Sunday Brunch Read: The Nation That Janet Jackson Built

by Ellen Mayer // @EllenRebeccaM

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This month marks the 25th anniversary of Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814. The album was hugely popular in its time, setting the record for most Top 10 singles within a single album (and breaking her brother Michael’s previous record). But, like much of Jackson’s career, the album seems to have faded out of cultural consciousness.

Rhythm Nation was a transformative work that arrived at a transformative moment. Released in 1989 — the year of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, protests at Tiananmen Square, and the fall of the Berlin Wall — its sounds, visuals, and messaging spoke to a generation in transition, at once empowered and restless. The Reagan Era was over. But the cultural anxiety about what was next was palpable.

Writing for the Atlantic, Joe Vogel reminds us what made Rhythm Nation so good, and why we should care. Read the whole thing here.

Encore: A Piano Player

On this Encore: More from my interview with Cristin Milioti about her musical background and her aversion to music lessons as a kid. If you haven’t listened to the full “Piano Player” episode, you might want to do it first.

We’ll be back with a new episode next week!

Sunday Brunch Read: Ace Frehley Gives Us a Ride Around His Old Bronx Stomping Grounds

by Alex Kapelman // @alexkapelman

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In this Sunday brunch read, KISS’s Ace Frehley hits the town with the Village Voice:

Pulling up to his old apartment house on Marion Avenue near 201st Street, Frehley, even behind the sunglasses and cracking-wise demeanor, is clearly moved. From the sidewalk, he points up to the second floor. “I used to put my amp in that window,” he recalls, as we sneak into the six-story brick building for a look-see when two kids emerge.

Read the whole thing here.

7. Piano Player

In 2007, there was a little Irish film called Once that starred Glen Hansard from the band The Frames and musician Markéta Irglová. If you never saw it, you might remember when it won the academy award for best song the next year. Glen and Marketa talked about the importance of dreaming big and taking chances and making art.

Three years later, Once was being adapted for the stage and there was an actress named Cristin Milioti. Cristin is now a celebrated Broadway actress, she played “The Mother” in How I Met Your Mother, and stars in a new NBC show that starts up in a couple weeks. But back in February 2011, she was auditioning for the stage version of Once and she wanted the part of the female lead, who is simply named “Girl” in the show. But there was a huge problem. “Girl” is a piano player, a highly skilled one who is supposed to have played since she was little. And Cristin was not.

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Sunday Brunch Read: All Roads Lead to Willie Nelson

by Alex Kapelman // @alexkapelman

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Rolling Stone has a massive profile of Willie Nelson this week. It goes in depth — they call it their “definitive profile” of the music and cultural legend — about his life, career, and, of course, marijuana.

"Weed is good for you," [Nelson] says. "Jesus said one time that it’s not what you put in your mouth, it’s what comes out of your mouth. I saw the other day that [medical] weed is legal in Israel – there’s an old-folks home there, and all these old men were walking around with bongs and shit. Fuck! They got it figured out before we did!"

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