Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
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Monday, Nov 10, 2014
More so than any other member of the Beatles, John Lennon wrote about himself. Through his songwriting, he described nearly every aspect of his personal life in a way that no professional biographer could.
 

“Mother”


John Lennon was born in 1940 during a WWII air raid. His parents, unready for the responsibilities of parenthood, divorced when he was four years old, leaving him in the care of his Aunt Mimi. When he was a teenager, his mother tragically died in an hit-and-run accident shortly after re-entering his life. His relationship with his father didn’t develop until much later, leaving him with the feelings of rejection and abandonment described here.



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Monday, Aug 25, 2014
As it turns out, America's infatuation with sometimes kooky summer tunes is an old one.

With the summer nearing its end, people will undoubtedly soon begin making statements on what the song of the summer of 2014 was. While three months offers some degree of hindsight, it pales in comparison to our ability to see which songs defined the summers of decades previous. Fifty years ago, there wasn’t much media attention devoted to what songs ruled the charts during the warmest months, but thanks to the Billboard charts, we can look back and see what they were. So let’s take a listen to the songs of summers in the ‘60s.


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Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014
In a better world, "The Way Love Used to Be" would rank alongside "You Really Got Me", "Waterloo Sunset", and "Lola" as one of the Kinks' crowning achievements.

Actually, it does reside in that rarefied space—just not according to your average listicle on the subject or the band’s “greatest hits”. “The Way Love Used to Be” is a ghost classic mainly due to its undistinguished release history, appearing first on the soundtrack to Percy, a 1971 British comedy about “the world’s first penis transplant”, and then two years later on The Great Lost Kinks Album, an odds-and-ends collection that was discontinued in 1975 after Ray Davies initiated legal measures against Reprise Records.


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Thursday, May 15, 2014
While there are obvious downsides to the kind of discography that the Beach Boys have assembled -- it's dense, lengthy, and larded with inconsistent results -- one of the payoffs deserves special mention: those moments of discovery.

You’re half-listening to 20/20, the Boys’ so/so 1969 release, and you’re more-or-less resigned to the lead track, “Do It Again”, doubling as the high point. Then Side Two rolls around, and you find yourself totally caught off guard as beauty strikes in the restful, baroque pop form of “Time to Get Alone”. If you’re unacquainted, change that. “Time to Get Alone” is a dream, right on down the line from Carl’s feathery lead vocal—and the way it contrasts with the up-and-down crunch of the waltz backdrop—to the sumptuously layered arrangement of the chorus to the immaculate production job to the unadorned coda (which is from the extended version; see below).


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Tuesday, Jul 9, 2013
When critics assail Paul McCartney for his lightweight material, it's songs like "Tomorrow" that they have in mind.

I’m glad I don’t belong to those circles because I can’t imagine not appreciating all of the melodic charm, rosewater whimsy and—believe it or not—disguised tension that “Tomorrow” has to offer. Notably more fetching than “Yesterday”, this dreamy, piano-driven cut from 1971’s Wild Life, the debut record by Wings, finds Paul beseeching his dear to stay strong and true as they map out a brighter future together. Backed by airy “ohs” and “ahs” and using an altered vocal that makes him sound younger, Paul projects hope—urgent, infectious hope—even as pain and doubt are plainly evident. “Don’t you let me down tomorrow” doesn’t exactly brim with confidence, and “Holding hands we both abandon sorrow” means there’s sorrow to overcome. And as he sings on my favorite line, “Through the week we beg and steal and borrow / Oh for a chance to get away tomorrow.” It’s a tricky balancing act, cloudy skies and uncertainty mixed with idyllic visions of picnics and “country air”. The glue seems to be those sustained, spacious “ohs” that Paul belts out again and again. They pack both anxiety and optimism. Far from merely twee, “Tomorrow” is fraught emotion made irresistible.


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