Every week, I shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.
Adele: Inside her private life and triumphant return (11/3/15, Rolling Stone): I usually resist articles like these.
I usually possess no interest in reading them.
I usually skip profiles of musicians because they seem so phony: carefully stage-managed attempts by pop stars to appear “real” and “authentic”, promoted by writers and magazines who claim to have received earth-shattering revelations. I clicked on this article, a Rolling Stone cover story about Adele, with low expectations (despite a major affection for Adele’s music).
I was wrong.
Brian Hiatt writes a piece that is compelling from start to finish, thanks in large part to its subject. Adele holds back little and swears a lot, but she mostly projects an image free of pretense, showing a naked acknowledgement of the many puppet strings of the music industry. Whereas many pop stars, in articles like these, reflect on more gossipy drama, Adele discusses motherhood, sexism, and journalism. Hiatt composes a piece that sets up these moments and flows beautifully from quote to quote.
Hotline hello (11/4/15, Switched on Pop): Speaking of Adele, one might not initially notice many commonalities between her comeback song, “Hello”, and the other most popular song in the country, “Hotline Bling” by Drake.
But a pair of podcast hosts did, and they turned it into audio gold.
Last Wednesday I shouted out Switched on Pop as a new favorite podcast in my subscriptions. That same day, hosts Charlie Harding and Nate Sloan unveiled their latest episode, in which they break down the similarities between “Hello” and “Hotline Bling”. It is entertaining and informative; Harding and Sloan have a way of educating their listeners about pop hits without ruining the enjoyment of those songs.
In this case, you might even enjoy Adele and Drake more after hearing about how much their hits have in common.
Taylor Swift and Drake, friendship vs. partnership (11/6/15, New York Times): And if you enjoy a podcast that deep-dives into Drake and Adele, perhaps you might also play a podcast that deep-dives into Drake and Taylor Swift?
The New York Times’ Music Popcast is similar to Switched on Pop, except its hosts — Times writers Ben Ratliff and Jon Caramanica — focus not just on songs’ compositions but on their artists’ processes and images. In this case, Ratliff and Caramanica put forth a fascinating analysis on how Swift and Drake have each used friendships, or alliances, to their respective benefits.
Sometimes these episodes seem to dive a little too deep, but at their best, they feel like think-pieces in audio form. Ratliff and Caramanica are both gifted writers who could probably discuss their topics and theories for days; they condense that passion, in this episode, into 35 minutes of entertaining conversation.
Have a suggestion for “3 Great Stories of the Week”? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.