ANNOUNCING BLOOMSBURY MINICAST: A SHORT SERIES WITH BIG IDEAS

Bloomsbury Minicast is now available. For this podcast miniseries, we invite Bloomsbury authors to discuss the politics embedded in their work, analyzing the subtle or not so subtle political qualities therein. Connections between the popular and the political, the national and the global, are forged in discussion of interdisciplinary books. Listen to our first episode featuring author Nina Jankowicz speaking about the politics discussed in her book How to Lose the Information War. And stay tuned for a new episode each week this fall! Politics are omnipresent. Politics affect everyone,…

Video Vault: Blondie, “Hanging On The Telephone”

Image of Blondie

With summer now a hazy memory and October dragging into its 17th week, it is fitting to reflect on the moody album once described by Rolling Stone’s Arion Berger as “romantic fatalism”: Blondie’s Parallel Lines. I have been pining for the glamorous while exclusively dressing in well-worn athletic wear and never leaving home. Debbie Harry’s vocals, accompanied by a reading of Kembrew McLeod’s “gloriously revisionist history” (MTV News) of this album, offer a refreshing dose of allure.

The Ten Most Historically Important Tribute Albums

Ray Padgett on the covers that shaped the tribute album as we know it today I write about a lot of tribute albums in my book; in the index, the “tribute albums” section runs almost three pages. Most of them I like, and my team at Cover Me is finalizing a separate list of the 50 Best Tribute Albums Ever, to go up next week (and even capping it at 50 required a lot of painful cuts). But there’s another way to look at the history of tribute albums other…

What did Leonard Cohen himself think of the covers on I’m Your Fan?

Ray Padgett on how Cohen viewed the tribute albums he inspired From Judy Collins in the ‘60s through I’m Your Fan and Jeff Buckley in the ‘90s through today, covers have played an enormous role in exposing audiences to Leonard Cohen’s songs. “I was born with the gift of a golden voice,” he sang on “Tower of Song,” and everyone knew it was a joke; in concert, the audience would dutifully laugh and clap at that line every night. It took others to spread his songs far wider than he…

One of Hal Willner’s Final Interviews

Ray Padgett in conversation with the acclaimed music producer who brought tribute albums to life When I decided to write a book about tribute albums, I knew I needed to speak with Hal Willner. He all but singlehandedly invented the format in the ‘80s, though, as he was quick to point out, others made it bigger in the ‘90s. He continued producing tribute albums on and off until his tragic death from COVID-19 earlier this year. His latest, a tribute to Marc Bolan of T. Rex which he was extremely…

Why I Wrote a Book About I’m Your Fan

Ray Padgett, a leading expert on cover songs, on his 33 1/3 about Leonard Cohen and the power of the tribute album Bob Dylan got me into cover songs. But it wasn’t one of the million covers of his own songs that did it, nor was it a cover he performed himself. It was a cover he DJ’d. For a few years in the 2000s, Dylan hosted an XM Radio show called Theme Time Radio Hour. In one of the first episodes, he played a version of the George Gershwin…

Virtual ‘Realities’ in The Velvet Rope

Janet Jackson records image

Ayanna Dozier on Janet Jackson, cyber culture, and more. Technophilia and Technophobia were the rage in the late 1990s. As the approaching new millennia loomed on the horizon, society was facing a technological expansion hitherto experienced before. The internet transformed not only our communicative habits but our awareness of space and time itself, producing what scholar John B. Thompson writes as a space-time distanciation (Thompson 1995). This concept refers to how time, regardless of geographic location, now feels as if it operates on a global simultaneity; we feel like we…

Quite the Scandal: The Velvet Rope Tour Poster

Ayanna Dozier on a tour poster that sparked sexist backlash During early press for The Velvet Rope, Janet emphasized that a tour would follow the album, leaving the public to anticipate a cornucopia of images and media text that would extend the listener’s experience with the album. While the press were on alert for the tour dates and the promotional images to follow, nothing could have prepared them for the official poster to announce the Spring 1998 tour. The image was shot by her then husband, René Elizondo Jr. for…

Sex Before and After The Velvet Rope on janet. and All for You

Ayanna Dozier on Janet Jackson and Black women’s sexuality In the infamous Rolling Stone interview that accompanied the promotion of 1993 album, janet., Janet got “real” about sex. In conversation with interviewer David Ritz, Janet discussed the confusion that some of her fans might have about the way in which she addresses her sexual liberation on that album, especially as this was the same woman who infamously suggested “to wait awhile, before we go too far.” She states in that interview that at the age of twenty-seven the album was…

Why I Wrote About Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope

Ayanna Dozier on what The Velvet Rope says about power, sexual fluidity, and respectability politics The Velvet Rope has been with me since its release nearly twenty-three years ago in October of 1997. For most of that time, I had no intention to write about my admiration for the album. It was simply a record that I would fervently remind colleagues and friends of as time passed. But as time passed, I bore witness to the changes in Janet’s career. In the 1990s through the early 2000s, Janet was the…