it earns some points back for being the one with ART, the best non-murderbot character in the whole series 
  16.  the astute reader will be able to tell at this point that I am out of things to say in these little category-heading sentences, but I feel like I should say something. I guess this is the price I pay for a non-controversial, relatively-straightforward award situation.  
  17.  although it is not without its controversial possibly-appropriative elements, which I didn’t think about but which have, since I read it, been brought to my attention, so your mileage may vary.  
  18.  all of the Wayfarers books do – they’re connected by world, mostly, and a couple of characters, but they’re not really sequential