Best Musical Artists of the 2010s

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CREDIT: YouTube Screenshots

One more list! One more list!

My Best of the 2010s list-making journey has finally come to a close! (Or has it? … For now, it has at least. The future will come as it may, and it may just surprise you, and me.) All this week, I’ve been posting my rankings of a few categories that I was inspired to put together after submitting them to a Best of the 2010s polls that I’m participating in with some of my fellow cultural aficionados. To wrap it all up, I guide you along to the realm of music and lyrics, as I present the Best Musical Artists of the 2010s.

My criteria was similar to that of my choices for Best Film Directors. I considered a combination of how much I enjoyed their musical output as well as how much – and how well – they influenced the industry at large.

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Best Albums of 2019

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It’s been a few years since I’ve made an Albums of the Year list, but I really felt compelled to make one for 2019. Here are the audio compilations from the recent past that really made an impact on me:

14. Camila Cabello, Romance – Fun and bouncy.
13. Harry Styles, Fine Line – I like where Harry is headed.
12. Beck, Hyperspace – Reliable Beck.
11. Brittany Howard, Jaime – Great, big rockin’ voice goes solo.
10. The Black Keys, Let’s Rock – They never stopped rocking.
9. Ariana Grande, thank u, next – Lots of adventure from Ari.
8. Sleater-Kinney, The Center Won’t Hold – Band broke up, music’s still great.
7. Tyler, the Creator, IGOR – I feel so comfortable inside this album.
6. FKA Twigs, MAGDALENE – FKA reminds me of Bat for Lashes.
5. Vampire Weekend, Father of the Bride – Those Vampire Weekend guys have still got a hold on me.
4. Lana Del Rey, Norman Fucking Rockwell! – What a soundscape!
3. Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? – Just plenty of fun.
2. Lizzo, Cuz I Love You – I love you, too!
1. The Chemical Brothers, No Geography – Apocalyptic concept album.

Best Songs of 2019

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CREDIT: Tove Lo/YouTube Screenshot

The following are the singles that had enough of an impact on me in 2019 to make me go, “I’ll have to mark that one down for posterity.” A few of them were originally released before 2019, but they didn’t reach their full cultural impact until 2019. And for the first time in the decade or so since I’ve been doing this, I’ve got a repeat winner, as I also coronated Tove Lo in 2017.

1. Tove Lo – “Glad He’s Gone”: Such friendship, such storytelling. We are all so blessed to have Tove Lo in our lives.
2. Lana Del Rey – “Mariners Apartment Complex”: Four minutes of musical madness that feels like hours of bliss.
3. The Chemical Brothers – “Eve of Destruction”: If you think the world’s gone to hell, have a dance party!
4. Vampire Weekend – “Sunflower”: There have been multiple (good) songs named “Sunflower” the past few years; this is the one that’s most likely to make you feel like a sunflower waking up in the morning.
5. Lizzo -“Truth Hurts”: 100% that mix of references that clearly hold deep emotional resonance for Lizzo.
6. Gary Clark Jr. – “This Land”: Can tasty guitar solos solve racism? Can’t hurt.
7. Hozier – “Dinner and Diatribes”: A galloping piece of soulfulness.
8. Dua Lipa – “Swan Song”: An original track from Alita: Battle Angel, and clearly the sound of future sci-fi feminism.
9. Sara Bareilles – “Armor”: Listen to Sara Bareilles getting down with her jazzy bad self and the rest of us getting down with her!
10. Kimbra – “Lightyear”: Space wonder Kimbra has a message to beam down to us earthbound folks.
11. Shaed – “Thunder”: One of those indie rock “This is who we are!” statements of declaration.
12. Billie Eilish – “Bad Guy”: Billie sings about the joys of being devious, but by all accounts, her personal life is quite wholesome. I think that’s a great way to live.
13. Meg Myers – “Running Up That Hill”: I’m just glad that Kate Bush covers are on the radio in 2019.
14. Lana Del Rey – “Doin’ Time”: Is Lana the current Queen of Remix? She just knows how to summon the past into her modern legacy.
15. Tones and I – “Dance Monkey”: We can always use some monosyllabic shouts amidst the more word-like lyrics to convince us to get up there and bust a move.
16. Camila Cabello – “Cry for Me”: Sometimes you need to make an insistent demand for emotional connection to get the message across.
17. Lil Nas X – “Old Town Road”: The epitome of Gen Z’s total lack of recognition of genre constraints.
18. Absofacto – “Dissolve”: A little skitter-skatter of chillax rock.
19. Benny Blanco, Tainy, Selena Gomez, and J Balvin – “I Can’t Get Enough”: A pleasure moan produced into nugget-size song form.
20. Starcrawler – “Pet Sematary”: It really is the perfect unassailable opening guitar riff to kick off some opening credits, no matter which version.

2/15/20 UPDATE: In the spirit of comprehension, I may have overlooked a few songs that I loved enough to be top 20-worthy from a band that had already made the cut. So, to correct the record, some more-than-honorable mentions go to “MAH” and “Got to Keep On” by the Chemical Brothers.

Jeff’s Wacky SNL Review: Eddie Murphy/Lizzo

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CREDIT: Rosalind O’Connor/NBC

It’s the last new Saturday Night Live of 2019, and I got a good night’s sleep and woke up refreshed to watch it recorded on my DVR. I finished writing in my dream journal while still in bed and added a very yellow banana to my cereal. I bet Eddie Murphy was also feeling refreshed, as it’s been 35 years since he last hosted (and 35+ years since he left the cast). Hopefully Lizzo was also feeling refreshed, or at least excited, as this is her first time as music guest. Incidentally, I believe that “Liz. OH!” is what you say when you realize that it’s been 35 years since Eddie Murphy last hosted.

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‘Hustlers’ Makes Its Case for Joining the Crime Film Canon

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CREDIT: Barbara Nitke/STX

Starring: Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Mercedes Ruehl, Cardi B, Madeline Brewer, Lizzo

Director: Lorene Scafaria

Running Time: 110 Minutes

Rating: R for Incidental and Purposeful Strip Club Nudity, A Few Roofies and Cocaine Bumps, and Some Crimes-Gone-Wrong Chaos

Release Date: September 13, 2019

There’s a scene early in Hustlers when Jennifer Lopez masterfully, with almost arrogant panache, swings around the pole to the tune of Fiona Apple’s “Criminal,” and it looks like this is going to be the distaff answer to Magic Mike. For too long, cinematic lady stripping has focused merely on the exploitative, and now it is time to treat it like an art form! J. Lo’s command of physics and her own body at 50 years old is indeed a breathtaking wonder to behold, but this is merely the amuse-bouche. Soon enough, Hustlers develops into an epic crime drama, a sort of female spin on Goodfellas. It only spans a few years versus the decades of Scorcese’s gangster classic, but it doesn’t take too long for the relationships at the heart of this scam to become deeper and deeper and more and more complicated.

Calling a new movie “the female (previous movie)” is usually frustratingly reductive, but in this case, the comparison can be unusually illuminating. I recently read a Time article that cited political science research about the differences between the typical reasons men and women get into politics. Where men tend to do so for the status of the position, women tend to run so that they can effect social change. While watching Hustlers, I wondered if the same rubric could be applied to explain the different rationales why men and women enter into a life of crime. So many cinematic male gangsters and fraudsters (Henry Hill chief among them) become what they become because of how cool it seems. But Constance Wu’s Dorothy and Lopez’s Ramona come up with their scam so that they can take of their kids, parents, grandparents, and sisters at the club.

The scheme at the center of Hustlers involves Ramona, Dorothy, and their colleagues luring their Wall Street customers into a blacked-out trap, drugging them enough that they’re willing to drop tens of thousands of dollars in one night at a strip club (but not so much that they fall asleep or OD). They justify their actions by figuring that these guys can afford to have a few g’s go missing. Plus, in light of the 2000s financial crisis, they’re essentially guilty of stealing from the rest of the country and getting away with it. The trouble comes when it becomes clear that some of the girls’ marks are not as invincible as they try to rationalize, and they’re in fact putting them in the same economic bind that they’ve been fighting themselves to get out of. The sisterhood that’s built by the Hustlers scam is full of genuine love, and that’s why it’s so bittersweet when the bubble is burst. If you’re looking for a story that epitomizes doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, this is the best option in quite some time.

P.S.: There’s a running gag in which Lili Reinhart vomits in high-pressure situations, and it never fails to deliver.

Hustlers is Recommended If You Like: Goodfellas, Magic Mike, Thelma & Louise, Economic Revenge

Grade: 4 out of 5 Scores