The Yes List – The Sounds of Glee
Each week, The Daily Beast scours the cultural landscape to choose three top picks. This week, the joyous Glee soundtrack, the painted confections of Will Cotton, and the best ballet documentary of all time.
The Sounds of Glee
In the new, fast-moving world of digital entertainment, fans no longer have to wait for wish-fulfillment from their favorite shows. Downloadable episodes are available on iTunes and Hulu the next day and soundtracks are released so quickly that some of the songs have yet to make it to air. Such is the case with the new Glee: The Music, Volume 1, which features two songs that will not air until November 11 (the lovable, wheelchair-bound Artie (Kevin McHale) performs a version of Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself,” and a striving group rendition of “Defying Gravity” from the Broadway musical Wicked). But it doesn’t take never-before-heard tracks to make this CD worth it; just as the darkly funny world of Ryan Murphy’s show has reinvigorated the high-school drama format on television, the music from Glee has seemed to spark a new national interest in soundtracks. The songs from each episode are consistently No. 1 on iTunes, with the teens’ version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” hitting gold-record status last week. These are covers you want to listen to— joyous, bouncy, raucous versions that breathe new life into old songs. There is the jock Noah “Puck” Puckerman’s (Mark Salling) tender version of “Sweet Caroline,” the diva Mercedes’ (Amber Riley) killer rendition of Jill Scott’s “Hate on Me,” and the goofy white-rapper stylings of teacher Mr. Schuester (Matthew Morrison) on “Bust a Move.” And in what is the album’s best song, Broadway goddess Kristin Chenoweth belts out an updated version of the torch song “Maybe This Time,” from Cabaret, in a powerhouse duet with Glee star and budding Broadway ingénue Lea Michele. This is the kind of music you will sing into your hairbrush all winter long.
Will Cotton's Candy Dreams
The artist Will Cotton has been a fixture in the New York art world for almost a decade, using classical, Old Masters' painting techniques to create completely modern confections. His subject matter may at first appear strange—he paints naked women cavorting in candy and cookies landscapes, a soft-core Candyland in soft pinks and whites—but it is ultimately irresistible. The 44-year-old artist has long used an oven in his New York studio, making his own baked goods and then using them as models for his artwork, but he is about to take his pastry prowess to the public. For the next three Sunday afternoons, Cotton will be selling baked goods, including cookies, macaroons, and tarts, at new gallery Partners & Spade in downtown Manhattan. “The difference between visiting my bakery and any other is essentially curatorial. It's not just a random selection of sweets, it's a collection of smells and tastes that have been important to me in my work, and have informed a lot of the imagery,” he tells The Daily Beast’s Ana Finel Honigman. He continues, “For me, making art is about telling a story and I've been feeling lately like there's more to be said that's not purely visual. Smells are so powerful and evocative, sometimes stronger than visual cues.” Cotton’s art can be sampled at 40 Great Jones Street on November 8, 15, and 22.
Frederick Wiseman's Joyous Ballet Documentary
Veteran American documentarian Frederick Wiseman, 79, has made 36 films in as many years, and continues to improve with age. Wiseman’s style—the “observational mode” of filmmaking—takes the director to various institutions, where he shoots and watches for weeks and later cuts the footage into a story. His latest, La Danse: The Paris Ballet Opera, brought Wiseman to Paris, where he shot hours and hours from inside the famed Palais Garnier. He observed rehearsals, meetings, and performances, and crafted his B-roll into something brilliant. As A.O. Scott of the New York Times writes, “To say that the film, sumptuous in its length and graceful in its rhythm, is a feast for ballet lovers is to state the obvious and also to sell Mr. Wiseman’s achievement a bit short. Yes, this is one of the finest dance films ever made, but there’s more to it than that.” La Danse uncovers the body-breaking work that ballerinas put into their craft, and breaks down their every movements and worry as the company prepares for the stage. The Ballet’s director, Brigitte Lefèvre, along with several members of the company, become memorable characters throughout the film, but also leave the viewer with the sense that they are untouchable artists, almost transcendent in their abilities. Though there have been several films about the interior lives of ballet dancers—Robert Altman’s The Company, Etoiles, the teen-hit Center Stage—Wiseman’s addition is more than welcome; it may be the new superlative in the field.