I'm stronger than yesterday! Now it's nothing but friendmendations
Hello, friends. I’m so sorry that today’s newsletter was late — I meant to write it last night, but then I put on the Sondheim 90th celebration and started accidentally crying about the beauty of Stephen Sondheim’s work. (It was Chip Zien’s performance of the “Please make it all stop, I can’t handle this anymore” ballad “No More” from Into the Woods that broke me, personally! Felt topical!!)
At this point, I wake up every morning and mark the previous day off my calendar triumphantly. Getting through any single day is an accomplishment, and we’re all doing it. We’re almost through April. Good for us!
Here are some goofy things from around the internet.
A distracting deep dive
Are you aware that there was a reality show that attempted to trick its American contestants into thinking they were competing for the love of Prince Harry? Except it wasn’t particularly well-done and none of the girls really thought he was Harry because the decoy Harry was not remotely convincing? If you’d like to kill some time, Go Fug Yourself recapped every episode. Or you can check out Cosmo’s oral history of the show with interviews from actual contestants. (Or both!)
Thank you… YouTube?
I’ve always loved the music video as an art form — a good music video creates a visual and sonic world in just a few minutes by working with or playing against the song. Obviously, music videos have gotten less relevant since my middle school days of watching the VH1 Top 20 Video Countdown obsessively every weekend, and I’ve often wondered if they’d ever fall off entirely. I thank Beyoncé and her dedication to “visual albums” in part for their continued cache, but apparently I should be thanking YouTube as well. Claire Shaffer argued in Rolling Stone that the platform saved the music video, at least as a pop culture event. I wonder is and how that will shift in the 2020s.
Speaking of pop music, I think about the New Yorker’s piece on Max Martin… once a week? Pretty constantly. If you want to understand a single thing about the pop music of the past 20 years, you need to know Max Martin. I love what this piece gets into about Swedish songwriting in general, particularly this fascinating quote from Swedish musician and producer Klas Åhlund:
“Swedes are very musical, and they love to write songs. But it’s a big country, and it has very few people in it. So you had these farmers out there who were good at writing songs but had no one to sing them. Songwriting was just a thing you did on your own when you were watching the cows, a kind of meditation. You didn’t focus as much on your ability as a performer as you did on the structure and craft of the songs. Which is really not the case in the U.S., where your charm and your voice and your powers as a performer come immediately into play.”
I love handsome goofball Jon Hamm! He’s handsome AND a goofball! A few years ago Tavi Gevinson’s website Rookie did a video series where young girls could ask questions that they wondered about boys and get answers from notable grown men. Jon Hamm’s is my favorite for the gruff, borderline confused energy he brings to it.
While we’re on a Hamm roll, I’ll take the excuse to share “1920’s Party,” an SNL sketch that really makes you say “Why do I love this so much?! Oh, this was from the John Mulaney years, that explains it,” and the bonkers Clickhole “oral history” of Mad Men.
Let’s keep going with goofy videos
This is one of those things that I saw in the early years of YouTube that’s imprinted on my brain and always will be. It’s technically a parody of a soap opera star’s VHS home tour, and it’s spot-on in that regard, but it certainly stands on its own. I still want to emulate the stars of The Rich Cry, Too and wear pantyhose with open-toed shoes to create the illusion that my feet are flippers.
That’s it for today, except I will leave you with yet another ridiculous video. Why not!