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.
Hit charade (October 2015, The Atlantic): How much do you want to know about how a chef prepares your meal? What about how a litany of behind-the-scenes employees prepare your favorite songs?
The answers to the latter come from this absorbing article, written by Nathaniel Rich for The Atlantic (with a major hat-tip to author John Seabrook, whose book The Song Machine supplies much of Rich’s material). With no concern for spoiling or party-pooping, Rich dives into the factories that produce, with seeming cold-hearted machinery, an increasing number of the hits that grace the Billboard charts.
Much of this story’s success derives from its thoroughness; Rich, through Seabrook, dives into the subject with great detail. It shows in paragraphs like this, including some wit from a writer basically saying Santa Claus isn’t real:
Pop hitmakers frequently flirt with plagiarism, with good reason: Audiences embrace familiar sounds. Sameness sells. Dr. Luke in particular has been accused repeatedly of copyright infringement. His defense: “You don’t get sued for being similar. It needs to be the same thing.” (Dr. Luke does get sued for being similar, and quite often; he has also countersued for defamation.) Complicating the question of originality is the fact that only melodies, not beats, can be copyrighted. This means a producer can sell one beat to multiple artists.
War and pizza (10/27/15, 99% Invisible): Who knew the microwave became popular because of the military?
This episode of 99% Invisible, expertly helmed by Roman Mars and reported by Tina Antolini, handles the metaphor of “learning how the steak is made” in much more literal terms. Using the podcast’s trademark storytelling by constantly layering details on top of each other, Mars and Antolini detail the many ways in which the military has often been at the forefront of food technology.
I won’t lie: some of the stuff sounds kind of unappealing. But for a soldier with much more limited access to food, the provisions are undoubtedly appreciated. Mars and Antolini, through this episode, make you appreciate them as well.
One-legged kicking coach inspires high school team (10/28/15, KARE-TV): If this story doesn’t win all kinds of awards next year, I will be stunned.
KARE-TV storyteller extraordinaire Boyd Huppert has done it again, this time thanks largely to the photography of editing of Kevin Sullivan. The visuals here are just stunning, from the blink-and-you-miss-them angles of football practice to the picturesque landscapes of Friday night football. They provide, for this story, a gorgeous aesthetic.
Huppert, as always, brings the piece’s soul.
He unfolds the story of a man named Larry, with one arm and one leg, who coaches kicking for a local high school football team. Huppert delivers the story with touching turns of phrase and that sing-song, lullaby-like cadence that immediately hooks a viewer.
This is beautiful work by all involved.
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