Category Archives: Ew’s Bullshit List

Entertainment Weekly’s Bullshit List, #75-71.

Born In The U.S.A.
75. Bruce Springsteen, Born In The U.S.A.

JB: Nobody thinks that Born In The U.S.A. is the Boss’s greatest album, except perhaps for those benighted souls who believe that sales are correlative to quality (and let’s leave them alone; surely being that ignorant is suffering enough). The problem is, I don’t think he’s had a really great record since Nebraska. (I like the Seeger Sessions a lot, and he’s continued to write great songs even at his lowest ebbs. But cohesive albums? That’s just not what he does anymore.)

I know the standard narrative around this record: after the massively popular Born To Run was followed by the various crises (of confidence, of commerce, of conscience) represented by Darkness On The Edge Of Town, The River, and Nebraska, Springsteen roared back into relevance, into the charts, and into the hearts of Americans everywhere with this expansive, shiny, bombastic record about the American mood circa the end of Reagan’s first term.

But that narrative has worn a little thin in the twenty-plus years since, and as someone who Wasn’t There™, what strikes me most immediately about the record is how small it is. Which may sound counterintuitive; surely there are few huger 80s productions than the title track, few records which have seized the (or, rather a) zeitgeist of 1984 with such all-conquering aplomb, with indeed such force that Springsteen more or less defined what commercial rootsy rock would sound like for — well, for the rest of rock’s life. From now on, no American rocker who wanted to be taken seriously by his aging audience would sound unlike Springsteen. (Of course that leaves out metal- and punk-influenced rock musics, which could fairly be said to have won if the game were anything but winning Boomer approval.)

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Entertainment Weekly’s Bullshit List, #80-76.

Back To Basics
80. Christina Aguilera, Back To Basics

MA: I know girls mature at different rates and all, but Holy Jesus is this ever better than Britney’s recent output.   Two reasons:   First, there’s the artist, Christina herownself, who is a very good singer/vocal interpreter NOW, and is only five or six tragically doomed love affairs, a fifteen year alternating battle with obesity and diet pill addiction, 40,000 (or so) bottles of whiskey and a trip to the mental institution away from true greatness.  Also she’s surprisingly thoughtful (or her handlers have trained her VERY well)  about the artistic legacy of 20th century American pop and how she can pay homage to and define herself within its historical framework.

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Entertainment Weekly’s Bullshit List, #85-81.

85. The Dixie Chicks, Home

JB: I have to admit, this album wormed its way into my good graces from its very first note: a guitar-banjo duet is always going to put a smile on my face. Following that good-time stomper with a pitch-perfect Fleetwood Mac cover nearly made the tears spring to my eyes. (I unabashedly adore the Nicks-Buckingham period.) The fact that the rest of the record never really lived up to that opening one-two punch doesn’t mean it wasn’t terrific anyway.

I’ve never really listened to the Dixie Chicks before, though of course I knew who they were — the ridiculous response to their perfectly justified (and in light of current polls, prescient) comments about Bush, their reputation for holding to traditional country elements in defiance of the pop-with-a-cowboy-hat Nashville establishment, the gleeful revenge fantasy “Goodbye Earl.” For some reason, though, I had the impression that they were more or less lightweights. Perhaps it’s residual sexism and/or rockism from my days as a true-believing rock & roller (ca. 1996-2002), but in another of those self-defeating never-heards, I’d convinced myself that since I hadn’t listened to them by now they weren’t really worth listening to. (Probably, come to think of it, some elitism in there as well. I mean, they win Grammys, which no self-respecting music act should ever do.)

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Entertainment Weekly’s Bullshit List, #90-86.

90. System Of A Down, Toxicity

MA: (Sang, quietly) Well, ya gotta give these cats credit for ambition. Anti-authoritarian “fuck! the! man!” screeds bump into meditations on science and spirituality,or the interplay between control and enthropy, and just when you think the whole thing’s turning too damn introspective you notice Toxicity’s wry, self-aware edge. Or if they don’t showya that, they might go downright silly, like the Mothers of Invention-esque “Bounce.” (Chorus: Jump! Pogopogopogopogo! Up! Pogopogopogopogo! Down!) There ain’t a heck of a lotta metal albums that can be described as thoughtful, and many fewer still that y’can label thoughtful AND funny, but….

(Shouted) BUT, MAN, SOME OF THESE LYRICS BLOW DONKEYS! The System cats spend most of the album lyrically beating you over the head all persuasive-paper-for-freshman-comp style

all research and successful drug policy shows/
That treatment should be increased/
And law enforcement decreased/
While abolishing mandatory-minimum sentences

Or they pull a complete 180, and move towards borderline incomprehensible!

“Trust in my Self Righteous Suicide?” Um… yeah. Whatevs, dude.

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Entertainment Weekly’s Bullshit List, #95-91.

Trap Muzik
95. T. I., Trap Muzik

JB: I ain’t gonna front: I’m somewhat in the position of a jazzhead in 1969 who totally digs Bitches Brew and is convinced that this rock & roll stuff is the music of the future, but wasn’t at Woodstock and can’t really say with a lot of authority what the aesthetic differences between the Velvet Underground, the Doors, and Led Zeppelin are, he just knows he likes their records. I haven’t been following any of the hip-hop scenes, mainstream, underground, East Coast, West Coast, Southern, etc. for any real amount of time, and my references are all the grab-bag of randomness that any dilettante can expect. The difference is that the jazzhead in ’69 didn’t have Wikipedia.

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