Best Records of March 2019

Solange – When I Get Home (In turning down and making quieter, more intricate music, Solange has once again made the most surprising record possible)

William Basinski – On Time Out of Time (it’s made of the sound of black holes consuming each other! It’s so cool!)

The Comet is Coming – Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery (Shabaka Hutchings continues to make the best jazz music for dancin’)

Ex Hex – It’s Real (Most garage bands go hilariously radio-metal and it’s a reason to hold them in disdain, but not this time. No really. I promise.)

Wander – March (Sometimes some on-the-nose post-rock is just what the doctor ordered)

A Considered Prediction of Every Act to Play Woodstock 50

So we finally get to see, after all of the announcement and hype, what the lineup for the Woodstock that’s happening this summer is. I kick around talking about festival lineups every year, and then every year I decide not to get to it 1. For this, however, since I just did all the Woodstock stuff when it was announced, I decided to wade on in and pass some dang judgment.

There’s a pretty by-now-standard mix of pop stars, aging rock dudes, and probably just about as many original Woodstock folk as are willing and able (which is to say: not that many). It looks like it was assembled to appeal to a large denominator, and to consist of people who do this sort of thing fairly often, and are therefore reliable. It looks, in short, pretty dull.

That said, it probably doesn’t hold up any worse than any other Woodstock, even if it is kind of boring and seems pretty slapdash. So let’s take a look at how this might go!

DAY 1

John Sebastian

WHO HE IS:The former autoharpist for The Lovin’ Spoonful, and a veteran of a couple of other Woodstocks – he only didn’t play 99.

IS HE WORTH IT?: Dude wasn’t worth it in 1969, and he’s literally fifty years older now, so no I’m comfortable saying he is not.

Princess Nokia

WHO SHE IS: A very young emo rapper.

IS SHE WORTH IT?: I’m going to go with “no,” given that every word in that sentence except “a” seems to rule it out.

Anderson East

WHO HE IS: A white R&B dude who is not related to Dave East (a rapper) or Anderson Paak (a much better R&B singer)

IS HE WORTH IT: there is almost no way that he can be, no.

Michael Franti & Spearhead

WHO HE IS: An erstwhile Disposable Hero of Hiphoprosy, who’s also been a reggae dude for well over a decade now, and I think had a hit several years ago.

IS HE WORTH IT: He’s not even worth me looking up if he did, in fact, have a hit several years ago, so I can’t imagine standing in front of his playing.

Maggie Rogers

WHO HE IS: According to Wikipedia, she cites Carrie Brownstein, Patti Smith and Bjork as influences. Coincidentally, so do I. This would be great. We could talk about Bjork records while literally anything else happens, because it’s not like I’m going to be listening to her music.

IS SHE WORTH IT: Nopers

The Head and the Heart

WHO THEY ARE: A sort of folk-rock band. They’re fine.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: They probably aren’t bad live, and “Down in the Valley” is a pretty cool song, so by the admittedly-loosened standards of this here Woodstock situation, probably yes.

Run the Jewels

WHO THEY ARE: Great rappers. One of them is also a great producer.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: Oh, sure. They’re great live and I’m sure they’re great in front of a huge crowd.

Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats

WHO THEY ARE: Denver jam band. This is allegedly different from the other bands that Nathaniel Rateliff has been in, but I can’t pretend to be interested in why.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: I don’t want to come off as needlessly pessimistic, but it’s entirely possible that they wouldn’t be that bad. I mean, not memorable or whatever, but probably fine.

John Fogerty

WHO THEY ARE: Another Woodstock veteran, and the dude that used to be in CCR.

IS HE WORTH IT: Yeah, probably, even though he’s fairly old. He wrote a bunch of great songs, certainly.

Robert Plant

WHO HE IS: He used to sing for the Honeydrippers. He made a record in the nineties with Jimmy Page, and another one twenty or so years later with Alison Krauss.

IS HE WORTH IT: God I don’t even know. The odds of hearing a Led Zeppelin song are pretty long, and the odds of wanting to hear one given his actual singing voice these days are somewhat lower.

The Raconteurs

WHO THEY ARE: Jack White and Brendan Benson’s recently-reconvened rock band.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: Oh, probably. While I’ve never seen them, I’ve seen Jack White and Brendan Benson separately, and they’re both great, so it seems likely.

The Lumineers

WHO THEY ARE: A Denver jam-folk-rock band that recently lost their cellist.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: I don’t know what their cellist contributed, but I’m going go ahead and say “no, not without their cellist”.

Santana

WHO HE IS: Another original Woodstocker. I guess he can only play Woodstocks that John Sebastian plays, because he also has only missed 99.

IS HE WORTH IT: Not for the last several decades, no.

Miley Cyrus

WHO SHE IS: The oldest daughter of the guy who sang “Achy Breaky Heart”

IS SHE WORTH IT: I can’t imagine that she would be. Her televised live performances haven’t been much to write home about, and I’m not sure that being in front of a field full of many thousands of people is going to actually help matters any.

The Killers

WHO THEY ARE: Las Vegas’s premiere rock band of the late aughts.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: An internet acquaintance saw The Killers at a festival some years back and described the reaction to them playing “Mr. Brightside” as “the closest [he] would ever be being inside a riot”. So yeah, that sounds pretty good.

DAY 2

Taylor Bennett

WHO HE IS: Chance the Rapper’s little brother the rapper

IS HE WORTH IT: I have no idea. His music doesn’t do much for me as it is, but it might be fine, and it’s probably better than a nine hundred year old former rock star.

Soccer Mommy

WHO SHE IS: A very talented nineties-throwback power-pop lady

IS SHE WORTH IT: Oh yeah. I missed her the last time she came through Cleveland, and I wish I hadn’t all the time.

Emily King

WHO SHE IS: A rank-and-file R&B singer

IS SHE WORTH IT: Well, her recorded music doesn’t have much to make it memorable (I wasn’t aware, in fact, that she had even made a third record, but I suppose that’s on my attention more than it is on the music), but I suppose it’s possible that she pulls it out live. I dunno. The pickings are slim enough that I’d probably say “Sure”.

Rival Sons

WHO THEY ARE: There is a long tradition of unmemorable nothing-special blues-rock bands playing at Woodstock. Rival Sons are continuing in that tradition.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: Almost certainly not.

Country Joe

WHO HE IS: Oh for fuck’s sake. I guess you can’t have a Woodstock without Country goddamned Joe. Let’s here it for the fish cheer, everybody!

IS HE WORTH IT: No. Not now, not ever.

Margo Price

WHO SHE IS: A Jack White-affiliated country singer.

IS SHE WORTH IT: Yes. Her music is good, and I bet it works pretty well in the setting.

Dawes

WHO THEY ARE: A pretty straightforward, if a little bland, rock band.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: Dawes are fine, and I’ve heard good things about them live, even though I’ve never made it out to see them myself, so I’d say yes. Why not?

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

WHO THEY ARE: A jam-adjacent folk-rock band that had a sort of hit with “Home” a bunch of years ago. If you’ve confused them with The Lumineers, that’s ok, I’m not entirely convinced they’re not the same band.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: No

Gary Clark Jr

WHO HE IS: A blues-rock guitar guy.

IS HE WORTH IT: I’ve always enjoyed seeing him play when I’ve happened across it on tv. I’m sure it’s fine at a festival.

Leon Bridges

WHO HE IS: A neo-soul dude who came up via White Denim, which is an interesting bit of business, if nothing else.

IS HE WORTH IT: Sure, I like Leon Bridges a lot, and his thing was made for this sort of event.

Portugal, The Man

WHO THEY ARE: Wasilla, Alaska’s finest!

ARE THEY WORTH IT: No. They haven’t made a good song in a dozen or so years, and even in the early going it’s not like they were that good.

Greta Van Fleet

WHO THEY ARE: Well they’re not Led Zeppelin, I’ll tell you that.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: Of course not.

Sturgill Simpson

WHO HE IS: A genuinely pretty-weird country dude, which makes him a rare bird, indeed.

IS HE WORTH IT: Oh, absolutely.

The Black Keys

WHO THEY ARE: Recently reactivated Akron blues-rock band.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: They’ve always been good when I’ve seen them, I’m sure they’ll be fine.

Chance the Rapper

WHO THEY ARE: Chicago’s most positivity-oriented gospel-rapper

IS HE WORTH IT: Oh I bet he’d be a blast. He’s one of the ones I’d be genuinely sad to miss, in fact. If I were in fact going to be sad about missing any of this shitshow.

Dead and Company

WHO THEY ARE: Two of the surviving/still-interested members of the Grateful Dead, plus John Mayer. So if you ever thought that the main problem with the Grateful Dead was that John Mayer wasn’t involved, well, you’ve probably already seen them a dozen times anyway and don’t need me to tell you about them.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: Nopers!

DAY 3

Cherry Glazerr

WHO THEY ARE: An actress/model-fronted rock band that appears to be making a big ol’ push to be real-life rock stars. Whee!

ARE THEY WORTH IT: No

Pussy Riot

WHO THEY ARE: A Russian activist group/riot-grrl act

ARE THEY WORTH IT: Their entertainment value depends wildly on what they’re doing onstage at this particular event, but probably.

Hot Tuna

WHO THEY ARE: Two former members of Jefferson Airplane. True story: I thought that one of these dudes died a few years ago, but he did not!

ARE THEY WORTH IT: I can’t imagine them being worth it, no.

Canned Heat

WHO THEY ARE: Another veteran of previous Woodstocks, and another of those aforementioned nothing-special blues-rock bands.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: I would do an awful lot not to sit through a Canned Heat performance, I can’t lie.

The Zombies

WHO THEY ARE: One of the all-time great first-time-around psychedelia bands. They were a part of the British Invasion, even.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: I hear they still are, even though I haven’t been able to see it myself. I believe it, though.

Boygenius

WHO THEY ARE: A supergroup comprised of Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Daucus and Julien Baker.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: The record is pretty good, and they’re all pretty good separately, so sure, I bet they’re worth it.

Earl Sweatshirt

WHO HE IS: One of the more lasting talents to come out of Odd Future, and a genuinely great rapper.

IS HE WORTH IT: Yes, although I won’t have seen him myself until a couple of months before this event. I’m still willing to bet heavily on it.

Judah and the Lion

WHO THEY ARE: Like…a novelty bro-folk band? I think that’s the best way to describe them.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: Oh god no.

Vince Staples

WHO HE IS: Probably my favorite currently-operating rapper.

IS HE WORTH IT?: He’s fantastic live, and while I would have some misgivings about his ability to come over to a festival crowd, I bet it would still work out.

Common

WHO HE IS: An elder statesman of conscious rap.

IS HE WORTH IT: Yeah, probably

Courtney Barnett

WHO SHE IS: An Australian rock musician and another genuine actual genius.

IS SHE WORTH IT: Oh sure. This stuff was made for festivals, and she’s an amazing live act.

Young the Giant

WHO THEY ARE: They’re a rock band. I genuinely forget who they are, even though they’ve been famous for basically as long as they’ve existed, and I’ve therefore been aware of them for a decade.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: I can barely remember they exist, I can’t imagine it’s worth standing in front of.

Janelle Monae

WHO SHE IS: R&B’s foremost pansexual cyborg

IS SHE WORTH IT: Probably! I get the impression that a lot of her onstage thing depends on the “show” aspect of it, so it might depend on how much stage production she can get out there, but I also fully acknowledge that this feeling is based on very little, and I could be entirely wrong. In any event, I bet it’s worth it to see.

Brandi Carlile

WHO SHE IS: A full-throated folkie whose most recent album did gangbusters business

IS SHE WORTH IT: I mean, she spent a long time garnering her fans and attention the hard way, which for a folkie means playing out in front of people, so at the very least she’s got enough experience for there to be a reasonable chance. I’m not sure that I’d ever enjoy it, but she’s better than most of what happens here.

Cage the Elephant

WHO THEY ARE: The band that did the song from Borderlands!

ARE THEY WORTH IT: I can’t imagine that they are. I think they did a daytrotter session years ago that I kind of hated, and being several years later in a giant field is probably not going to help matters much.

Halsey

WHO SHE IS: A pop singer who is, to be frank, unusually high on this bill

IS SHE WORTH IT: There are many reasons to enjoy looking at Halsey, but I can’t imagine any of them translate to wanting to do so in such a context

Imagine Dragons

WHO THEY ARE: One of the few reliably hit-making rock bands left in the world.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: They might be a compelling act in a circus-trick giant-drum sense. I dunno.

Jay-Z

WHO HE IS: Beyonce’s husband

IS HE WORTH IT: I’d imagine he can still deliver whatever it is you think you’d be looking for out of a Jay-Z performance in 2019

So now you know!

So there you have. Also, feel free to remember that whatever I say up there, none of this is worth it, and there’s (going on past happenings) a 33% chance it could end in everything being on fire!

Wheee!


  1. for a couple of reasons, first being that there are other people that do it, and they don’t start from the position that giant outdoor festivals are a stupid way to see a band, which makes them more credible and secondly that I listen to a lot of music, but have pretty well winnowed it down to what I actually am likely to enjoy, and so would have to spend a lot of time deep in the trenches figuring out a lot of undercard acts. Woodstock didn’t print their undercard acts, so I’m pretty well familiar with everyone here. 

The 2019 Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards

Awhile back, I declared that there were some awards shows I was just never going to write about, and this was one of them. I did realize , however, that I cover a lot of things that are of interest to me, and not a lot of things that are decidedly not aimed at me. This is sort of by design – I don’t talk about awards aimed at marginalized/minoritized people because I’m not one of those things, and I don’t feel comfortable inveighing on them, especially in a jokey fashion that declares my favorite of the things involved the “Rightful” winner.

That said, I used to be a kid. It was a long time ago, but it totally happened, so this presents me with an award that is granted to/by a demographic that is outside my own but that I feel I am at least somewhat qualified to speak to the rightfulness of the winning-eligible selections, here.

So unlike the Teen Choice Awards, which occupy a more generalized sort of place, the Kids Choice Awards are specifically granted by the cable television network Nickelodeon. It is admirable how much restraint they are able to show by not pushing too much of their own content, which also brings to mind the also-paramount-owned MTV Movie awards. In fact, they’re very similar in most regards. I suppose that makes sense.

I have to suppose these things, because I have basically no experience with the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards. I’ve always liked awards shows, and I must have watched them on occasion when I was a kid, but I don’t remember anything about them in particular, so this is basically a clean slate for me.

That said, this does present a pretty fantastic opportunity, because I genuinely love weird try-hard little awards shows, even though I have basically no idea what place or function Nickelodeon holds in the culture, either at large or among its theoretical target demographic of children.

Anyway, I’m skipping the international categories because they seem pretty specifically focused to the target audiences there, and I don’t want to compound any problems I may have in the first place with problems understanding what children on other continents are into.

How Do You Want to Help?

This category is well-intended and fine, but it also seems like advertising research? Which is also fine, I guess, as long as it gets people thinking about helping other people, which I’m foursquare in favor of. I’m saying even cold-hearted me can’t come up with anything to say about this other than undistinguished approval. Oh, except genuinely if we don’t figure out the environment there won’t be any animals, or schools, or, eventually people to be bullied/in need, so let’s get on the environment, yeah?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: I mean, they’re all rightful, but only one of them is about the fate of the literal planet so….

Favorite Social Star

I’m more than happy to cede this one to current events, and point out that Lilly Singh is so good at social media it got her a job as a queer woman of color on late-night television, so she’s the winner.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lilly Singh

Favorite Gamer

I know nothing about this world at all, and I only ever hear about these people when they, say, scream racial slurs and/or get arrested, as a couple of the people here have been. This Markiplier dude seems ok, and hasn’t shouted racial slurs or been arrested, so I guess I’m safe naming him rightful, but man, I hope I don’t live to regret it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Markiplier, I hope

Favorite Video Game

My favorite of these is Marvel’s Spider Man because wheeeeee web-slinging and also beating up criminals but mostly the web-slinging. It’s so good, y’all. THWIPP.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Marvel’s Spider Man

Favorite Global Music Star

Well, I appreciate that they’re trying here, but this is not quite like the charity one, because it does one of my least favorite things: it makes “global” music into one homogenous mass. It’s exoticization, and it’s stupid. But I do like J. Balvin.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: J. Balvin

Favorite Social Music Star

You’ll never believe this, but even after as much research as I could muster, I still don’t care about any of these people.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chloe x Halle

Favorite Collaboration

It remains the case that in these all-encompassing, bit-of-everything awards shows, the music categories are frustraing and stupid. This is geared at theoretical children, so it’s especially so. But I do still kind of like “I Like It”. A little bit.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Cardi B, “I LIke It” (f J Balvin & Bad Bunny)

Favorite Breakout Artist

I don’t know the eligibility period for the Kids Choice Awards, but I’m happy that Cardi B is here, because I was really staring down the barrel of trying to figure out something nice to say about Billie Eilish otherwise, and that made me itch.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Cardi B

Favorite Song

I’m going to, out of circumstances beyond my control here, say something I never thought I’d say, and here it is: Ariana Grande has the best song in this field of people. She also has Nickelodeon ties, which I would think was weird except there’s no way they planned it this way, so I’m comfortable with it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ariana Grande, “Thank U, Next”

Favorite Female Artist

At least the Kids Choice Awards err on the side of “obvious” so that I don’t have to do any more thinking than is required, but jeez, Beyonce is not in the same league as these folks. Good to see her here though.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Beyonce

Favorite Male Artist

Things  are a little tougher down here, but that’s only because the Beyonce of Male Artists is Drake, and that’s a pretty poor substitute. Nevertheless, he’s probably the one here that annoys me the least, even if he hasn’t made a record I’ve liked in a very long time.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Drake, I guess

Favorite Music Group

I feel like I have more to say about the strangeness of these categories, what with Migos being an entire order of magnitude better than any of the other groups in this field, but also I think it’s just a side-effect of greatness occasionally yielding great fame, or at the very least that occasionally some great gets famous, even if they aren’t related 1. Ah, well.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Migos

Favorite Cartoon

In the interest of moving this along, I’m going to assume that the best of these cartoons is SpongeBob and emerge with my sanity intact.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: SpongeBob SquarePants

Favorite TV Judges

The Four was such a baffling, infuriating several hours of television that I want it to win some kind of award, but honestly, the most entertaining the judges ever were happened when DJ Khaled completely checked out by the end of the second season. I’m not willing to call Meghan Trainor particularly good at anything, really. Anyway, the current judges on American Idol are the most entertaining part of it, especially in the early going 2, when the contestants themselves aren’t actually at all entertaining yet, so they should be the winners.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan, American Idol

Favorite TV Host

Tyra Banks is, in a lot of ways, the consummate tv host, and also a total goofball, so I think she belongs here, especially since she’s the only person on America’s Got Talent that’s worth watching.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Tyra Banks, America’s Got Talent

Favorite Reality Show

On the one hand, I kind of like American Ninja Warrior, but if I’m being honest I rather wish that I liked it more. On the other hand, I do actually watch American Idol, even if I don’t remember anything about it once it’s over, so I probably wish I liked it less. What about combining them into a show about people who have to complete an obstacle course while singing? I think that sounds delightful, quite frankly, and I would watch it every day.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: American Ninja Idol Warrior’s Got Talent

Favorite Male TV Star

While it’s true that Neil Patrick Harris is the best one here, it’s also true that he’s not even the best male performer on A Series of Unfortunate Events – that’s Patrick Warburton. Nevertheless, since I completely invented a show for the last category, I guess I better play this one by the book.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Neil Patrick Harris, A Series of Unfortunate Events

Favorite Female TV Star

I either actively dislike or haven’t seen even a minute of every show in this category. I’m going to assume that Zendaya is the best one here, because Zendaya is the best generally.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Zendaya

Favorite TV Drama

I wonder if Nickelodeon still has any financial stake in the Netflix A Series of Unfortunate Events show. They produced or distributed or funded or whatever the Jim Carrey movie from awhile back, but I’m not sure if they still hold any part of the license. Whether it’s insider trading or not, it’s the best show in this category, so I’m happy to call it the winner. Yay!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: A Series of Unfortunate Events

Favorite Funny TV Show

Oooh! None of these shows are even remotely funny! I guess Modern Family used to be, so it’s the winner, but it’s kind of a winner emeritus because, well, that was a long time ago.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Modern Family

Favorite Female Voice from an Animated Movie

All of these are fine examples of fine work, but Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was my favorite movie of 2018, and is about to run the table on the animated categories, so there.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Hailee Steinfeld, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Favorite Male Voice from an Animated Movie

I mean, it’s a shame, because this set of categories is among the strongest sets in the entire field of consideration, but that’s just how it goes sometimes.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Shameik Moore, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Favorite Animated Movie

Aaaaaand one more.

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

Favorite Butt-Kicker

After all that, I’m sad to say that there is no Spider-Man in this category, despite him kicking plenty of dang butts. This is all very silly. Danai Gurira did more actual butt-kicking than Zoe Saldana in their respective 2018 MCU appearances, so it goes to her.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Danai Gurira, Black Panther (but also in Avengers: Infinity War, even though she’s not mentioned in there, because come on, guys)

Favorite Superhero

Actually, it might just be an artifact of the way their website populates fields that people aren’t nominated for more than one movie, because Chadwick Boseman is only mentioned here in Black Panther also. Also there is no Spider-Man here, despite Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse being the best superhero movie of 2018, if not of all time. This seems stupid.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Probably Chadwick Boseman, but really Shameik Moore should be here for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Favorite Movie Actress

Rihanna was the best part of Ocean’s 8 3, which does thorn this up a bit. But honestly, Zoe Saldana has figured out a very capable performance in a role that wouldn’t otherwise necessarily need or have one without her, so I’m happy to just keep giving it to her.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Zoe Saldana, Avengers: Infinity War

Favorite Movie Actor

This is where I break with my so-far-established tradition and confess that, in terms of who I liked the most as an actor in any of these movies, Chris Hemsworth runs away with it. He was great in Avengers: Infinity War. I would watch an entier movie of Thor’s Adventures with Rocket, yes sir I would.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chris Hemsworth, The Avengers: Infinity War

Favorite Movie

Critic and podcaster Amy Nicholson has theorized that the reason for Saving Mr. Banks was to rewrite PL Travers’ actual life as a charitable, progressive, generally-admirable person so that Disney was able to cast themselves as being in the right w/r/t any of their Mary Poppins-related decisions, and that specifically it was teeing us up for this re-imagining of the idea. I place this idea here for two reasons: 1) there is no reason for Mary Poppins Returns to be nominated as the favorite anything ever, and 2) I have basically nothing to say here that I haven’t already said before.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Black Panther


  1. that’s not my least confusing sentence, but I assure you I know what I mean, so there. 
  2. which we are, as of the time of this writing 
  3. a movie that I liked quite a bit, contrary to public opinion. Fight me. 

The 2019 iHeartRadio Awards

So last year I started writing about the iHeartRadio music awards, for a couple of reasons: 1) it was brought to my attention what a goofy nonsense-fest it is, and 2) I thought that maybe it might not be long for the world. And indeed it may not be! But here it remains, shambling along to prop up the idea that the world’s largest radio owning-conglomerate is doing something culturally viable, and not dying a slow, public death!

So let’s have a look at whom they’re honoring, and mostly roll our eyes at how terrible this all is. Oh, and they didn’t print the nominees, but there are also categories for the “most thumbed-up” song and artist, as well as “Best Tour” and “Best Label”. For the first couple I get it – these are decided algorithmically and numerically, but the latter two should definitely be here. Also how is “Best Label” even a thing when there’s only three majors and they’re all in conflicting interest with iHeart Media? It’s almost like this entire awards show is a ridiculous sham!

Also I’d like to see the most thumbsed-down artist, to be frank. On to the nominees!

Favorite Tour Photographer

This is a new category, and the nominees are printed, even though the nominees for “Best Tour” are not, because this awards show does not, in fact, make any goddamned sense. Most of this is pretty dumb and uninteresting, but Ravie B is pretty cool. Beyonce has good taste in photographers, generally, but Ravie B is famous outside of her Beyonce work and is very good. So there you have it. This is a popular voted-category, so it’s liable to go to someone who takes pictures of Shawn Mendes, but that’s still not the right answer.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ravie B

Song That Left Us Shook

This is another new category, and another one that’s voted on by the fans (which means it’s probably going to go the Ariana Grande song). None of these songs left me “Shook” as such. “This is America” had a great video. But actually the end of the video for the Sam Mendes/Khalid song “Youth” where you see all the kids from the video and their jobs and hear them talk and stuff is actually pretty moving, and while that isn’t part of the song, it’s still pretty much all I’ve got here, so in it goes.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Shawn Mendes and Khalid, “Youth”

Best Solo Breakout

This category consists of every non-Camila-Cabello member of Fifth Harmony and a woman who was in Girls Generation, and given that Camila Cabello is basically the only member of Fifth Harmony with any real reason to have listened to in the first place, I’m going to have to go with the woman who was in Girls Generation.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Tiffany Young

Cutest Musician’s Pet

First of all all of these are good boys. Every single one of them. Mooshu only loses points by belonging to a Chainsmoker 1. Hatchie, Asia and Gracie are about as good as little dogs can be. Edgar is a very distinguished gentleman and I’m happy to know about him. Goodwin is also among the top tier of adorable dogs. But this category (and my heart) belongs only to Piggy Smallz

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Piggy Smallz

Social Star Award

Guys there are too many people in this category and I don’t care about any of this, so I’m giving it to Trixie Mattel, who was once a guest on a podcast that I like and is therefore better than the rest of these people.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Trixie Mattel

Best Music Video

Once again I find myself very happy that “This is America” is in the world, because I don’t even know why most of these things are nominated, let alone how to evaluate them against one another.

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

Best Cover Song

You know, I didn’t know that I was going to speed through these categories. I thought to myself “I bet I will have things to say about these people and about pop music, because this is a good opportunity to do so”. But nope. Halsey covered Juice WRLD. Charlie Puth covered Shawn Mendes. Et and also cetera. But actually there is a bright spot here: Khalid covered “Fast Car” and it is incredible. It solves the “Khalid’s songs aren’t as good as his voice” problem 2, which is nice, and is kind of why you’d want somebody to cover something in the first place.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Khalid, “Fast Car”

Best Lyrics

I have made it a matter of record before, but will state again for the present situation: I am not a lyrics person. I have, however, a bunch of literature-examining training. Now, in a way this isn’t fair – lyrics are not the same as poetry 3, and while it’s possible to evaluate them outside of the songs in which they appear, it is also somewhat diminishing to the thign they represent. This category, then, is about as useful as “best bassline” or “best synth part” or whatever, in that it is examining a portion of a song, which is definitionally the combination of all the different bits. That’s fine. Everyone in the world cares more about lyrics than me, so I’m willing to go along with it for the sake of our purposes here, but it leaves me in the position of having to say that almost all of this is terrible. “Without Me” is a bad song with bad lyrics. “Consequences” and “Girls Like You” don’t have bad lyrics, but they’re not anything special. “God’s Plan” at least has some clever wordplay. It’s not good, but some of it is clever. “In My Blood” is probably the best lyric of the bunch, when taken as an example of one word following another with no additional context which, again, is a butt-stupid way to look at song lyrics. “Thank U Next” is also clever, and makes its point in an interesting way, I suppose, and since it also provides most of the thing you’d actually want to hear about a song that wouldn’t be at all interesting with different lyrics, it wins here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ariana Grande, “Thank U, Next”

Best Fan Army presented by Taco Bell

I love when one category is sponsored in awards shows. It’s almost always the “Best New Artist” category and it makes me laugh all the time. As thought it wouldn’t be here without the gracious philanthropic vision of the fine folks at….Taco Bell. Ha! Anyway, this, like all “Best fans” categories, will go to BTS for the entire foreseeable future, for all the usual reasons.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The BTSArmy

Songwriter of the Year

Mostly this category is indicative of this entire awards show – by which I mean it’s full of lowest-common-denominator nonsense and stuff that the record-selling industry is trying to make happen – but I like Frank Dukes for two reasons. 1) He co-wrote some pretty good Frank Ocean songs 4 and 2) he almost has the same as Frank Dux, who was a highly entertaining nutbar. That’s about all I’ve got for this crop of people. I’m happy to be moving on.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Frank Dukes

Producer of the Year

Or I would have been happier to move on, if this category wasn’t somehow even worse. I guess it goes to Marshmallo because his music is fine, such as it is.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Marshmello

Regional Mexican Artist of the Year

In researching this last year, I found that I quite liked Calibre 50. Since I still only have two years very casual research to go on, it may come as no surprise to find that I still quite like Calibre 50.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Calibre 50

Region Mexican Song of the Year

I’m not the only one, clearly, as I find myself with two Calibre 50 songs to choose from here. IT is not exaggerating to say that this makes this one of the most difficult categories, quite frankly.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Calibre 50, “Mitad y Mitad”

Best New Latin Artist

This one is hard, but I ended up going with Lele Pons, because I still miss her Vine. And Vine generally.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lele Pons

Latin Artist of the Year

I feel equally about J. Balvin, Bad Bunny and Daddy Yankee, who represent the sort of triumvirate of American-penetrating Latin pop music. I guess I’ve never proclaimed Bad Bunny the rightful winner before, so I’ll give it to him this year.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Bad Bunny

Latin Song of the Year

These get harder as they get farther away from Calibre 50, I don’t mind telling you. I guess I like “Dura” the best of all of these.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Daddy Yankee, “Dura”

Best New R&B Artist

The “new artist” categories at the iHeart awards are simultaneously the hardest to evaluate and also the most sort of existentially hilarious – the radio wants to be able to break these people, but can’t, so they have to convince you that they’re right about them being the next big thing and….hoping that they’re right? It’s an amazing thing to consider, quite frankly. Anyway, I like H.E.R. fine.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: H.E.R.

R&B Artist of the Year

Ella Mai is up for best New R&B Artist and for R&B Artist of the year. That’s a tall order for a lady with one hit. I suppose this says everything important about the state of the Media Conglomerate Formerly Known as Clear Channel in 2019, though, doesn’t it?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: SZA

R&B Song of the Year

I will say that I often remark about the dire quality of the work in these awards shows (or all awards shows, really), but it does make the prospect of figuring out which one of these is the most deserving pretty easy. In this case, though, it’s the pleasant-but-slight “Boo’d Up” butting up against a third-rate Miguel song in the form of “Skywalker,” so I went with the one that doesn’t have Travis Scott on it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ella Mai, “Boo’d Up”

Best New Hip Hop Artist

It is strange that XXXTentacion’s entire thing happened so fast that he’d be up for best new artist anywhere, but there you have it. It’s a weird time to be alive. All of these people make truly terrible music, tho. Even without being a pretty deeply unsavory person, XXXTentacion made awful music. Lil Baby makes awful music. Lil Pump makes awful music. Juice WRLD makes ever-so-slightly-less awful music, and BlocBoy JB, well, he comes out of this looking very good. His music is still awful, just the least awful.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: BlocBoy JB (begrudgingly)

Hip Hop Artist of the Year

Kendrick didn’t do much more than produce the Black Panther soundtrack, but it’s still more of a contribution to hip hop than any of the rest of these dildos. I mean, Cardi B’s record is fine and all that, but I don’t think it’s enough to put her over the top. In this category I mean. More on her music (which, you may remember, I do like) later.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kendrick Lamar (somehow)

Dance Artist of the Year

It’s a banner year when this category has two artists I almost kind of like. I still think Calvin Harris is about as good as radio dance music gets, but I don’t hate Marshmello, and I’m calling this a kind of progress.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Calvin Harris

Dance Song of the Year

Calvin Harris is fine, and I’m on the record as sort of liking Dua Lipa, so “One Kiss” is the obvious winner here. Plus the video is fun.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Calvin Harris, “One Kiss” (f Dua Lipa)

Best New Country Artist

Back at the American Music Awards, this category went to LANCO because they didn’t have a Wikipedia page, and looking them up on Wikipedia just sent you to the page for an airline. That made me laugh. They probably also win here because their song isn’t that bad, but it might just be residual goodwill from the time when they lost their Wikipedia page to an airline. Heh.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: LANCO

Country Artist of the Year

Oh my god I can’t say the thing I say ever year about how these categories are all the same people every year because it’s the beginning of the year and if I start complaining about it now I’ll lose my mind before it’s time to stop but I CANNOT ANY LONGER CONSIDER WHETHER JASON ALDEAN IS BETTER THAN LUKE BRYAN OR WHATEVER OH GOD. At least I like Luke Bryan on American Idol. That’s something.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Luke Bryan

Country Song of the Year

I genuinely do not like any of these songs. Not even in my usual grumbly way, just in the way that all of these songs are terrible and I hate them. I appreciate Luke Bryan’s earnestness, even if his song sounds like it was written after he got hit in the back of the head with a shovel.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Luke Bryan, “Most People Are Good,” but it’s really a dreadful song. It’s just better than the rest of the songs here. Kind of. If you squint.

Rock Artist of the Year

I mean, the Country Song category was brain-meltingly bad, but at least it wasn’t this bad. For the first time in my life, I have to consider the fact that I would rather hear a Five-Finger Death Punch song than set myself on fire, which I can’t say for any of the other bands here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Five-Finger Death Punch, but I am seriously going to start gibbering with madness if things don’t turn up for this category soon.

Rock Song of the Year

Can we talk about this Bad Wolves cover of “Zombie”? It’s kind of the only thing in this category I find compelling. It’s obviously terrible. Like, all-time world-class terrible 5. It’s also in this category, and not in “best cover song”, and I’m not sure if that’s a vote of confidence or an insult. It’s also not actually even the best cover of “Zombie” released in the wake of Dolores O’Riordan’s death – that would be Vic Mensa’s cover, which rules – so it’s essentially nothing. Truly, this is the bottom of the barrel for inconsequential awards-show nominating.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Actually, I’m giving to Vic Mensa for his cover of “Zombie”, which also did not make “best cover version” and should have. It also was not nominated here.

Best New Rock/Alternative Artist

I guess what I’m wondering is this: what is the point at which the iHeart folks stop even pretending that there’s any such thing as rock music on the radio? They’re kind of doing it here – by merging it with “Alternative” here as they have, they have acknowledged that they can’t fill out a category without adding a bunch of synth bands anyway. I have no problem with this. I’m happy to cede that rock is not a major commercial force. It seems to be doing pretty well under those circumstances. Anyway, all of these bands are awful, but Billie Ellish has convinced a bunch of people that whatever she’s doing is worth hearing, and I appreciate that kind of marketing savvy.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Bille Ellish (who is very bad, but cannily-marketed)

Alternative Rock Artist of the Year

This is not quite as bad as the country song category, or the regular Rock artist category 6, but it’s still pretty dreadful. I think the dude from Imagine Dragons seems cool, but his band sucks real bad. I liked Portugal, the Man’s first record, but they suck pretty bad. Sucking pretty bad is better than sucking real bad, and the rest of the bands in this category are beneath consideration, so there you have it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Portugal, the Man

Alternative Rock Song of the Year

The cancer that is Weezer’s cover of “Africa” is, of course, mentioned here, because the world is terrible and I hate living in it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Marshmello, “Happier” (f Bastille)

Best New Pop Artist

Seriously, this is another of those awards shows where I seem to come strongly out in favor of someone (in this case Marshmello) despite the fact that I don’t actually even like them, they’re just better than the rest of the field.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Marshmello

Best Collaboration

I will say this for “The Middle” – it is a deeply unlikable song, but it also seems like it’s been around forever. I don’t know what sort of song-based alchemical magic that is, but I have transplanted that song to having been released, like, ten years ago, despite the fact that Maren Morris herself is, like, twelve. It doesn’t make me hate it less, but I acknowledge that there is a thing there. Anyway.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Cardi B, “I Like It” (f Bad Bunny and J Balvin)

Best Duo/Group of the Year

I have said here and elsewhere that if I had been much younger when twenty one pilots had started out, I would definitely not have been immune to their thing, and that sets them ahead of the rest of these people.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: twenty-one pilots

Male Artist of the Year

At least the presence of Kendrick Lamar here makes this one easy, and means I don’t have to say anything about any of these people.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kendrick Lamar

Female Artist of the Year

Ariana Grande was more entertaining than most of these women, but her scream-singing gives me panic attacks. Dua Lipa makes some of the most interesting music of these women, but it’s not that interesting. That would be a real toss-up if it weren’t for the fact that Cardi B has them beat on both fronts.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Cardi B

Song of the Year

I think maybe it’s time to burn the entire radio industry to the ground.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The blazing inferno of justice.


  1. and, admittedly, gains most of his points because he’s still smol 
  2. a problem he shares with, charitably, 67% of the people in this category. 
  3. This is a weird thing to say and it probably makes some of the assembled all hackles-y, so I will footnote it thusly: I think that there are lyrics that do work as poetry, but the two things aren’t actually related. A good poem that is set to music may be a good poem, but most lyrics are meant as artifacts of the songs that they are a part of, and therefore have a different and separate job from the job of a song lyric. You can read some more of this when I wrote about Bob Dylan and the Nobel Prize here, but the upshot is that good lyrics are functionalist (i.e. they exist most of the time to facilitate the singing of the song – which is the musical contribution of the vocalist), and poetry is the ends in and of itself, and that most musical acts that exist to prop up their own lyrics are pretty fucking terrible. 
  4. which actually happened outside of the period of interest for this awards show, and probably shouldn’t come up, but, y’know, it’s true anyway. 
  5. I thought this plenty at first, and then I saw the video, which if you haven’t seen it, is mind-blowing. It starts with an assertion that Dolores O’Riordan was going to come sing on it (I have not reason to believe that isn’t true, I guess), and ends with a quote about Dolores O’Riordan from….the singer of Bad Wolves. In between they, like, look real sad and have some models cosplay the original “Zombie” video. It’s amazing. 
  6. if you merged these two together, like they did in the song category, you might even have something like a reasonable list. Maybe. I mean, probably not this year. But maybe in theory. 

An Ordinal Ranking of Things That Turn 20

A now-annual tradition here at ONAT, as of this year, since I started doing it last year and now am doing it again! And this is how tradition is made, kids!

So all of these things came into existence in 1999, my sixteenth year, and here they are enumerated in order of how great it is that they happened. This is not every great thing, but this is the things that are inarguably, indisputably great, and without which the world would be somewhat darker. Thank you and goodnight.

Futurama

Sleater-Kinney – The Hot Rock

Octavia Butler – Parable of the Talents

The Roots – Things Fall Apart

Ted Chiang – “The Story of Your Life”

Bonnie Prince Billy – I See a Darkness

The Iron Giant

Wilco – Summerteeth

Freaks and Geeks

Galaxy Quest

Terry Pratchett – The Fifth Elephant

Mystery Men

Good Eats

Jonathan Lethem – Motherless Brooklyn

Mogwai – Come On Die Young

Toy Story 2

Home Movies

Office Space

 

The Best Records of February 2019

Nivhek – After It’s Own Death/Walking in a Spiral Towards the House (It’s a surprise album by Liz Harris operating under another name! It is also super-great even by those already-high standards)

Teeth of the Sea – Wraith (most Teeth of the Sea records are great, and this one manages to smash together a bunch of different electronic genres, and also manage to squeeze in some rockin’. Very impressive stuff)

Theon Cross – Fyah (if I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times: I do not have enough tuba jazz in my life)

Mandoline Orange – Tides of a Teardrop (much-ballyhooed, highly effective country music, which is always welcome)

Signor Benedick the Moor – Spirit Realm Final (we see the return of agressive SBthemoor here, although it’s also still weird as hell)

A Considered Look at Every Inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Part 10

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

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

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

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

Class of 2002

Isaac Hayes

WHO HE IS: The world’s foremost rhythm and blues scientologist, and the chef on South Park.

WHY HE’S HERE: He was instrumental in changing R&B, albeit not always in great ways. He also deserves full credit for being weird as hell, and inventing the cocaine-inflected long-jam-style R&B number.

AND…?: Despite all of that sounding pretty dire, I do actually like Isaac Hayes. I think most of what he influenced is lamentable, but his music itself is pretty good, and while it’s true that there are a few too many tinny, high-end-heavy long-ass songs in his middle career, he did lots of good work generally.

THE VERDICT: Yes

Brenda Lee

WHO SHE IS: An influence on rock and roll who’s up here with the performers because the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a somehow-ahistorical museum. I know, I think it’s weird too.

WHY SHE’S HERE: She had a tonne of hits, it’s true, although it’s also kind of surreal that the one that has survived the most is “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”. She was a good singer, and had been very popular. She also has an absolutely crazy backstory about a singing career that started when she was, like, nine.

AND…?: Eh. She’s not the worst choice.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

WHO THEY ARE: Gainesville, Florida’s premiere rock band.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: They sold an unfathomable number of records, and inspired the kind of cultish devotion among their fans that most bands can only dream of. They existed as a band for several decades with no significant drop in quality – they had hits for a very long time, and their fans (as far as I can tell) liked each of their albums. They were a touring and sales juggernaut, and they probably managed to inspire a bunch of people to pick up instruments and do some extremely-likable rocking.

AND…?: Extremely-likable they may have been, but I actually don’t like them. I mean, they’re fine. I’m not mad about it. I just don’t hear any of that stuff I mentioned in the other paragraph, and I’m not sure how other people do. To be honest, I find the rapturous reception of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ music to be utterly baffling.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Oh sure. I just don’t get it, that’s all.

Gene Pitney

WHO HE IS: A singer who became a songwriter, a multi-instrumentalist, and by no means a rock and roll dude.

WHY HE’S HERE: He was an influence on a bunch of rock and roll dudes, but recorded after the period that the HOF decides influencer must be in, and I’m tired of harping on this. Anyway, he wrote a bunch of hits, sang and played on a bunch of hits, and was generally responsible for a bunch of hits.

AND…?: Oh, whatever. He was fine. His songs are fine. It’s all fine. I dunno. I just don’t see it.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Not really.

Ramones

WHO THEY ARE: Probably the first punk band 3, definitely the best New York punk band, probably the best punk band.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: Punk was, one way or another, an enormously influential development to the sound and approach of rock music. While the Ramones didn’t do this, it’s the set of venues/labels/allies that formed around post-Ramones punk rock that enabled the independent music scene to develop, and to continue to be present now. In a less-nebulous, more-immediate sense, they were responsible for injecting an appreciation for simplicity and for prizing communicative intention for musicianship (that is to say, making “what you mean” more important than “how you mean it”) into the rock discourse, and also for writing a bunch of super-great songs.

AND…?: Oh, I love the Ramones unreservedly and think they should be in every Hall of Fame that will have them.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes

Talking Heads

WHO THEY ARE: The most famous of the artier end of the original set of punk bands, and the subject of one of the most beloved concert films ever made.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: They were instrumental in fusing a bunch of things to what would eventually be known as new wave – the uptown disco scene that sort of mutated out of the punk scene [^4], the eventual infusion of “World” music, and a level of easily-grasped musicianship and songwriting that meant they could have actual for-real hits and stuff, thus making them one of the most successful of the New York punk and post-punk bands.

AND…?: I have a somewhat complicated relationship to the Talking Heads. They were a singular, interesting, motivated band of talented artists and at least one genuine actual visionary, not to mention an absolute stone-cold killer rhythm section. They passed a bunch of different styles and ideas through their band in a way that made it seem coherent, and did so organically, without it ever seeming like they were just gluing parts onto their original conception. They deserve to be lauded for a high level of consistency across their entire run, even after having interpolated being rock stars into that, which is admirable. All of these things, on paper, mean that I admire the Talking Heads a great deal, and have thus listened to (as far as I’m aware) their entire recorded ouvre more than once in an attempt to find something about it to like, and I really don’t. There are songs that I like (although not that many), and I have said many times that I wish I could hear the things about the band that their fans hear, but I can’t, and I find their records to be sterile and kind of boring. I’m willing to admit this is my failing or whatever, I just have never been able to hang anything on their music.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Certainly, but with no real pleasure on my part.

Jim Stewart

WHO HE IS: The founder of Stax records

WHY HE’S HERE: Because he founded Stax records with this sister 4, which means he helped the world hear Booker T & the MGs (Stax’s house band), not to mention Otis Redding. Also early albums by Richard Pryor, for that matter, but that has less to do with Rock and Roll.

AND…?: It’s weird that his sister wasn’t inducted also, but I suppose that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his place as a non-performer.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Sure.

Chet Atkins

WHO HE IS: The country gentleman! Mr. Guitar!

WHY HE’S HERE: He was an inveterate sideman (he’s inducted in the sideman category) who played on a bunch of country songs you probably know. He also made a bunch of records of his guitar playing, some of which are quite good 5.

AND…?: I like Chet Atkins. He has exactly zero to do with rock and roll, and he’s inducted as a sideman for acts that have not themselves been inducted, which seems weird to me, but hey, he did great work and he’s not the weirdest choice.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Why not?

Class of 2003

AC/DC

WHO THEY ARE: Radio monsters and surprisingly durable karaoke favorites. The world’s most rockingest Australians.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: They did a lot of rocking. They sold a bajillion copies and have a bunch of songs that continue to prop up rock radio stations as we speak. They’ve managed to achieve a sort of consensus status – no matter what flavor of rock music it is you’re after, you probably like AC/DC at least a little bit. They also managed to weather changing singers in midstream, which is no mean feat.

AND…?: I don’t love AC/DC – I can’t remember the last time I put them on recreationally – but if i’m somewhere where AC/DC is playing, then it’s probably the best thing that’s playing (i.e. because I’m listening to the radio or someone else’s bar jukebox picks), and I’m probably happy that they’re there.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes

The Clash

WHO THEY ARE: The British punk band with the most radio hits.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: The radio hits thing, probably. Although it’s worth noting that the Clash also sort of started the eventually drifting together of punk and country by pretending to be cowboys  6, and they were also pretty happy to bring the commingling of punk and reggae that was already peppered through British punk rock to the mass audience.

AND…?: I used to love The Clash. Like, deeply love them. I haven’t listened to them seriously in awhile, although I can happily listen to “White Man in Hammersmith Palais” just about any time.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yeah

Elvis Costello & The Attractions

WHO HE IS: British punk’s first New Dylan. He was in a loose collective with frequent collaborator Nick Lowe and I think Joe Jackson who were described as “angry young men” in some official capacity, and despite the fact that I have no idea why.

WHY HE’S HERE: He sold a bunch of records and wrote a bunch of songs that people like, and has been more or less the same him for four decades. That’s pretty cool.

AND…?: Elvis Costello is fine, even if the things I like about his music are not things that other people like about his music. I suppose it says something about the degree of depth therein or whatever. Good job, Elvis Costello.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Sure

The Police

WHO THEY ARE: The band that unleashed Sting upon an unsuspecting, undeserving world.
WHY THEY’RE HERE: Because people love them. They were the “new wave” band most willing to play ball, and thus got to be very successful. I suppose, musically, it’s something to have injected the already-suspect corpse of major-label post-punk 6 with all of the worst ideas from prog rock. It’s like…whatever the exact opposite of chocolate and peanut butter is. They did that, and I suppose that’s a thing.

AND…?: I do not like The Police, although I will say this: every once in awhile I will hear a Police song, and they generally have about a thirty-second section where I can kind of hear what they were going for and even admire aspects of it. And then the song goes back to being a Police song and I hate it again. I do think Stewart Copeland was one hell of a drummer, though.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Gosh no.

The Righteous Brothers

WHO THEY ARE: The sixties vocal duo responsible for “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”, which, in turn, is sort of the avatar of the Phil Spector “Wall of Sound” thing.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: They had a bunch of hits and sang real purdy. Plus the Phil Spector “Wall of Sound” thing.

AND…?: I dunno, man. I guess. I always have a hard time with acts that are fine, and that made most of their reputation on their mechanical talent 7. I’m inclined to call this one in favor of the Righteous Brothers, but only barely.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED Yes, but only barely.

Mo Ostin

WHO HE IS: A record label dude.

WHY HE’S HERE: He worked for a bunch of record labels. He didn’t start any of them or own any of them, but he managed (?) or ran (?) or, you know, did stuff for a bunch of them.

AND…?: I do not think that the rock and roll hall of fame needs to be in the business of touting the importance of people who are, at best, completely tangential to the music. The people that founded important labels, I can sort of get behind, since the sale of this stuff is a part of the whole general RRHOF mien, but I think I draw the line there.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: No

Benny Benjamin

WHO HE IS: The drummer for The Funk Brothers, and thus for a bunch of songs released by Motown.

WHY HE’S HERE: You know, I’m not sure. He was a fine drummer until he wasn’t, but Funk Brothers songs are generally marked by having a bunch of drummers on them – “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” for example, had three – and even then he was replaced by the end (i.e. by the time his drug problem incapacitated him) as often as he wasn’t.

AND…?: Oh, I think the Funk Brothers were underheralded geniuses, and his part in that probably can’t be understated, but I don’t know.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: I don’t believe so, no. Maybe ask James Jamerson. He was there.

Floyd Cramer

WHO HE IS: A prolific and remarkable session piano player in Nashville.

WHY HE’S HERE: He was part of the Nashville A-Team and popularized (if not invented) that thing where piano hits the wrong note and then slips into the correct note. This is hard to picture, except that if you picture someone playing “country” piano it’s probably the sound you’re thinking of.

AND…?: Floyd Cramer was great, and he certainly had an impressive body of work. Still not Rock and Roll, though.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes

Steve Douglas

WHO HE IS: The saxophone player from End of the Century

WHY HE’S HERE: Well, Phil Spector called him in to play on a bunch of records that weren’t Ramones albums, but that’s not important.

AND…?: I think he’s our first saxophonist? I’d have to look this up.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes


  1. also the centerpiece of the museum itself, for those that have never been there, is a very long video encapsulating each inducted class, with clips of performances by most of them and things like that, and is generally a pretty cool thing to behold. 
  2. although they did, as you can read here and going back from there, skew toward “pretty bad” 
  3. I’m no longer having this argument, so please feel free not to, unless you can bump into me ten or fifteen years ago. 
  4. who is not inducted, despite conributing two letters to the record label’s name – STewart and AXton 
  5. he made a wonderful collaborative record with Les Paul called Chester and Lester and a supremely weird record with Boots “Yakety Sax” Randolph and Floyd Cramer, for example. 
  6.  I keep putting “new wave” in quotes because it’s a useful term to separate the bands that stopped being punk by sanding all the edges off and doing videos and stuff for their shiny label-abetted records, like The Police, from other post-punk bands that were merely helping punk evolve, like The Fall. 
  7. see also: Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and, for that matter, The Police 

The 2019 Academy Awards

So the Academy Awards are here again. Again. This year has been an especially fractious lead up, so it seems like they have been gestating forever. There isn’t, for example, going to be a best popular picture category, which is probably a good thing, as I don’t think there needs to be even more ways in which this ceremony is made longer and tries even harder to include Superhero movies.

The other thing that we’re not going to have this year is a host, which hasn’t happened in thirty years. I’m not sure why the Academy Awards would need a host, but they’re not going to have one, so I guess we’ll be spared a monologue, and the endless “tributes” to “old stuff” are going to have to be introduced by somebody else. This seems like a non-move, but, y’know, for something based so deeply in tradition, it’s also noteworthy that it’s what passes for a shake-up.

Of course, it could just be that it’s just another in a series of decisions, including the aforementioned popular film category, that is evidentiary of their problems making the right decisions. For example: there is a non-zero chance that Bryan “Serial Rapist” Singer could walk out with an Academy Award 1, which seems like, at the very least, an extremely tone-deaf decision, if not an actively hostile one.

A week or so ago, as of the time of this writing) the Academy has also come under fire for their decision to air fewer actual awards-grantings, and shunting some categories off to being given away during ad breaks in the interest of keeping the telecast length down, which seems like cutting off an arm to try to lose weight – your an awards ceremony that would rather spend more time watching people sing than give out awards 2. It’s turbodumb.

If the Academy themselves can’t be bothered to care thoughtfully about any of this, then I most definitely cannot and will therefore, as is my custom around this particular award show, be doing this speed-round style, and making only the most gut-level decisions, because the Academy Awards are very stupid and I hate them.

But I do like the spectacle, and I dig on the absurdity, so it’s not a total wash.

So here we go!

Best Visual Effects

True story: First Man is the only one of these movies that doesn’t give me weird uncanny-valley vibes at all, so it’s the winner. There’s lots to be impressed with in Avengers: Infinity War, as long as you never look at Thanos’s hands. It’s a real mood-killer.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: First Man

Best Film Editing

The only two of these movies I could condone getting any kind of award are Black KKKlansman and The Favourite, and I’m inclined to prefer The Favourite.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Yorgos Mavropsardis, The Favourite

Best Costume Design

On the one hand, period dramas are supposed to be what this is all about. On the other hand, how hard is it to “Design” costumes that are already designed? So The Favourite and Mary, Queen of Scots are out, although I’ll hand it to The Ballad of Lester Scruggs for being a period piece with some extra creative flair. Anyway, it’s Black Panther, which also mostly had pre-designed costumes, having been based on a comic book full of pre-existing costumes, but did some inventive things with both the pre-existing costumes and the ones they had to make up themselves.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ruth E. Carter, Black Panther

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

There are only three nominees in this category. That’s weird. There’s the same number of films considered in this category as all the rest of them, but only three are nominated here. That’s weird, guys. I think it should be otherwise. However, I don’t know anything about the field, particularly, so I guess I should just be grateful to not have as many things to choose from.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jenny Shircore, Marc Pilcher and Jessica Brooks, Mary Queen of Scots

Best Cinematography

Alfonso Cuaron has many, many talents, but even if he didn’t, and all he ever did was point cameras at things, he would still be a genius, and I believe this to my core.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Alfonso Cuaron, Roma

Best Production Design

It really is Black Panther again. They made up a whole country, with a way of life and costumes and everything, and it all looks great.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Black Panther

Best Sound Mixing

I’m no fan of A Star is Born in any of its forms, but the sound mixing does seem challenging, and they did a good job with it, so I guess it’s the winner.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: A Star is Born

Best Sound Editing

A Quiet Place relies on its sound editing for almost everything about it that is compelling, so that’s the winner right there.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: A Quiet Place

Best Original Song

It’s been two weeks since I made the joke about it sounding like all the stars are kosher, is that enough time to make it again? I mean, it’s the best song here, so I feel like it is. I’m going to say that it is.

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

Best Original Score

The best original score was for Mandy. I’m going off script. It’s not my fault that the Academy is made of dildos and doesn’t know a good score when they hear one.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Johann Johannsson, Mandy. Even though it isn’t, technically, nominated

Best Animated Short Film

Bao is great, and I’m happy to see it here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Bao

Best Live Action Short Film

Let’s go with Mother, which does cool things with time and manages to cram a twist in there. I’m also looking forward to it being expanded into a full-length movie.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mother, which is separate and distinct from all the other films called Mother in the last several years.

Best Documentary – Short Subject

A Night at the Garden is timely, compelling and feels like a genuinely-important reminder about the relationship between Americans and fascist racism. Plus Fox News decided they couldn’t possibly promote it, so points there also.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: A Night at the Garden

Best Documentary – Feature

There’s a lot of weighty, political material here, which is great. There’s also a really nice, moving documentary about the nature of interpersonal relationships and obsessive joy, and I’m kind of inclined to praise it to the damn rafters.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Minding the Gap

Best Foreign Language Film

I, like everyone else, think Roma is just swell.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Roma

Best Animated Feature Film

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse needs to be nominated for more awards in more categories. It’s amazing and just about perfect. It beats the rest of this category at a breezy walk.

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

Best Adapted Screenplay

I’m not inclined to think about this one much further than to say that If Beale Street Could Talk is based on the best source material – one of the very finest novels ever written, ever – and that by doing a credible job it should win. So I’m going with that. 

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

Best Original Screenplay

I can’t really get over my generalized distaste of Paul Schrader, even when everybody loves his work, so I guess this one goes to Roma.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Alfonso Cuaron, Roma

Best Supporting Actress

Man, Regina King is a damn national treasure. She should win all the awards for just being her, but she should especially win an Academy Award for If Beale Street Could Talk.

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

Best Supporting Actor

How cool is it to see ol’ Withnail himself finally nominated for an academy award? I think it’s just delightful.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me

Best Actress

I’m breaking my usual rule against even thinking positive thoughts about biopics to point out that the story of Lee Israel is super-great, and that people managed to work their heads around what Melissa McCarthy is actually good at 3, and she did excellent work. So there.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Best Actor

Well, regardless of my aforestated opinion of the remake of A Star is Born, Bradley Cooper isn’t playing a real person (well, he’s kind of playing Kris Kristofferson, but it’s not a biopic), and he isn’t in Green Book, so he’s the winner. I’m not any happier about it than you are.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born

Best Director

Yorgos Lanthimos would have been such a strange candidate for this category a couple of years ago, that I’m pretty happy that he’s here and happy to say that it’s him, even if The Favourite isn’t precisely my cup of tea.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite

Best Picture

For all the sound and fury, this is one seriously weak best-picture field. Most of the available options here are the kind of thing that will seem super-silly in a few years. Black Panther would at least be an interesting choice, and The Favourite and Roma are probably the best ones. But what the hell, why not stick to my lane and say the predictable thing.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Black Panther

And there you have, tune in next year unless my prayers are answered and the whole thing burns itself to the ground in a conflagration of stupidity!


  1. Bryan Singer is the wide-openest of missing stairs, with reports coming out every few years about how disgusting he is, everyone acting shocked and appalled, and then going back to the business of ensuring that he remains extremely rich and successful. It’s super-weird to me that he seems to be so immune to any of this. 
  2. actually, between the time the first draft of this piece was written and now, when I’m updating it on the nineteenth, there has been yet more controversy, as they have also abandoned the bumper spots that highlight the jobs of the little-known and/or little-understood behind the scenes people that have peppered the last couple of years, so clearly whatever it is they want to be on television, it’s not any of the interesting stuff. 
  3. For example, her character in Bridesmaids – the movie that started this whole thing – was not memorable solely for the big, loud over-the-top-ness, but for the reveal at the end that that’s a thing she has become by coming to terms with who she is. Most Melissa McCarthy roles leave that bit out, to their own detriment. 

Who the Fuck Listens to This Double-Header – Cover Me, I’m Going In

So it must be acknowledged that implicit to the title of this feature 1 is that there do not exist people who would listen to this. One of these albums, then, seems to come with its own pre-ordained disclaimer: the reason that Weezer’s The Teal Album appears to be that the internet demanded that Weezer cover “Africa,” and they made an album around it. I’m here to argue, however, that this is, in fact, not a reason to make a whole album, any more than “I have the legal rights to use the name of a band that used to be a going concern” was a reason to make this Lemonheads covers albums. I guess what I’m saying is: neither of these albums has an easy answer to the question “who is this for?” and that is the non-profanity version of the question in the header.

The two things looked at in tandem, in fact, show us a world of contrast, albeit not contrasts that are in opposition. The Teal Album is a try-hard overachieving fanservice big swing, anchored by an internet-demanded track that, frankly, was a bad idea from the top all the way down. The Lemonheads’ Varshons 2, on the other hand, was not really requested by anyone, internet or otherwise. It is, in fact, the Lemonheads’ 2 second-consecutive covers record, but first in ten years, and no part of it was demanded by anyone. At times it’s hard to believe that even Evan Dando wants this record to exist.

The other thing, though, that these two bands have in common is that they were both, in the nineties, capable and even laudable power-pop bands. The further sort of duality that they’re drawn into by this circumstance – that is, the circumstance of each band releasing a covers album within a couple of weeks of each other – is to note how differently their things progressed. They both started off rockin’ bopsters from the East Coast, but the Lemonheads fell apart into drugs, apathy, and the sort of frontman weirdo-ness that doesn’t make for coming back easily 3, and lurch to life occasionally to make enough sweet reunion tour dollars to yield, I’m going to presume, another pile of drugs with which to hole up and not worry about anymore.

Weezer, on the other hand, fell apart into basically the exact opposite experience, riding Rivers Cuomo’s algorithmic 4 songwriting uh…chops to album-a-year middle-ground success as sort of the last generally-bland riff-and-hook rock dudes left standing. It’s unfair to call either experience a band, as one has basically no functional members beyond the people hired to play the songs, and the other is compries of 75% original members, leashed to each other to play music that means nothing, and only sets out to accomplish selling enough records to enable them to continue doing it. One is a constantly self-destructing machine, the other a perpetual-motion machine.

And so it comes to pass that each of these bands, capable in their past of great work, come forward with albums full of other people’s’ songs, as though that was any way to communicate to whatever remains of their fanbases whatever it was that was great about them in the first place, out of mercenary need. The Weezer album out of year-over-year mercenary behavior, to drum up support for whatever their next studio monstrosity is going to be, and the Lemonheads for more easily-scrutinized mercenary reasons: they probably needed the money or whatever.

Whether it’s an outright trend that I’m not on top of or just something that confirmation bias has pushed in front of me, covers albums have been happening over my transom a fair amount lately – even just last year, one would have heard a lot about both Third Eye Blind’s covers album (which got a writeup as part of this very feature) and Meshell N’Degeocello’s covers album (which was one of my favorite albums of the year), and that’s only out of the fifty-odd things I write about over the normal course of business in a given year. So: why? Why a covers album at all? Why two of them in a month, and three of them 5 in a year?

Well, the answer seems to be pretty apparent: people like songs they already know, and you can bet heavily on them perhaps giving you more of a listen if you aren’t straining their memory (by being a band they don’t remember) and their faith (by presenting them with a bunch of songs they don’t know). It’s a low-stakes way to get something out there, in short, and it almost certainly has no reason to exist beyond that.

But maybe there’s something in the performances that tells us otherwise. After all, pleny of people have made much hay with someone else’s songs, and there’s no reason why any of this couldn’t be the same situation.

No reason beyond the fact, of course, that it isn’t.

Look, this is a pretty straight up and down situation: these albums are both bad. But they are, to their credit, bad in distinct and separate ways. Weezer performs a bunch of note-perfect covers of existing radio hits, with just enough “Weezer” on them 6 to make it clear that you’re not hearing the original. It starts by making the listener wade through the execrable internet-baiting “Africa” cover, well-sung 7 but otherwise-unspectacular version of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” “Take on Me” and “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”, and it just isn’t worth it. There’s a stretch in the back half of the album that almost sort of makes a case for the record; “Paranoid” adds very little to the song itself, but at least sounds like the band is genuinely enjoying themselves, “Mr. Blue Sky” is a durable enough song that it always sounds like that 8, and they do the coda, which is nice. “No Scrubs” is also a surprisingly sturdy song, and while it’s eye-roll inducing in its “wouldn’t it be funny if this white rock band did an R&B classic?” conceit, the band plays it relatively straight, and it’s at least listenable. It ends with a couple of the worst things I’ve ever had to sit through, in the form of a braindead version of “Billie Jean” 9followed by a perfunctory version of “Stand By Me”, which isn’t even that hard of a song to cover in the first place. It’s actively baffling, and it really caps off an already-bad record on an already-bad note.

The Lemonheads album is less unpleasant, if only because it’s considerably more slight, and also because it mostly has better songs on it. Unlike the Weezer record, it starts pretty strong, with a fine Yo La Tengo cover (“Can’t Forget”). It runs through Dando-ified versions of pretty-good songs by the Jayhawks (“Settled Down Like Rain”) and the Bevis Frond (“Old Man Blank”) before taking some big swings at a classic Paul Westerberg solo number (“Things”) that turns out well, because it’s not like any Paul Westerberg song is dependent on its performance 10.

Things get even wobblier with their version of “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness,” which is one of John Prine’s very best songs, and is pretty outside of their ability here. They don’t fall down entirely on Lucinda Williams’ “Abandoned” 11, they do completely fall down on “Now and Then” (by a band called Natural Child, whose work I am not familiar with at all). NRBQ’s “Magnet” is fine, if not revelatory. They get full points for constructing a version of the Florida-Georgia Line’s “Round Here” that I not only like more than the original (not difficult), but might actually listen to again of my own volition some day. And then they go completely off the rails. Their amiable country-rock approach is abandoned for “TAQN” by The Eyes, and punk rock does not suit whatever form the Lemonheads currently take. It’s better than the fake-reggae of the GiveGood’s “Familiar”, but it’s still not as bad as the Lovecraftian, mind-melting horror that awaits the last two tracks on the album.

I’m trying not to overstate things, but jesus their version of “Straight to You” is bad. Evan Dando’s perishing, lackadaisical-dude voice is fine, and its actually borne up pretty well with time, but “Straight to You” is pretty much exactly the kind of song that you need a super-huge operatic take on, or it just ends up sounding pretty dumb. There are lots of Nick Cave songs that are well-served by a slow, unengaged approach 12, this is absolutely not one of them. Having done considerable violence to a great song, they then record a faithful, reverent version of a terrible one with “Take it Easy”. It is at this point that I wanted to attack Spotify’s servers with a hammer. Say this for the Weezer record, at least it didn’t make me this angry.

There’s little else to say than that, in the end. In this case, both cover records seem to admit defeat – Weezer’s by throwing their hands up and just giving the people what they want, which was a cover of “Africa”, as well as a bunch of radio songs from when he was a kid, The Lemonheads by not only not writing songs, but not even doing anything to make the songs they cover sound like The Lemonheads 13, and basically acknowledging that you just want to hear them play songs you already know anyway.

So who the fuck listens to this? I don’t know. People who are into internet memes, I guess. People that like bar bands and want them to have a name they know, I guess. People that don’t want to acknowledge that the nineties ended twenty years ago, I guess. I genuinely have no idea. They aren’t worth listening to in any way, and I can’t imagine who is doing so.

Now, give me an album of Weezer covering the Lemonheads, that I’d listen to. If you could get a version of “Rudderless” on there, I’d even donate to the Kickstarter.


  1. one of the first features I came up with for this blog, and a well that I have to prevent myself from going to too often, lest it spoil the special gem-like rarity of the truly inexplicable. 
  2. for so we are forced to call them, given that the only constant member is Evan Dando, to the point where it’s difficult to even figured out who played on Varshons 2. 
  3. and indeed, the Lemonheads have never really “come back” in any meaningful sense after The Lemonheads, their first “reunion” album, which has its moments, but not very many of them. 
  4. this is meant literally – dude writes songs with spreadsheets and math. 
  5. I never much cared for Third Eye Blind, but I’m perfectly happy to lump them in with the Lemonheads and Weezer as bands that peaked in the nineties and somehow continue to lurch around making records I don’t care about, including a covers album. They’re not that different. 
  6. for all that their music currently sounds painstakingly assembled out of parts to the point of being frictionless and uninteresting, it is also the case that there is a surprising amount of singularity to their sound – that is to say they are readily identifiable as “Weezer”, even though their music is designed to be as featureless as possible. 
  7. There are, to be sure, two aspects of Weezer as mechanical performers that are interesting, and the first is Cuomo’s surprisingly-capable, surprisingly-agile voice – he hits the high note in “Take on Me”! – and Pat Wilson’s drumming, which is much better than it has any right to be. 
  8. it did force me to consider whether I find the production on this record less offensive than on ELO’s Out of the Blue or not. I think that I’m just used to the way radio rock records sound in 2019, and it sounds less freakish because I’m here in it. I’m also sure that there’s pretty much no way in which I would have to hear it in a few years when things have changed somewhat, as they inevitably do, and compare the two experiences, so I’m going to have to let that stand for the truth in my estimation. 
  9. Rivers Cuomo owes me nothing, and I don’t know anything about his proclivities, but if you’re already the dude that wrote the agency-denying, stalker-lite lyrics on Pinkerton, maybe avoid covering what sure sounds like a proto-MRA anthem about a woman who lied about being impregnated by you to get at your dollars? In 2019? Like, maybe that’s not the best idea? I don’t know, man. Just saying. 
  10. there are great performances (as opposed to great songs, which abound) in Paul Westerberg’s solo discography, but not very many of them, and none of them are on 14 Songs, and none of them are “Things”. 
  11. one of my favorite Lucinda Williams songs, in fact, and from the album that you probably unjustly know as “the one with ‘Passionate Kisses’ on it”, because everyone covers that song all the time. Or maybe “Change the Locks,” which Tom Petty covered. 
  12. “Into My Arms,” “Black Hair,” “As I Sat Sadly By Her Side”, “Skeleton Tree” and “Henry Lee” – since he’s already got a duet partner there – are the ones that spring off the top of my head. I’m sure I could find a dozen more if pressed. 
  13. They sound, in fact, like the best bar band in your town. Whoever that is, the Lemonheads sound like that now. 

2019 Grammy Awards

Every year I point out in this headnote that the Grammys seem weirdly-placed in the “major awards season” television situation. I feel this still, although I will say that as these things become harder to take seriously in general, they become less like the odd duck and more sort of like a standard way-too-long television awards show.

This is an especially interesting year from where I’m standing, also, since it seemed like there was very little consensus activation this year in terms of what people liked all-around. Kacey Musgraves, Janelle Monae and Brandi Carlisle are all heavily-nominated here, and they were about as close to the sort of monolithic-universal approval that used to happen all the time 1. But since there wasn’t much in the way of huge, heavy-hitting pop releases that stuck around this year 2, there seems to be a little bit more room for things to get, if not actually weird, then at least closer to something like what people are actually listening this year.

That said, it’s not without its changes. They’ve expanded the bigger categories to include more people, which is nominally a way to be more inclusive, but turned out practically to be a way to include more country artists. I mean, I’m sure it won’t work that way every year, but it worked that way this year. So there’s that. And here’s the rest of it 3

Best Music Film

Another thing that happens every year: every frigging year I start this off with this frigging category. I have no idea how to evaluate yet another Elvis documentary that doesn’t reveal anything, nor about an Eric Clapton documentary made while he’s still alive. Itzhak Perlman is neat. Whitney was also fine, I guess. I liked that it tried to stem the narrative that she was a mere bystander to her own life and career (and, unfortunately, downfall), which is good. I like when people have agency.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Whitney

Best Music Video

I mean, it’s probably actually “This is America,” which is at least layered and visceral, but I kind of want to be the sort of person that thinks it’s “Pynk”, which is no less imagistically impressive and well-choreographed, but is also very funny, and is probably the best song ever written about Tessa Thompson’s swimsuit parts.

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

Producer of Year, Non-Classical

I’m more than happy to call this for Pharrell – he came up with “Stir Fry” and “Apeshit” and a pretty righteous NERD album. Good job, my dude.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Pharrell Williams

Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical

I skipped the best engineered album category for classical because I don’t have the proper material to evaluate the engineering – I would assume that that’s the sort of determination one would need access to a higher-quality version of the recording than I am willing to shell out for 4, this is not necessarily the case for popular music, and I’m pretty happy commenting on it here. The only records here that sound like they might actually reflect the process of playing instruments and/or singing to make sounds that are captured are the albums by Beck, Bahamas and the Milk Carton Kids, which are all actually pretty bad, but the Milk Carton Kids one at least sounds ok.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ryan Freeland & Kenneth Pattengale, for the Milk Carton Kids album All the Things I Did and All the Things I Didn’t Do

Best Instrumental Composition

This has pretty well converted itself to the “best song from a movie or whatever” category, and is almost never, like, an Aidan Baker song. That’s kind of disappointing. Especially since I have to consider all of this at so many different awards shows that it’s made more boring by its ubiquity.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Alexandre Desplat, “The Shape of Water”

Best Song Written for Visual Media

Totally different from “Best Instrumental Composition” because 1) it has the fact that it’s from a movie or tv show right there in the category name and 2) it can have singing on it. So this is where we find “Shallow”, and also the far-lesser “This is Me” (ew), “Mystery of Love” (presented without comment), “All the Stars,” which I thought was going to be the winner but it turns out that this is the year that “Remember Me” from Coco is nominated, and that’s the best song, so there you have it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: “Remember Me”, Coco

Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media

The Black Panther and Blade Runner 2049 scores are good, but I’m still way into Coco guys.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Coco

Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media

So…the soundtrack to a musical counts as a compilation soundtrack 5, which is weird to me. I actually don’t like any of this, but I’m happy to say that Stranger Things is the best one, since it’s the one that did a good enough job. It may have been the best part of the show’s second season, in fact.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Stranger Things

Best Comedy Album

Hard to argue against Patton Oswalt’s Annihilation, here. I mean, Chris Rock’s return was welcome, and I like Jim Gaffigan, and even have plenty of good things to say about that Dave Chappelle, but Annihilation is a one of a kind thing.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Patton Oswalt, Annihilation

Best Folk Album

This is probably Joan Baez’s last album, and it’s hard not to be impressed by that. Especially since it’s up against a good-but-not-great Punch Brothers album, a completely-forgettable Iron & Wine album, and an acceptable Mary Gauthier album. Oh, and a Don Flemons album. His name is funny.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Joan Baez, Whistle Down the Wind

Best Contemporary Blues Album

Upon listening to all of this, and considering all of it, I have very few opinions about it. More than I do for some of the footnoted “not considered” category, and enough that it’s up here, but not that many. So I’m going to give it to Fantastic Negrito.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Fantastic Negrito, Please Don’t Be Dead

Best Traditional Blues Album

I do like Elvis Bishop. That about wraps it up for my feelings about the blues, guys.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Elvis Bishop’s Big Fun Trio, Something Smells Funky ‘Round Here

Best Bluegrass Album

These are all fine. The bottom categories that are hyper-specific non-popular genres usually do pretty well. In the interest of keeping the word count reasonable, I’ll call it here for Wood & Wire and move along.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Wood & Wire, North of Despair

Best Americana Album

I’ll tell you this much: people are really into this Brandi Carlile album and, like, I do not quite get it. Lots of times things become famous for reasons I don’t understand, and I’ve pretty well learned to deal with it, but this one is just utterly baffling. I guess it’s fine. It’s not a patch on the John Prine album, though.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: John Prine, The Tree of Forgiveness

Best American Roots Song

John Prine is in this category twice, and that’s pretty cool because, as previously mentioned, The Tree of Forgiveness is really good. But I actually like this Mavis Staples song (written by ONAT favorite Jeff Tweedy) a bit better than the songs that are here nominated, so I’m happy to let it go that way.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mavis Staples, “Build a Bridge”

Best American Roots Performance

So I don’t actually have a joke about how I think it would be funny if Anderson East and Dave East were actual brothers, because I don’t know what the punchilne to that would be, but I’m using the fact that I want to make that joke to cover for the fact that while I am generally positively-disposed to more-or-less all of these people, this category is pretty dull.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Willie Nelson, “Last Man Standing” (I guess)

Best Country Album

This is the best this field has looked in years, and maybe the first time since I started doing this that my favorite pop/mainstream country album has actually been eligible. This is a real moment for me – either this field is getting better, or getting dumb enough to enjoy it. I’ll take it either way, though.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kacey Musgraves, Golden Hour

Best Country Song

This is a real cold shower after the high of the albums category, however. Even the people in this category I’m ordinarily not opposed to – namely Blake Shelton and Vince Gill 6 – are failing to show up, except for Kacey Musgraves again. Since she’s also booked to perform the thing, I’m going to guess she’s going to go home with a lot of Grammys. Consider this a stated hunch.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kacey Musgraves, “Space Cowboy”

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

Kacey Musgraves didn’t come up with a duet this year, so there’s pretty much no saving this crop. I guess I like that Little Big Town song ok.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Little Big Town, “When Someone Stops Loving You”

Best Country Solo Performance

The problem with this “performance” bit is that it sometimes refers to just the regular song as it is on the record and sometimes means something else. I’m ok either way I guess, because it comes down to Loretta Lynn and Kacey Musgraves, and while “Butterflies” isn’t a great song, it is a great vocal performance, so she gets it again, although by less of a margin than in the other categories.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kacey Musgraves, “Butterflies”

Best Rap Album

Mac Miller’s death is real sad, and that gives his record some weight, and makes it clear just how impressive it is that he managed to make anything at all, given his mental state/the state of his addiction. Pusha-T had to overcome the fact that his producer/label-head’s brain completely melted in the run-up to Daytona, and people really like that record also. Way to go, everybody. I think the Cardi B record is better.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Cardi B, Invasion of Privacy

Best Rap Song

Red light green light red light green light red light green light it’s “King’s Dead” the end.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future & James Blake, “King’s Dead”

Best Rap/Sung Performance

I’m sad that I wasted my “joke about the lyrics of the song” opportunity already, and even sadder that there’s absolutely no way to go back and rewrite that last entry with the current level of technology available to me, because I’ve taken great glee in the year or so that it’s been out in pointing out that it very much sounds like the chorus to the best rap/sung performance of 2018 says that all the stars are kosher. Which is nice, if you’re trying to keep your diet in accordance with rabbinical law and you like to eat stars.

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

Best Rap Performance

While “King’s Dead” has both the aforequoted “red light green light” bit and Future’s hip hop history joke couplet, and is generally a great song, I actually think “Bubblin” is a little better. So it goes.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Anderson.Paak, “Bubblin’”

Best R&B Album

I don’t mind H.E.R., and I rather like Leon Bridges. That makes this category fairly easy to deal with, but also I am entirely without strong feelings here, so I don’t have much else to say about it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Leon Bridges, Good Thing

Best Urban Contemporary Album

So after several years, I think the logline on the difference between Urban Contemporary and R&B as the Grammys divide them is that one of them could be rappers, and the other isn’t I guess. In any event, Miguel and Chris Dave both made very good albums this year. The Carters made a super-good album that proved that Beyonce is also a great rapper. But that Meshell Ndegeocello album is mind blowing. It’s basically the best thing a covers album can be. I haven’t taken it out of rotation since it came out. It’s so good, y’all.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Meshell Ndegeocello, Ventriloquism

Best R&B Song

Of course, thinking that I’ve got it all figured it out, in terms of the genre distinctions down here, si the fact that there are no Urban Contemporary categories beyond “Album,” and that the U.C. nominees are sprinkled here in R&B song and R&B performance, which just muddies the waters further. Anyway, I like the H.E.R. song here more than the Childish Gambino song or anything involving J. Cole, so it’s the winner.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: H.E.R., “Focus”

Best Traditional R&B Performance

Here, as though the waters of what is and is not R&B aren’t muddied enough, we have the “traditional” R&B category, and I am truly baffled. This is where Leon Bridges is again,though, so at least it’s not a total loss.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Leon Bridges, “Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand”

Best R&B Performance

So this seems like it’s meant to be the sort of culmination of all of the other R&B categories, since it pulls from all of them to get here, which really makes it clear that actually these are all pretty apples-to-apples comparisons, and there’s very little reason to keep them in so many different categories. I guess it spreads the wealth around. Anyway, I feel like The Carters are kept out of many of these categories, but “Summer” is a very good song.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Carters, “Summer”

Best Alternative Music Album

I like Bjork so much more than I like anything else in this field that it seems silly to pretend to deliberate about it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Bjork, Utopia

Best Rock Album

I think I comment every year that every year I think this is as bad as this category can get, and every single year it is somehow worse than the year before. I suppose this year might not be worse than the year before. It’s really hard to quantify these things. But like, three of these songs are by dumb novelty-bands, and three of them are by bands that left their best days behind long, long ago 7. I guess that Alice in Chains record almost shows up to work. Sad state of affairs, guys.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: None of this is rightful, but the Alice in Chains record nearly makes it.

Best Rock Song

This isn’t quite as existentially disheartening, largely because of the St. Vincent song. I’m not a particular fan (nor am I interested particularly in Jack Antonoff, who cowrote the song), but she’s at least a driven musician doing her own thing genuinely, and that’s about all I could really ask for. Still not going to listen to it on purpose anytime in the foreseeable future, but it’s fine.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: St. Vincent, “Masseduction”

Best Metal Performance

For all that the “Rock” categories are a pretty miserable affair, this one is surprisingly good. Underoath isn’t great. Trivium and Between the Buried and Me are at least standard-issue just-fine metal. High on Fire made a pretty great Lemmy-worshipping album this year, and it’s good to see them honored for it 8. But my love of Deafheaven knows no bounds, and needs no further explanation here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Deafheaven, “Honeycomb”

Best Rock Performance

….aaaand we’re right back in the garbage heap. Let’s show pity on the surviving members of Chris Cornell’s family, call it for him and be done talking about rock music at the Grammys for another year, shall we?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chris Cornell, “When Bad Does Good”

Best Dance/Electronic Album

Jon Hopkins is not Johns Hopkins, the hospital. He’s Imogen Heap’s keyboard player. Just wanted to get that clarification out of the way. SOPHIE has done some really cool production work, but like all PC Music folks tends to fall down a bit when it comes to her own records. Sofi Tukker and Justice are probably not up to being in the same category. Tokimonsta is almost always the best part of the records she produces, and her own record is pretty good, so I guess it’s her, although on another day I would have said exactly the same thing about SOPHIE.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Tokimonsta, Lune Rouge

Best Dance Recording

This category always makes me feel so old. I kind of like the Virtual Self song. I think it has to be that one, because considering which of these is “better” than the other made my mind touch the void.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Virtual Self, “Ghost Voices”

Best Pop Vocal Album

I don’t hate the Camila Cabello album, although I don’t much like it. I don’t hate the P!nk album, although I don’t much like it. I like just about everything about Arianna Grande’s career and life in the public eye except for her music, but this is explicitly an albums category, so I guess we’re back to P!nk.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: P!nk, Beautiful Trauma

Best Traditional Pop Album

I want to run the numbers on how many years Tony Bennett is nominated for this. It’s so many. I am sort of impressed by his ability to keep churning it out year after year. Not impressed enough to listen to it more than is absolutely necessary, but kind of impressed anyway. I like the Willie Nelson album fine, and I like the Seal album well enough, and these pop album categories are rough because I don’t really know how to compare the two.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Willie Nelson, My Way

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

Now the field opens up to eight, which really ups the number of terrible things to consider here. “Shallow” is probably the front-runner here, and it’s also the best song here, which isn’t actually saying much, considering that I don’t actually like “Shallow”. Still and all, it serves its purpose, and it’s better than, say, another utterly identity-free Zedd/Maroon 5/Justin Timberlake song. Or whatever Tony Bennett is doing back up here. Go away, Tony Bennett.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, “Shallow”

Best Pop Solo Performance

I suppose I would feel better about the Grammys listening sensibilities if they just decided what genre Beck was in and let that be that, but he’s here. I will say that “Colors” is his best song in years 9, so props for that. I guess it’s probably Lady Gaga again that actually deserves the win here. “Joanne” is an ok song. It’s better than the other songs here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lady Gaga, “Joanne”

Best New Artist

True story: Cardi B is disqualified by the academy from being in this category because she has been nominated for Grammys previously 10. Post Malone is disqualified from being in this category for having sold a bunch of copies of records that he made previously 11. In case that was something likely to disappoint you. That said, it seems like Bebe Rexha and Luke Combs have both been around forever, so they should also be eliminated. And Margo Price isn’t new, even if most people just heard her in the last year or so. And Greta Van Fleet is a novelty fake-tribute act, and should be ineligible for anything except a kick in the groin. Jorja Smith and Chloe x Halle have long careers ahead of them as predictable record-sellers and awards-nominees in the field of polite pop-inflected R&B. We come to Dua Lipa, then, by elimination, but also because her voice is weird! Her songs are interesting! Her videos are full of deeply weird choreography!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Dua Lipa

Song of the Year

As always, some of the choices here are utterly baffling. This happens every year. This year there are more of them, so they are even more baffling. The Brandi Carlisle and Ella Mai songs are fine, really, but are they, like, “Song of the Year” good? I will argue that they are not. I’m done trying to figure out the thing with Drake or Shawn Mendes. I also don’t know how this particular Zedd song is any better than any other Zedd song. “Shallow” is a fine main-song-from-a-movie type thing, but Bradley Cooper’s Kris Kristofferson impression still doesn’t really do it for me. “This is America” is a fine song I guess, but it’s mostly a great video, and this isn’t an award for the video. That leaves us with SZA. I already said the thing about it sounding like all the stars are kosher, so that’s pretty much all I have to say on the matter.

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

Album of the Year

Look, it’s not that I don’t like the Brandi Carlisle album. I mean, I don’t, but that’s not because it’s bad, it’s because it’s emphatically not my thing. But, like, she’s nominated for so many awards. So many. It’s weird. I don’t understand it. See above w/r/t Drake. They’re both still better than Post Malone. Cardi B’s album is good, but too long. Kacey Musgraves’s album is good, and not too long, but I think I actually do like the Black Panther soundtrack more.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Various Artists, Black Panther: The Album, Music From and Inspired By

Record of the Year

As always, when we get to this category I’m pretty well on the record about all of it, so it’s basically a matter of formality to mention that I think “I Like It” is not one of the stronger songs on Invasion of Privacy, and give it to SZA again.

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

 

And there it all is. Tune in on Sunday to see some of the least-exciting nominees, plus Cardi B, do some performing. It’ll be uh…fun.

 

Oh, and it’s likely that they’ll shit the bed again, which will also be fun. Yay!


  1. and it’s still not hard to find people that summed up the year without mentioning any of them, except maybe Janelle Monae. 
  2. even the seemingly-indomitable Drake didn’t really stick around much, and while Lady Gaga has what amounts to two records in consideration for these things, Joanne didn’t yield big hits and “Shallow” was kind of an outlier. 
  3.  with the following exceptions, which I skipped this year: Best Contemporary Classical Composition; Best Classical Compendium; Best Classical Solo Vocal Album; Best Classical Instrumental Solo; Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance; Best Choral Performance; Best Opera Recording; Best Orchestral Performance; (these are all here because I really have absolutely no ear for Classical music as it currently exists – I’m a classical classicist, I guess – and no idea how to develop one quickly enough for it to make for an informed decision here); Producer of the Year, Classical; Best Engineered Album, Classical; Best Production, Immersive Audio; (these are all here because in order to evaluate them I’d need access to higher-quality audio for all of them than I’m inclined to have – I’d have to buy them in a high-quality format, and that gets expensive for something that I have no real interest in owning – so it’s better to just leave them down here and pretend like the people choosing the award are doing the right thing for once); Best Remixed Recording (I don’t know what this category is evaluating and I’m not familiar with the material); Best Historical Album (Sometimes I go through this one and try to figure it out, this was not one of those times); Best Album Notes (this is another issue of access); Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package; Best Recording Package (I have almost never cared about the packaging of a record, ever); Best Arrangement, Instrument or Vocals; Best Arrangement, Instrument or A Capella (I guess I could probably figure these out, but, again, I’d need access to higher-quality audio and I’m not even remotely familiar with the material); Best Musical Theatre Album (musicals are stupid); Best Spoken Word Album (These are all very long and potentially very boring, but I probably should have figured it out anyway); Best Children’s Album (I don’t like children’s music, and don’t generally think it should exist); Best World Music Album (I reject the notion, this year as always, of “World Music” as a single coherent genre. All music is made in the world, and this is a ghettoized category or music made in idioms that the Grammy voters are less familiar with, and I think it would be better off just to leave it be and not bother); Best Reggae Album (My familiarity with reggae music ends in 1989, with the death of King Tubby); Best Regional Roots Music Album (this is a borderline-case with “world music”, and it was easier for my conscience to just leave it out and not pretend to know what I was hearing); Best Tropical Latin Album; Best Regional Mexican Album; Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album; Best Latin Pop Album (in the past I have done the Latin categories, and enjoyed them, and I do have some familiarity here, but this year I didn’t know any of the material and found it easier to focus on the things I did know); Best Roots Gospel Album; Best Contemporary Christian Music Album; Best Gospel Album; Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song; Best Gospel Performance/Song (I know so little about present-day praise music that I would basically be guessing); Best Latin Jazz Album; Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album; Best Jazz Instrumental Album; Best Jazz Vocal Album; Best Improvised Jazz Solo (my connection to jazz is through the weird Peter Brotzmann/Bill Orcutt/Jamie Branch weird/free/experimental stuff, the hip-hop-associated Kamasi Washington/FlyLo/Thundercat stuff, or the London-based scene that I associate with Shabake Hutchings’s band, which is linked by Mackaya McCraven to the Chicago stuff, and so I have basically no affinity for any of this, and chose to ignore it, since the category itself is less about taking joy in the new and current and more about hidebound historicity, which I am opposed to as a stance, now as always); Best New Age Album (I don’t even know what most of this is, really); Best Contemporary Instrumental Album (I listen to tonnes of contemporary instrumental music, but none of it is in this mode, and I have no idea what we’re evaluating here) 
  4. not to put too much behind the curtain here, but while it’s true that I buy almost all of the music that I care about, I don’t actually care about most of this, and am happy to use Spotify or, if it really comes down to it, YouTube, and that’s not what I’d call a reasonable environment for listening to the engineering on a classical recording. 
  5. unless it’s to an animated movie, I guess? Because Coco is a musical – it has diagetic music and everything! – and it’s above in the score soundtrack. 
  6. albeit via Maren Morris, whose music is awful. 
  7. there are three of each because Weezer falls into both categories. 
  8. although it wasn’t nearly as good as the record that Matt Pike’s other band, Sleep, made last year 
  9. the video is especially great – Allison Brie is very funny. 
  10. which makes sense, but which was officially announced, which is weird. Also she was rumoured to be submitted for the category in 2018 but not nominated, which is funny. 
  11. again, perfectly sensible. But why tell us that? Of course that’s why he’s not nominated for best new artist: he’s not a new artist.