Alexandra Cooper has the power to fell dozens of relationships. Just 26 years old, Cooper is arguably the most successful woman in podcasting, drawing on her own experiences with men to dole out sex advice to millions of listeners on her weekly podcast, Call Her Daddy. “In one episode, I was jokingly like, ‘If he does this, break up with him,’” she says. “Then I got hundreds of girls DMing me being like, ‘O.K., I did it,’ and I’m like, ‘Wait, hold on, let’s make sure that’s the right choice for you specifically.’”
Cooper and I are sitting in the lounge of the Greenwich Hotel in New York City. She leans in conspiratorially as she tells the story, while keeping one wary but eager eye on a group of girls in the lobby who have either spotted her by happenstance or tracked her down based on clues from her frequent Instagram Stories. Though she’s the youngest of three, Cooper exudes a big-sister energy that attracts young women—mostly ages 18 to 26, according to her agent—and she cultivates these relationships: between recording sessions in her Los Angeles home, she’s often direct-messaging one of her 2.2 million Instagram followers, who call themselves the Daddy Gang, about their sexual quandaries and romantic woes. Recently, after a listener found out her boyfriend had cheated on her, Cooper advised her what to do in real time: “I’m like, get your stuff, call an Uber, get out of there, go to a friend’s place. I would have loved to have someone do that for me in high school or college.”
It’s that sway with a coveted demographic that recently earned her a $60 million three-year deal with Spotify, according to Variety. A Spotify spokesperson said the streaming service does not confirm contract figures but indicated the deal was part of a larger strategy to recruit big names, including the Obamas, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Dax Shepard and Joe Rogan. Unlike those other podcasters, however, Cooper was a relative unknown when she started her show. “If you look at the charts, there’s not a lot of people that have become big from a podcast that didn’t already have platforms,” she says. “Everyone was an actor, a singer, a comedian. So I take great pride in that.” The Interactive Advertising Bureau predicts that ad revenue for podcasting will exceed $1 billion this year and $2 billion by 2023, and Spotify has been expanding aggressively into this space. Call Her Daddy is airing there exclusively starting July 21, and Cooper is developing future projects with the company.
Now, as she moves into this rarified circle of podcasting elite, she’s trying to figure out how to advance a show that has, by her admission, sold itself with sex. “I’m a different person than I was when I started the show,” she says. “And I’m O.K. with that.” These days she’s still cracking jokes about oral sex and masturbation but also speaking more about mental health and inviting guests on the show to talk about sexual experiences that are different from her own as a straight white cisgender woman. She talks a lot about female empowerment, which she says has always been an undercurrent of the show, even if the salacious stories were what drew people in. But in recent episodes, Cooper has also given women pointers on how to ensure you arrive fresh-faced to to meet a guy after a plane ride and what to post on social media to make a man jealous, advice that’s often positioned as a way to boost women’s confidence—and to give them the answers they’re seeking—but which also suggests that a man’s approval or attention is the end goal.
As she tries to evolve and expand the brand, Cooper seems sure she can thread the needle and bring her fans along with her. “I want to be the biggest podcaster in the world,” she says. “I’ve got this great big deal now. I want to prove to the world that I am worth this.”
Call Her Daddy began in 2018 as a two-woman show: Cooper and her then roommate Sofia Franklyn would swap raunchy stories and offer up judgment-free counsel to both men and women. They’d advise someone on how to catch a cheater and advise a cheater on how to get away with an affair. The podcast shot from 12,000 downloads to 2 million in just the first two months.
Then, last year, their friendship and business partnership went up in flames during a contract renegotiation with Barstool Sports, the media company that previously hosted Call Her Daddy. The details, even for diehard members of the Daddy Gang, are murky. Both women believed they weren’t being paid enough. Both believed that was at least in part because they were women. Negotiations deteriorated. Who was to blame for what is hard to parse. Cooper decided to helm Call Her Daddy alone and Franklyn started her own show a few months later. Each woman has shared her perspective on her own podcast. But both have said that certain men wanted cuts of what they, as two women, had created together. “We were huge, but that drama just blew it the f-ck up in a way that I can’t even explain,” Franklyn said in a recent interview on the YouTube channel No Jumper. The disagreement became so filled with vitriol that Cooper had to ask her fans to stop bullying Franklyn. “I still have things that are lingering from that, and it happened a year ago,” Franklyn went on. For her part, Cooper felt so distrustful of men in the business world after her experience that she now says she wants to hire only women for her Spotify team.
It wasn’t just the falling-out with a friend that upset Cooper but the coverage of their breakup. “We were being deemed bitchy. We were having a ‘catfight.’ And I’m like, This is not a catfight. We’re talking about a multimillion-dollar brand that is on the line,” says Cooper. “If this were two men, that would not be the conversation.”
During the negotiation, Cooper posted a video on YouTube wearing relatively little makeup and explained the business behind the podcast. It went viral. “That YouTube video changed my life,” she says. “Before, people were like, ‘She’s the blond girl who talks about sex.’ When I put out the video, everyone was like, ‘Wait, this girl’s smart. She knows what she’s talking about with IP and trademarks and conversion rates.’”
Anyone who believed Cooper was all sex tales and mirror selfies had failed to recognize that she had, in a sense, been preparing for this job her whole life. She grew up in Pennsylvania with a psychologist mother who often emphasized EQ over IQ and a sports-TV producer father. She was encouraged to voice her feelings and spent much of her childhood with a camera in her hand. She’d type out the lines of The Devil Wears Prada as she watched, then hand out scripts to friends to playact in the basement.
Her love of media actually hampered her sex education. Her private school offered health class as an elective at the same time that it offered a video-production class, and Cooper lobbied the school to let her take the latter. “I never had a sex-ed class ever in my life,” she says. Instead of getting clinical instruction on things like human anatomy and reproduction, she turned to reality shows like Laguna Beach and The Hills to better understand women’s sex lives. It wasn’t until college, when Cooper took her first gender-studies course, that she realized “the thread between all those shows was that the women were the drama, that the women were so emotional.”
She played Division I soccer at Boston University, where she was a film-and-television major. One day, she recalls, a professor pulled her aside. “He said, ‘I just want to be very honest with you: You’re not going to be taken seriously in this industry because of the way you look. So you’re actually going to have to work a little bit harder,’” she says. “It was the first moment in my life where I was like, Should I dye my hair? Should I wear baggy clothes?” But when the same professor asked students to submit silent films anonymously for a class competition, he unwittingly chose hers as the winner.
It was during her sophomore year that Cooper met a Red Sox player she would prefer remain nameless. It was her first serious relationship. He was more than a decade older than her, had just won the World Series, drove a fancy car and had what she describes as “f-ck you money.” “I’m in his penthouse after my last class of the day before [soccer] practice, and all I knew was, ‘I don’t want to lose this.’ It was intoxicating,” she said in a recent episode of the podcast.
Read More: Why Are We All Having So Little Sex?
That mindset served as the germ of the idea for Call Her Daddy, though the podcast wouldn’t come until years later. Cooper found herself in a relationship with a drastic power imbalance, and she wanted to figure out how to be in control of the situation. “He opened my eyes to truly some of the most psychotic, intense games to be played in a relationship,” she told her listeners. “I think having that be my first experience so young in college f-cking with this dude who was way ahead of me in terms of dating and girls … it was like he put me through training camp, and I came out not really alive.” She would mimic the manipulation she had experienced in future relationships, and on the podcast describes a time in her life when she was flying across the country to meet up with famous athletes in hotel rooms. She pursued these relationships, she says, because the men were emotionally unavailable—and often literally unavailable because of travel.
When she was laid off from an ad-sales job in New York City shortly after graduating, and surviving on unemployment checks, she signed up for Seeking Arrangements, a service that allowed men to pay her for dates. “The goal was I never wanted to do anything with these men, it was just to go get drinks and dinner, and by the end of the night have enough money for rent,” she explained on the podcast. She always brought a friend to sit in the back of the bar to make sure nothing went awry. “We did crazy fun sh-t like that, though in retrospect, I want everyone to be careful. I don’t even know if you should be on that site.”
I ask her whether she feels any responsibility toward young fans who want to mimic her trajectory and seek out romances with celebrities, especially since she now realizes some of those relationships were toxic. “I would not change any of the things that happened to me,” she says. “Those hotel moments, or whatever, they all taught me something. And yes, of course, the caliber I was doing it, people maybe think of that as aspirational. But we all go through our sh-t. But you’re going to be able to figure it out.”
Cooper is hardly the first woman to talk candidly about sex—mainstream shows like Sex and the City and Girls have tackled taboo topics, as have Amy Schumer, Iliza Shlesinger, Ali Wong and Chelsea Handler in their comedy acts. (Handler was the first guest Cooper had on the show when Call Your Daddy became a Spotify exclusive.) Yet Cooper has built a direct relationship with fans like few others have. Podcasting is an intimate format. Listeners seek out the same voice every week, and the best shows can feel like you’re eavesdropping on a group of friends. That’s particularly true in Cooper’s case: she reveals explicit anecdotes that most people would share with only their closest confidants. “She’s so honest,” says Heaven Palffy, a 19-year-old student at Georgia State University who first bonded with her now roommate over Call Her Daddy and who is an active member of the fan Subreddit. “She doesn’t sugarcoat anything.”
Encouraging frank conversation among women may build a much needed community, but when Cooper’s agent, Oren Rosenbaum, head of emerging platforms at United Talent Agency, was shopping the show last year, it was sometimes hard to get her a meeting. “You see the title, you make an assumption about the show, you write her off as a super salacious good-looking girl who talks about sex, and say, ‘That’s not my thing,’ without spending one minute looking at the content,” he says. “But when they would take the meeting, they would immediately realize Alex is incredibly savvy and knows exactly what she’s doing.”
If society puts a woman like Cooper in a box, is she better off confounding assumptions about her or playing into them in order to succeed? The gender politics of Call Her Daddy is complicated. Browse her Instagram feed of bikini photos and it becomes difficult to disentangle how much those photos promote women’s body confidence and how much they capitalize on the male gaze. On a recent podcast, she talked about hiding her face from her boyfriend because she had not penciled in her eyebrows. Implicit is that idea that women have to look a certain way for their partners, even in the most intimate moments. “I was thinking about that even when I was saying it,” she admits. But she says she would have done the same thing if she were in a room of women. “That’s still an insecurity of mine. It really had nothing to do with men,” she says—an idea that’s debatable depending on who you think defines the standards of American beauty.
Then there’s the fact that Cooper grew her following with Barstool Sports, which has a reputation as a hotbed of toxic masculinity. Barstool’s founder Dave Portnoy said on the Call Her Daddy podcast that he realized in his first meeting with Cooper that “this is not just some blond bimbo.” (Barstool did not respond to multiple requests for an interview. The company is still handling Call Her Daddy’s merchandising.) Cooper says she does not agree with everything Portnoy says but has never personally had an issue with him. “People are always like, ‘Why didn’t you leave?’ Where did you want me to go?” she says. “Instead of running from the problems, I stayed. I fought until I could say one of the biggest shows on Barstool was led by a woman.”
On the podcast, Cooper executes a women’s version of locker-room talk, something she started thinking about in actual locker rooms during her soccer-playing days. “I would always see a divide,” she says. There were the girls who were comfortable with getting personal, and those who weren’t. “In one-on-one convos, they wanted to talk about it,” she says of the less forthcoming group. “They just didn’t know how—maybe because they didn’t have the experience I had as a child where my parents were like, Say whatever you want to say.”
Given that we engaged in a nationwide conversation about locker-room talk not long ago, when a tape surfaced of Donald Trump casting women as objects to be grabbed, I ask her if there isn’t an argument to be made that the locker-room talk she engages in gives men permission to do their own misogynist version of it? “I don’t think we should stray away from something just because men have historically been the ones to own it,” she says. “I want to own it and do it better.” She characterizes her approach as “respectful” and “elevated,” but those are not the first words that come to mind when you hear the crass language she uses in recounting her sexual encounters. To her credit, she doesn’t identify her partners, instead assigning them code names, but she says just enough that at times her fans scramble to Reddit to try to figure out who she is referring to.
Cooper says she wants her brand to be one of female empowerment, but she is also, at least for now, careful about how she talks about the topic. When I tell her the bio her representatives sent me marketed her new Spotify era as “feminist,” she looked at me skeptically. “Have I promoted it like that?” While she seems genuine in her desire to help women navigate power dynamics in relationships with men, she resists exploring why that power structure exists. She talks about the emergency contraception Plan B—with segments on who should pay for it or stories about men who insist on watching women take it after sex—but not about how difficult it is to acquire in some places. She insists her listeners don’t want her to talk politics. Beg her not to, in fact. “I’m a comedy podcast,” she says.
Her hesitancy extends beyond questions of women’s empowerment. I ask why she didn’t post a vaccine selfie and if she felt like she had an obligation to do so given her platform. “I don’t want to talk about my political beliefs,” she says. “And I actually haven’t seen a lot of people asking me to share that because I think my listeners know that’s not Alex’s lane.” The one exception has been Black Lives Matter, which she felt she couldn’t stay silent about last year, and so she used a segment of her podcast to point listeners to places to donate, books to read and documentaries to watch. As a white woman of privilege, she says, she wants to educate herself and be fully informed on any topic before she speaks about it. “But will I eventually maybe take more of a stance? Maybe. Maybe.”
The day I meet Cooper, she has just returned from the Hamptons. While other celebrities cloistered on Long Island, posting nary a selfie, Cooper celebrated the Fourth of July at the vacation hotspot by documenting every bar hop and hangover on social media. The gossip Instagram account Deux Moi posted about Cooper getting kicked out of a bar, only for her to drop a podcast episode days later, full of voice memos taken on the evening in question, to reveal her side of the story. It wound up an undramatic tale: the bouncer forgot to give Cooper and her friends the wristbands needed for the bar. Still, Page Six ran a piece heavily quoting from the podcast.
I check Reddit the morning of our meeting, and see that her followers have sleuthed out her hotel. So it’s no surprise when a 19-year-old fan approaches to request a selfie. I ask her why she likes the podcast. “It just gets me excited for the big, wide world,” she says.
The demographics of Call Her Daddy’s listenership have shifted over time: Cooper says the audience split was about 60-40 women-men back in 2018. Now, she estimates, nearly 90% of its listeners are women. Cooper has filled the podcast with merchandisable slogans, and women post pictures of themselves in hats, sweatshirts and crop tops with “I Am Unwell” and “Block Him” and “Daddy” to Instagram with the #DaddyGang hashtag, vying for the attention of Cooper, who calls herself Father Cooper and, since the split with Franklyn, a Single Father.
Kiyah Bryant, 27, and Memory Gamino, 25, roommates who live in Chicago, started listening to Call Her Daddy after the dissolution of Cooper and Franklyn’s relationship made news. Gambino says Cooper’s “a great storyteller,” but both women agree it’s sometimes hard to tell when she is joking and when she’s offering real advice. “She says the show is about women’s empowerment and mental health. Not that it’s not doing that, but I see it as girl talk,” Bryant says. “I hope the younger listeners aren’t too self-serious about it.” Cooper’s influence, she says, is clear: “Whatever she says, a million people are going to hear it.”
To Spotify, Cooper’s audience was exactly her appeal. “They’re devoted in a way that’s hard to find,” says Dawn Ostroff, chief content officer at Spotify. “They feel personally connected to her and they feel personally connected to one another.”
They’re also an important demographic. Keith Jopling, consulting director at entertainment analytics group MIDiA Research and a former Spotify employee, says that advertisers are interested in targeting young women because they’re outperforming their male counterparts academically and closing the gap financially in the U.S. Plus, they are more social media savvy than other demographics. “They’re curious and highly engaged,” he says. “And for Alex Cooper’s podcast, the sexuality, the openness and especially the talk of mental health is all super on-trend right now.”
Podcasts are a growing market, and Spotify is betting that podcasters capturing the zeitgeist will help grow its subscriber base. Fifty-seven percent of Internet users in the U.S. now listen to podcasts, according to a June report from investment firm Evercore, and YouTube and Spotify surpassed Apple as the most popular podcast services for the first time this year. Now, 76% of Spotify’s subscribers listen to podcasts.
The flashy acquisitions also aim to satisfy Spotify’s investors. As Jopling points out, the margins in the music business, where labels take a sizable cut of the artists’ earnings, are small, so Spotify has a chance to earn more money from podcasts. A few hits like Serial have penetrated the mainstream, but it’s still a burgeoning business. “It’s the Netflix model,” he says, referring to the streaming network’s signing massive deals with A-list producers like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy. “They want original content, and they want splashy original content. Instead of trying to promote an indie band, they can go Hollywood with Meghan Markle and Michelle Obama and score with the tentpole hits.” And while Cooper may not have started as a celebrity, she’s certainly become one.
It’s been a year of change for Cooper. She ended her partnership with Franklyn, moved out of their shared New York apartment, became an L.A. resident, put a label on her first serious romantic relationship since Call Her Daddy began, left Barstool and joined Spotify. “I’m changing. I can still be funny. And I can still look this way. But I want people to understand there’s so much more behind the brand than crazy sex jokes,” she says.
While her comments on her podcasts may sound off the cuff, they’re carefully thought out and scripted. When Call Her Daddy launched, Cooper says, she outlined every episode, prewriting the intros and outros, rerecording single words she believed had been said in the wrong cadence or anything that might be taken out of context, editing the show and devising promotion strategies on social media. “This did not happen by mistake,” she says. “Or because I fell into it.”
Whatever comes next will continue an evolution that she has already begun. She acknowledges that the podcast, by virtue of centering on her own life, has offered a limited point of view, but she’s trying to make it a little less about her. She’s been inviting relationship therapists to give advice and celebrities like Miley Cyrus to talk about pansexuality and sexual fluidity. She evangelizes therapy. “I’m almost trying to rewrite the past a little bit. Not fully. I stand by a lot of the things I said, but the journey over the next few years is really cementing what I want the brand to be, which is female empowerment.”
As she’s in a moment of reflection, I ask her if there’s any advice she regrets giving. “Fashion-wise, I used to be like, ‘High-waisted bikinis—guys, I just don’t think they’re cute,’” she says. “I regret saying that because I understand that for some women that’s what makes them feel comfortable.” Coming from a podcast host who once advised women to compensate for being unattractive by having sex like a porn star, remorse over bikini critiques may seem trivial, but for her listeners (and, presumably, the swimsuit industry), it wasn’t. “I got so many women DMing me that were like, ‘Thank you so much. Now I’m going to buy it,’” she says. “It just gave me chills. I have to always remember that the words have an impact on these women.”
Both she and Spotify are vague about their plans, though Cooper suggests the potential to do something interactive was part of the draw to the company. She does mention, however, that she’s toying with the idea of a sex-crimes podcast that will—somehow—strike a lighter tone. “This is the athlete in me,” she says. “I’m looking at the charts and am well aware people are obsessed with true crime right now. So I want in. I want to be at the top of everything I do.”
In the meantime, she is slowly bringing Father Cooper a little closer to Alex Cooper. Her show still has a performance element to it, but she’s not, for instance, pitching her voice up like she did in those very early episodes. “It wasn’t a character,” she says. “It was more just like an elevated version of myself.” True to form, she used the show to fret about whether leaving single life behind would mean a dearth of hookup stories. “I’ve started to have an internal crisis of what’s best for me and what’s best for the show,” she said on the podcast episode in which she revealed she had a boyfriend. “Of course it ran through my head, ’Are people not going to love the narrative that I have a boyfriend? … Is it going to be boring?’” She hesitated to define her relationship in case it would be bad for her brand. Now Cooper’s committed to Mr. Sexy Zoom Man (yes, that’s how she refers to him on the podcast) and says she’s trying to live her life authentically—which she hopes will, in turn, make for better content. “Now I feel like I’m way more myself,” she tells me. “I can be like, ‘I didn’t have sex this week. Sorry.’”
An Open letter to Vladimir Putin from Roger Waters
Recently I have been reading comments on social media, asking why I’ve written to Mrs Olena Zelenska but not Mr Vladimir Putin? Very good question, I’m glad you asked, here it is.
An open Letter to Vladimir Putin:
Dear President Putin, since The Russian Federation invaded Ukraine on February 24th this year I have tried to use my small influence to encourage a ceasefire and a diplomatic settlement that addresses the security needs of both Ukraine and The Russian Federation.
In that endeavor I have written two open letters to Mrs Olena Zelenska the the wife of the Ukrainian President. These letters are readily available on the internet. I am increasingly asked to write to you too, so here goes.
Firstly, would you like to see an end to this war? If you were to reply and say, “Yes please.” That would immediately make things a lot easier. If you were to come out and say, “Also the Russian Federation has no further territorial interest beyond the security of the Russian speaking populations of The Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk.”
That would help too.
I say this because, I know some people who think you want to overrun the whole of Europe, starting with Poland and the rest of the Baltic states.
If you do, f**k you, and we might as well all stop playing the desperately dangerous game of nuclear chicken that the hawks on both sides of the Atlantic seem so comfortable with, and have at it. Yup, just blow each other and the world to smithereens. The problem is, I have kids and grandkids, and so do most of my brothers and sisters all over the world and none of us would relish that outcome. So, please Mr Putin indulge me, and make us that assurance.
Alright back to the table, if I’ve read your previous speeches correctly, you would like to negotiate a state of neutrality for a sovereign neighboring Ukraine? Is that correct? Assuming such a peace could be negotiated it would have to include an absolutely binding agreement not to invade anyone ever again. I know, I know, the USA and NATO invade other sovereign countries at the drop of a hat, or for a few barrels of oil, but that doesn’t mean you should, your invasion of Ukraine took me completely by surprise, it was a heinous war of aggression, provoked or not.
When Mrs Zelenska replied to me via Twitter, I was very surprised and mightily moved, if you were to reply to me, I would mightily respect you for it, and take it as an honorable move in the right direction towards a sustainable peace.
Roger Waters is a musician
An Open letter to Mrs Olena Zelenska from Roger Waters
Dear Mrs Zelenska,
My heart bleeds for you and all the Ukrainian and Russian families, devastated by the terrible war in Ukraine. I’m in Kansas City, USA. Iread an article on BBC.com apparently taken from an interview you have already recorded for a program called Sunday with Laura Kuenssburg which broadcasted on the BBC on September 4th.
BBC.com quotes you as saying that if support for Ukraine is strong the crisis will be shorter. Hmmm? I guess that might depend on what you mean by “support for Ukraine?” If by “support for Ukraine,” you mean the West continuing to supply arms to the Kiev government’s armies, I fear you may be tragically mistaken. Throwing fuel, in the form of armaments, into a firefight, has never worked to shorten a war in the past, and it won’t work now, particularly because, in this case, most of the fuel is (a) being thrown into the fire from Washington DC, which is at a relatively safe distance from the conflagration, and (b) because the “fuel throwers” have already declared an interest in the war going on for as long as possible.
People like you and me actually want peace in Ukraine, don’t want the outcome to be that you have to fight to the last Ukrainian life – and possibly even, if the worst comes to the worst, to the last human life.
If we, instead, wish to achieve a different outcome we may have to seek a different route and that route may lie in your husband’s previously stated good intentions.
Yes, I mean the platform upon which he so laudably ran for the office of President of Ukraine, the platform upon which he won his historic landslide victory in the democratic election in 2019.
He stood on the election platform of the following promises.
To end the civil war in the East and bring peace to the Donbas and partial autonomy to Donetsk and Luhansk.
And to ratify and implement the rest of the body of the Minsk 2 agreements.
One can only assume that your husband’s electoral policies didn’t sit well with certain political factions in Kiev and that those factions persuaded your husband to diametrically change course ignoring the people’s mandate. Sadly, your old man agreed to those totalitarian, anti-democratic dismissals of the will of the Ukrainian people, and the forces of extreme nationalism that had lurked, malevolent, in the shadows, have, since then, ruled the Ukraine. They have, also since then, crossed any number of red lines that had been set out quite clearly over a number of years by your neighbors the Russian Federation and in consequence they, the extreme nationalists, have set your country on the path to this disastrous war.
I won’t go on.
If I’m wrong, please help me to understand how?
If I’m not wrong, please help me in my honest endeavors to persuade our leaders to stop the slaughter, the slaughter which serves only the interests of the ruling classes and extreme nationalists both here in the West, and in your beautiful country, at the expense of the rest of us ordinary people both here in the West, and in the Ukraine, and in fact ordinary people everywhere all over the world.
Might it not be better to demand the implementation of your husband’s election promises and put an end to this deadly war?
Roger Waters is a musician.
Bob Dylan Book on ‘Modern Song’ to Come Out in November
Bob Dylan has a new book coming out this fall, a collection of more than 60 essays about songs and songwriters he admires, from Stephen Foster to Elvis Costello.
The new book, “The Philosophy of Modern Song,” is his first release of new material since the acclaimed memoir “Chronicles, Volume One” was published in 2004. “The Philosophy of Modern Song” is scheduled for Nov. 8.
“He analyzes what he calls the trap of easy rhymes, breaks down how the addition of a single syllable can diminish a song, and even explains how bluegrass relates to heavy metal,” according to an announcement issued Tuesday by Simon & Schuster. “And while they (the essays) are ostensibly about music, they are really meditations and reflections on the human condition. Running throughout the book are nearly 150 carefully curated photos as well as a series of dream-like riffs that, taken together, resemble an epic poem.”
The 80-year-old singer-songwriter won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2016 and has continued to tour and record, his most recent album, “Rough and Rowdy Ways,” was released in 2020.
Jennifer Hudson wins top honor at 53rd NAACP Image Awards
Jennifer Hudson was named entertainer of the year at the 53rd annual NAACP Image Awards that highlighted works by entertainers and writers of color.
After Hudson accepted the award Saturday night, the singer-actor thanked the NAACP for inspiring “little girls like me.” She beat out Regina King, Lil Nas X, Megan Thee Stallion and Tiffany Haddish.
“I was just standing here thinking ’It was here – the NAACP Awards – where I watched so many legends and icons that inspired me,” said the Oscar and Grammy winner. “Now, I’m standing here holding an award like this. It’s because of seeing the Arethas, the Patti LaBelles, the Halle Berrys, all these legends right here on this stand that inspired me.”
Hudson played her idol Aretha Franklin in the film “Respect.” She was summoned to meet with Franklin in 2007 to portray The Queen of Soul shortly after Hudson won an Oscar for “Dreamgirls.”
“Respect” follows Franklin from childhood through the 1972 recording of the gospel album “Amazing Grace.”
“This is for Ms. Franklin’s legacy,” Hudson said after she earlier won best actress.
The awards ceremony aired live on BET in Los Angeles with some talent appearing in person while others watched virtually. There was no in-person audience.
Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, were honored with the President’s Award. He showed gratitude to the NAACP for welcoming him into their community before he spoke about those in Ukraine impacted by the ongoing Russian invasion.
“We would like to acknowledge the people of Ukraine who urgently need our continued support as a global community,” said Prince Harry while standing next to his wife. The couple was recognized for their outreach efforts in the U.S. and around the world.
“It’s safe to say I come from a very different background than my incredible wife,” he said. “Yet, our lives were brought together for a reason. We share a commitment to a life of service, a responsibility to confront injustice and a belief for the most overlooked that are the most important to listen to.”
Both talked about inspiring the next generation of activists through the NAACP-Archewell Digital Civil Rights Award. It’s a newly created award that acknowledges leaders creating change within the social justice and technology realm to advance civil and human rights.
On Friday, the inaugural award was given to Dr. Safiya Noble, who Meghan called a “visionary.”
Samuel L. Jackson received the NAACP Chairman’s Award for his public service. The ceremony highlighted his acting achievements and activism including a moment when he was expelled from Morehouse College in 1969 for for locking board members in a building for two days in protest of the school’s curriculum and governance.
The video mentioned Jackson’s efforts to raise awareness toward cancer checkup for men and autism. It also spotlighted him and his wife, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, who created a performing arts center at Spelman College.
Jackson quoted activist Marian Wright Edelman after he accepted his award.
“I was fortunate to grow up in a lot of different eras where I had the opportunity to use my voice and my legs and my body to fight for things that were right,” said the 73-year-old actor. He has appeared in more than 100 films including Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” and Spike Lee’s “Jungle Fever.”
Jackson also starred in several other films such as “Do the Right Thing,” “Unbreakable,” “Snakes on a Plane,” and multiple Marvel films including “The Avengers” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”
“We got it done,” he continued. “Right now, we still have things we need to do. The most important thing being the voting rights act. I know we can’t change that. But we can put our legs, our bodies and our voices to work to make sure that people do get out and vote – no matter what they do to keep us from doing it.”
The awards ceremony featured a performance by nine-time Grammy winner Mary J. Blige, who was a co-headliner at the Super Bowl halftime show this month. She performed her single “Good Morning Gorgeous” and “Love No Limit” from New York City’s Apollo Theater.
Anthony Anderson, who returned as the show’s host, won best actor in a comedy series. With his mother in attendance, the “black-ish” star screamed out “I told you I was going to win, Momma” before he ran on stage and chest bumped her.
“I would like to thank my momma for sleeping with my daddy and making me,” he jokingly said before turning serious. “I’m just a kid from Compton, California. If you dream and believe, anything is possible.”
Other top awards handed out include Will Smith who best actor for his role in “King Richard” and “The Harder They Fall,” which took home best film. Issa Rae won for best comedy series and Nikole Hannah-Jones was honored with the social justice impact award.
Sterling K. Brown shouted with joy when he won outstanding actor for a drama series. After Tiffany Haddish virtually presented him with the award, the “This Is Us” actor thanked the show’s network, NBC, before he joked about hanging out with Anderson’s mother.
“There’s way too many white people on my show for me to actually win this thing,” he said. “But I got to say ‘Thank you, Black people for voting for me. I really do appreciate it.’” AP
Three Members of K-pop BTS Diagnosed With Covid-19
Three members of the K-pop superstar group BTS have been infected with the coronavirus after returning from abroad, their management agency said.
RM and Jin were diagnosed with COVID-19 on Saturday evening, the Big Hit Music agency said in a statement. It earlier said another member, Suga, tested positive for the virus on Friday.
All three took their second jabs in August, the agency said.
The BTS is a seven-member boyband. The four other members are J-Hope, Jungkook, V and Jimin.
According to the agency, RM has exhibited no particular symptoms while Jin is showing mild symptoms including light fever and is undergoing self-treatment at home. The agency said Friday that Suga wasn’t exhibiting symptoms and was administering self-care at home in accordance with the guidelines of the health authorities.
RM had tested negative after returning from the United States earlier this month following his personal schedule there. But he was later diagnosed with the virus ahead of his scheduled release from self-quarantine, the agency said.
After returning to South Korea this month, Jin underwent PCR tests twice — upon arrival and later before his release from self-quarantine — and tested negative both times. But he had flu-like symptoms on Saturday afternoon before he took another PRC test that came back positive, the agency said. Media reports said he also traveled to the U.S.
Suga, who has had a number of personal engagements in the United States during the band’s official time off, was diagnosed with COVID-19 during quarantine after returning from the U.S., the agency said.
The agency said it’ll continue to provide support for the three members for their speedy recovery. It said it will cooperate with the requests and guidelines of the South Korean health authorities.
Since their debut in 2013, BTS has garnered global recognition for their self-produced music and activism, which includes giving a speech at the United Nations and publicly calling out anti-Asian racism. The band topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart three times in 2020, and was nominated for prominent music awards like Billboard Music Awards and MTV Video Music Awards. AP
Blanchett, del Toro on the femme fatale of ‘Nightmare Alley’
With a touch of Barbara Stanwyck, a sumptuous Art Deco office and a deadly shade of crimson lipstick, Cate Blanchett plays a femme fatale in Guillermo del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley” with cunning embrace and subversion of the film noir archetype.
If “Nightmare Alley” is del Toro’s lushly composed love letter to noir, the movie’s pulpy heart is in Blanchett’s conniving psychiatrist Lilith Ritter. She doesn’t enter the film until halfway through, when Bradley Cooper’s carnival huckster, Stan, catches her eye in his nightclub mind-reading act, and the two begin scheming together. But when she does turn up, Blanchett shifts the film’s fable-like frequency, conjuring deeper shades of mystery from the movie’s rich tapestry of shadow and fate.
“We tailored the part for her, but she fit in those clothes on the first try,” says del Toro.
In period films like “Carol,” “The Good German” and “The Aviator,” Blanchett has often evoked a classical kind of mid-century movie stardom. But in “Nightmare Alley,” an adaptation of the ’40s novel first made into Edmund Golding’s well-regarded 1947 film (currently streaming on the Criterion Channel), Blanchett slides into one of the movies’ most iconic types by trading less on her character’s seductiveness than on her razor-sharp intellect.
“What I thought was timely and dangerous about this story was it’s an exploration of the truth,” Blanchett said in an interview from Brighton, England. “Playing such a deliberately mysterious and ambiguous character I found really challenging because you have to know there’s a lot going on, but you’re never invited into exactly what she’s thinking.”
It’s one of two roles this December for Blanchett that revolve centrally around American deception and disinformation. There’s “Nightmare Alley,” currently in theaters, and Adam McKay’s “Don’t Look Up,” which arrives Friday on Netflix. In the latter, she plays a TV morning news anchor who cheerfully steers the news away from an impending asteroid doomsday and toward lighter subjects — like the sex appeal of Leonardo DiCaprio’s scientist.
There may be something timeless about Blanchett in “Nightmare Alley,” but to her, both films are characterized by their timeliness.
“It was such a privilege to be on a film set in this particular point in human history,” Blanchett says. “One should always be alive to the time in which what you’re making is going to be viewed. I never felt that more profoundly than making these two films.”
Blanchett and del Toro had discussed various projects for years but came together for the first time on “Nightmare Alley.” (She also voices a role in the director’s upcoming stop-motion animated “Pinocchio” — another film about truth telling.)
Del Toro, who calls his kinship with author James M. Cain “profound,” had long pined to pay tribute to noir. His affection for the genre runs deep. In his previous film, the best-picture Oscar-winner “The Shape of Water,” del Toro explicitly referenced Otto Preminger’s “Fallen Angel.” An avid collector, del Toro calls the portrait that hangs in Preminger’s “Laura” “the one prop I would kill to own.”
“I read all of (Raymond) Chandler right before I married,” says del Toro. “I’m not sure why.”
Del Toro scripted “Nightmare Alley” with film critic Kim Morgan, whom he wed earlier this year. His taste in noir leans toward seedy, rather than the more elegant varieties, and films that inhabit an audacious psychology.
“I like these characters, like Bette Davis in ‘Beyond the Forest,’ who are too smart for their environment,” he says. “I root for them not because I think they do things that are good but because I agree that they are left without recourse in what seems like a rigged game. That’s the noir that I find interesting.”
One touchstone for “Nightmare Alley” was 1949’s “Too Late for Tears,” a nasty noir starring Lizabeth Scott as a housewife who finds a bag full of cash. (Del Toro and Morgan screened it recently on TCM.) Tasting a chance for freedom from her husband and more, Scott’s character clings to the money. Del Toro and Morgan envisioned Lilith similarly as operating within a male-controlled society.
“Frankly, it’s the character I was completely passionate about creating with Cate,” he says. “She’s almost like an avenger. We said: Whatever happened to her in the past, she’s sort of righting the wrongs.”
To Blanchett, the term femme fatale suggests a diabolical woman — “like a siren seeking to draw the male character onto the rocks to destroy them for no reason apart from they have diabolical urges.”
Blanchett and del Toro instead played with subtle gradations in Lilith’s motives. Blanchett thought one line of dialogue was too straightforward, and del Toro agreed in cutting it. But he still quotes the speech a little ruefully: “Do you know what it is for a woman like me to grow up in a town where the smartest man is just a stupid beast?”
“Even though there’s nothing explicit that Lilith says about her background, there’s a sense that she’s damaged goods from the system, that she wants to burn down and she’s going to use Stan to do it,” says Blanchett. “Her faith in him and the men who run the system is nonexistent.”
Del Toro shot Blanchett’s scenes with Cooper, he says, like three 5-10-minute miniature plays. Inside Lilith’s ornate, wood-paneled office, the two con artists dance — a shifting drama told through blocking and camera movement. It’s a chess game that Lilith, inevitably, will win. AP
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