The Famous Door

What Makes a Mandolinist MacArthur-worthy?
October 08, 2012

Chris Thile is very much a MacArthur kind of genius—eclectic, experimental, and obviously serious. But what about the silly geniuses?

A Jazz Composer Turns His Grief into Devotional Music
October 01, 2012

Dave Douglas puts out a brave album in memory of his mother.

Is Amanda Palmer Worth a Million Dollars?
September 24, 2012

A conceptualist and provocateur, Amanda Palmer has made controversy the dominant form of her art.

The Famous Door: Wussies and Pussies and Sinking Ships in Bob Dylan’s Latest
September 13, 2012

Dylan ranted at his critics in a "Rolling Stone" interview this week, but he should be more worried about the quality of his recent music.

Music of the RNC, Then and Now
August 31, 2012

Republicans know a great, great deal about the power of popular music in the merchandising of ideology for electoral gain

Marvin Hamlisch, Pussy Riot, and the Perils of Judging by Appearances
August 24, 2012

There’s something wrong with the way the three women of Pussy Riot have been portrayed in much of the coverage of their arrest and sentencing last week, and the same thing is wrong with the way Marvin Hamlisch, the pop composer, was conceived for decades prior to his death this month. The issue is the tyranny of profiling by physical appearance—by simplistic presumptions about sex and ethnicity. Pussy Riot and Marvin Hamlisch have nothing to do with each other, except for the fact that some of what we think we know about them is a product of how their appearances have been perceived.

Standing in the Rubble of New York's Cocktail Life
August 12, 2012

Classification is practically a divine endowment. As Genesis says, the Lord breathed existence into being, divided the day into two categories, and called them night and day. Why complicate things with intermediacies such as dawn and twilight? Fortunately for the musical arts, the current era is not Biblical. The dominant theme of twentieth-century music in all categories is the collapse of categories, as genres, styles, and cultural associations mingle and blur.

What Nicki Minaj Learned From Marilyn Monroe
August 05, 2012

Nicki Minaj wants to be the Marilyn Monroe of hip-hop. So let’s just say she is. After all, being a member of Minaj’s audience is all about submitting to her will, just as inducing submission was one of the main objectives of Marilyn’s art. This Sunday was the fiftieth anniversary of Monroe’s death, and the occasion brings to mind how much Monroe and Minaj have in common as musical performers, and how different they are in important ways. Like Marilyn Monroe, Nicki Minaj is a sex symbol for her time and a magnificently theatrical self-construction, and she has no singing voice to speak of.

Let's Agree to Stop Singing 'Hey Jude'
July 31, 2012

There was something fitting and something discomfiting in the climactic moment of the nutty pastiche of a spectacle that Danny Boyle concocted to open the 2012 Olympic Games. Music has always played a role in the grand theater of the Olympiad, with original works typically commissioned from brand-name composers such as Philip Glass and John Williams.

The Horrific Racism of Kitty Wells’ Cyrano
July 19, 2012

The monster was the man behind the curtain in the case of Kitty Wells, the country singer who died on July 16 at age 92. As the fittingly reverential tributes to Wells have reminded us this week, she has a place of immutable high standing in pop-culture history for recasting the role of women in country music.