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OSCAR LOVE FOR GAGA, STAR, RHAPSODY
The Oscars and Grammys will have lots in common this year. (1/23a)
THE BRITISH
ARE COMING
New music on the 2019 schedule. (1/23a)
GREIN ON GRAMMYS: SONGWRITING BY COMMITTEE
Tunesmithing becomes a team sport. (1/22a)
A FUTURISTIC TOP 20
WIZRD is a true star. (1/23a)
ARIANA GETS INTO ALBUM MODE
Grande sets a date: 2/8. (1/23a)
THE NEW PUB WORLD
Serious musical chairs.
CURATING GRAMMY PERFORMANCES
The calculus of awards, ratings and moments.
THE FIRST BIG RELEASE OF 2019
...is not what you'd expect.
THE NEW SUPERSTARS
The old pop rules just don't apply.
Critics' Choice
A POSIES BOOTLEG
1/21/19

by Simon Glickman

Posies co-founders Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer showed up to L.A.'s Bootleg Theater as an electric duo on 1/20, sans rhythm section but plugged in and prepared for a deep dive into their catalog. 

The Seattle-bred Posies seemed poised, back in the early '90s, to ride the decade's amped-up rock revival to fame and fortune, offering as they did a Beatles/Big Star-infused take on the alternative sound of the era. They weren't grunge, but they could sling huge, buzzy, psychedelic guitar rock—while singing incandescent harmonies.

Alas, the band was a little too smart (and sweet) for the room, despite making a couple of damn-near-perfect records and several others that, while less hard-hitting, were filled with strong songs. (They also teamed up with surviving Big Star members for a string of beautiful shows and recordings.)

The depth of the pair's material was certainly on display at the Bootleg, as Jon and Ken dove into early tracks both well known ("Dream All Day," "Solar Sister," "Suddenly Mary") and obscure ("Definite Door," "Everybody Is a Fucking Liar," "Believe in Something Other [Than Yourself]"). The chemistry they've honed over 30 or so years was well in evidence, and their gorgeous vocal blend hasn't aged a day. Their stage banter, meanwhile, tended toward the ultra-nerdy (Star Trek references abounded, as well as riffs on possible franchise movies by arthouse directors), which was about right for the audience.

Ken sat at the piano for several songs, expanding the evening's sonic palette, and opener Simone White (whose folky, incantatory approach recalled early Joni Mitchell filtered through Steeleye Span) chimed in with some additional harmonies.

They didn't play "Golden Blunders" or about 10 other old favorites over the course of the set, but it was a rare pleasure to hear deep tracks performed intimately and with such zest. The Posies are due to deliver an album of new material soon; we'll tell you all about it when it arrives. In the meantime, you might want to check out Omnivore's lavish reissues of the band's releases.

PINK SWEAT$ WILL SOON BE ALL THE RAGE
12/11/18

You may have read about Human Re Sources artist/songwriter Pink Sweat$ in our recent New & Developing Artists rundown; you’re likely to hear quite a bit more about him soon. The 26-year-old Philly native developed his considerable songwriting versatility working with artists ranging from Nashville’s Florida Georgia Line to hip-hop breakout Tierra Whack and pop breakout MAX; on his own he’s racked up 13m Spotify streams and press love (New York Times, Fader, Hypebeast) thanks to jams like “Honesty” (the twisty video for which has earned 1.7m+ YouTube views and appears below),  “No Replacing You” and “Would You.”

What all these stats don’t tell you is that dude has some serious old-school R&B mojo, complete with a truly pure falsetto, and a distinctive, fearless style. Check it.

SPRINGSTEEN ON FILM:
A FATHER'S STORY
12/7/18

By Phil Gallo

“Long Time Comin’” is not what anyone would call a key piece of the Bruce Springsteen catalog. He wrote it in the mid-1990s and played it live, but didn’t record and release the song until 2005’s Devils and Dust.

He added the song to his Springsteen on Broadway set a year ago, along with “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” to play on nights his wife, Patti Scialfa, was unable to make it to the Walter Kerr Theater to sing their two duets.

In Thom Zimny’s film of Springsteen on Broadway, which opens a limited theatrical run in New York and L.A. today and premieres 12/16 on Netflix, it amps up Springsteen’s notion that his father has been a driving force in his art, perhaps more than any singular figure.

He talks about his father early in the show, between “My Hometown” and “My Father’s House,” and, in the film, returns to the subject by singing about a fictional young man, the product of an absentee pop with kids of his own.

He sings: “Now down below and pullin' on my shirt/I got some kids of my own. 

"Well if I had one wish in this god forsaken world, kids,  it'd be that your mistakes would be your own./Yea, your sins would be your own.”

The addition of “Long Time Comin’” and “Tom Joad” sitting alongside the Bruce-Patti duets on “Tougher Than the Rest” and “Brilliant Disguise” gives the film a different weight than the stage show—not to mention a longer runtime. It’s heavier on film than it was live.

Everything about the stage show is presented the way Springsteen has played it over 236 nights since October 2017: the stories about growing up Catholic with a hard-working mother; his ambitions to use song to define himself and what it means to be an American; the friends he lost in Vietnam; his bandmates; and his purpose in life.

It’s rich and detailed, Zimny’s camera keeping the focus tight on the lone performer after establishing shots early on. Via that intense intimacy, we watch Springsteen coming to terms with his father, the identity behind so many of his song’s characters—the factory workers, men without options, the family men who avoid emotional connections. Springsteen’s father, Doug, he says, is “my hero and my greatest foe.”

Nothing beyond what theater-goers have been seeing has been added to the film. On the two nights Zimny shot in front of an invited audience, Bruce was a little loosey-goosey with the script, dropping f-bombs and veering toward the political in a way that reviewers did not see when it opened 14 months ago.

The show builds as any solid Broadway musical should, the final impact being a medley of “Dancing in the Dark” and “Land of Hope and Dreams” that works as well as any classic Broadway 11 o’clock number. “You’ve provided me with a purpose,” he says in the segue leading into the songs. “I hope I’ve been a good traveling companion.”  The vitality and joy in his voice says this journey still has miles to go.