That Was The Year That Was: 2020 In Revue

Written by | January 1, 2021 4:30 am | No Comments

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Covid-19 – If this really was a revue Covid-19 would be the headliner, invisible but a sneeze away from destroying everything before it. It ended Trump’s political career and ended the lives of millions of people around the globe. It is like the personification of that old joke: “Nuclear Holocaust: Michael Jackson and billions of others succumb”.

Best Artist: Bad Bunny released three great albums, the first one was my album of the year and all three albums made my best of the year list. Bad Bunny has forced Latin pop in its first major revision since reggaeton in the 1990s. The Puerto Rican pop superstar, and biggest act globally of 2020, took reggaeton, took urbano-trap, took Puerto Rican early 00s mixtapes we never got to hear, learnt from salsa and merengue, and brought Latin pop to the forefront of the world… it is difficult to overestimate his achievements. YHLQMDLG will be one of the best of the 2020s

More Deaths: on a personal level, the loss of my big brother Fayez Lababedi was terrible. On a “MJ and billions of others”) level… John Prine, Tito Rojas, Charlie Pride, and from a drug overdose Justin Townes Earle. We lost so many others, Andy Gill of Gang Of Four, Ivan Král, Pop Smoke, King Von, Kenny Rogers, Millie Small, Sweetpea Atkinson,

Heroes: bag boys take over from baseball stores, and the USA is a better place for it

Zeroes: Trumps actions during the pandemic will go down in history as the worst performance by a sitting President

Movies: Or is that television? “WW84,” “Soul,” “Mulan,” “Tenet” so on and so forth, in the end they were all ways of killing time without a serious thought in their head, all “B-” to “B” and aided nd abetted by endless TV movies like “The Stand” -an atrocious and atrociously mistimed snooze

Soul: it is a weaker “Inside Out” – where “Inside Out” had a basic premise, that our feelings are engineered by living people in our bodies who try to regulate us, which is in a metaphoric way pretty darn accurate,  “Soul” envisions a Platonic afterworld where are characters are formed pre-birth and while discussing the afterlife is always going to be theoretical, it should be a theory that works for us. It is not a theological question but a traditional question, no afterlife makes sense but “Soul” makes even less sense than most. Of course we have to suspend disbelief but we can only withstand disbelief if it connects to a belief system…

The Stand:  has a similar problem though you can’t blame em for it, their representation of people dying from a pandemic (they froth at the mouth and collapse dead where they are, does not correspond with our experience over the past year. It doesn’t happen like that at all… If it was better it would matter a lot less/

More Television: “Star Trek Lower Deck” was an adult animation that didn’t have the strength of its own beliefs (what happens to the grunts) (Grade: B-), “Star Trek: Discovery” is too soapy even by ST standards, and, oddly, not sci fi enough… it needs a Q for sure (Grade: B), “Ted Lasso” -an American loser coaches a first division soccer team but Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) is a good person (Grade: A)….

2q20 – Second quarter, April to June, was the strangest time in our lives. I, myself, when through a similar dislocation on 9-11, and during the Lebanese civil war in 1979, where life as we knew it just stopped. But that second quarter drifted from day to day, week to week, in a perpetual now with no end in sight.

Virtual Concerts: I watched some at first but they didn’t do it for me at all, indeed I found them very uncomfortable. Jason Isbell and Amanda Shire looked as though they were on trial in Krypton, Laura Marling seemed like a self-important plank, the Front Line workers charity gigs were simply unwatchable. Any goodies? Three I saw: Dropkick Murphys, Code Orange and the brilliant Travis Scott on Twitch…

Alone Again (Naturally): I am such a loner that I am practically hermetic, so this being alone all the time worked out fine for me, but if I was 24 instead of 64 I would have gone insane… Even the thought of dying alone , far from scaring me, is exactly how I’d like to go out.

Cuomo In Charge: Andrew Cuomo is an arrogant asshole, and yet somehow, for a couple of months, he stopped being an arrogant asshole and became a true leader.

rock nyc: it may be the most useless website that ever lived, but it didn’t take a break once through the entire year… Thanks to Alyson Camus and John Pasquale…

Let Me Help, Inc: Following the passing of his mother, rock nyc partner has ramped up his charity work and had two virtual fundraisers, the first one was a doozy, the second a quieter Christmas get together. I can’t wait to see what he has planned for next year…

Goodbye To Manhattan (covered in snow): I arrived for good in New York City in August 1979, and last year I was in Manhattan for work or play at least five times a week, Since March 13th I’ve been to Manhattan six times.

Work from home: I have no doubt that we will never go back to working in offices a full time. I believe tourists will be back in 2022 or 2023, but I believe midtown will be a graveyard of offices being re-zoned tas living zones of apartments, condos and coops…… and that will see a huge fall in real estate prices…

If I’ had the Money: i would build something like Hudson Yards “The Shed” only most pop, less arty. Not just concerts, theatre, restaurants, bars, etc,  but also playgrounds for folks to live out their fantasies, sound stages with actors ready to turn you into the star. In other words, things you can do only in person.

Best Genre Of 2020: I didn’t love reggaeton. I listened to a whole lotta merengue, salsa, and Latin pop in the 90s -I didn’t merely see the great Tito Rojas many times, I saw Tito Puentes and Celia Cruz many times, and great bands like Grupo Mania and great merengue performers like the former Grupo member Elvis Crespo. And many, many others. I would sit through six hour Labor Day gigs at MSG where I was the only none Spanish language singer in the house… but the reggaeton stars, the Don Omars and the Daddy Yankees, didn’t do it for me. Where was Millie Quesadilla when I needed her? The change was slow and steady and by 2015 I was back into Latin American pop, and in 2020 Latin pop was the, if not dominant sound of the year, certainly the finest sounds of the year. By the time you reach the Super Bowl, Jennifer Lopez was the harbinger of the sound in a set that included shakira, Bad Bunny, and J Balvin. 2021 should see Rosalia continue who climb to the top.

Worst genre Of 2020:  rap is as popular as ever but it isn’t as good as ever. It has a similar problem as it had in the 1990s, the CDs lasted for 80 minutes and the rap stars rushed to fill every song on long, unweildy albums with “skits” galor and even more filler. In 2020, rap stars gamed sportify, by releasing albums and deluxe albums, if one hour twenty minutes was a problem, three and a half hours was a nightmare, and unwieldy nightmare.

And rock: possibly the worst year ever for rock, not an album made my top twenty-five and if that was bad, at least country had Sam Hunt

Country: country went back to the Red States, Steve Earle told me he thought the savior of country will be women. Unfortunately, I am not crazy about the Brandi Carliles of the world.

2020 In Music: while it kept us going, it lacked a center of gravity, and the biggest popstars, the Lady Gaga, released the song Chromatic, but despite the huge “Stupid Love” it puttered out. I didn’t see it on any top ten lists. Dance and pop didn’t do that great except for Hyper Pop which should be big in 2021, Arca is the face of something else completely -the transgendered superstar in waiting released two terrific albums…

Biden My Time: Sure I voted for Joe, and sure he can do a better job than Trump but so can you, but in the end time will fix the US if you can keep it out of the hands of. According to the  Chicago Reader (here)  By 2050, the US will be a ‘majority-minority’ country, with white non-Hispanics making up less than half of the total population. This is a future to be devoutly wished for, that meeting of different ethnic types will make the USA the greatest country of all, skin pigmentation means nothing when the different ethnic groups in the melting pot become one. what does it matter if you are black when your Grandpa is white?

Live Music: I had started the year off quiet, it was cold and I am old… but I did see Snoop Dogg, David Byrne, Porgy And Bess (at the Lincoln), the Eagles, the Tibet gig at Carnegie Hall, Squeeze, Hall And Oates, Silverstein, the (Allman) Brothers, and I was just getting started when the cancellations started: Billie Eilish, Mandy Moore, Caroline Kole, Beach Slang, Pearl Jam, Thom Yorke -and that just gets you to the end of March… No refunds from Stubhub and very few from anyone else…

2021: Afrobeats and Nigerian pop

2020: In a nutshell, I once wrote a novel called “Six Foot One” in which I imagined every girl the hero ever loved, dressed as Rockettes, and doing high kicks on his coffin… and that is what 2020 did to the world…

The future:  of the USA lies in miscegenation. By 2050 we will be a nation of white minority but by 2050 it won’t matter because we will be all part of a wider and more complete integration… It will make the US what it has wanted since all their manifest destinies, the greatest country ever…

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