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Sachitha Obeysekara / flickr creative commons

To round out the year, we round up the best jazz of the year. We've done this every year for at least the last seven years.

Roger Christiansen / Facebook

Every fall, it seems hundreds of new holiday records flood the market. It’s a lucrative move for established artists – fans love new material, and what could be better than your favorite singer performing their own version of “Silver Bells” even though there are literally thousands of versions of the holiday classic out there?

Marc Tavernier / flickr creative commons

2020 was ... not great.

But, from a pop culture point of view, it wasn't so bad either. I mean, we got the Hamilton movie, The Queen's Gambit, the final season of Schitt's Creek, David Byrne's American Utopia, the Borat sequel, "WAP," I May Destroy You, Tiger King, two new Taylor Swift albums, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom...

The list goes on.

This hour, The Nose looks back at the year in pop culture that was 2020.

Chion Wolf (file photo) / Connecticut Public Radio

Toward the end of every year since 2014, we've picked a day and put "Big Al" Anderson, Jim Chapdelaine, and Colin in a room together, sung some songs, told some stories, and wound up with some sort of a holiday special.

The "in a room together" part of that is essential… and just not going to happen in 2020.

So, in lieu of doing a new show with Al and Jim, this year we've gone through all six of the previous shows we've done and pulled out some of the best songs -- 11 of them, no less -- and some of the best guest appearances and some of the other best bits and bobs and we've added a brand-new version of an age-old Big Al song that Al and Jim sent along special. And we've wound up with this sort of best-of edition of our annual holiday spectacular.

Netflix, Inc.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is George C. Wolfe's film adaptation of the August Wilson play. It stars Viola Davis in the title role and Chadwick Boseman in his final film performance, and it's available to stream on Netflix.

Christopher Nolan's Tenet was the first tentpole movie to be released in theaters during the pandemic. It did okay business (it's currently the third-highest grossing film of 2020), but nothing like what Warner Bros. would've hoped for in a normal time. It's still in theaters, and it's now available to buy on physical disc or from digital platforms. It will be available to rent digitally in January.

An Ode To Yodeling

Dec 15, 2020
Creative Commons

What is yodeling, anyway? Some consider it singing, some say it's an ululation, and still others consider it merely a means to herd animals. Whatever yodeling is, one's thing clear: Yodeling has been around for thousands of years and shows no signs of disappearing.

John Abbott / Facebook

A new project by Yale’s Oral History of American Music chronicles how the pandemic and months of self-isolation have affected prominent musicians. Alone Together: Musicians in the Time of Covid is a collection of thoughtful and surprising interviews with performers, conductors and composers from the world of jazz and classical music.

Netflix, Inc.

Last week, President Obama twittered a list of "memorable songs" from his administration. The list was, let's just say, not necessarily well received.

Vaguely relatedly: Incoming secretary of state nominee Antony Blinken… has his own "wonk rock" tunes up on Spotify?

And: The Liberator is a sort of animated, four-part Netflix miniseries that tells the story of the 157th Infantry in World War II.

Trevor / flickr creative commons

As we were preparing for our show on underdogs, I kept saying that we shouldn’t overlook the fact that, often, to be an underdog in the first place, you have to be relatively bad at the thing you’re an underdog about.

The more we talked about it, the more I found myself making the case that losers and losing are fascinating.

And they are. There’s a whole podcast about political candidates who lost. We romanticize losers in movies and TV and songs and stories.

Apple

The world has an Alex Trebek-shaped hole in it. Which raises a question: Who should fill said hole?

Billie Eilish has a new single out this week, which got The Nose thinking about her now-in-limbo James Bond theme song, which got The Nose thinking about James Bond theme songs in general.

And: Ted Lasso is a half-hour comedy series on AppleTV+. It stars Jason Sudeikis as the title character, and it's based on a character Sudeikis developed in 2013 for a series of promos for NBC Sports's Premier League coverage, of all things.

Cuatro Puntos

The Hartford-based music ensemble Cuatro Puntos and the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford have partnered for a yearlong series of virtual concerts and discussions that intersect music and positive social change around the world.

HBO

It has come to The Nose's attention that you can rent an entire movie theater out for just $99 and have yourself a slightly less pandemic-panicky moviegoing experience. Which got us thinking about, just, going to the movies. Remember going to the movies?

And then: "Which of the Hollywood Chrises is the worst Hollywood Chris?" is a question the internet has been grappling with recently. As with all things internet, there's now a bit of a controversy.

And: David Byrne's American Utopia is Spike Lee's HBO movie version of Byrne's American Utopia Broadway show, which is a theater version of Byrne's American Utopia tour, which Byrne did in support of his album, American Utopia.

Wharton Center / Wikimedia Commons

This year often feels like a Shakespearean drama!

This hour, theaters around the state join us to talk about the future of the performing arts. What does a Zoom performance look like? Can it really replicate an in person performance?

Do you miss going to some of our state’s amazing performing arts centers? We want to hear from you.

GUESTS:

Hartford Opera Theater

Zoom meetings have become a ubiquitous part of pandemic life. Business meetings, social functions -- really any gathering that used be held in person has moved to Zoom or a similar platform. Now that virtual world has become the setting of a new chamber opera being performed this weekend by Hartford Opera Theater -- live, on Zoom.

Johannes Gärtner / flickr creative commons

Nietzsche called Richard Wagner "a volcanic eruption of the total undivided artistic capacity of nature itself," and Thomas Mann said he was "probably the greatest talent in the entire history of art."

More than a thousand movies have Wagner on their soundtracks, including classic scenes from Apocalypse Now, The Blues Brothers, Bugs Bunny cartoons, and Charlie Chaplin.

But, there's a reason Woody Allen says too much of Wagner's music gives him "the urge to conquer Poland." Wagner is nothing if not a problematic figure. As the new book Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music puts it, "An artist who might have rivaled Shakespeare in universal reach is undone by an ideology of hate."

Courtesy: Colvin Family

Though music lovers may have few opportunities to perform together in person right now, it turns out that people of all ages are discovering or rekindling a passion for music making at home during the pandemic. 

Netflix, Inc.

Kim Kardashian and other celebrities "froze" their Facebook and Instagram accounts for one day this week "to protest the spread of hate speech and misinformation on those platforms." Meanwhile, Kardashian's husband had the strange sort of week that we've maybe grown to expect from him, but seemingly with more public peeing in it than we're maybe used to.

And: Cuties (Mignonnes in the original French) is the feature film debut of Senegalese-French writer and director Maïmouna Doucouré. The movie's release on Netflix has been controversial, to say the least.

Atlantic Records

The No. 1 song in the country -- "WAP" by Cardi B featuring Megan Thee Stallion -- seems to make just one concession to commercial decorum: its acronym title, which I won't be spelling out for you here. It's being called the "gloriously filthy song of the summer" and subversive "in almost every way, even as it plays with the limits of explicit expression."

Speaking of troublesome songs: Does The Band's classic "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" belong in the same category as bits of culture like Song of the South and Gone with the Wind?

And finally: Has it turned out that Kevin Costner's 1997 box office bomb, The Postman, is "the most accurate dystopian movie?"

Cheryl B. Engelhardt / YouTube

Musicians and performing artists around the world have cancelled tours and shows due to the pandemic. 

This hour, we’re talking to musicians from right here in Connecticut. Although local performers especially are struggling to stay afloat, many are still finding ways to put on a show, and make music. 

NEON Rated, LLC

The Nose is worried about movie theaters. The pandemic has done such damage to the industry that Hollywood has started treating the U.S. as a second-run market. And now the Paramount Consent Decrees have ended. (We're not exactly sure what that means, but it's not good.) Is the future of movie theaters... Walmart drive-ins?

And: She Dies Tomorrow is a horror-comedy-thriller written and directed by Amy Seimetz. It was supposed to premiere at this year's South by Southwest, which was canceled. She Dies Tomorrow is out now on video on demand platforms.

For eight years, I hosted a storytelling show at the Mark Twain House, called The Mouth-Off. Five times a year, storytellers would take the stage with their true story on that night’s theme. Now that the pandemic has cancelled the remainder of this year’s season, I wanted to take the opportunity to play you some of my favorites.

You’ll hear all sorts of stories in this episode, but the one thing they all have in common? They all deal with relationships with authority figures - like parents, employers… or police.

Taylor Swift/Republic Records

The Federal Communications Commission requires that The Nose cover each and every new Taylor Swift release*. Folklore is Swift's seventh number-one album, and it's become, in just two weeks, the highest-selling album of 2020 so far. But rather than just spending a segment talking about the album... We came across a term that's new to us: cottagecore. Folklore is, apparently, cottagecore. We're not entirely convinced that cottagecore is a thing, but we're covering it anyway, and we'll get to Folklore that way.

Sasa Tkalcan / Jimmy Webb

Jimmy Webb was possibly the most successful songwriter of the 1960s and 1970s. Classics like "Galveston," "Wichita Lineman," "Up, Up, and Away," and "MacArthur Park" were recorded by hundreds of artists from Glen Campbell to Donna Summer. Webb wrote the songs that others made famous.

Jonathan McNicol / Connecticut Public Radio

Laura Nyro’s most famous compositions -- “Stoned Soul Picnic,” “Stoney End,” “When I Die,” “Wedding Bell Blues,” “Eli’s Coming” -- are jewels of mainstream music, and her covers of songs like “Jimmy Mack” and “Gonna Take a Miracle” are legendary.

But she was uncomfortable under the spotlight and withdrew from it to become the Belle of Danbury.

Sasa Tkalcan / Jimmy Webb

We're reairing this show from September, 2019, when our team traveled to Glen Cove, New York, to interview legendary songwriter Jimmy Webb

We waited a long time for this interview and it was worth every minute of the wait. It was a special day. We broke bread together, met kind people, and enjoyed a day of music and stories from Jimmy Webb's decades of making music. 

Megan Moss Freeman / Pilobolus

The Connecticut dance ensemble Pilobolus’ annual Five Senses Festival is a go for this year, but with a new social distancing twist. The world-renowned company will take this year’s festival into the lush hills of northwest Connecticut for what’s being called the “Five Senses Safari.”

Disney

Four years ago, over the course of three days, film crews documented the musical Hamilton as performed by nearly its entire original Broadway cast. Eventually, Disney bought the distribution rights to the movie and planned to release it in theaters next fall. But then there was a pandemic, and people were stuck in their houses, and the film dropped on Disney+ earlier this month.

Universal Pictures

The raft of renaming going on right now obviously hasn't spared popular culture. The Dixie Chicks and Lady Antebellum are now The Chicks and Lady A, respectively. Björk's record label changed its name. Democrats want to rename John Wayne Airport. FedEx has formally asked the Washington Redskins to change their name, and Guilford's board of education voted to drop the town's "Indians" nickname. And, while Splash Mountain is going to keep being called Splash Mountain, it won't be based on Song of the South anymore.

And: The King of Staten Island is the sixth feature film directed by Judd Apatow. It stars Pete Davidson (who also co-wrote the movie with Apatow and Dave Sirus) as a 24-year-old high school dropout who lives with his mother on Staten Island. It's available for rental on digital platforms.

Yale School of Music

The Yale School of Music is implementing a series of initiatives in an effort to address issues of racism and diversity at the school and beyond.

Warner Bros.

The movie musical died a long, slow death a long time ago. Right?

Well, except that there's La La Land. And Moana. And The Greatest Showman and A Star Is Born and Mary Poppins Returns. Oh, and Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman. And Frozen II and The Lion King and Aladdin.

Those are just from the last five years. And I could keep going, but then I might forget to mention that Steven Spielberg's version of West Side Story is scheduled to come out this year or that the Hamilton movie comes out next week.

This hour, a long look at the long-dead movie musical. Long live the movie musical.

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