The Best Songs of 1982

We have a hard one this week. Generally I’ve heard that years like 1980, 1990, and 1991 stunk. And did they? Eh. We’ll have to see. But 1982 truly did. This year hurt to study. The bad this year is so bad. The top song was Physical by Olivia Newton-John. Down the list you have Pac-Man Fever, Hooked on Classics, Chariots of Fire theme, and those are the interesting ones. I’ve Never Been to Me was a hit this year. Don’t Stop Believing was this year and I hate that song. There’s also a lot of country and while I will actually include some of it eventually, it’s all bad here. I strained for 10 good songs. But I got there. Barely.

I start on an odd note. See, I don’t actually like this song. I find it dark and unpleasant. But there’s a difference between I don’t like something and I don’t think it’s good. This is a very good song. It’s not meant to be liked.

10 The Human League- Don’t You Want Me. This is a very, very dark song. It’s a song about a deeply abusive relationship that is at the absolute moment of collapse and it’s not a both sides story. He’s evil. She’s found the strength to tell him off. It’s a difficult song. But in a very tame, soft era it stands out. It feels important and bold. That I don’t like it is the point. It’s good ugly.

I hate how bland this year was but I’m not immune to the cheese of it. I like Eye of the Tiger and almost had it on. I like ridiculous 80s songs. How can you not? Well, time to go one with one of the most 80s songs.

9 Asia- Heat of the Moment. I think what I respond most to with songs like this is how big they are. This is a declaration. It’s joy. It’s breathless joy and you just ride it. Every note is supersized. No wonder it’s a go to for big moments. The 40 Year Old Virgin killed with it. It’s just so exactly the song it should be. It celebrates a moment in memory and makes it outsized.

I really didn’t think this series was going to be this heavy on some of the groups that have shown up so much. I love Genesis but I don’t think they’d be so pervasive. I love Fleetwood Mac but I really didn’t know how good the 80s were for them. Lindsay Buckingham had several solo hits. They won’t ever make this list though. Stevie Nicks though does show up. Cool.

8 Stevie Nicks- Edge of Seventeen. For a song that barely notched into the top 100, this is one of the most influential songs I’ll cover this decade. It’s not just the direct lift in Destiny Child’s Bootylicious (which IS NOT making my best of list) or Miley Cyrus’ Midnight Sky (not in a year I’m covering but a kickass song), it’s that it feels like the dawn of a whole style. You can see the after effects of it for decades, especially in the 90s. It’s Nicks at her purest. She sounds incredible here and she wrote the hell out of it. Truly one of a kind.

In a year of blandness, I’m very happy to get back to true punk icons. Look, I hate the Sex Pistols. I think Billy Idol is a poser. There’s a lot of very inauthentic punk music. (Just a heads up: I’m not talking about Green Day who will be very prominent in the next two decades.) I want to celebrate true punk. And even if this song isn’t political or about anything, it does have a kick.

7 The Clash- Should I Stay or Should I Go. Ah, this is what I love. This is low and honestly could be higher but this is how the cards fell. This is just good classic rock. Good guitar work. Simple hook. Great sneering vibe. This is what rock should sound like. This also feels like where you’re getting some of the last kick of the 70s. This was actually written in 1981 but it feels 70s. It’s got a bite. It’s rough. It’s just wonderful.

Yeah the first few years of the 80s are going to sound like the 70s. That’s something you see for the first two to three years of any decade. Which is why it’s logical to have a disco song on my list. Kinda don’t have more to say.

6 Laura Branigan- Gloria. Ok maybe this isn’t straight disco. It’s somewhere between that and the female power pop we will see later. But it feels more of that than this age. Whatever it is it’s great. Branigan had a good few years in the 80s but this is her longest lasting song and I think it’s because it’s unique. It doesn’t feel like anything else. It’s operatic. It’s a woman speaking to another. It’s dramatic. And it holds up.

I noted my issue with 1982 is it was bland. And that’s weird when you consider that there were novelty songs on the list but those weren’t good or interesting. I just wanted to see more great interesting acts break through the Kenny Rogers logjam. Thankfully there was one example.

5 The Alan Parsons Project- Eye in the Sky. I love that this was an honest to god hit in 1982. Huge even. Like there are songs on my next list that are iconic that didn’t make the year end but by god The Alan Parsons Project had a certifiable hit. And it should be a hit. This is the kind of dark, smoky piece I love. It’s a song about surveillance and distrust and unlike Every Breath You Take you can’t miss it. It’s smooth but the lyrics are incredibly bleak. Bonus that the album includes the perfect Sirius as the lead in.

Once again, I’ll say how much I love The Go-Gos. They had a unique sound. Belinda Carlisle could’ve made my list 2-3 more times as a solo vocalist. 1982 was their big year and I could’ve put Our Lips Are Sealed on the list. It’s so good. Same for We Got The Beat. But I’m cynical. I like another song more.

4 The Go-Gos- Vacation. Another very dark, dark song. This is about being unable to get over someone. The chorus is so incredibly sarcastic and I love it. It’s bitter and angry. It captures a common emotion but one you never hear discussed: trying to self care and failing. Haven’t we all been there? It’s so relatable. As always, the band kills it. Everything is superficially fun but even the music sounds strained, stressed. One of a kind.

I hate Jack and Diane. I hate Pink Houses. But I don’t hate John Mellencamp. It’s kind of funny that I can despise someone’s biggest songs but actually really like the guy’s other stuff. I think it’s as simple as he can’t talk directly about Americana but he sure as hell can make it.

3 John Mellencamp- Hurts So Good. Like Lonely Ol Night, this song is 30 years late. It belongs to an earlier era in the best way. It’s a backwoods rock song about a tough relationship and it rocks. It’s infused with that raw energy. Mellencamp has such a great rockabilly snarl in his voice. It’s just such a perfect throwback.

Like I’ve stressed. 1982 is just not my idea of a great year. A prime example is Open Arms by Journey. Now weirdly I like a song like it by them we will get to in 1996 but I’m allergic to this. It’s just so dead. Isn’t a love song supposed to make you feel happy? That’s the case with our top two. First, back to The Police.

2 The Police- Every Little Thing She Does. Sting is a genius songwriter. I know he’s known as a vocalist and he’s incredible at that but it’s his writing here that shines. It’s a simple idea for a song. A man in love. And it’s nothing but genius phrasing. The song also builds brilliantly from a very simple slow pace to a frenzy of madness. The whole thing is pure and light. I can’t listen to this and not be impressed with it.

I need to once more acknowledge how strongly I’m influenced by shows like One Hit Wonderland. My number one is a song that was featured. It wasn’t the band’s hit but the case was made it’s not not a hit. It’s shown up in the MCU! It’s a song I should’ve paid attention to before that show highlighted it. If 1982 is a meh year, this is a beacon.

1 A Flock of Seagulls- Space Age Love Song. There aren’t many new wave songs that touch this one. This is to me the pinnacle. This is an anthem of joy and love, a perfect space age love song. The lyrics are fine but this is all mood. It’s spacey and ethereal and atomic. You want to live in this song. It’s hard for me not to be in awe of it. And I’m not mad I Ran is the better known song. It’s great too. But seriously this is as great as the decade got.

Next time: the single best song of the decade arrives.

Starting From Behind: On the trauma of the autistic

We live in a culture fixated on autistic children. All the information about autism is focused on them. All the discourse is on how things affect them. We don’t really talk about autistic adults. If you study the media, you’d think autistic adults were autistic children in bigger bodies. It’s funny to me because I firmly believe that to study autistic adults, you do need to look at childhood but from another angle. Autistic adults are traumatized by childhood treatment and spend the rest of their lives battling it.

This is on my mind because I had a discussion with a coworker last week that made me realize a weakness in me. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been processing a lot of new inventory and I’ve been rushing to get it all in. I’ve been doing so because it’s been impressed on me never to go slow. I was the guy in college who had his papers done in days of being assigned. (Shockingly, I liked doing analysis papers as everything I’ve done since shows.) And guess what? I’ve made a lot of errors. Rushing DOES NOT result in better work.

The thing my coworker very kindly noted was I needed to slow down. I agree. She also noted that she had done research into how to approach my condition–I love my job–and something she noticed was we tend to apologize a lot. We tend to be very insecure. And that’s completely true. I threw this idea to my autistic friends. Universally agreed we all face this.

Why? That’s what I find fascinating. Not that it’s hard to explain. It’s actually a very easy, universal experience. But we still don’t really discuss it.

The bitter truth is autism is a disability. It inhibits communication and interaction. It’s absolutely a disability. But it’s not one that people accept as such because we’re JUST smart enough, expressive enough, what have you, to function. Which means we’re often judged for our failings which are caused by that disability. It’s a hellish irony. And it gives us a complex.

Autistic people are pushed to live as though we aren’t in fact disabled even though we obviously are. It results in an awareness we must overperform to have any value. The person next to us can slack and be lazy. We have to do more because we’ve already got a handicap. We must prove that we are as useful to society as possible because we’ll be institutionalized if we aren’t. We must be polite as possible and as self doubting as we can be because autistic is already a synonym for rude and selfish. We are acutely aware we are weak. We must be the strongest.

Why? Again, we have heard all this all our lives. We especially heard it in grade school. I think we all faced teachers that didn’t think we were as capable as the others. I was punished as a bad speller because I couldn’t write cursive even though I was already on my way to being talented as a writer. I was shamed for being unfocused, likely a result of undiagnosed ADHD. I was humiliated for my meltdowns. I was told I was lesser as a child and even though I’m firmly middle aged, I’m not over how that hurt me.

It resulted in me trying to get the best grades possible in high school. I had to get a scholarship. Then I had to keep it. (I did.) Then I had to fight and fight and fight for a good job. I wasn’t ok with not having a job. Then I got one. And…it didn’t really work out. Well as much as it couldn’t work out for 12 years.

Yeah, part of this means I have to pause and once more post mortem that experience. Why didn’t I ever succeed the way I wanted to there? Well, I ran up against a scenario where trying my hardest didn’t really matter. I tried. I was still called lazy, a slacker, even though I was simply mindblind and disorganized. And I could never communicate this. It wasn’t possible. I had meltdowns and once more there was no effort to understand me. It was behavioral. Trauma is trauma because it repeats itself.

Except now obviously it’s not. And that brings me to my coworker trying to help me. Again, I’m in a healthy environment. I’m thriving. But trauma doesn’t care. I still behave like the groveling weakling desperate for approval. It was normal in the previous environment. It looks weird here. Nobody’s mad at me. I’ve screwed up but it’s easy to fix. No big deal. But I still can’t loosen up.

It’s because it comes down to that bitter truth. I can’t forgive myself. I can’t let myself think everything is ok. It’s because all that trauma I’m living with at every moment. Anyone who’s ever been disappointed in me, I hear their voices angrily in my head. I have so many things that hurt inside me that another would forget but which I cannot accept. I’ve internalized that I must be the best and outrun these voices. And that’s impossible so the cycle is eternal.

How do you let go? Here is where I have no answers. I don’t have a clue how to forgive myself. I don’t know how to be ok with being ok. I’m traumatized by living my life. And I won’t ever be over this. It will haunt me.

All I can really say as a conclusion is this is who we are. And now I have to try to be better.

Review: DuckTales 2017 Season 1: Episodes 12-23

A lot of material to cover. So not much prelude here. But the same thing as last time. I grew up on the original. I’m lucky enough to be covering this take. I’m having a blast. I’m excited to talk about why.

The Missing Links of Moorshire! A parody of My Little Pony with deranged murderous ponies determined to drown people voiced by cast members from MLP:FIM. That alone is great but this is another Flintheart Glomgold episode so this is needless to say a shining jewel of the show. It’s got some gut laughs.

McMystery at McDuck McManor!: We get Duckworth in this episode! The episode is a locked room mystery, a good classic trope well executed. There’s some nice Mark Beaks stuff, some nice Beagle Boys stuff. It’s just a hoot.

Jaw$!: Hoo boy, this is a wild episode. A money shark created by Magica DeSpell strikes while Scrooge is disastrously interviewed. This is hysterical, thrilling stuff. Catherine Tate gets to go off here. The mythology arc here is really well executed.

The Golden Lagoon of White Agony Plains!: Goldie O’Gilt, Carl Barks’ most uncomfortable creation, gets a glorious reimagining here. Voiced by Allison Janney, she’s a great match to Tennant’s Scrooge. Oh and this is another Flintheart episode so it’s hysterical. The only minus is the boys aren’t really in it enough. That gets fixed with–

Day of the Only Child!: This is a prime example of how brilliantly Huey, Dewey, and Louie were reimagined. Each character gets a thread. I think it’s a perfect example of how they work. Huey is the ultimate Juinor Woodchuck. Dewey is an insular character. Louie is a con artist. All three shine here. Bonus: We get a very creepy reimagining of Doofus Duck.

From the Confidential Case Files of Agent 22!: The weakest of the set mostly because I’m just not that interested in Mrs. Beakley’s spy days. I get that they were trying to give her more agency but she’s a cold, uninteresting character. Webby being major is helpful to holding my interest. Not awful but meh.

Who is Gizmoduck!: Gizmoduck becomes Mark Beaks’ mascot. I love everything about Gizmoduck here. I mean it’s Lin-Manuel Miranda! He kills. The idea of Gizmoduck as a corporate hero for hire has bite. I’m also starting to find any Mark Beaks episode fantastic satire. They really don’t have love for modern billionaires.

The Other Bin of Scrooge McDuck!: I really do love the Magica/Lena arc. It’s fun. I do hate that this episode wastes a large section on a dream but oh well. It lets Tate shine again. We get a reference to the old show. And who doesn’t love a dive into Scrooge’s history. The best part though? Louie vs a con artist Bigfoot. Any chance for the great Bobby Moynihan to kill is my jam.

Sky Pirates…In The Sky!: Don Karnage from TaleSpin is the villain of the week and he’s a hoot. I love how ridiculous the episode is. There’s a lot of silliness here. Dewey gets to be extra funny. It’s a nice breather episode if inconsequential. It underlines that while the show is great for newcomers, it’s bliss for original fans.

The Secret(s) of Castle McDuck!: Della Duck looms over this episode. We see Scrooge’s parents and they make him make sense. It’s very Barks in tone actually. It delves into the lore. I love seeing Scrooge weak next to someone.

The Last Crash of the Sunchaser!: DuckTales has a bottle episode. And it’s a hell of a tale. The whole episode is a tense journey building to Scrooge explaining the truth about Della. And damn does Tennant, hardly a slouch as an actor, utterly destroy in this. The show has never wasted him but he’s amazing as he expresses all his regret. This is a hell of a reveal and it’s worth it.

The Shadow War!: The Magica arc and the entire season end so well I’d be thrilled to be finished not 1/3 finished. I adore Tate as Magica and she is on fire here. The whole cast is killing though. Hell we have a Pulitzer Prize winner great in his turn in this. The episode builds and builds to such a satisfying experience. I can’t imagine anything more for me. Hell one of my favorite actors plays Donald Duck’s clear voice. This is a great finale. And it ends with a teaser for next season. I’m eager to follow.

Look, you know what I’m going to say. This is a ridiculously great show. It’s an immensely satisfying experience. It feels like what you hope a show feels like when you go back as an adult but rarely is. This is DuckTales done right. It’s the opposite of tarnishing your memory. It’s a love letter to it. I’m so glad I’ll be reviewing it to the end.

I’ll be back to review the rest soon. But this is such a happy place

The Best Songs of 1983

1983 is the outer edge of 80s music being good. You’ve still got a few classics coming but we’re headed to Air Supply and Kenny Rogers turf. We aren’t there yet. New wave is storming the charts in what was honestly maybe the best year for music of the decade. There are so many all time classics I’m leaving off this list to the point a top 20 still misses classics. We have some utter genius coming this year. Let’s get to it.

Selling out is such a weird concept to me. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely artists who do as the deflation of Maroon 5 from the middle finger at the label of Harder to Breathe to the dreck they put out now shows. But wanting to have a hit is fine. Music is a business. And if it buys you time to have the career you want? Great. My point is I’m perfectly fine with David Bowie in the 80s.

10 David Bowie- Let’s Dance. This is Bowie at his most nakedly commercial and it’s still awesome because it’s Bowie! And honestly this isn’t really isn’t a sell out track. It’s Bowie and Nile Rodgers collaborating with Stevie Ray Vaughan on guitar. Not exactly an embarrassing team of collaborators. The song feels like Bowie seeing where music was in the 80s and responding to it with joy. He’s playing the same game guys like Duran Duran would play but so much better. A list where Bowie is #10 is a great list.

The Police haven’t made my lists yet and that’s weird as hell. I really should have The Police or Sting on my lists aside from Sting’s vocal cameo in Money For Nothing. Sting and The Police ruled. Well if I’m going to make a corrective, why not go with the most misunderstood song ever!

9 The Police- Every Breath You Take. The biggest song of the year and I don’t get it because what I love about it should turn people off violently. See as is fairly well known but not well known enough, the song is about a stalker. And it’s creepy as hell. There’s nothing romantic about this song. Every syllable is a threat. But it’s a masterpiece of a threat. Sting is a genius vocalist and an equally brilliant songwriter. He knows exactly what he’s doing. It’s a dark, velvet bit of hate.

This list is basically all legends with one exception. No exception here. Hell when the band performed this song in 2008 it was with Taylor Swift, who I think isn’t a slouch. We’re bringing the heat. Iconic artists. Iconic songs all 10. And this is one.

8 Def Leppard- Photograph. I say this every list but there’s always one song that ranks low and shows how good the others are. This is 1983’s benchmark. There’s 3-4 pieces of a great song here and all are perfect as is. It’s amazing that they’re harmonious. But yeah this is such a kickass song. What makes it great is the central idea. It’s about a crush on someone you can only admire from afar. That shouldn’t be a hook for a big sexy rock song but it is. The song makes the idea of celebrity crushes hot and cool. It’s just a scorching song. 7 more better.

Ok we have to agree that there’s no way a song about the coming millennium should work 21 years after it did. In fact I’m fixated on what a boring year 2000 was. A total zero in pop culture. It can’t still sound amazing. Unless you’re hearing Prince discuss it.

7 Prince- 1999. Confession: I didn’t expect Prince to notch this many songs. But I mean it’s Prince so I’m cool with it. This is a companion to Let’s Go Crazy. Another seductive song about how we are all fated to die so we should live. In this context our year 2000 could be anything. It’s a metaphor. It’s a great metaphor. The song has all the Prince hallmarks, great lyrics, mind melting production, and the Purple One killing. The future might be the past but it’s a great one.

Confession: I hate sex songs. They’re dark and unpleasant. They make sex sound dirty. And I get it. Robert Kelly ain’t making something sound appealing when he’s a sick bastard. We need a sex jam that’s nice and warm. Something almost warm fuzzy. Oh and why not make it a classic.

6 Marvin Gaye- Sexual Healing. I love everything about this song. This is what romance should sound like. Of course it does. It’s Marvin Gaye. But what Gaye does here and in the even better Let’s Get It On is he makes it very clear this isn’t about anything unhealthy. Sex is natural and positive and fun in his work. And look the man could make anything sound good with that voice. But that his music is so warm and positive rules. Yeah I’m not going on any wild limb calling one of the greatest songs about sex ever great. But it is.

There’s a South Park joke I find funny where when the town is looking for a band everyone loves they select Toto. And it was funny in 1997 because Toto was dated. But they had 3 hits. Rosanna is great. Hold the Line is my favorite. And the next song. And it’s one of the most universally liked songs I’ll ever list.

5 Toto- Africa. There really aren’t many safer songs I can list. But so? Africa rules. It’s maybe the last year a song like this wouldn’t feel a bit cringe with the awareness in the 80s Africa isn’t a dark continent but a developed land. The point of the song is again metaphor. A quest. And that was a dominant metaphor. Look I’m going to strain to say what hasn’t been said. It’s a pretty song. I think it’s lasted because it nails yearning. The idea that we aren’t ok with ourselves and want to be better. This is a timeless idea and a lovely timeless song.

God I love a good hook. There are several on this list. The next two songs have great ones. Especially the next. An insane earworm that grabs you and doesn’t let go. Maybe these guys were only two hit wonders with their first song eclipsing the second but one perfect hook is enough.

4 Men Without Hats- The Safety Dance. When I look at the three acts ahead of Men Without Hats on this list, I have to laugh. This band doesn’t fit that company. But this song fits that list. This is a classic. The lyrics are silly and that’s the point. It’s rebellious by talking about how ridiculous the issues it rebelled against are. It’s a joke. But it’s a great joke. And that hook. That perfect droning hook. It underscores how ridiculous the song is. It isn’t meant to be listened to as anything except a good silly joke and that’s fine.

Oh it’s awkward to talk about the Middle East. Music about it doesn’t come up much but it’s gonna come up occasionally. And if we’re going to, fine the Iranian Revolution ban on western music is a good subject. It was a sore subject then. Let’s just put the subject in an authentic punk band’s hands.

3 The Clash- Rock the Casbah. Ok, enough politics, I just really want to talk about why I love this song. And it starts with the hook. Such a simple one. But you hear it and just immediately hear it all day in your head. A great keyboard hook that’s bouncy and fun. The lyrics are honestly mostly nonsense. What the song is about is the joy art induced and it doesn’t get more joyful than this. Just a gleeful bubbly song that infects you.

Ok I’m going to get dark for a moment. There’s a sad truth that a lot of artists who get lost in drugs never come out. There is a generation of geniuses that didn’t survive their addictions. We didn’t see Janis Joplin get old or Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix. Elton John was one who damn near joined that list. Then he actually got clean. He survived. He’s still around, excitedly mentoring the next generation. He’s still standing.

2 Elton John- I’m Still Standing. I’ve noted I don’t like songs about surviving and fighting back that sound inauthentic. Yeah this isn’t one. A song about surviving a bad breakup sounds extremely real coming from Elton John. That man has lived. He makes every word sound real. This is an anthem about survival to rival the best. It’s angry. It’s proud. It’s happy. And look I don’t need to say it sounds great. Elton John rules. And thankfully he stuck around. We’ll return to him.

I don’t go in for giving bonus points to people with shared identities to me. If I’m putting a group fronted by an autistic man on my list they need to be great. They need to be so good nobody will argue with me. Hell maybe they’re so great that you might not know the lead was autistic. Well in 1983 a group fronted by an autistic man had a song I had to put on the list, at the very top even. They earned it.

1 Talking Heads- Burning Down the House. It’s nice saluting a peer in David Byrne but it’s much nicer noting David Byrne is a peer. Trust me autistic people happily claim him. And with a song this incredible it’s easy to see why. This song is glorious nonsense and who cares. It’s just bliss to blast. This is a happy ridiculous journey. It’s weird. It doesn’t sound like anything mainstream before or after and no it wasn’t a huge hit. But it was a song that left a lasting mark on pop culture. It’s a perfect go to for surreality. There is nothing else remotely like this song. How can there be. It’s just so alive. Kicks ass to top the list with such an all time great.

Next time we are going to the worst year of the decade.

The Best Songs of 1984

I really feel like the core of what people think of as the 80s was fittingly in the middle of the decade. 1983-1986 are as peak as it got. Maybe not the best music but the purest 1980s music. Whatever trends you think of are here. I made my debut this year. So did these songs. I’ve got a lot to get into here.

My hatred for Gwen Stefani and No Doubt is violent. Oh they have a few good songs but Spiderwebs gets erased by Hey Baby and The Sweet Escape is useless next to Hollaback Girl. I hate Don’t Speak and Just A Girl. I hate their cover of Talk Talk’s It’s My Life especially because it’s a very glam song which is weird because the original isn’t. Let me explain what it is.

10 Talk Talk- It’s My Life. British synth pop again. This is probably the darkest song on the list. It’s about how love warps our brain. It’s confused. It depicts a relationship that should end and won’t. How Can I Fall by Breathe is this song’s mirror, a clear, unambiguous song about a bad idea. This is muddled without poetry and it’s great for it. Nothing in 1984 sounds this dark and moody. It’s such a great bleak song. It makes you feel uncomfortable.

Look I don’t know how many ways I can imaginatively introduce Genesis on this list. The 80s really were their decade. They kicked ass at the end. They kicked ass in the beginning. They kicked ass in the middle. Just going to jump into a classic. That’s all.

9 Genesis- That’s All. Phil Collins has said he tried to do a Ringo Starr drum part and that’s perfect. We’ll get back to this but I think we underestimate how stellar a drummer Collins is. He shines here as well as doing his usual killer lead vocals. But really Rutherford and Banks meet him all the way. The keyboards and the guitar are great here. But it’s all down to that perfect hook. That constant repeating rhythm sings. We’re not done with the bad or its members by a long shot of course. Songs like this are why.

1984 has a lot of classics not on this list. Footloose. Karma Chameleon. Cyndi Lauper’s best known songs. Sister Christian. Drive. This was not a fun list to pare down. If something made it on here it made it because it was that good. Definitely the case here.

8 Prince- When Doves Cry. I love looking at who did every instrument on every one of these songs and who wrote them so I can properly credit them. Literally every person involved with this song from producer to writer to performer on it is Prince Rogers Nelson. This song is completely a Prince song including the video directed by Prince because I’m amazed he didn’t clone himself to play it on tour. Anyway the song kicks ass. Every element is dark and sexy. It’s just steeped in mood. It’s the biggest song of the year for a reason.

You know who kicks ass? Genuinely kicks ass? Dee Snider. A pro choice Christian who doesn’t let anti-abortion groups use his music but does let teachers unions use it. A man who fought censorship. Married for 40 years. An avid family fan. There are lots of awful people in music but this dude is the best. And his best known song rules.

7 Twisted Sister- We’re Not Gonna Take It. I love this song because it’s probably the most innocent anti-authority song possible. Oh it works great as an actual protest song but it’s so sweet and pure.. There’s no violent imagery. There’s no profanity. It’s just standing up and saying no. That’s kind of wonderful. It’s the kind of song we always needed and always need. I don’t know how it wasn’t a bigger hit in 1984, missing the year end top 100, but it’s endured as it should.

Gonna say something awful here, I hate songs like Brave and Fight Song. They’re meant to be empowering and they’re limp. They feel meek and defeated when I crave strength. I want to like this genre, I do. But bad ones will always frustrate me. Mostly because I know what a great one sounds like.

6 Scandal- The Warrior. See this is what these should sound like. Just an absolute shotgun blast of energy. Patty Smyth utterly sells this song written by Nick Glider and Holly Knight, whose Love is A Battlefield is similar but worse. This is clean, bold, perfect 80s empowerment rock. Which is wild because a lot of the lyrics are nonsense. Yeah that’s been a trend forever. But it work. You buy the nonsense completely. The chorus is what counts and that final declaration of victory is mine is iconic.

I’ll be meta here. I try to keep to a rule of one song per artist per year. And I break that. I broke it in 1989. I’m going to do it again this year. But there’s another oddity I have to note. Album cycles last a long time. Sometimes a single happens as much as a few years after the album release. Or sometimes the majority were the next year. Well, I had a song from this album in 1985. I have one in 1984. Saying which year they belong to? No idea. But this was a hit in 84 from an 84 album. It goes here.

5 Bruce Springsteen- Dancing in the Dark. To have four better songs than Dancing in the Dark amazes me. Because this is just incredible. You can hear it as soon as you read the title. You can picture the Brian De Palma directed video. I love that the song was written in a night because the album needed a single and like many great songs written for that purpose, that’s what the song is about. It’s Springsteen rambling openly and that’s what makes him selling out better than anyone else trying to. There’s a great contrast between the artifice of the synthesizer and the raw power of Springsteen’s voice. The boss indeed.

I really don’t like posthumous releases. Did the artist plan to release the song? Often they didn’t. You’re taking scraps they had left and selling them because you had nothing left. Very rarely does it feel like this was something meant to come out. Here’s an exception.

4 John Lennon- Nobody Told Me. Confession: I like this more than anything else Lennon did solo save for Instant Karma. Lennon had his head way up his own ass with Give Peace a Chance and Imagine. Not here. This is a funny song about surviving in an insane moment. Lennon sounds wonderfully loose, fitting as he planned this song for Ringo Starr. This is the John Lennon of Come Together and Ticket to Ride, the legend. And it’s what a release like this should be. It’s a reminder of why they were great.

Let’s talk about two very interesting men named Trevor. Trevor Horn was the lead singer for The Buggles before becoming one of the biggest producers in music history. Trevor Rabin was the guitarist for Yes before composing scores for movies like Snakes on a Plane. Cool dudes. And in 1984 they made a classic.

3 Yes- Owner of a Lonely Heart. It’s weird having this on the list because it could have happened at any time in the 70s or 80s. It’s random chance it was in 1984. And it’s truly great. One of those songs that feels timeless. The definitive song about being afraid to take risks in love. We seemingly always had this song and always will. It’s got that god tier prog sound defined. It’s weird and spacey but also rocks. Just a hard, in the paint, awesome song.

My next two songs are by rock gods. And we don’t come bigger than these two. First, Van Halen. Just the name conveys big, epic, back walls of the stadium rock. They rocked with Hagar but they were never better than with David Lee Roth. The music needed a frontman that big. It never got bigger than this.

2 Van Halen- Jump. How many rock songs are this giddily happy? From that gigantic opening that feels almost Strauss in its awe, this is a song about taking risks and having a great time. Eddie Van Halen burns up the guitar while Roth is a merry prankster. This song is just the epitome of happiness. Might as well jump is such a thrilling idea. Few songs are this purely optimistic. Except the next one.

Who is the greatest guitarist ever? Some say Clapton and I’m at a loss since he’s just good. Some say Jimmy Page and I struggle to argue since I love Led Zeppelin. Jimi Hendrix is a common answer and I respect him but I don’t agree. My answer is an androgynous rock icon from Minneapolis. My evidence is my favorite song from the year of my birth.

1 Prince- Let’s Go Crazy. I’ll be blunt. While I love a lot of the music on these lists, few songs are eternal favorites. That’s for the 1990s and beyond. But I worship this song. From the sermon prelude to the wild guitar solo to close it, this is one of my favorite songs. It’s just a masterpiece. The two solos are Prince cementing his legend, sheer fire from a master. The song is perfect in it’s construction. Prince makes the madness of existence seem sexy and fun not terrifying. Every note is the best version it can be. This is the greatest amp yourself song ever. Just a thrilling mad journey by a master. I can’t love this song more.

And that’s 1984. 1983? Oh I have a lot of nice to say

Can’t Go Back

Hastings. The used bookstores. The thrift store. Dixie Cafe. Long John Silvers. The flea market. The independent video game store. K-Mart. Alco. Collectaholics. USA Drug. One of the Hardee’s. Fred’s. One of the grocery stores. Harp’s. Movie Gallery. Game Exchange has shrunk. The diner at the Flying J is a Denny’s and the Flying J itself has lost much of its character. The movie theater has new owners. The dorm I lived in has a new name. The newspapers I worked at are no more.

I can’t escape how much of what I loved in college is gone.

Yes, I’m once more looking at the topic of nostalgia. As I get older, there is no more clear way I can discuss autism. Last time I ranted about the shift of everything to digital. That was what was on my mind then. Today, I’m getting more sober and more honest as I look at this topic. My entry earlier this year was a bit much as I vented about silly things. No, today I’m being blunt and looking at truly accepting you can’t go back.

Let’s put a hypothetical situation out there. Say that I was in a hotel in Russellville where I went to college for a day and I spent a day there. Could I recreate the days I had then? As I drove through town yesterday, I realized no, I could not. I could go to a few spots but not very much that was specific to Russellville. Even some of the things that weren’t specific are gone. The point is, I can walk through the skeleton of my college town, but I cannot go back.

Why does this matter? I’m not saying anything new. You get old and you discover you can’t go home. This is a cliche. Autistic people aren’t the only ones who face this. I should accept it and move on.

But there’s grief. We cling in our minds to the dream that we can return one day to what we loved. We hold that dream that the past isn’t lost. Because if it is was it ever real? Memory relies on reinforcement. It’s hard to troll a city and feel those feelings when the world is gone.

Of course there’s a harder truth we feel. We are not the same people. I’m whiter in hair. I’m heavier. My health is dying. A little girl travels with me. I’m not even in the same industry I was in for 20 years. It’s not just my college town that’s no longer there. It’s me.

The thing about places is it’s so silly to care. There are better options for almost all of them. I can mourn the death of bookstores but I can also buy new books on my phone. But I miss the experience. It’s illogical but I miss the experience.

And I miss something more. I miss being young. I’m firmly middle aged. I’ll slip past that to old in another decade. I miss the joy and freedom that came with that first jolt that my life was mine but without the burdens of work or bills. It’s no accident I felt this feeling in my college town yesterday.

The thing about nostalgia is what you miss is by its nature short lived. You only get that fresh blast of freedom for a blip because otherwise it’s meaningless. It’s impossible to constantly feel something new.

But it lives forever in my mind. I talked as I drove yesterday to a bored little girl. Lola didn’t care. That’s fine. She wouldn’t care. But I told her anyway who I was. I made sure it lived on for just a moment more.

Review: This Duckburg Life

Ok I’m going to give some real talk. I am majorly behind. Work is insane. I don’t feel good. I’ve been super busy. So I want to fill in a gap. Today I got to listen to a DuckTales 2017 spin-off as I drove. I can review that!

This Duckburg Life is a simulated podcast similar to Welcome to Night Vale except set in Duckburg and well not remotely as horror. Though it’s still a bit horror. The show’s cast came back. It’s set vaguely in the timeline. I didn’t get any spoilers after the first 11 episodes in the 7 12 minute episodes so it’s great for newcomers. It runs 106 minutes. And it’s hysterical.

The episodes run the gamut. There’s a horror episode with the ghost library. There’s a day in the life episode with Launchpad. The show actually plays wildly with form with an episode told in answering machine messages and an episode of ads. A few episodes tell conventional radio drama stories. And we get a Serial parody featuring Flintheart Glomgold. This is brilliant.

To say it’s unexpected is putting it mildly. This is ambitious comedy for something connected to DuckTales. But it underscores how strong this reboot is. This was a perfect companion to the show. The humor is potent and the character work is strong. The forays into drama are highly effective for their brevity.

It’s heavily dependent on voice work and this is timely given the discourse on voice actors. The show uses a mix of names like David Tennant and Beck Bennett, people with their feet in both like Ben Schwartz and Kate Micucci, and voice veterans like Eric Bauza and Kari Wahlgren. And like with the show it doesn’t matter if it’s a former Doctor or a voice god, they’re all perfect. Special note due to Bobby Moynihan who kills as the slimy Louie Duck and Micucci constantly making Webby the best character. They’re hysterical.

This is a great free primer on the show. It underscores how well developed the world is. The new take on Gyro, still deliriously mad and played by the great Jim Rash, gets to shine a few times. So does the incredible satire of Mark Beaks.

I’ll get back to reviewing the show ASAP but for the moment this cements my opinion that the new DuckTales is a gift to my nostalgia. It’s DuckTales if it was as good as I remembered. It’s wonderful stuff.

Review: DuckTales (2017) episodes 1-11

The last time I did a full series review, I walked in blind. I knew nothing about Gravity Falls. I wasn’t really a fan of the things it drew on. Similarly when I covered Preacher, I was blind and I hated, actively hated Garth Ennis. I wound up loving both.

So here we are in the opposite position. I grew up on DuckTales. I watched it every day. I had the tapes. I had the comics. I had the NES game. I have the remastered version of that great game. I saw the movie twice at the theater. If there is anyone fit to evaluate this show, it’s me.

Except…well I do have to admit that when I bought the DVD for volume 1, my opinion of the show fell a bit. I realized the animation wasn’t that good. The writing was very plodding. It was good for a little kid but it wasn’t something I could binge as an adult. And that’s fine. It came from an era when that wasn’t how it worked and for what it was, it was fantastic. It just wasn’t the same as say the Carl Barks classics.

So here I am as an adult looking at the 2017 reboot. I’m honest enough to say the show doesn’t hold up but I have deep profound affection for it. I know it inside out. I’m ready to see if the new version is at least as good as my memories or maybe better.

Woo-oo!: A perfect pilot. This sets all the plot elements you could expect in place. The story is told well. The characters are established boldly. It grabs you and gets you excited to see the rest. Oh and it teases a mystery that’s quite exciting. What did happen to Huey, Dewey, and Louie’s mom?

Daytrip of Doom!: Like most shows, the second episode sets up what the standard show will look like. And this is a rollicking, fun story. We’ve got our first villain from the previous show, The Beagle Boys, showing up in classic form. Margo Martindale is a hoot as Ma Beagle. This feels like a classic episode with a modern feel.

The Great Dime Chase!: Scrooge’s lucky dime is a major plot point in this episode. This is a funny as hell shaggy dog story. Louie chases Scrooge’s dime while Dewey and Webby get hints about Della. Gyro Gearloose shows up, far less innocent goofy scientist and more madman. We see Flintheart Glomgold on TV. Lots of great lines. I was dying the whole time.

The Beagle Birthday Massacre!: Yes for the second time in three episodes The Beagles are back. Great. The Beagle Boys are such a vital part of the lore I just love seeing them. We get all kinds of wild Beagle variations too. We also meet a new friend of Webby’s, the rebellious Lena who we learn at the end has an Aunt Magica she’s working for and a very familiar amulet. The plot thickens wonderfully.

Terror of the Terra-Firmians!: Lena’s aunt appears in shadow form and she’s voiced by Catherine Tate! Can’t be mad at any of that. Also this episode is built on a long reference to a Carl Barks story. If I haven’t made it clear, knowing your Duck lore makes this show better. Beck Bennett solidifies Launchpad as another in his annals of great lunks he’s played on SNL.

The House of the Lucky Gander!: Gladstone Gander (Paul F. Tompkins) summons the Ducks to Macaw where everything seems to good to be true and is. Donald gets to be extra grumpy in an absurd and funny story about a luck vampire voiced by the great B.D. Wong. Donald’s presence really highlights a major break from the original as he’s far more frequent on the show. No complaints. He’s great. And not voiced by a name. Tony Anselmo continues his job supremely well.

The Infernal Internship of Mark Beaks!: Huey and Dewey fight for an internship with a Mark Zuckerberg/Elon Musk type while Scrooge and Flintheart fight together to bring him down. There’s a ton of corporate satire and it’s vicious. Mark Beaks is a dead-on parody complete with the same ethics (none) of his subjects. Bonus that the great Robin Atkin Downes (Manchester Black!) voices a villain. Hysterical stuff.

The Living Mummies of Toth-Ra!: We finally hit a very soft clunker. Launchpad inspires a rebellion among a group of slaves with burritos. There’s an inevitable reveal about what’s going on and an inevitable monster. Oddly this feels closer to my issue with the old show. It doesn’t snap. But it’s still fun.

The Impossible Summit of Mt. Neverrest!: Didn’t expect a parody of the commercialization of Mt. Everest on a kids show. It’s some cutting stuff. There’s also a rich plot here that feels very Barks. It’s got a nice adventure feel set against some hysterical Louie and Launchpad material. Just a blast.

The Spear of Selene!: We’re teased with just tiny hints about Della here. It’s another fun episode though. There’s some nice pettiness from the Greek gods. It’s funny and feels very vintage Barks. Donald gets to be very whiny and grumpy. Admittedly I wish we’d gotten a tiny bit of info but I get it.

Beware the B.U.D.D.Y. System!: Mark Beaks and Gyro Gearloose return while Gizmoduck makes his debut played by proof the show has no budget on casting Lin-Manuel Miranda who is a blast. It’s a fun plot with Launchpad fighting killer robots. Gizmoduck is a nice addition. Just a supremely fun time.

So it’s probably obvious but I’m loving this show. This is the dream for reboots. It’s less that it recaptures the original the show than that it recaptures what it felt like to watch the original show. It’s funny, it’s action packed, it’s engaging. It plays to 37 year old me like the original did to 5 year old me. It’s accessible to new fans but it’s gold to old.

The show benefits greatly from the best voice casting possible. I’m critical of celebrity casting and there are voice actors throughout like Eric Bauza and a scene stealing Keith Ferguson as Flintheart. But when you get it right, I let it slide. Casting like David Tennant as Scrooge is what I mean. Tennant is a pitch perfect Scrooge, often reminiscent of Alan Young. I also love seeing talented comic actors like Beck Bennett, Kate Micucci, and Bobby Moynihan tear it up in regular roles.

Right now I’m still early enough I want to hold off on saying more. I just love it.

We have five more rounds to go. I’m aiming for the next few weeks to hit one of these a week on Tuesdays, a music list on Wednesdays, and on Fridays: The Tie-Ins That Bind covers A Nightmare on Elm Street.

REVIEW: Hadestown (Cast Album)

This was a commissioned review.

This is not a standard review topic for me, reviewing a stage show in audio form. To a great degree, I’m writing in the dark with half the show, arguably most of it, removed from my grasp. I only have the audio. I don’t know what anyone looks like or the visuals on the action. I can only review the audio. But this was the job. Let’s ride.

Why do myths endure? Why do we retell stories millennia old? One could argue it’s because the ideas of the stories never lose their punch. The Greek gods are characters as rich and reflective of man as it gets. We still relate to them. But is it not possible we revisit some stories because we long for the hope that one day the end will change and conversely that we revisit the tales we love fearing the joyful ending might yet change? And isn’t life defined by cycles we hope to change but are all too aware we can’t?

The musical, and it’s apparently an all sung one like Hamilton with no dialogue not in song, retells the story of Orpheus (Reeve Carney) and Eurydice (Eva Noblezada). If you know your mythology, you know the story. They’re in love. Eurydice dies. Orpheus goes to the underworld to bring her back. He’s told not to look back at her. He does at the last second. And the quest fails.

This is a timeless story. It’s been told over and over and over. It’s a story that even someone with a passing knowledge of mythology knows. And it’s a great story. There’s deep emotion. There’s a good love story. It’s a nice, solid, sturdy foundation for a musical. There have been several operas based on it in fact! It shows up over and over in literature. So why tell it again?

Well there’s two reasons. First, writer Anais Mitchell, who composed the entire thing start to finish, had a unique approach. This frames the story in the imagery of the depression era through a folk jazz soundtrack. This takes a classic myth and coats it in a distinct flavor far removed from the original culture that birthed the myth. And it’s fascinating because the myth gets applied to western culture in two ways.

The first is to give the story an American aesthetic. This is told through distinctly American music, jazz and folk. The characters have distinctly American accents. They dress in American fashion with largely a depression mining theme. The very image of mining, while hardly just American, has a deeply American cultural connection. This feels like a saga of Appalachia, not Greece.

But there’s a big one to be noted. This retells the myth through distinctly American values. Mitchell was raised in the Quaker faith, arguably the most American of backgrounds. It’s hard not to see how the musical reflects American ideas about mythology. Hades was famously at least a somewhat kind god in mythology. Here he’s filed off Satan. His marriage to Persephone might have begun with kidnapping but it was deeply loving. They barely tolerate each other here and honestly actively hate each other. There are very real American interpretations of very Greek myths here and it’s fascinating. That’s how mythology and storytelling works. We filter stories through our lenses.

And that’s a good reason, to filter it through us and show the similar values (love and fear of death) and the contrasting (religion) but another haunts me. The musical is about why we revisit stories, In fact that’s hard text. this is about why we retell tragedies: Because we hope that maybe, just once it will end differently. We know Orpheus will look back. We know Persephone will return to the surface. But what if this time Orpheus doesn’t? What if Persephone stays?

The answer is simple. It stops being that story. That’s the power of this work. It shows that no matter what changes you make, and it changes so much top to bottom, the core must be the same or it isn’t the story of Orpheus. And if it’s not that story, why are you telling it? It’s just a boring heroic epic with no lesson. The point of this story is that death is unconquerable and humanity is weak. No matter how invested we are in a happy ending and hoping just this once things change, we KNOW they can’t or it’s useless.

I stress this is a brilliant musical. You’d think I’d have a lot to say about the music but I don’t. It’s just great. t’s all more or less one straight flowing work and so I can’t highlight individual songs. I can say I love the style of music it trades in. I love folk and I love jazz. So I dug this. It’s my kind of music and it’s well done.

The performances are great. Reeve Carney and Eva Noblezada are fitting clean classic romantic leads as Orpheus and Eurydice. Patrick Page and Amber Gray are their dark opposites as Hades and Persephone. Andre De Shields fittingly won a Tony for Hermes, the narrator.

Actual discussion of quality of a work like this is hard as hell. It won a lot of awards. It deserved them. It’s a powerful two hours. Definitely worth a listen on Spotify.

Review: Spider-Men by Brian Michael Bendis and Sarah Pichelli

This week there was a long discussion on Twitter about the accessibility of comics. There’s no denying manga is much easier to jump into with volumes clearly listed and actual beginnings to ends. American comics are complicated and there’s a mountain of lore. Now me? I love the challenge but I get why it’s scary.

It’s especially gotten frustrating if you’re trying to map what the movies adapt. Civil War was a great tight film and a sprawling mess of tie-ins on the page. Age of Ultron only used the title. WandaVision adapted several stories with almost nothing in common. And the worst example: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was a simple film that adapted two stories with the one it shared a title with an ugly unpleasant confusing bloody book.

There was another story it adapted though. And that’s the one I was commissioned to write on. See while the concept of the movie was taken from the event, the actual plot bears a much greater resemblance to the fantastic Spider-Men by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli. And it’s a prime example of what entry level comics should be.

The plot is simple. Peter Parker chases a portal into a new universe. In that universe he discovers he’s dead, well known, a revered hero. He meets his successor in that universe, Miles Morales. He makes it clear Miles earned his place. They team up to fight Mysterio. Peter goes home.

This is such a great miniseries for a new reader. The premise is so clean that it doesn’t need explanation. If they’ve seen ITSV, and they definitely have if they love Spider-Man, they get the concept. You can see a lot of elements the film took from this book.

It’s also just brilliantly executed. The story is cleanly told from point to point. No weird techniques. Just get through it. And the art by Sara Pichelli is a lot of why. Her art is clear, crisp, and pulses with emotion. You look at it and you actually want to keep reading comics.

What I really love about this is the emotional side. This is a moving story and it’s moving because of the hook of what if you discovered your legacy mattered. Peter goes to a world where instead of constantly being hated, he was a hero. It clearly weighs on him as he sees that the other him was capable of being a great man and by proxy he himself is. When he goes to meet the other Peter’s family and friends it’s powerful stuff.

I should note the action is great too. Of course it is. The fun of a Mysterio story is it’s an excuse to get any other characters in as hallucinations. That’s all over it and the fights are good. The opening is great too. Just a classic Spider-Man stopping bad guys scene.

But there is an elephant in the room. This wasn’t actually a simple story. This was the 616/Ultimate crossover. The Peter who died had over 100 issues of canon. (He also undied because comics.) I’ve read all of them too. It’s nice that the story can read stand alone but yes it’s not actually that. It’s still an example of the lore comics are prone to.

But I think it’s a fantastic example of how that lore can be interesting to new readers. They like this? They will seek Miles’ origin (virtually identical to ITSV btw). If they’re interested in the dead Spider-Man’s story, they can pick up Ultimate Spider-Man. And they should. It’s a great book. This is stand alone enough but it’s got a lot of mountains in the distance worth running to.

Spider-Men is a blast. A quick, tight, done in 5 issues celebration of Spider-Man. It’s the book new fans need. And a reminder to old fans why we’re here.