What a week! While Puerto Rico was without water and power, our president attacked black athletes exercising their constitutional rights, further goaded North Korea, unveiled a new Muslim-country travel ban, and pushed a tax plan massively benefitting the wealthy. Also, Twitter insanely started allowing 280-character tweets, which in addition to being aesthetically unnerving will probably be the literal death of us.
Here’s what got us through it all!
Cardi B Dethroning Taylor Swift on the Billboard Hot 100
Taylor Swift likes to think of herself as apolitical, but it’s no secret that neo-Nazis worship her as their Aryan goddess. And since Swift has yet to denounce her white supremacist fan base, it felt especially symbolic when Cardi B — a black feminist, daughter of immigrants, and former stripper from the Bronx — took her No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 this week with “Bodak Yellow.”
Schadenfreude aside, Cardi’s win made history for several reasons: She’s the first female rapper to hit No. 1 without a feature since Lauryn Hill in 1998, and her come-up has been entirely self-made. There was no Lil Wayne to her Nicki Minaj, no T.I. to her Iggy Azalea, no Biggie to her Lil’ Kim: She grabbed the public’s attention with her outsized personality on social media and Love & Hip-hop and held it on the strength of her music. While Swift adopts a vindictive persona with “Look What You Made Me Do,” Cardi continues to win hearts and minds (even Taylor’s) with her bubbly sense of humor and keep-it-realness. —Nastia Voynovskaya
The Eurythmics, ‘In The Garden’
When I told my wife that I’d ordered a Eurythmics record, she asked, “What’s next, Sting?” A cruel comparison, but I knew what she was saying. At their peak in the ’80s, the Eurythmics were my parents’ music, one of the few bands that made my mom want to dance. But I’m always on the lookout for hidden gems, and my favorite kind are overlooked albums by well-known artists — Beck’s One Foot In The Grave, Neil Young’s Trans and Chubby Checker’s Chequered.
Which brings me to the Eurythmics’ first album, In The Garden. Before Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart became hitmakers, they were power-pop rockers who broke away from an established band to do their own thing. After holing up for five months in Conny Plank’s studio with players like Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit of Can, and Blondie drummer Clem Burke, the results are a solid collection of pre-drum machine new wave bangers. Fans of Stereolab take note: there are songs on In The Garden that would fit in seamlessly on Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements. — Kevin L. Jones
Bernstein at 100
At a time when celebrities’ politics often create more noise than whatever it is they became famous for doing, it’s hard not to think of Leonard Bernstein through the lens of Tom Wolfe. Coining the catchphrase “radical chic” in his famous 1970s New York magazine article about a celebrity-sprinkled party held by the charismatic conductor and composer at his swank Park Avenue penthouse for The Black Panthers, the author perfectly captures the tension between Bernstein’s life as a wealthy cultural figurehead and his reputation as a social activist.
So it was gratifying to be reminded of what’s essential about Bernstein when I experienced a San Francisco Symphony performance last weekend. (The orchestra is in the midst of celebrating Bernstein’s 100th birthday this season.) From the madcap energy of his Prelude, Fugue and Riffs (a chamber music piece featuring the orchestra’s whipcrack principle clarinetist, Carey Bell) to the thoughtful power of the The Chichester Psalms, the program allowed me to bathe in the music and forget, for a while, the noise. —Chloe Veltman
‘The Good Place’ and its Ingenious First Season
Somewhere between Lost, Parks and Recreation and The Five People You Meet in Heaven is The Good Place, an incredible philosophical missive of a sitcom. The Good Place, long story short, centers on Eleanor (Kristen Bel), a morally reprehensible thirtysomething who falsely gets put in an idyllic paradise, fittingly titled the Good Place. Hijinks ensue.
I binge-watched the entire first season in 36 hours, then, immediately proceeded to stand in the shower for what may have been a half-hour to weigh the lofty conundrums of the show’s morality and ethics, and the sleights of hand that showrunner Michael Schur (of Parks and Recreation fame) pull to get to the absolutely bonkers season finale. Nothing like a dose of this surreal fantasy to leave you wondering about your own mortality. —Joshua Bote
The movie is awful. I mean… let me clarify: I loved it, I really did. It’s brilliant. But watching the movie sucks. The whole theater started to spin, I felt sick, all these ugly things came up from my subconscious, I hated the human race, it’s harrowing and grotesque and I’ll never watch it again. But it’s stayed with me for days. —Gabe Meline