My Top Songs Of 2020

I’m not going to write an essay about 2020. That’s been done elsewhere and I have nothing to add to the conversation. Though the three words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote, “stink, stank, stunk,” there were some bright spots. Here are 85 things that brought me joy. Happy New Year, everyone!

  1. everything i wanted – Billie Eilish
  2. WAP – Cardi B feat. Megan Thee Stallion
  3. deathbed (coffee for your head) – Powfu feat. Beabadoobee
  4. Savage – Megan Thee Stallion feat. Beyoncé 
  5. Stay High – Brittany Howard
  6. Dynamite – BTS 
  7. Shameika – Fiona Apple 
  8. Tap In – Saweetie feat. Post Malone, DaBaby & Jack Harlow   
  9. Delete Forever – Grimes
  10. Mariners Apartment Complex – Lana Del Rey   
  11. Polyaneurism – of Montreal  
  12. Didn’t Want To Be This Lonely – Pretenders  
  13. Stupid Love – Lady Gaga
  14. Call My Phone Thinking I’m Doing Nothing Better – the Streets feat. Tame Impala 
  15. Surrender – Will Butler  
  16. JU$T – Run the Jewels feat. Pharrell Williams & Zack De La Rocha 
  17. BLACK PARADE – Beyoncé 
  18. Lifetime – Romy 
  19. Fool’s Gold – Lucy Dacus 
  20. Identical – Phoenix  
  21. ilomilo – Billie Eilish  
  22. Hallelujah – HAIM    
  23. Quarantine Boogie (Loco) – Walter Martin    
  24. Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America – the 1975   
  25. Texas Sun – Khruangbin and Leon Bridges 
  26. Ghosts – Bruce Springsteen 
  27. Settling Down – Miranda Lambert  
  28. He Loves Me – Brittany Howard  
  29. Pictures of Flowers – Jess Williamson feat. Hand Habits 
  30. The Valley of the Pagans – Gorillaz featuring Beck   
  31. my future – Billie Eilish    
  32. hot girl bummer – Blackbear  
  33. Drinks – Cyn   
  34. I disappear in your arms – Christine & the Queens  
  35. Say So – Doja Cat 
  36. Sea Salt & Caramel – Dent May  
  37. Gaslighter – The Chicks  
  38. 4 American Dollars – U.S. Girls 
  39. No Time to Die – Billie Eilish  
  40. Murder Most Foul – Bob Dylan 
  41. Lockdown – Anderson .Paak     
  42. When the Way Gets Dark – Lucinda Williams  
  43. Straight to the Morning – Hot Chip feat. Jarvis Cocker   
  44. Sleep at Night – The Chicks    
  45. Jason – Perfume Genius    
  46. Black Qualls – Thundercat feat. Steve Lacy & Steve Arrington   
  47. Smiley Face – Duck Sauce  
  48. Blinding Lights – the Weeknd   
  49. Country Radio – Indigo Girls      
  50. One and Done – Bright Eyes    
  51. Hole in the Bottle – Kelsea Ballerini with Shania Twain     
  52. Bluebird – Miranda Lambert   
  53. FTP – YG      
  54. You Can’t Rule Me – Lucinda Williams      
  55. Don’t Wanna – HAIM     
  56. Rager teenager! – Troye Sivan    
  57. SUGAR – BROCKHAMPTON    
  58. Bad Decisions – the Strokes    
  59. Miracle of Life – Bright Eyes feat. Phoebe Bridgers 
  60. Dora – Thierra Whack   
  61. On the Floor – Perfume Genius     
  62. Don’t Stop – Megan Thee Stallion feat. Young Thug         
  63. Front Lines – Conway the Machine  
  64. xanny – Billie Eilish      
  65. On My Own – Shamir       
  66. Without You – Perfume Genius       
  67. Why I Still Love You – Missy Elliott     
  68. The Streets Where I Belong – Annie        
  69. Leader of the Delinquents – Kid Cudi     
  70. Song 33 – Noname     
  71. Anthem – Father John Misty  
  72. Lilacs – Waxahatchee  
  73. Body Memory – Jess Cornelius  
  74. Come Thru – Summer Walker with Usher    
  75. Aries – Gorillaz feat. Peter Hook & Georgia  
  76. Riding Solo – Hinds      
  77. Cool Off – Missy Elliott       
  78. Sweeter – Leon Bridges feat. Terrace Martin 
  79. Video Game – Sufjan Stevens     
  80. Love Is a Drug – Empress Of          
  81. Kyoto – Phoebe Bridgers   
  82. ATM – Too Free  
  83. Momentary Bliss – Gorillaz feat. Slowthai and Slaves     
  84. Harlem River Blues – Steve Earle         
  85. In My Bones – Jacob Collier feat. Kimbra & Tank and the Bangas

Your (Almost) Daily Playlist (9-26-20)

Inspired by the September 26 birthdays of Olivia Newton-John, Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry, En Vogue’s Cindy Herron, Marty Robbins, Everything But the Girl’s Tracey Thorn, David Frizzell, Lynn Anderson, Nicki French, Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde’s Andre Harrell, Julie London and George Gershwin; and the September 25 birthdays of T.I., Santigold, The Fresh Prince, Childish Gambino, Cecil Womack and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Your Daily Playlist (1-17-20)

Inspired by the January 17 birthdays of Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs, Steve Earle, Kaiser Chiefs’ Ricky Wilson, Calvin Harris, Kid Rock, the Delfonics’ William Hart, She & Him’s Zooey Deschanel, Lil Jon, Muhammad Ali, Paul Young, and Chris Montez, and the recent passing of The Left Banke’s Steve Martin.

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I auditioned for American Idol

In February 2002 my friend Sophie and I auditioned to be the hosts of a new US television series based on the successful UK show Pop Idol. On American Idol, amateur singers competed against each other and the public voted for the winner.

I’ve never seen American Idol. It’s not because I’m bitter I didn’t get the job. I have a different opinion than many of the show’s viewers as to what constitutes good singing. Being loud and hitting high notes do not necessarily make for great singing. A great singer is expressive, feeling the words they are singing. Aretha Franklin and Adele are two singers who can belt and hit a wide range of notes. They also know when to sing softly or when not to let vocal gymnastics get in the way of the song. They are great singers. Bob Dylan and Tom Waits are also great singers. They own their material. They feel their material. They live their material (more accurately, the personas they put forth for each song lives the material).

Dylan and Waits are also great songwriters. Dylan is the better-known of the two, but as today is Waits’ birthday, I’m going to focus on him. His songs have been recorded by a diverse group of artists, including Elvis Costello, Eagles, The Ramones, Johnny Cash, The Pogues, Solomon Burke, Steve Earle, Marianne Faithfull, The Neville Brothers, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Norah Jones, Bette Midler, Bruce Springsteen and Neko Case, the latter two appearing on today’s playlist with Waits covers. His sole US top forty hit on the Billboard Hot 100 was not as an artist, but as the writer of “Downtown Train,” which Rod Stewart took to the top ten in 1990.

Today’s Tom Waits-inspired playlist kicks off with the singer-songwriter’s version of that one hit. Enjoy!

An Atheist Jew’s Guide To Christmas Music, Part 1

Raised Jewish, I celebrated Hanukkah. For several years, my family also celebrated Christmas. We didn’t go to midnight mass, we didn’t drink egg nog, we didn’t throw a special type of log in the fireplace. (By the way, I have no idea what makes a Yule log yuley). We put tinsel and candy canes on a large potted plant my mother had in the den and bought each other small but practical gifts. For example, when I was 11 for Christmas my parents got me a salt shaker. The Christmas celebrations stopped after I innocently told Grandpa Mordechai about them. My parents were so angry with me they took away my salt shaker.

Though I no longer celebrate Christmas, I still have a major jones for Christmas music. I own many more Christmas records than any atheist Jew probably should. We’re talking in the hundreds.

I eschew Christmas classics performed by well-known middle-of-the-road acts such as Celine Dion, Michael Bublé, Kenny G (sell-out Jew), Neil Diamond (sell-out Jew) or Barbra Streisand (sell-out Jew). Frank Sinatra shows up only in a duet with Cyndi Lauper and Bing Crosby shows up only in his duet with David Bowie.

Including the Crosby/Bowie version, I have 15 renditions of “The Little Drummer Boy” in my iPod, by a diverse list of artists including Johnny Cash, The Temptations, Joan Jett, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop and RuPaul.

I have ten versions of “Winter Wonderland,” and that’s not counting the cross-dressing parody “Walkin’ Round in Women’s Underwear,” not performed by RuPaul.

I have “Christmas in Hollis,” “Christmas in Harlem,” “Christmas in Washington,” “Christmastime in the LBC,” “Christmas in the City,” “Christmas in Heaven,” “Christmastime in Hell” and “Christmas at the Zoo.”

I have Christmas songs by most of my favorite artists of all-time, including The Beatles, Prince, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Stevie Wonder, R.E.M., Elvis Presley, The White Stripes, Kanye West, Ike and Tina Turner, Chuck Berry, and Radiohead.

Some Christmas songs aren’t Christmas songs at all. “Frosty the Snowman,” “Let It Snow Let it Snow Let It Snow” and “Winter Wonderland” don’t mention the baby Jesus or Santa Claus or presents or a bullied reindeer with a skin ailment.

Some of the Christmas songs I have are a bit odd. “I Found the Brains of Santa Claus,” a smooth jazz version of “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer,” C3PO and R2D2 singing “Sleigh Ride.” I have Liberace reciting “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” though his version doesn’t hold a candle to Aretha Franklin’s version, in which the Queen of Soul took a few liberties with the words: “A bundle of gifts he had and what did I get? / As I squealed, opening the package, the same old shit!” Her lyrics are downright Disneyesque compared to Snoop Dogg’s reading of the famous poem. If you’re interested, Google the lyrics because I’m not going to print them here.

I have John Denver singing “Please Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas).” Verse one opens with a couplet for the arithmetically-challenged: “Just last year when I was only seven / Now I’m almost eight you can see.” Santa needs to bring John some flashcards. The next two lines create a holiday image that is less Norman Rockwell and more John Waters: “You came home at quarter past eleven / And fell down underneath the Christmas tree.” Someone needs to get him to a 12-step group. He can attend a meeting with the title character of Fishbone’s “Slick Nick, You Devil You,” who came down the chimney with a keg of brew and spilled Jack Daniels all over the drapes.

I have Sarah Silverman singing “Give the Jew Girl Toys,” in which she taunts Santa by singing “You have a list / Well, Schindler did to / Liam Neeson played him / Tim Allen played you.”

Then there’s the classic “Fairtytale of New York” by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, which evokes the holiday spirit with the line “You scumbag, you maggot / You cheap lousy faggot,” something yelled at me every year by those Salvation Army Santas.

Better still is “Macarena Christmas.” I LOVE “Macarena” and I’m betting you do to though you probably won’t admit it. “Macarena Christmas” celebrates the birth of our lord and savior Baby Macarena by taking the chorus from the hit single and uncleverly inserting it repeatedly into a medley of Christmas songs, so it goes “Joy to the world, the Lord has come / Da le a tu cuerpo alegria Macarena, Que tu cuerpo es pa darle alegria y cosa Buena / Da le a tu cuerpo alegria Macarena / Eeeeeh, Macarena – ay / Jingle bells jingle bells jingle all the way.” Sound effects of what sounds like an infant with the hiccups are thrown in. It makes no sense, y me gusta mucho.

My favorite holiday album and one of the greatest all-time albums period is Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift for You, featuring tracks he produced for The Ronettes, The Crystals, Darlene Love and Bob B. Soxx and The Blue Jeans. Every cut on it is classic and can be enjoyed by the whole family, except Grandpa Mordechai.