- “Old Town Road” sets a record.
- Dolly Parton is perfection.
- So is Lizzo.
- Remembering Harold Prince.
- Already over the new It movie.
If there’s one thing Titanic taught me, it’s that it’s freeing to feel real damn old. Just toss that hella expensive diamond into the ocean. You don’t need it! You’re old! Floating doors are women-only!
This week specifically reminded me that it’s been 84 years since I felt young, because the Lil Nas X song “Old Town Road” is now, arguably, the most popular song of all-time. According to Billboard, Lil Nas X has been the number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 17 weeks, making it the longest-running song to ever hold that position.
It breaks the record set by Mariah Carey with her collaboration with Boyz II Men, “One Sweet Day.” That is significant because that song ranks among the greatest pop achievements of the last 30 years, whereas “Old Country Road” is among the worst.
It is truly, deeply upsetting. It is also extremely, viscerally encouraging. Welcome to 2019, where even music chart success reveals deeply unsettling and polarizing biases and agendas. What fun!
I am on record thinking “Old Town Road” is not a good song. I’m here for a fun, dumb pop hit of the moment. In fact, my life is soundtracked by those. This is not that. At the same time, I am on the record encouraging inclusive, groundbreaking milestones. This is very much that.
So here I am, wondering how I can possibly celebrate the dethroning of our one and only queen, Mariah Carey, and justify accolades for this ear fart of a song. Maybe the answer is simple. Representation matters.
If you had told me 25 years ago while my aunt was teaching me the line dance to “Achy Breaky Heart” at my cousin’s Confirmation party that Billy Ray Cyrus would, in 2019, be an ally to the most important moment in music history… I mean, I would have been, like, “Leave me alone and get me another Shirley Temple!” But you get the point. It’s crazy!
But here we are, and I have to express my heartened surprise. A black man who recently publicly came out as gay and is trying to reinvigorate the world of country music has broken what is considered to be one of the most hallowed music records that exist. That is an astonishing accomplishment, and a wholly unexpected argument for the evolution of our society.
That the song is trash? That comes secondary.
My friends, “One Sweet Day” is an all-time great jam. It didn’t reach chart success because of new Billboard rules about streaming and the new rules of going viral. It reigned because it is flawless.
I’m so glad we’ve together moved from the “Mariah is OK again” discourse through the “Mariah is a fabulous diva” conversation and straight to the “Respect must be paid to Mariah’s unparalleled and underappreciated artistry” argument. She handled having her record broken with exceptional grace.
I guess what I want to say is that Mariah Carey is perfect. So I guess this newsletter’s content is no different than 95 percent of my Sunday brunch conversations.
On the subjects of perfection and music: I encourage you to click on this link to watch a video of Dolly Parton leading Maren Morris, Brandi Carlile, and the rest of the country music super group High Women singing a chills-inducing rendition of “Eagle When She Flies.”
It appears to be impromptu backstage at the Newport Folk Festival. It also appears to be the reason why I have decided to maintain a will to live. It is flawless. We are so lucky to hear it.
And to keep talking about perfect music, may I present to you Lizzo performing her medley of three songs for NPR’s hallowed “Tiny Desk Concert” series? Excuse me, as Lizzo refers to it, “Tiny-Ass Desk Concert.”
She is serving vocals. She is serving personality. She is serving every reason to celebrate her as the summer’s most important artist and our great hope for the future of music. She is serving the reason why I was giggling maniacally while watching with my headphones when I was supposed to be working on Monday. (Sorry, Daily Beast.) She is serving joy.
I do not regret it. Neither will you.
Something happened when I started going through Hal Prince’s long, historic, theater- and society-changing resume of Broadway credits: I started crying.
The legendary—and if there was ever an occasion to use that word, it’s this one—Broadway and producer died this week at age 91. I’ve never met him, and, honestly, can’t remember having seen an interview with him or read some particular quote that resonated with me. But I knew who he was, his name splashed above nearly every great musical of the 20th century, perhaps the most influential contributor to modern American Musical Theater. I knew that he had, without me knowing or processing it, changed my life.
Seeing those credits listed all at once is astonishing, the kind of achievement that, when confronted with at that immediate volume, makes you need to sit down and breathe. Prince produced The Pajama Game, Damn Yankees, West Side Story, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Fiddler on the Roof. He directed Cabaret, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Evita, and The Phantom of the Opera.
Imagine that. Imagine having a resume that prolific. That profound. That changed culture that indelibly. That moved that many people. Narcissistically, that moved me that much.
Maybe these moments mean nothing to you. Maybe you wish you could have seen them live. Maybe they’ve changed your life.
I think of the theater as a safe space, for me and so many others, and the role that Hal Prince, without me knowing it, had in that. It’s a place where, through the intensity of song and dance and storytelling, we are reminded of our humanity and capacity for goodness and compassion. We are reminded that pain and love exist in equal parts in life, but we can rally together, sing some songs and hit some high notes, and do what we can to ensure that it’s the latter that prevails.
Hal Prince, and those works, is inextricable to that message, may he rest in peace.
Now that the emotional bit is over, let’s get bitchy again. The new It movie, It Chapter Two, will reportedly have a running time of 165 minutes. In other words, just short of three hours.
That is the worst thing I have ever heard and we should all rise up in revolt. NO! MOVIE! SHOULD! BE! THAT! LONG! LEAST! OF! ALL! THIS! CLOWN! HORSESHIT!
Hope you all are having a good summer. This has been The Daily Beast’s Obsessed.
What to watch this week:
A Black Lady Sketch Show: It is revolutionary. More importantly, it is extremely funny.
Dear White People: Dear Netflix subscribers, Don’t let another fantastic show fall victim to cancellation.
BH92010: Sure, why not?
The Nightingale: If you’re near the two theaters it’s playing in, go see it!!!
What to skip this week:
Hobbs & Shaw: Still not convinced this is a real movie.
Them That Follow: Snakes! No thank you!