From stem to stern, it was a night of keeping up appearances, a simulation of normalcy in a year where normal doesn’t seem possible. Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for TW Ten winters ago, a trove of snaking, lascivious R&B tracks appeared seemingly out of thin air, credited to someone or thing called the Weeknd. They were studies in stark contrasts: “Loft Music” floated gossamer samples of Brooklyn indie rockers Beach House over trap drums, and “What You Need” sunk a sample of Aaliyah’s voice under gauzy synths, her whisper bubbling up through the watery mix like a lover emerging from a warm bath, all of this in service to an angelic voice uttering the most devilish advances. The singer, an East Toronto native and recent college dropout named Abel Tesfaye, gave voice to our darkest late-night moods, to the allure of pushing a body past its limit in pursuit of pleasures both psychedelic and carnal. In March 2011, the Weeknd released House of Balloons, a mixtape sequenced like a journey through the highs, lows, and lonesome aftereffects of a wild night out, setting the scene by advising the listener in the first song that “You’ll wanna be high for this,” then wandering through strip clubs, parties, and after parties to the inevitable anxieties and pangs of withdrawal that surface as you sweat everything out the next day. The Weeknd turned R&B on its head without showing his face. Without glossy videos or a lively social-media presence — this in the days before Instagram caught on — Abel lingered in your head like stifled urges. In the intervening years, Tesfaye has evolved from an invisible man into a ubiquitous one, careful pivot by careful pivot, logging increasingly successful hits increasingly removed from the chunky, post-genre soup of his early mixtapes. The sound got cleaner. Tesfaye sought out pop and dance music veterans like Daft Punk and Max Martin and duetted with Ed Sheeran and … [Read more...] about So Now the Weeknd Is Our Collective Escape From Hell?
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More musicals should end with a megamix. Photo-Illustration: by Vulture; Photo by Really Useful Films There is only one way for any musical to possibly begin: the sounds of an orchestra tuning to A, backed by the crinkles of the crowd unwrapping their Werther’s. From this place of reliable uniformity, there are any number of possible directions a musical can go, from commercial to experimental, from horny cowboys , to horny newsboys , to horny convicts in a Jazz Age women’s prison . And because Broadway is as a diverse art form as any — because there is an endless (pun acknowledged) variety of “I Want” songs and 11 o’ clock numbers and love ballads — composers and playwrights assumed they could just go ahead and end a musical any old kooky way too. But that is incorrect. Not to sound too much like some sort of scoldy Henry Higgins, but what I’ve come to realize is that there are only two acceptable ways for any musical to end. Comic or tragic, mainstream or weird, old or new, there are a ton of musicals that fall into the format of the Only Two Good Possible Ending Types. They cover the spectrum of human emotion and energy. Sometimes they encompass a reprise or encore, although they don’t have to. You might find that your favorite musical’s ending does not qualify as acceptable. The Sound of Music , for example, does not fit into either category. Its ending is therefore bad, even though it features the objectively Good Thing of its protagonists escaping literal Nazis. Les Misérables , as well, does not meet the Good Ending criteria; apologies to that ghost chorus. Since Broadway isn’t opening any time soon, I expect producers to take notes on this and adjust their shows accordingly, so that they can end in the only ways that matter: We’ve Come Full Circle Back to the Beginning But Now It’s Really Poignant As Hilary Duff once said, “Let’s go back, back to the beginning, back to when the earth, the sun, the stars all aligned.” Many musicals … [Read more...] about There Are Only Two Types of Musical Endings That Matter
The doc tracks everything from her beginnings with “Ocean Eyes” to her Grammy domination last year. Photo: Apple TV+ Released today, Apple TV+’s documentary Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry highlights many of the personal aspects of Billie Eilish’s young life. With only a few sit-down interviews and set to the constant soundtrack of her music, the film at times feels like a collection of home movies or a fuzzy recollection of touring and recording. Eilish doesn’t hesitate to address the lows of the past few years, including her struggles with depression, Tourette’s syndrome, and physical injuries, but above all else, the film emphasizes Eilish’s teenagerdom. Director R.J. Cutler doesn’t let you forget how young she is — we see her getting her driver’s license, struggling in relationships, and fighting with her (frankly, adorable) parents. And while Eilish herself said the film is just a “sliver” of her life, here’s a rundown of everything we learned from The World’s a Little Blurry . Around her 17th birthday, her family surprises her with her dream car , a matte-black Dodge Challenger, at the photo shoot for her first full-length album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? The sports car is topped with a neon-green bow to match, though Eilish’s mom assures the camera that it’s equipped with every safety feature possible. After Eilish gets the car, she’s gotta get her driver’s license (hello, Olivia Rodrigo ), and her parents are right there at the DMV to cheer her on. As she’s set to take her first drive to visit then-boyfriend Brandon “Q” Adams, her dad gives her The Lecture on Safe Driving. “The rules of law still apply,” he says. “It’s not now you get to speed and do all kinds of stupid shit … you’ve learned to drive and you’ve been coached and helped and tested in order to be sure that you’re going to be a sober, sensible driver.” The talk is helped by Mr. O’Connell’s soothing voice, clear-framed glasses, and killer … [Read more...] about 9 Things We Learn About Billie Eilish in Her New Documentary
The representative educated Bootsie Plunkett with patience and care. Photo: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert/YouTube Spring has sprung in New York, friends! JK, the all-knowing groundhog dictated that we will live in a winter wonderland for the foreseeable future, but it has been unseasonably warm the past few days and you can feel the air of possibility and change all around us, even in the late-night universe. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver has returned for a new season on HBO; Jon Stewart announced the showrunner and head writer for his upcoming Apple TV+ show ; and Peacock’s The Amber Ruffin Show has booked the A Little Late With Lilly Singh time slot on NBC for the next two weeks , opening up her (wonderful) late-night sketch show to a wider audience. Stop frantically checking your email to see if your Jon Stewart packet got you to the next round (fingers crossed) and check out the top five late-night clips of the week. The Tonight Show We’re approaching the yearlong mark of a little thing I like to call quar quar; as such, it’s been almost a year since I’ve seen (or done) stand-up comedy in the flesh and, randomly, I find that I miss it. That’s why it was such a joy to see comedian and podcaster Kenice Mobley do an honest-to-God tight five on Monday’s Tonight Show . Coming to you from the rooftop of the New York Comedy Club, Mobley cracked jokes about the struggles of being horny amid a pandemic (“The second all this is over, I’m making out with everyone, okay?”) and made some very funny and reasonable connections between slave ownership and naming your pet a human name, like Stephanie. As someone who’s done and watched their fair share of Zoom comedy shows, it was refreshing to see a talented up-and-coming comedian do their set with a real live audience, even if the audience response was a little lackluster at times. For the record, when a comedian asks you a question during a set, we want you to answer it. Don’t be shy! … [Read more...] about Rep. Jamaal Bowman Educating an Uninformed Mom on BLM Won Late Night