2016 can fuck DIRECTLY off, y'all.
Your Dames are heartbroken. AGAIN. We’re having a little chat about it, as we do, and assembling a rich buffet of links, as we also usually do. Swathe yourself in satins & lace & join us.
Dame Sophie: Prince, man. 2016 has a lot to answer for. Remember when Bowie died, and I thought I could see my heart being slowly ripped out of her chest, cell by cell? That was a cool time. I think it kind of ruined me for cultural hero grief. I’m mostly just angry about the rank unfairness of Prince dying, (alone in an elevator, sob!) at 57. FIFTY-SEVEN. For all our sakes, I have taken the liberty of terminating 2016’s contract, so while we wait impatiently for this dumb year to pack up its belongings, turn in its badge to HR, and go straight to hell, I’d like to ask how you are faring, dear Dame Margaret.
Dame Margaret: WHY IS THE ELEVATOR TRYING TO BREAK US DOWN is THE QUESTION, really. I'm not doing great, Soph. Death, in general, is consistently bullshit, as I have said on MANY PREVIOUS OCCASIONS, but fifty-seven is an EGREGIOUSLY young age at which to lose ANYONE, let alone a creative genius like Prince who had DECADES more of performing and writing left in him.
Dame Sophie: Shall we share some happy memories before we drop these link-bombs on the people? I think the first Prince song I must have heard on the radio was “1999”, but it wasn’t till Purple Rain came out that I really got into him. That string of singles was just FIRE. I used to roller skate a lot and I have this vivid memory of a friend’s birthday party in 1984 or 1985 where we were all hanging out eating our hot dogs, and then “I Would Die 4 U” came on and we all, as one, squealed, and skated out to the rink where we zoomed around, doing an elaborate YMCA-style hand jive to the song as we skated.
Dame Margaret: For me, Prince falls into that amorphous category of Artists Whose Best Work Predates My Pop Cultural Awareness, along with Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen. With all these guys, I spent YEARS singing along to their work on the radio, just kind of imagining it all sprang into existence without help of any one person, and then, suddenly, one day was like "WAIT ONE COTTON-PICKING MINUTE. You mean to tell me that JUST ONE DUDE wrote '1999' and 'Purple Rain' and 'Kiss' and 'When Doves Cry' and 'Let's Go Crazy' and, huh, I mean, now that I listen to them, yeah, totally, that's obviously just one person, yeah, his vocal style is really distinctive and everything but like also HOWWWWWWWWWWWWWW?" And then I began listening to him in earnest-- chiefly obsessing over the sheer perfection of "Raspberry Beret"-- and just... I guess I'm so sad because I feel like my relationship with Prince was still beginning, and it should have been a conversation with his ongoing work for decades and decades longer, and now it's going to be tinged with the sadness of knowing... this is as much as I'm going to get. It just doesn't seem fair. ESPECIALLY NOT when I'm learning things like he gave secret donations to help keep historic, black libraries open in hard times. It just seems like we needed to keep Prince for a lot longer, even if we never even remotely deserved him, even if no one really COULD deserve him. I mean, JUST LOOK AT THESE FUCKING LINKS:
I love that even his charities were 4 U. 2 much/Just enough.
The dude was very dry & very sly. <3 <3 <3 (And ripe for impersonations)
A classic #Damesfav: What's in Prince's Fridge? Answer: A lot more mustard than you might expect.
OR how about the time Prince cosplayed as Bryant Gumbel on the Today Show??
There’s never a wrong time to revisit this hilarious & perfect retelling of The Time Prince & The Revolution Kicked Charlie Murphy & His Friends’ Asses at Basketball. If only Charlie Murphy had had access to Prince’s middle school yearbook, he’d have known better!
And, of course, his appearance on New Girl is both probably one of the funniest celebrity sitcom cameos of all time AND, without question, one of the strongest episodes of that show to date.
Prince Commentary & Remembrances
Yesterday, the world turned purple in Prince's honor, as is meet and proper.
Jon Pareles, one of Dame S’s favorite pop critics, wrote a lovely obituary for the NY Times
Toure’s biography of Prince, I Would Die 4 U, has been on my to-read list for years and this excerpt, on how Prince’s identity as a Late Boomerpositioned him ideally to speak to Generation X and our siblings among The Snake People. is moving it steadily up the priority list.
Ijeoma Oluo’s assessment of Prince as the patron saint of black weirdos is super-moving. A two-tissue read at least.
And it's confirmed by Frank Ocean's similarly tear-inducing tribute from Tumblr.
Dame M.'s Pop Culture Happy Hour pals, Linda Holmes and Stephen Thompson, were typically insightful when they got together just over an hour after Prince's death to talk about his legacy. Their conversation sounds a LOT like Your Dames' at the letter's open.
And, last but not least, Jennifer Hudson and the rest of the cast of the Broadway musical adaptation of The Color Purple staged a devastating tribute to Prince during their curtain call last night. (h/t Hottie Christina, of course.)
Prince Performances & Some of our Favorite Songs He Wrote for Other Performers
How can ONE MAN trap SO MUCH THIRST???
Never seen Prince live? Neither have Your Dames, to their unending regret. At least we have this full concert from the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, NJ to sustain us? Check those 1982 styles! And his super-tight band!
Behold Prince, making Clapton’s original solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” sound adorably amateurish & first drafty. Here he is on stage with a group of highly accomplished musicians, just casually destroying them all and making them feel grateful they got to be a part of it. Still unanswered: WHERE DOES HIS GUITAR GO AT THE END?
His appearance on American Bandstand is notable mostly for his highly seductive interview with Dick Clark (DC: How many instruments do you play? P: [long pause] thousands.) & strong metallics game.
Or how about his ICONIC Superbowl Halftime Show during a fucking downpour?
This first-ever live performance of “Purple Rain” -- from First Avenue in Minneapolis -- is so good that it was only very lightly edited to become the version we all know & love from the album.
Did you know Prince wrote & recorded a song for Sesame Street? He sure did! It’s about individuality & embracing your whole, oddball self. And it’s great, obviously.
Sinead O’Connor’s first two albums are hugely formative texts for Dame Sophie’s Baby Feminist self, and they hold up impressively well. Definitely take a listen & ease on in with the deeeeeply 90s video for “Nothing Compares 2 U” (Like “I Feel 4 U”, also originally written for Chaka Khan).
The Bangles are great, and wrote plenty of very fine songs, themselves, but there’s really nothing quite as perfect as “Manic Monday”, is there? That’s because Prince wrote it.
Dump is the musical alter ego of James McNew from Yo La Tengo. His album, That Skinny Motherfucker With The High Voice? is all Prince covers, and his harpsichord-drenched version of “When You Were Mine” is every bit as worthy as the original (and for Dame S’s money, better than Cyndi Lauper’s).
Almost ALARMINGLY my aesthetic.
First: Laura Mvula, a wonderful British pop/neo-soul singer of whom #Damespiration Bim Adewunmi correctly wrote "Her voice sounds the way mahogany looks: too good for your undeserving hands, darkly textured in a way you might not be used to, utterly decadent." In advance of her new album's release this June, she sat down with The Guardian and gave an astonishingly frank interview about her struggles with anxiety, her upbringing within a strong religious community, the shock of her parents' divorce, and just... she really bares a lot of herself, and with profound emotional insight, the kind that makes her a great artist. It's a great read. And a great excuse to point you back to her debut album from 2013, or, possibly, the version of it she recorded with full orchestral backing. I can tell you, from experience, that both versions make exquisite porch drinking music.
If you prefer your porch drinking music feature banjos, luckily, I have you covered there, too! #Margfav Sara Watkins, formerly the best part of Nickel Creek*, now a formidable singer-songwriter on her lonesome, released a new single TODAY, and announced a new album, Young in All the Wrong Ways, due out JULY 1ST!!!!!! What does this mean for you? It means that I am going to tell you, once again, that Sun Midnight Sun is the best album from 2012 you didn't buy. You can listen to it on Spotify at that link, or just sample the album's perfect closer "Take Up Your Spade" on YouTube but like... why waste your time, when you're just going to buy it in the end anyways, because it's ESSENTIAL. And then get yourself a ticket to see her on her tour this fall, because that, too, is simply the correct choice. *(*COME AT ME, CHRIS THILE STANS, not that he's not great, just where is Sara's MacArthur Award, that's what I'd like to know. Give Sara a MacArthur Immediately Dot Change Dot Gov.)
This light piece on a Princess Ettiquette course a British socialite is offering in advance of Prince Harry's arrival in the United States, and the murderously adorable meeting between President Obama and a certain young gentleman in flawless pajamas (complete with expressions of STATELY GRATITUDE) BOTH put me in mind of The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, AKA beloved #Damespals the Fug Girls, one of the most delightful books I read in all of 2015, due out in paperback on Tuesday! Get a jump on the release by reading the first seven chapters of the book for FREE, and like... just see if you can wait till Tuesday before buying a copy for yourself. Dollars to donuts you don't make it that long.
If you're committed to fiscal responsibility, though, I've got something to tide you over: something like NINE ~~great~~ free-to-download historical romances on eBook, including two favorites of mine-- Talk Sweetly to Meby Courtney Milan and Sweet Disorder by #Damesfav Rose Lerner-- andone by another favorite writer, Sherry Thomas, that I have not yet read. If "free" and "favorite" are not enough for you, let me also add FEMINIST and DIVERSE. Whether you're an old hand at romance looking for new writers to love or intrigued by the genre and seeking a good entry point, BOTH of the titles above are SUPER worthy of your time.
How Is This Day Different from All Other Days for Dame Sophie?
It’s funny (and also kind of tragic) because it’s true.
Passover round-up! I grew up in a fairly observant family, but my Jewish identity has always been familially & culturally-based, not religious, and I am now a secular person. Passover is probably my least-favorite holiday, but I look forward to celebrating with my extended family, and the special foods are among my favorites of the year. If you’re celebrating this week, chag sameach to you! Here’s what I’m making for Friday night’s seder:
The Ashkenazi version of charoset (meant to symbolize the mortar the Hebrew slaves made) is a tasty mishmash of chopped apples, walnuts & wine. We’ll have that, and we’ll also have a Sephardi version, which is more of a luscious paste made with dried fruits, pine nuts, and wine. My favorite recipe is from Nigella Lawson’s FEAST.
Smitten Kitchen’s blackberry and coconut macaroon tart looks so springy & perfect. I’ll probably swap raspberries for blackberries, since they’re a family favorite.
Flourless chocolate cakes can be a little disappointing on maximum chocolate flavor delivery, but this one, featuring 10 oz of chocolate, looks right-on to me!
These ugly but good cookies, also from Smitten Kitchen, were a close runner-up, and I’ll probably make them later, anyway. I love a crisp exterior & chewy interior-type cookie.
I’ll also be bringing gefilte fish. This is one of those foods I only eat once a year, and which I refused altogether as a child, but ever since my Mom switched to this delicious brand, I have been on board. It is the easiest thing in the world to make (let us all be grateful we don’t have to keep a carp in the bathtub* for this exercise) and slathered with the hottest horseradish money can buy, it is a hot-and-sweet culinary marvel. It’s also the source of the funniest, Jewiest email Hillary Clinton has ever sent. (*For the uninitiated, The Carp in The Bathtub is about two kids who become emotionally attached to the live carp their mother has bought to use for gefilte fish at Passover. This book taught me that in days of yore, people lived in apartment buildings with shared bathrooms, a fact I found fascinating as a child. Historical fiction, forever & always!)
How Is This Day Totes Still The Same For Dame Sophie?
"How do I go from Passover to Black-ish with a gif? I KNOW!! DRAKE'S BAR MITZVAH!!" - Dame M., Beautiful Genius of Note.
Black-ish is our latest all-family show. I really love it, even when the jokes occasionally make me say “ughhh” (na-na-na-na) because (1) when the jokes do land, they LAND, and (2) it’s so satisfying to watch a show that addresses both inter- and intra-racial issues explicitly and with so much heart. All of which is to say, Emily Nussbaum’s profile of Black-ish creator Kenya Barrisis great and insightful, and you should read it with a congratulatory thought in your heart for our favorite Pulitzer Prize-winning culture critic! Here’s to a whole slate of Barris-produced shows debuting in the next few years!
You guys were really into the Bossy Spotlight on Witch, Please last week. I had a feeling you would be & am super-delighted! :-) If you’re looking for more podcasts hosted by women, the great team at Note To Self (another favorite) have compiled a list, supplemented by genuinely (!) helpful (!!) comments (!!!) of 40 Female Podcast Hosts Who Deserve Your Ears. Branch out & stock up!
And finally! The good people over at LitHub were good enough to ask me some questions about my librarianing, and per usj, I had some paragraphic, yet breezy thoughts to share. (Editor's note: This interview is BEYOND charming, and made me wish I could unknow Sophie, if only for the joy of becoming her bestie all over again. - M.)
This Week In Hamilton
This gif of Lin and his wife, Vanessa, has nothing to do with anything but, having seen it,
how could I ever keep it from you?
Also, Lin is one of 2016’s 100 most influential person, according to TIME & JJ Abrams. And us.
That’s all we’ve got, because Prince. Based on what we saw on his Twitter this morning, we think Lin wouldn’t mind a bit.