Today's Liberal News

Spencer Kornhaber

Beyoncé’s Renaissance Is a Big, Gay Mess

Beyoncé herself might admit that her seventh solo album, Renaissance, is a mess. Conventional songwriting rules, polite-taste paradigms, and the best practices for headache avoidance were clearly not priorities here. The songs clatter, wobble, and lurch into one another while Beyoncé wavers between singing and doing silly voices, in multitrack. Listening to her past albums felt like being whisked in a luxury sedan through a landscape of mountains, valleys, and meadows.

The Problem With Saying Oontz Oontz

A shock awaited Drake’s fans when they first hit “Play” on his latest album. A gentle instrumental intro lulled the ears for 37 seconds. Then the second track, “Falling Back,” cut in, the audio equivalent of a jump scare in a horror movie.

The Pop Star We Need Right Now

This is an edition of The Atlantic Daily, a newsletter that guides you through the biggest stories of the day, helps you discover new ideas, and recommends the best in culture. Sign up for it here.Are you ready to “release the wiggle”? Beyoncé’s new album will soon test America’s appetite for dancing—and her ability to adapt to the times.But first, here are three new stories from The Atlantic.
The Supreme Court is making America ungovernable.

The Kate Bush Resurgence Is a Reminder That We Can Have Nice Things

Much of the music that defined my early-2000s adolescence was written before I could walk. Listening to CD-Rs filled with songs that had been ripped from the internet, my friends and I warbled to the Pixies’ 1988 oddity “Where Is My Mind?,” moped to Tears for Fears’ 1982 dirge “Mad World” (and its 2001 cover by Gary Jules and Michael Andrews), and mewled to various versions of Leonard Cohen’s 1984 masterpiece “Hallelujah.

The Bittersweet Silliness of Hulu’s Fire Island

What Fire Island, the movie, understands about Fire Island, the place, is that paradise can feel like purgatory. The smart new comedy does depict the New York vacation spot’s famously titillating amenities: outdoor dance parties whose rhythms echo for miles, ornery drag queens wearing cheery colors, physiques buffed and flaunted like Ferraris. But it also captures a stillness in the air, an emptiness in the landscape, and an ambient sense of tension and futility.

Patriotic Songs for a Cruel Country

The nation has selected a new musical champion, and he sings with a twang. This week, American Idol crowned Noah Thompson, a scruffy-goateed 20-year-old construction worker from Kentucky, as its 20th season’s winner. On his debut single, “One Day Tonight,” Thompson imagines giving a girlfriend all that she pines for: a diamond ring, a fixer-upper in Denver, a honeymoon in Vegas.

Something’s Up With Harry Styles’s Vibe

So much music exists to provoke bold emotions—ecstasy, amazement, deep blues. Other music conjures pastel feelings, soft and in-between. For example, much of Harry Styles’s third album, Harry’s House, imparts the mild joy that one might get from completing a list of chores. Some songs spark the regret of failing to book the ideal dinner reservation. Over multiple listens, another sensation, like faint indigestion, may occur: concern.

Arcade Fire’s Cringeworthy Dystopia

The love song, the breakup song, the party song—all are excellent pop traditions, but a good doomsday song can do the work of all three. What connects David Bowie’s “Five Years” to Prince’s “1999” to Lana Del Rey’s “The Greatest” aren’t just visions of civilizational collapse.

Coachella Defeated My Cynicism About Music Festivals

In an ill-fated attempt to hype myself up for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, I went on YouTube to look at an inflatable blue gorilla—a stage prop for the hip-hop act Brockhampton, who had announced that Coachella would be the group’s last booking ever. The festival unfolds in two identical three-day lineups over consecutive weekends; I was attending the second weekend, and I wanted a taste of how the first one had gone.

How Jon Batiste Broke Grammys Expectations

The Grammys giving Album of the Year to a release that peaked at No. 86 on the Billboard 200 might seem to call into question the very meaning of Album of the Year. Yet no one should be too perplexed that the Recording Academy handed last night’s final prize to We Are, by Jon Batiste, the accomplished jazz pianist and bandleader (and the music director of this publication).

The Reason for Zelensky’s Surprise Grammy Appearance

Addressing a room of sparkly bodices and artfully oversized jackets at the Grammy Awards, the president of Ukraine had a simple reminder to give. “Our musicians wear body armor instead of tuxedos,” Volodymyr Zelensky said in a surprise, pre-taped message that aired during last night’s ceremony.

An Artist Who Makes Me Excited About the Future of Music

Apparently one of the most exciting stories in music this year is a lack of excitement about music. In January, the question “Is old music killing new music?” went viral when a newsletter by the jazz historian Ted Gioia (republished by The Atlantic) highlighted data showing that, from 2020 to 2021, listenership for freshly released songs—in comparison with listenership for older songs—decreased.

The Legend of Charli XCX Grows

The Atlantic’s style guide for writers bans the use of the word iconic, as it does many other words that are overused to the point of meaninglessness. So it will be hard for me to write about the delightful new Charli XCX album, Crash, at least judging by how the artist and her fans have been speaking. The term has shown up in press releases and tweets to refer to the singer, her planned tour, her album’s track list, and the Nintendo ad she soundtracked.

The Military Weapon That Has Become a Musical Touchstone in Ukraine

Turkish-made aerial drones armed with laser-guided missiles have, in the past two weeks, helped Ukraine slow Russia’s invasion. Known as Bayraktar TB2s, the drones are not just a piece of military equipment anymore. They are symbols of Ukrainian resistance—and the inspiration for a very catchy song.A track titled “Bayraktar,” of indeterminate origin, has been receiving hundreds of thousands of plays online, and is in rotation on Ukrainian radio.

SNL Serves Up a Disgusting Highlight

After the first week of fighting in Ukraine, viewers may have tuned in to this week’s Saturday Night Live with some curiosity and fear about how the show would tackle the biggest news story in the world. The series had gone the quiet and respectful route last week by having the Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York replace the usual episode-opening antics.

Hip-Hop Gets Its Halftime Show, Finally

One of the incredible things about hip-hop is that a quick song can feel as grand and sweeping as an album, or a novel, or a galaxy. Great rappers do a generous thing—give listeners a trove of phrases to obsess over, of inflections to imitate, of messages to absorb, and of observations to steal. When the music works, it seems effortless and impossible at once.

War Anxieties Loomed Over SNL

No one seems to agree about what Russia’s saber-rattling behavior on the Ukrainian border means. In America, normally united political forces—such as Fox News commentators and the GOP—are divided over how to talk about Vladimir Putin’s latest moves. In Europe, allied superpowers are not all making the same preparations for possible war. The White House and Ukrainian leaders are openly disputing how seriously to take the threat of Putin sacking Kyiv.

Spotify Isn’t Really About the Music Anymore

The questions that arise in the face of any boycott effort—whether against an unethical retailer, a disgraced performer, or an exploitative employer—can be paralyzing. We live in a world of compromise and wickedness, built of systems guided not by virtue but by profit. So why, the boycotter must be asked, draw the line here? We also live in a world in which individuals rarely ever wield more power than institutions.

Welcome to Purgatory. The Weeknd Will Be Your DJ.

What was so spooky about the 1980s? Maybe Freddy Krueger, Thriller, and goth eyeliner just reflected Cold War anxieties and suburban dread. Or maybe technological progress in the entertainment industry better explains the decade’s Halloween-party aesthetics. After all, without certain synthesizers and drum machines, you don’t get the sinister arpeggios of John Carpenter soundtracks or the telltale beat of New Order’s “Blue Monday.

Why Star Wars Keeps Telling the Same Stories

Boba Fett, the most legendary bounty hunter in the galaxy, was the product of budget constraints. Planning for the 1980 Star Wars sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, the artists Joe Johnston and Ralph McQuarrie crafted a prototype of knightlike armor for a legion of upgraded stormtroopers, the expendable soldiers of the evil Galactic Empire.

Emily in Paris Is the Last Guilty Pleasure

Right-thinking people agree: Like the burning of Notre Dame, Netflix’s Emily in Paris is a catastrophe for the culture. In mid-2020, when COVID-19 was still novel, the first season of the Sex and the City creator Darren Star’s new sitcom portrayed an American marketing professional (Emily, played by Lily Collins) Instagramming her way through the most sophisticated city on the planet (Paris, shot on location).

How Everything Became Emo

Anyone who spent their teenagedom in a black hooded sweatshirt was served a nice piece of attention bait last year in the form of a TikTok phenomenon known as the “emo test.” In it, users listened to snippets of songs by such artists as Panic! At the Disco and Paramore to see how many tunes they recognized. If you got eight to 10 songs right, you were certified “emo.” If you got more than that, then congrats—you were “broken.

Adele’s Shocking Attack on Complacency

No one broke Adele’s heart this time. Until now, her music has centered on the brutality of romantic rejection—the way it can throw a human soul against a wall, snapping bones that never heal right, instilling a kind of existential PTSD. Yet, though her new album is about “divorce, babe, divorce,” betrayal, cruelty, and nasty rumors are for once not part of the story.

The Mystery of Pete Buttigieg

Here’s a surprise from President Joe Biden’s time in office: One of the most prominent figures in the debate over paid parental leave—a right that 186 other countries give at least to mothers, and that could boost the national birth rate and strengthen the traditional family unit—is the gay, male secretary of transportation.Starting in August, Pete Buttigieg left work for several weeks to care for the twins that he and his husband, Chasten, had just adopted.

The Old Men of Succession Are Becoming a Problem

This story contains spoilers through the fifth episode of Succession Season 3.Logan was ill. He was the victim of an ailment so common that most people would consider it trivial. But when it gets to Logan it can plunge him into a state of anguish, deep depression, panic, even rage. Logan Roy had a UTI.

On SNL, Taylor Swift Stopped Time

Updated at 4:53 p.m. ET on November 14, 2021.When Taylor Swift was only 22, she laid awake at night and worried about her age. That’s the confession the now-31-year-old singer makes on “Nothing New,” a track she wrote for her 2012 album, Red, but only released on Red (Taylor’s Version), the new, rerecorded version that came out on Friday. In the song, she describes how society tells young women to have fun and then shames them for experiencing life.

Lana Del Rey Is Still Searching for Happiness

When the coronavirus pandemic first interrupted life around the world, you likely felt fear for your loved ones and confusion about the future. You might have experienced some less dire pangs too: an urge to stock up on chocolate bars, some relief at not having to commute. Maybe you even had a thought like the one Lana Del Rey shares in her new song “Black Bathing Suit”: “If this is the end / I want a boyfriend.

Content Will Not Save America

After hours of searching conversation about America and the human soul, the former president of the United States reiterated his brand identity. “Here’s what makes me optimistic … because, you know, I’m the hope guy,” Barack Obama told Bruce Springsteen in a chat recorded last year for their podcast, Renegades: Born in the USA.

How a Show as Cynical as Succession Stays Entertaining

This story contains spoilers for the second episode of Succession Season 3. Before he joined Succession, the actor James Cromwell insisted that his character have some scruples. In a recent interview, Cromwell said that the show’s original scripts portrayed the stone-faced Ewan Roy as holding a personal grudge against his brother, the right-wing-media baron Logan Roy.

The Unfunny Transformation of Joe Biden

President Joe Biden’s long career can be measured in decades, in legislative achievements, and in Saturday Night Live impersonations: Seven different actors have played him over the years. His first send-up on the show happened in 1991, when Kevin Nealon portrayed him as a straight-faced inquisitor of Anita Hill’s sexual-harassment allegations against Clarence Thomas during the the judge’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings.