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.

CGI Animals and a Daffy Robert Downey Jr. Performance Make for a Feather-Brained ‘Dolittle’

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CREDIT: Universal Pictures

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Harry Collett, Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen, Jim Broadbent, Jessie Buckley, Carmel Laniado, Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Craig Robinson, Ralph Fiennes, Selena Gomez, Marion Cotillard, Jason Mantzoukas, Frances de la Tour

Director: Stephen Gaghan

Running Time: 106 Minutes

Rating: PG for Mild Animal Chaos

Release Date: January 17, 2020

It’s not a great sign when my favorite part of a movie is the end credits revealing who all the voice actors were, especially when it’s a movie about talking to animals, because … I love talking to animals! Not necessarily in the Dr. Dolittle sense, but if I did have that ability, I would be happy to use it. As for Robert Downey Jr.’s version of the classic fictional veterinarian, I wouldn’t say that he is unhappy about his interspecies communication abilities, but he is making some odd choices, what with an unplaceable accent while barely opening his mouth whenever he talks to the point that it seems like he is practicing his ventriloquism. Dolittle is a movie whose existence in 2020 I’m having trouble fathoming, but despite that, I can’t say that I doubt Downey’s commitment, however strange it may be.

Anyway, the plot is some fever dream logic-driven concoction about how a reclusive Dr. Dolittle, hiding away in his home following the death of his wife, is summoned to set out on an adventure to find a cure for a deathly ill young Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley). Naturally enough, his animal friends join him to help out, and their presence on this journey just feels too unremarkable. Perhaps that has to do with the reliance on CGI, which renders these creatures less adorable and more just humans with fur or feathers or scales. For the most part, then, Dolittle is a mix of humdrum when it should be goofy and ridiculous when it should be straightforward. Although, there is one part when Dr. Dolittle removes a set of bagpipes from a dragon’s colon, so this endeavor wasn’t a total disappointment.

Dolittle is Recommended If You Have: A Bottomless Appreciation for CGI Animal Hijinx

Grade: 1.5 out of 5 Quacks

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 1/10/20

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CREDIT: Netflix

Every week, I list all the upcoming (or recently released) movies, TV shows, albums, podcasts, etc. that I believe are worth checking out.

TV
Medical Police Season 1 (January 10 on Netflix) – From the team behind Childrens Hospital!
-25th Annual Critics Choice Awards (January 12 on The CW)
The New Pope Series Premiere (January 13 on HBO) – John Malkovich joins Jude Law in this sequel to The Young Pope.
grown-ish Season 3 Premiere (January 16 on Freeform)

Music
-Selena Gomez, Rare

Movie Review: ‘The Dead Don’t Die,’ And Neither Does the Droll Energy in Jim Jarmusch’s Zombie Goof-Off

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CREDIT: Abbot Genser/Focus Features

Starring: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, RZA, Carol Kane, Selena Gomez, Tom Waits, Austin Butler, Eszter Balint, Luka Sabbat, Larry Fessenden

Director: Jim Jarmusch

Running Time: 103 Minutes

Rating: R for Ironic, But Visceral Zombie Violence

Release Date: June 14, 2019 (Limited)

Sometime around 2010, it was determined that it was every filmmaker’s God-given right to make their very own zombie movie. In the case of Jim Jarmusch, he was divinely matched with The Dead Don’t Die, a droll, occasionally fourth wall-breaking portrait of ravaged-by-the-undead small town life patrolled by Police Officers Bill Murray and Adam Driver. In a post-Shaun of the Dead world, The Dead Don’t Die is far from necessary, but it is sufficiently diverting. It adds an environmental wrinkle to the zombie mythos, as fracking is implied to be the culprit behind the upending of nature. If Jarmusch is crying out for us to protect the Earth, that warning is perhaps a little too late, considering how disastrous climate change has already become. But that’s no big deal (for the movie, that is – the planet is screwed), as he seems to have more goofball ideas on his mind anyway.

The zombie blood and guts are sufficiently hardcore, with the bodily fluids as wet and unleashed as the dialogue is dry and bottled-up. But the main attraction are not the ghouls so much as the characters and their unique ways of being human and/or inhuman. That is to say, while Tilda Swinton has badass sword skills as the town’s new undertaker, it’s more amusing that she gets to lean into a hardcore Scottish persona. This is the type of movie in which Selena Gomez tells Caleb Landry Jones, “Your film knowledge is impressive,” after he mentions some pretty basic info about George Romero, and then Larry Fessenden refers to Gomez and her friends who are passing through town as “hipsters from the city” and “hipsters with their irony” (the odds seem to be that they’re from Cleveland). If that sounds hilarious to you, you know who you are, and you can expect to mostly be satisfied, though you may (or may not) have issues with the shaggy, shambling plot structure.

The Dead Don’t Die is Recommended If You Like: Remaining at an ironic remove, but not being too-cool-for-school about it

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Diner Coffee Pots

Best Songs of 2015

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All songs on this list were released as singles in 2015, or late 2014, or earlier in 2014, but didn’t make an impact until 2015.

LetItHappen

1. Tame Impala – “Let It Happen” – Tame Impala are just about singlehandedly keeping psychedelic rock alive, with their good vibe-filled soundscapes keeping minds as open as possible. This 7 minute-plus magnum opus is a crunchy, lovely, hooky, addictive ode to allowing the best possible future to come into existence. Settle in, let it wash over you, and watch the fear slip away.
2. Miguel – “Waves” – Hands down, Miguel is currently making the sexiest music on the planet. This cowbell backbeat-driven paean to lovemaking is the cream of his crop.
3. Wolf Alice – “Moaning Lisa Smile” – Alternative rock can actually call for an end to gloominess, as in this story of a Lisa Simpson-type.
4. Major Lazer ft. MØ & DJ Snake – “Lean On” – An American DJ, a French DJ, and a Danish singer break out the moombahton for Major Lazer’s hottest beat yet.
5. The Weeknd – “Can’t Feel My Face” – This is what pop music needs to thrive: someone who can write killer hooks and isn’t afraid to grunt alongside his silky falsetto.
6. Beck – “Dreams” – My dream for 2016 is that Beck’s new album will be released as soon as possible. In the meantime, this funky little psychedelic number from Mr. Hansen’s dancy side played on repeat will tide me over.
7. Taylor Swift – “Style” – Tight, tingly composition and hauntingly resonant lyrics about the path of love in an endless night’s journey.
8. The Weeknd – “The Hills” – An intro of pure distortion and an outro sung in Amharic (the language of Ethiopia) makes for the most unusual Number One hit in ages.
9. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Run Away with Me” – That sax intro – and everything else featured in this beautiful pop number – makes it clear that you will be swimming in bliss for four minutes.
10. Kendrick Lamar – “King Kunta” – Kendrick follows the examples of Edwin Starr and Public Enemy in demonstrating that the best protest music is also a lot of fun.
11. Selena Gomez – “Same Old Love” – With an assist from Charli XCX on the snappy lyrics and a deliciously wonky piano, Selena shot for the cranial stars with this earworm.
12. Disclosure ft. Lorde – “Magnets” – The Lawrence brothers provide the wooshy tropical beat as Lorde gets in too deep with her lover.
13. Florence + the Machine – “What Kind of Man” – Florence Welch has a knack for making 3 ½-minute ditties feel like 8-minute epics.
14. Calvin Harris ft. Ellie Goulding – “Outside” – If Calvin Harris is not singing on his own tracks, then it ought to be Ellie Goulding, as on this nugget of emotionally tense dance music.
15. Tove Lo – “Talking Body” – Tove Lo realizes that part of being healthy is fully and lusciously embracing our physical desires.
16. The Pretty Reckless – “Follow Me Down” – The Sing-Along With Attitude Anthem of 2015.
17. Cold War Kids – “First” – The Cold War Kids have found their niche of tight riffs guiding the way through everyday existential crises.
18. MisterWives – “Reflections” – Mandy Lee’s infectious vocals set the irresistible tone for this burst of indie pop effervescence.
19. Elle King – “Ex’s & Oh’s” – Groovy, bluesy guitars + feisty, funky attitude + snappy, playful wordplay = a no-brainer addition to your rock playlist.
20. Modest Mouse – “Lampshades on Fire” – It sounds like something that was written over the course of the raging party recounted in the lyrics.
21. Adele – “Hello” – Spare, unfussy production just gets out of the way of one of the most powerful instruments on the planet.
22. U2 – “Every Breaking Wave” – The beautiful, heartbreaking lyrics are as bottomless as the ocean from Bono and company.
23. Halsey – “New Americana” – Halsey gets away with brazen bluntness in this anthem for a new generation by making the straightforwardness part of the message.
24. Carly Rae Jepsen – “I Really Like You” – Incessant repetition should be avoided most of the time, except when you really, really, really, really, really, really cannot say it any other way.
25. Joywave – “Somebody New” – It’s a whole new genre: Sleepy Alternative Power Nap Rock.

SNL Recap January 23, 2016: Ronda Rousey/Selena Gomez

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My full review can be found on Starpulse: http://www.starpulse.com/news/index.php/2016/01/24/saturday-night-live-season-41-episode-

Trump Rally – B

Ronda Rousey’s Monologue – B+

Screen Guild Awards (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – A-

lovestruck – B+

Bland Man – B

Selena Gomez – “Good for You”/“Same Old Love” – B

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B+
Leslie Jones – C
Willie – B

Three’s a Crowd – C-

Supercrew – C

At the Club – B-

Citizens Forum – C

Selena Gomez – “Hands to Myself” – B

Football Party – B+

Settl – Original Grade: B