Toy Story War (reblog)

Dave posted this on his Tumblr:

Everyone is talking about the last Star Wars movie, a film I will probably see about two years from now (if that), and it’s preemptively disappointing to hear how the one good thing about The Last Jedi (its scorched-earth boldness re: brand hagiography) gets retconned. But there is already a Disney property that figured this out — Toy Story!

Toy Story 4 is very good as a movie, not quite as good as a movie as at least two of the other Toy Story movies. (Specifically 2 and 3 — I've now seen the first one several times because it is very much my son's speed, and I'm struck not only by how long ago 1995 was from a technology standpoint, but how long ago it was from a plotting and basic "what can you do in a children's movie" standpoint — the movie straight up cheats by the logic it established for itself to resolve its conflict, at least twice!)

But Toy Story 4 also has a throughline argument that is the most convincing I've seen in the series, and takes very seriously the problems and paradoxes that its premise introduces, and follows it to strange places. We see the birth of a toy, the nightmare of being ushered into this weird conceit, a kind of commentary on how the loose fit of analogy to reality creates a gap that you really don't want to look down into. Some folks have talked about Forky and the film more existentially, but I found that a little harder to buy into, even if it's not a huge stretch — to me it's just a kind of stubborn reminder that toys aren't actually real, more of a destabilizing of premise than trying to go all in on the analogy and imagine this has something to do with people who are actually, you know, alive. (I'm reminded of Roger Ebert's apoplectic response to A.I. because, like, robots aren't people, which is totally right, even though I think it kind of misses the point of the movie, whatever that is.)

To me it's more of a parable about creativity, characters and situations as "property" to be developed, etc. What do you do when the thing you built just doesn't really make a lot of sense anymore, and the logic that you established doesn't work — a logic that was shaky even in the initial premise (toys are real! But not exactly! Except yes exactly, and they could totally traumatize kids if they wanted to! Except lol no, they can't really do that, just kidding, forget that happened, can you imagine if we let that happen again it would be a horror movie! Also btw there is actual magic! Except no, it's not magic-magic, we still have to obey the laws of physics, that's a bridge too far!)?

What I really liked about Toy Story 4 is how ruthlessly it undermines its own logic, how Forky especially brings out the feeling you get trying to think through that logic for even a minute outside the suspension of your disbelief, but also manages, in making Forky a valuable addition to the movie, in dancing around suspension of disbelief, toying with it, and sticking the landing so that you still want to see the thing resolve. That's an incredibly difficult dance that even masters of meta ambiguity who do it on purpose mess up sometimes, so to see a Pixar movie, the first one after Disney's behemoth of behemoths status was fully secured (I once called Disney an "ever-metastasizing Death Star" and this was like a decade before they bought Star Wars!) not only broach the subject but do something interesting with it was a meta-thrill. (And again, the film's non-meta-thrills aren't quite as thrilling as the last two films.)

I haven't read as much about how (spoiler alerts!) the broader plot and resolution do more audaciously and more confidently what The Last Jedi did in the broadstrokes even though it was a bit too gummily plotted and clunky to get it across beyond conceptually. Woody just straight up abandons his life's purpose, the toy raison d'etre that motivated the action of every other film. He just leaves! And he not only leaves, but he opens up a universe in which there is a teeming subterranean world of abandoned toys who live a life of roiling conflict and earthly pleasure in a precarious nomadic existence! Like, where did that come from!

So the whole universe not only opens up, but sheds its confines completely — Toy Story is now a universe that is only about the toys, with humans as a kind of fringe aristocracy whose role seems to be to subjugate and in some cases literally imprison toys. Had it not been cheating and a conceit quickly abandoned (though flirted with a few times, like in Toy Story 4 when the non-speaker-boxed voice of a toy imitates the GPS navigation voiceover), the Sid resolution of the first film presents a bloody struggle against occasionally benevolent but more often cruel overlords that only a proletarian uprising could address, toys in guerrilla warfare against humans, perhaps a civil war of house toys against street toys.

This is not only an utterly different story but an utterly different universe than the one that the first two (and most of three) films sketch out as being possible. And I would doubt they ever follow up on any of these strands, but if you wanted to start a Toy Story extended universe, there would be worse origin stories to launch another gaggle of intellectual property extenders.

And I responded:

Dave – I'm curious. Did Peter, Paul & Mary's "Puff The Magic Dragon"* ever matter to you? It came at me as a pop song/top 40 song when I was nine, which is to say after I was too old for its plot to mean anything personal to me — so, after I'd lost any personal relationship to any of my childhood toys, teddy bears, etc. I still had elaborate fantasy narratives with toys: matchbox cars, itsy bitsy's,** etc. My friend Jimmy and I would run these fantasy plots where the toys (or matchbox car drivers) would converse with one another and engage in intricate comedic or action adventures. But these were all ad-hoc, weren't based on long-term characters or personalities we'd given to specific toys — though I do recall that when we used the itsy bitsy's I would choose a particular rubber squirrel as my lead character for which I'd do the voice and Jimmy would use a different particular itsy bitsy, a little bear or owl, I think. But it might not have the same character that it had had during a previous afternoon's play, or engage in the same type of adventure.

So "Puff" was just another story amidst the love and lost-love and surf stories and car-crash tragedies that occupied the top 40 during the first half of 1963. But I'm wondering whether, as a viewer of the Toy Stories,*** you found "Puff"'s plot echoing or informing or being informed by the movies — assuming you've heard the song in the first place.

*[I recently posted a "folky" YouTube playlist that I intend to write about someday, but "Puff" didn't make the cut — maybe, in part, because I'd first absorbed it, and PPM's "Blowing In The Wind," on the radio, prior to my conversion to folk music in the summer of 1963, but probably because the PPM track that did make it, "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" (also a single but its airplay came after I'd abandoned radio, so I absorbed it as an album track, which somehow was a whole different context) strikes me, and struck me even at the time, as deeper and more emotional. If I ever become a diabolical kid-movie animator, though, maybe I'll have Puff sing "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" to Jackie!]

**[Itsy Bitsy's (or Itzy Bitzy's or -ies) were little rubber animals about an inch-and-a-half high. Jimmy had these wooden blocks with holes and connectors and axles and wheel attachments that we could build into impressive giant ramshackle vehicles. The Itsy Bitsy's would ride atop them, as their drivers/commanders. Incidentally, what I find online while searching "itsy bitsy 1960s rubber toys" are too cute to be the toys I remember; no rubber squirrel, and the bears aren't the bear or owl I remember. EDIT: Ah! When I search "itty bitty 1960s rubber toys" (not "itsy bitsy") I get them: Diener's Itty Bittys Rubber Eraser Toys — though I still don't see no squirrel. Jimmy and I called them Itsy Bitsys — a much better name — though I remember Jimmy telling me once that their official names were Itty Bittys.]

***[I've only seen the Toy Stories — the first three — as a teacher's aide in elementary-school classrooms, which means I've seen bits and pieces but never an entire movie consecutively, so in my mind their plot points and characters intermix.]

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Dripping With Gemstones? (Very Very Preliminary Top Singles List For 2019)

Not remotely ready with my list, and faithful readers will note that I still haven't posted my list for 2018 either. But here we are, 2019, 82 or so, needs to be reordered, many more will be added and some of these will drop off. I'm trying to keep up with Cameroonian hip-hop and Korean pop and I'm six months behind with each. I checked the ILM nomination thread yesterday and only two of these songs were on it. No one's nominated Old Town Road yet, what the fuck? There's nobody like me. Or like you, no doubt.

Commentary after the list.

Here's the playlist:

1. Heavy-K x Moonchild Sanelly "Yebo Mama"
2. Bhad Bhabie ft. Tory Lanez "Babyface Savage"
3. Jvcki Wai, Young B, Osshun Gum, Han Yo Han "Dding"
4. Hong Jinyoung "Love Tonight"
5. Lil Pump "Butterfly Doors"
6. A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie "Look Back At Me"
7. Tory Lanez ft. Quavo & Tyga "Broke Leg"
8. Gasmilla ft. Mr Eazi "K33SHI"
9. Lil Pump ft. Lil Wayne "Be Like Me"
10. Ski Mask The Slump God "Faucet Failure"
11. Loopy&nafla "Ice King"
12. DALsooobin "Katchup"

13. Rich The Kid "4 Phones"
14. Gunna "Big Shot"
15. Gasmilla ft. Kwamz & Flava "Charle Man"
16. Rocket Girls 101 "Galaxy Disco"
17. Blueface ft. YG "Thotiana (Remix)"
18. Robyn "Ever Again"
19. Sofi Tukker "Fantasy"
20. YG ft. Tyga, Jon Z "Go Loko"
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Tory Lanez ft. Quavo & Tyga, "Broke Leg": I don't know how to take the video, whether it's funny or just gross; or maybe I do know how to take it, like it's saying "Look who we can afford!" The lyrics and the rapping, though, are less acquisitive and more good-humored than that — are about taking pleasure in how sexy a woman is, basically. Appreciating sexiness without the usual hip-hop boasting about how you don't care about her and without the usual resenting that you keep giving her money.

Gasmilla ft. Mr Eazi "K33SHI": Flows forward, with blips throwing darts across the flow. Right balance of gravity and nonchalance in the voice. I don't know what he's saying, but I'm guessing from the video that he's not dismissing the human body.

DALsooobin "Katchup": "I will catch up with you" seems to mean that she'll surpass him emotionally, socially, will stalk, maybe leave blood on the floor — the singing reminds me of the typical Lillian Gish tour-de-force where Lillian'd go through all emotions in 5 seconds, glee, despair, hope, resignation. This is the first time Subin's reached me like this.

Rich The Kid "4 Phones": He's braggin' that he doesn't have to brag anymore; his voice seems to have pang and uncertainty (anyway?). "I made 100 thousand in the same clothes" — I have no idea what the significance of that statement is. The instruments are the usual sad and pretty haze.

Gunna "Big Shot": Drawls confidently and confidentially with a sound that stays wary. "If killing was dripping, Gunna, I had a case closed." And I don't know what that means. has no opinion. Dripping with gemstones? Now that he's got money he can afford lawyers? He's going from poor to not-so-poor.

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The Britney-Sounding One (Top 10 Singles of the 2010s)

Here's a top 10 of the '10s. My desired number one, Brown Eyed Girls' Nivea lip care ad "Smile Chock Chock," turns out to be 2009, too bad. In the category Cheesy Eastern European Dance Tracks, "Money Maker" isn't as outrageously ridiculous as "Mi Mi Mi" — it's very normal by comparison and wasn't even the version of the song that got pushed (instead, a tiresomely sexy, heavily electro version w/out Raluka) — but has more feeling.

1. T-ara "Lovey-Dovey"
2. T-ara "You Drive Me Crazy"
3. Sheck Wes "Do That"
4. Orange Caramel "Lipstick"
5. Playboi Carti "Magnolia"
6. Baauer "Harlem Shake"
7. Heavy-K x Moonchild Sanelly "Yebo Mama"
8. DJ Sava ft. Raluka "Money Maker"
9. Wassup "Jingle Bell"
10. Serebro "Mi Mi Mi"


13 runner-ups: Silentó "Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)," Lil Pump and Carnage "i Shyne," Lil Debbie "F That," The Chainsmokers "#Selfie," HyunA "Red," 2NE1 "I Am The Best," HyunA "How's This?" Grimes "Kill v. Maim," Jovi "Ou Même," Crayon Pop "Bar Bar Bar," Bali Baby "Do Da Dash," Roach Gigz "Pop Off," Fat Cat "My Love Bad Boy."

A difference between this and my '00s list is that the '00s tracks were all high-impact songs on the order of "Get Low" and "In Da Club" and "Since You Been Gone," high in my world and the outer world too. Whereas probably the biggest impact item here is "Lipstick," which is mainly having a subterranean effect as it and various Crayon Pop tracks provide the template for Momoland et al. to create light diversions amidst the K-pop heavies. "Magnolia" ought to be a crown jewel in the land of mumble and Soundcloud rap, but I don't know enough about hip-hop to know if it is. "Harlem Shake" and "Mi Mi Mi" flashed by as "what's that?" dance novelties. "You Drive Me Crazy" actually reached number one on the Gaon chart but I doubt that when people think of 2010 in K-pop it's the song that'll come to mind (except maybe as "the Britney-sounding one"). "Lovey-Dovey" was outshouted by "Roly-Poly" before it and by the insane "scandal" after. "Yebo Mama" probably registers as just another in a stream of good house from South Africa — and that's a pretty accurate description of it, though Sanelly has star potential. "Do That" got lost amidst better-known tracks by Sheck Wes, though it's the one that snaked into my nervous system. Wassup got lost altogether. And the version of "Money Maker" that got attention wasn't this one.

As for what these songs mean to me, in their different ways "Harlem Shake" and "Mi Mi Mi" shake my teeth, "Magnolia" shakes me up but with an undertow that provides balm to its own agitation. "Do That" crawls the streets, "Lipstick"'s a spray of sweet, "Jingle Bell" is a gentler sweet, and "Money Maker" and "Yebo Mama" are a smooth talker and a midnight stalker, each a kind of relief, though "Yebo Mama" has an apology in the lyrics that the sexy performance doesn't seem to acknowledge.

And T-ara. Do I have anything more to say about T-ara? "You Drive Me Crazy" is a smooth "Slave 4 U" or a jagged "Baby One More Time..." "Lovey-Dovey," my number one, is just a warm little shuffle knock-off.

The Britney Sounding One:

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The Prose Of Fear

Going to write quick or I won't get to it: John O'Hara's best decade was the 1960s, actually — a lot of it in The New Yorker; and why can't somebody who turns 60 in the middle of a decade be legitimately as much a part of its experience as someone who turns 25? But obviously when people think of "the Sixties" they're not thinking of John O'Hara and of his actresses and businessmen making fleeting connections and blabbing their life away. But The New Yorker was a big part of my 1960s because it came into our house once a week via my parents' subscription. We also read the Saturday Review courtesy of a neighbor's subscription. So there were two rock critics I read consistently, Ellen Willis in The New Yorker and Ellen Sander in the Saturday Review, both women and both Ellen!

But anyway, my friend Mark Sinker wrote a complicated post on his Patreon in which in a minor subclause he claimed that The New Yorker has printed many excellent music critics, "beginning with the great Ellen Willis." I have no current opinion of jazz critic Whitney Balliett, but my guess is if I revisit him he'll rate as an excellent music critic employed by The New Yorker prior to Ellen Willis. And Ring Lardner was better than either of them while capturing the flippant and desperate early '30s as The New Yorker's "radio critic," overwhelmingly writing about music, his words closer in style to the music he was writing about than Ellen Willis's ever could be, and closer in style as well to what fierce and rocking and fiercely analytic rock critics Richard Meltzer and Lester Bangs would sound like forty years later. Lardner's subjects were the Kerns and Astaires and Boswell Sisters but also the noise and ra-ra and promo bullshit they were embedded in. ("The 'Little Street' enjoyed a long radio life, a fact that ought to silence those pessimists who argue that a song can't last unless it's got something.")

While excavating old Lardner pieces I discovered another pop critic contemporary of his writing in The New Yorker under the name "Pop." So, for sure excellent music writing in The New Yorker decades before Ellen Willis and she was not the rag's first pop critic, though it's not surprising that modern MusicWrite thinks she is, this attitude a holdover from the Sixties g-g-generation thinking that nothing really novel happened until they themselves did it — but Willis is someone I also need to revisit and she was probably better being Ellen Willis than she would have been trying to embody her times.

Mark's bigger point — his post wasn't about Willis or The New Yorker's music writers — was that the 1960s New Yorker fumbled the culture it was living in, just wasn't adequate to it. He cites Tom Wolfe and Wolfe's own apparently fumbling Sixties attempt to take down The New Yorker, a piece called the "Tiny Mummies!" which I haven't read but I'm sure Tom Wolfe's right to go for a takedown. The New Yorker was much too careful to try and generate rock 'n' roll in its prose. But anyway, this post is basically my response to Mark, tweaked and expanded slightly in the hope of making it at least one-tenth accessible to people who haven't been privy to Mark and me digging thoughts out of each other for the last thirty years. Mark seems to have mainly read the reactionary pwning-the-libs and pwning-the-art-farts Tom Wolfe, all the essays I've intuitively avoided. My wish is that Mark would visit the great struggle in Wolfe's early prose, attitudes you just can't call "conservative," Wolfe's knowing that what he's trying to channel from stock car racers and rock 'n' roll and scandal mags — all this huge unreported life in plain sight that's somehow not quite capital-C Culture and not the mass TV culture either — is bigger than his own words and he'll have to distort style and punctuation to communicate it. Tom Wolfe is certainly more of a factor in creating my prose than Pauline Kael or Ellen Willis ever were. Though I don't know: maybe Kael and Willis were present in the opinionated or expository style-before-I-was-conscious-of-style that I wrote in up to age 15 without my putting thought into how I could be writing, but then Wolfe is there for me when I'm changing myself into a big-W "Writer," changing from being someone who previously and unreflectively just used words as tools in the way I was taught. So perhaps I'd internalized Kael and Willis without my knowing it and maybe my tools were already wider and wilder than I realized when I began trying consciously to make them such. But anyway, see my mind-scrawl The What Thing, when I was barely 17; Wolfe is all over it.

Btw, though I don't have the mid-'70s piece in which she did it, Willis once called The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test the best book from the Sixties. But back in 1969 in The New York Review of Books she was saying "Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test asked the pertinent questions — Is it possible to reinterpret and salvage the American trip by painting the bus with Day-glo? Is there an underground exit from the maze? — at a time when most of us were not yet especially concerned."

I've avoided Wolfe's "Radical Chic" and "The Painted Word" and "From Bauhaus To Our House" which I'm sure have some value but I fear they're mostly just poking holes in things. He always had modernism in his gunsights — he was challenging modernism's claim to speak for the modern world. But he had something to challenge modernism with: the custom car shows and demolition derbies and acid tests and secret teen drag races were an implicit and sometimes explicit rebuke to Form Follows Function — more like form spews in all directions for the hell of it. But The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test also ends up really sad, the Merry Pranksters fall apart, the project disintegrates, the colored bus won't go further, life as art can't sustain itself, We blew it (says the What Thing), and this failure is what touched Willis as profound.

But of course I hate The New Yorker, in the Sixties and ever since. I know it did great things, O'Hara, Baldwin, overrated-but-vibrant-and-sloppy-and-complaining Kael, staid-but-thoughtful Willis. And I'm sure the mag is a lot worse now and still necessary — a couple of friends of mine get published in it — and maybe there's no good magazine now. The New Yorker's demographic shattered in the Sixties. There was no way it could contain my parents and at the same time contain me. It watched the Sixties, it didn't try to live the Sixties. Its prose was the prose of fear. I merely felt fear, sometimes almost all the time, but I didn't want to write fear.

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    Grateful Dead "The Mountains Of The Moon"
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I'm Going To Eat Like Crushed Bridges (Frank's Eardrums July 2019)

My flow cuts the sky
Like I'm a Khalo Frida
I'm the push behind the swing
No one needs to understand

I'm going to eat like crushed bridges
I'ma bite your feelings out

Smells in the air
but I'm feelin so alone
Roof was on fire,
You never let me know

I'm Going To Eat Like Crushed Bridges is my new Eardrums playlist. It's up on my YouTube channel. Here's the link:

Go here for all my YouTube playlists:

I'm Going To Eat Like Crushed Bridges (Frank's Eardrums July 2019)
1. Liberate P ft. Professor Jay "สิ่งที่ประเทศกูไม่มี"
2. Lil Pump ft. Chief Keef "Whitney"
3. Heavy-K x Moonchild Sanelly "Yebo Mama"
4. Bhad Bhabie ft. Tory Lanez "Babyface Savage"
5. Franko "La Remontada (Freestyle)"
6. Bali Baby "Introduction"
7. Company B "Fascinated"
8. Hong Jinyoung (홍진영) "Love Tonight (오늘 밤에)"
9. Valee ft. Jeremih "Womp Womp"
10. The Collins Kids "Shortnin' Bread Rock"
11. A.K. "No Lackin (Bodak Yellow Remix)"
12. Dave Richmond "Confunktion"
13. The Clash At Demonhead (Brie Larson vocals) "Black Sheep"
14. Ken Boothe "Old Fashioned Way"
15. Van Morrison "Beside You"
16. Sofi Tukker "Johny"
17. Fabulous Disaster "Red Blister"
18. A$AP Rocky ft. FKA twigs "Fukk Sleep"
19. Farrah Abraham "On My Own"
20. U-Roy "Drive Her Home"
21. Kiiara "Gold"
22. Iggy & The Stooges "Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell" (Bowie Mix)
23. 100 gecs "hand crushed by a mallet"

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Andrew Klimeyk

Posting to let you know that my friend and former bandmate Andrew Klimeyk suffered a series of strokes and lost his job and needs several therapies. John Morton of X___X has set up a GoFundMe page for Andrew. Andrew is a great human being and a brilliant musician (X___X, Ugly Beauty, Johnny & the Dicks, Red Dark Sweet, Death On A Stick, Scarcity of Tanks).

Here's the link:


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The MTDE Awards (MaHaWaM and Farrah Abraham)

Dave posted this on Tumblr:

I seem to be subconsciously looking for the closest thing I can find to the vibe of “My Teenage Dream Ended” each year (last year it was Jenny Wilson's EXORCISM).

This year it appears to be Mahawam: Is an Island, which is very brief and very good.

I replied:

Dave, I just checked YouTube to find that Farrah Abraham has taken down all her vids from My Teenage Dream Ended. Still has "Blowin'," a more conventionally song-like track from a couple of years later, and she continues to put vlogs and the like on her YouTube channel (some contributed by her daughter, she says on her "About" page). Haven't explored them yet. [EDIT: It's possible that there's some other explanation for the absence of the videos than "Farrah Abraham has taken down all the vids." But I can't think of what another explanation would be, since I don't know who else would or could take them down or if someone else could claim some authority or ownership over them. Publisher? MTV?]

My guess is that, unfortunately, she must have internalized all the criticism and hatred that was thrown at her for her absolutely odd and original music. The music's still up in bits and pieces, posted by one fan here, another there, sometimes creating their own videos. In the meantime, no one's made music like it, before or since.

(I realize that it's hard to explain or justify that last sentence, since any description I'd give — "singing, but not melodically, the words being scraps of images, confession, events, feelings, some rhythm but no attempt at meter or rhyme" — could describe at least some, for instance, spoken word, improv, jazz poetry, hip-hop (the latter probably something of an inspiration; she may be an outsider but that doesn't mean she's from Mars*). So the conception isn't radical. She's not going rhythmically against meter and line, it's just that her rhythms and repetition don't come from there, come from speech instead, but with dancebeat music backing her she's not constrained by the coherence of normal conversation either; nor by poetry. So it's the result that's radically different.)

(Dave and I once talked about some related Farrah issues on LiveJournal ("I'm In With The Out Crowd"), and Dave and lots of others talked about her all over the place at the time, Dave even getting a piece into The Atlantic.)

*And it wouldn't hurt modern Soundcloud rappers to give her a listen. I bet you some would get ideas.

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Where "Galaxy," naturally enough, means "Italo" (Top Singles, First Third 2019)

Was going to use the title "Trap Hegemony And The Italotrot Question" because I knew it would make Chuck Eddy smile; but I decided "Where 'Galaxy,' naturally enough, means 'Italo'"* was funnier, though maybe David Frazer will be the only one to smile. David's the person who came up with the genre title "Italotrot" to describe Hong Jinyoung's "Love Tonight." I wouldn't say that "Love Tonight" poses a deep question, really: But why is it this song, a trot song — as opposed to, for instance, a K-pop song ("trot" being Official Old Person's Dance Music in Korea**) — that's pulling into itself deliriously catchy freestyle and Italodisco riffs, as if to declare that being trot is no barrier to incorporating any coin and color that makes Frank Kogan feel good? I mean, this is something K-pop itself used to be so good at, insinuating disco and freestyle and Italopop into itself without making a fuss over it or sounding the least bit retro. K-pop still pulls in music left-hand, right-hand, and back-hand, but it's more of a drag these days. See quasi essay below the list.

In the video Jinyoung turns into a cat, or a cat turns into her. —Yes, T-ara did that too, and so I'm sure have many others, that's what comment threads are for if you're so inclined. (Inclined to tell us of other performers who've turned into cats, that is; not inclined to turn into a cat yourself.)

From China, meanwhile, Rocket Girls 101 "Galaxy Disco," where "Galaxy," naturally enough, means "Italo":

Sounds just like the music on Italodisco comps out of Singapore and Hong Kong that populated the three-for-a-dollar cassette bins in SF's Chinatown back in the '80s and '90s. I'd assumed then that most of the music was produced originally in Italy or Germany (with input from Miami and Toronto and Montreal: Tapps and Lime were all over those stores, Tapps with not-quite-so-cheap compilations of their own), but there'd be remixes and mashups and stuff — an impressive version of "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep" that in a later day would have been screwed and chopped but this used amphetamines rather than cough syrup — and uncredited performers and unknown vocalists, and I was guessing or hoping that some of the talent was Asian. Anyway, "Galaxy Disco" sounds so much like that stuff*** that I wonder if it's actually a cover. It's so familiar. The sound is spot-on, from the reed-thin riffs to the dental-floss vocals.

Of course, most of what's coming is hip-hop, the so-called trap hegemony of my rejected title: though the list itself — here it is! a playlist followed by the list itself, and more commentary below the cut — starts with gqom, which is generally considered more a derivative of house.

1. Heavy-K x Moonchild Sanelly "Yebo Mama"
2. Bhad Bhabie ft. Tory Lanez "Babyface Savage"
3. Jvcki Wai, Young B, Osshun Gum, Han Yo Han "Dding"
4. Hong Jinyoung "Love Tonight"
5. Lil Pump "Butterfly Doors"
6. A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie "Look Back At It"

7. DALsooobin "Katchup"
8. Gasmilla ft. Mr Eazi "K33SHI"
9. Loopy&nafla "Ice King"
10. Marilina Bertoldi "O No?"
11. Rich The Kid "4 Phones"
12. Gunna "Big Shot"

13. KeshYou "Уят емес"
14. Kim Bo Kyung "It's Not Discarded"
15. Lil Pump ft. Lil Wayne "Be Like Me"
16. Gasmilla ft. Kwamz & Flava "Charle Man"
17. Solange "Binz"
18. Brooks & Dunn ft. Luke Combs "Brand New Man"
19. Kidd Kenn "'Next Song' Freestyle"

20. Rema "Iron Man"
21. Sofi Tukker "Fantasy"
22. Rocket Girls 101 "Galaxy Disco"
23. Bad Bunny "Solo De Mi"
24. Blueface ft. YG "Thotiana (Remix)"

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Hong Jinyoung "Love Tonight"

Heavy-K x Moonchild Sanelly "Yebo Mama"

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Doo-doo d-doo-d-doo-doo-doo, boom-boom b-boom-b-boom-boom-boom (Sexyy Red's "Ah Thousand Jugs")

In 2002 Vanessa Carlton had this beautifully girlie and arty song, "A Thousand Miles," and now just last year Sexyy Red grabbed it and probably liking all its nuances and the chord twists and tuneful turns she nonetheless had fun bashing around in it, "Ah Thousand Jugs," just pawing at it with a who-cares out-of-tune voice, throwing her own words onto it, slapping around Vanessa's sweet and aspirational piano trills, "plink-it y-plink-p-plink-plink-plink" in the original and sung here, "doo-doo d-doo-d-doo-doo-doo," like it's a Sexyy Red water pistol; then turning it into sung gunshots, just as casual and who-cares and out-of-tune as before but now "boom-boom b-boom-b-boom-boom-boom" like a spray of bullets. Vanessa had sung, poetically, "If I could fall into the sky," Sexyy Red sings "We put 'em in the sky," meaning she killed someone.

Sexxy Red "Ah Thousand Jugs"

I'm interested in working out how this works aesthetically, of course, wondering why it works since some drunken lout can take a song and maul it and it's usually unfunny or you had to be there and what's so great about taking beauty and turning it into a song about gunshots and die-bitch-die anyway? Something about excellent social and emotional timing, Sexyy Red not prettying her voice up for the occasion, though if her timing doesn't work for you I doubt that I could explain what's working for me. On the page her words aren't really much fun. On tape there's a pretty good combination of insouciance and sarcasm; and the doo-doo d-doo-d-doo-doo-doo and boom-boom b-boom-b-boom-boom-boom are penetrating and lacerating and blissful: maybe it's also how the casualness and the casually taking the piss partake of an underlying sense of social dread. This doesn't necessarily mean that the dread is real or that song or singer or audience have to believe in the dread to play with it*: how many people care about dogs and postmen and about who does or doesn't walk into a bar, after all? But people use these stock characters and plot conventions as setting for all sorts of gags. I think there's something deeper here in the daily dread — whether Sexyy Red pulls her gag machine from supposedly tough urban life or from the plots of hip-hop videos. There's an anomalous instruction, "Kids stay in school," right in the middle, though maybe she's just sending up a counter-cliché amidst the bang-bang clichés.

Sexxy Red "Ah Thousand Jugs" video

In any event, although a song that's out there to get laughs and reactions isn't meant as a picture of What Life Is Actually Like, it nonetheless draws on people's sense of the world. "Draws on" and "sense of the world" are pretty vague, but I've been thinking about this ever since college, to tell you the truth. I was thinking back then about, for example, Barrett Strong's original version of "Money" from 1959 and how in his version the lyrics aren't A Great Truth About Life but rather setups for gags and vocal inflections and riffs and vamps and feelings ("The best things in life are free, but you can give them to the birds and bees, I need money, that's what I want"), but the words draw on a social background of wisecracks and pseudo-wisdom, "romance without finance is a nuisance" and "can't buy me love" and such (similar to "the race is to the swift" and "slow and steady wins the race": neither of these gets to be the truth, but both are there when you need them**) and in the original version of "Money" with Strong's matter-of-fact delivery the issue of moolah is just sort of matter-of-factly there, not a big deal but not going away. Whereas the Beatles' version in 1963, four years later and across the sea, is a different sensibility; John Lennon is throwing it in your teeth like it is a great truth, take that!, the humor is basically lost (though that doesn't stop you from laughing with it, if you want), but in socking us with this truth the Beatles actually put it way more into question — something to be challenged — than Barrett Strong had.

I don't know where Sexyy Red is with her boom-boom b-boom-b-boom-boom-boom; feels more on the Barrett Strong matter-of-joke, matter-of-fact side, but that doesn't mean that's where all her listeners are, and hip-hop is really all over the place on such things. YouTube commenter Bri Moni: "'I killed anotha fool, Kids stay in school' 😂😂 so we killing or we learning?? Im confused"

*In an online interview Sexxy Red doesn't really clarify her intent:

Sexxy Red: "I was just playin when I did it. And I recorded it and everybody was laughin at me. In the studio when I recorded it I'm like, "This isn't— what's funny?"

Princess Stormm: "I'm dead ass!"

**Filched this insight from Thomas Kuhn. See his "Objectivity, Value Judgment, and Theory Choice" in The Essential Tension.

This entry was originally posted at Comments still welcome here, there, and anywhere.
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