The World Has Gone Mad Today

Many of Cole Porter’s lyrics are incredibly – even savagely – topical. The songs of Anything Goes reference the latest news, gossip, pop culture, and celebrity sightings of 1934, and yet in a way that’s fully organic to the characters and story. There’s no question Reno Sweeney and Billy Crocker would be making jokes about this stuff.

From our vantage point today, close to a century later, we’re apt to miss some of that wicked social satire, because so many of the original references are now obscure to us. So subsequent revivals have tinkered a lot with the lyrics to “You’re the Top” and “Anything Goes,” in particular, worried that contemporary audiences won’t get all the original references (they won’t), and as a result, exploring these lyrics sometimes requires a lot of digging.

But this kind of research is so much fun.

This show brilliantly captures some of America’s craziest cultural impulses, most of which are very little different today from what they were in 1934. Anything Goes wasn’t really telling a love story; it was telling the story of America awkwardly struggling with the huge social and technological changes that were transforming our nation from a rural culture to an urban one, and consequently a more diverse and socially liberal one; and from a social-status culture to one based on economic status.

Though it was surely unintentional, I could argue that [Spoiler Alert] Reno marrying Evelyn is a clear metaphor for the way, for the first time in the 20s and 30s, Americans routinely combined “low culture” and “high culture.” In fact that mashup essentially defines American musical comedy.

Today, some frightened conservatives long to return to a mythical, nonexistent 1950s that’s whiter, more Christian, and less complicated; and so too did folks in the 1930s fear the massive changes reshaping America. This show, its title, and its title song are all about that.

Every version of the show starts the title song the same way.

Times have changed,
And we’ve often rewound the clock,
Since the Puritans got a shock,
When they landed on Plymouth Rock.
If today,
Any shock they should try to stem,
‘Stead of landing on Plymouth Rock,
Plymouth Rock would land on them.

It’s a double joke, built on the two meanings of land, and comically comparing the relative shocks of finding the New World, versus those same 17th-century pilgrims finding the wild nightlife of 1934 New York. Kinda sounds like a Bill & Ted sequel.

There’s actually a lot going on here. The times do change and when they do, some people fear that change, and they react by trying to turn us back to an earlier era (“we’ve often rewound the clock”), a time perceived to be more innocent, more faithful, more moral. With Ronald Reagan and some of the conservative movement today, the 1960s so freaked them out, that ever since then they’ve been trying to turn American back to the 1950s. The same thing happened in the 1920s and 30s.

It’s telling that Porter invokes the Puritans – the symbol of social ultra-conservatism – as a comic measure of the wild times we find ourselves in “now.” No, the Puritan’s likely would not have been big fans of speakeasies or The Ziegfeld Follies

As the first verse of the song begins, we set up this comparison. Once upon a time, so long ago that the days are not just old, but “olden,” America was really moral. Except that the use of the archaic “olden” (Porter originally used “former” in that spot), and the extremity of just a “glimpse” being shocking, gives the whole thing a layer of smartass irony. Who’d want to live in “olden days”…?

In olden days a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking,
But now, God knows,
Anything Goes.

Women’s modesty was a big issue as skirts got shorter, arms got bared, and dresses got more form-fitting. The androgynous, body-disguising, chest-flattening fashions of the 20s were gone. Throughout history, there’s always been this weird impulse to hide women’s bodies for fear men can’t control their sexual urges (this is what the final scene of Grease is about). It’s only now that we’re concluding it’s the men who need to control themselves.

I think we’ve become numb to the title phrase of this song. It’s just too ubiquitous, too embedded in our culture. But think about that phrase – anything goes, anything is okay, nothing is off limits, there are no rules, no norms, no constraints anymore.

Good authors too, who once knew better words,
Now only use four letter words
Writing prose,
Anything Goes.

What was Porter talking about here?

James Joyce’s 1922 masterpiece Ulysses, was banned in England till 1930, and the United States Post Office reportedly burned any copies of the book they found. Finally, in 1933 (a year before Anything Goes opened), the case of Ulysses was re-opened, and the Supreme Court ruled that because the book was not “pornographic” it could not be banned or censored.

D.H. Lawrence’s 1928 novel Lady Chatterly’s Lover, about an aristocratic lady who has a sexual affair with her groundskeeper was also banned over its frank discussion of sex (and the importance of orgasm), and its frequent use of the words fuck and cunt. One U.S. Senator exclaimed, “I’ve not taken ten minutes on Lady Chatterley’s Lover, outside of looking at its opening pages. It is most damnable! It is written by a man with a diseased mind and a soul so black that he would obscure even the darkness of hell!”

Erskine Caldwell’s 1933 novel God’s Little Acre was about a dysfunctional farming family in Georgia obsessed with sex and wealth. The novel’s sexual themes were so controversial that the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice asked a New York state court to censor it.

In 1934, Henry Miller’s semi-autobiographical novel of his sexual escapades in Paris, Tropic of Cancer, with its frequent use of the word cunt, was banned in the United States shortly after its first publication in France. The ACLU tried to sue the U.S. government, but lost its case. Finally, when the novel was published in 1961, sixty obscenity cases were brought in twenty-one different states. Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Michael Musmanno wrote that Cancer is “not a book. It is a cesspool, an open sewer, a pit of putrefaction, a slimy gathering of all that is rotten in the debris of human depravity.” Porter wasn’t kidding about four-letter words. This really was a sea change in popular literature.

"Anything Goes” has three bridges, each with a different purpose. The first lists examples of “immoral” acts which lead, in the second bridge, to a general moral chaos, which leads, in the third bridge, to how crazy that chaos makes us all. It’s an ironic jab at all the experts of the time warning about the dangers of Modernity.

The song’s first bridge lists a bunch of morally sketchy things that “you” (so interesting to put this in the second person!) might enjoy if you live a Fast Life, things which will no longer be off limits in our topsy-turvy culture…

If driving fast cars you like,
If low bars you like,
If old hymns you like,
If bare limbs you like,
If Mae West you like
Or me undressed you like,
Why, nobody will oppose.

When every night,
The set that’s smart is
In nudist parties
In studios,
Anything Goes.

Before we get to the content, let’s look at the craft here. The bridge has seven lines and five of them start with “if,” and six of them end with “you like” – and in between an AABBCC rhyme scheme. That’s some really skillful writing. Then we return to the verse, and of those six lines, three start with “in,” and those same three lines all have an “-ood” in the middle of the line. But also “smart is” makes a kind of subliminal rhyme with “parties,” and to top it all off, the last line of the bridge rhymes with the last two lines of the verse that follows it.

In terms of content, much of this lyric references current events. In 1930, twelve states still did not have any speed limits; it was an automobile wild west.

The “low bars” (i.e., speakeasies) of Prohibition were disappearing by the time Anything Goes opened, a year after the repeal of Prohibition. The reference is a joke on the two meanings of the word low. Here the word means disreputable, but also, literally lower in height. According to a 1946 Life magazine article, before Prohibition, bars were 46-47 inches high, but during and after Prohibition, so many more women were drinking that they lowered many bars to 43 inches.

The “old hymns” reference may be a joke about how many hymns were set to the music of drinking songs because those tunes were already popular. Why else would liking old hymns be subversive like the rest of the items in this list? Maybe the joke here is just that “you” like drinking in taverns, where they sing old hymns that have been converted into drinking songs.

Of course, “bare limbs” were still pretty new in women’s fashion and still considered shocking by some. Mae West was still a new movie star in 1934, but she already had been writing plays, starring in them, and getting arrested for her plays’ “obscenity.” After the Hollywood Production Code was established in 1933, West simply perfected the double entente, with famous lines like “When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better.”

Nudism / naturism spread throughout Europe in the 1920s and got to America in the 1930s, due in part to sociologist, political theorist, and liberal social critic Maurice Parmelee’s 1931 book Nudism in Modern Life. Also, “the set that’s smart” refers to the phrase “The Smart Set,” meaning the cultural elite, usually fashionable and wealthy. It was also the title of a literary magazine that published from 1900-1930.

The song’s second bridge is more general than the first, more a catalog of the fallout. Here, the world is just fucked up, backwards, upside-down, disorienting…

The world has gone mad today
And good’s bad today,
And black’s white today,
And day’s night today,
And that gent today
You gave a cent today
Once had several chateaus.

When folks who still can ride in jitneys
Find out Vanderbilts and Whitneys
Lack baby clo’es,
Anything goes.

No revival has used those last four lines because no one would understand them today. Jitneys were independent taxi cabs or small buses, so the joke is that the middle-class folks who can still afford to take a cab, here in the middle of the Depression, would be shocked to find out that some of the richest Americans (in this case, the Vanderbilt and Whitney families) had lost nearly everything – due to the creation of income and estate taxes not too long before, the effects of the Depression, and the weirdly profligate spending of the Vanderbilts and others. The “baby clothes” might refer to Gloria Vanderbuilt, who was a child at the time. The Whitneys went broke through corruption.

The third bridge of “Anything Goes” returns to the second person – you – acknowledging everybody’s feeling that the world has gone crazy and it’s making us all crazy. Much like right now. And notice this very early critique of the mainstream media…

Just think of those shocks you’ve got
And those knocks you’ve got
And those blues you’ve got
From the news you’ve got,
And those pains you’ve got
(If any brains you’ve got)
From those little radios.

According to the PBS website:

For the radio, the 1930s was a golden age. At the start of the decade 12 million American households owned a radio, and by 1939 this total had exploded to more than 28 million. But why was this ‘talking telegram’ so popular?

As technology improved radios became smaller and cheaper [hence the “little” radios]. They became the central piece of furniture in the average family’s living room, with parents and children alike, crowding around the set to hear the latest installment of their favorite show.

News broadcasts also influenced the way the public experienced current affairs. When the Hindenburg airship exploded in 1937, reporter Herb Morrison was on the scene, recording the events to be broadcast the following day. But above all the radio provided a way to communicate like never before. Franklin Roosevelt’s ‘fireside chats’ helped the population feel closer to their president than ever.

There’s yet another bridge section, with an early lyric that was not used in 1934 but restored for the 1987 revival:

If saying your pray’rs you like,
If green pears you like,
If old chairs you like,
If backstairs you like,
If love affairs you like
With young bears you like,
Why nobody will oppose.

And yes, “young bears” meant then what it means now; it’s a gay reference that a fair number of New York theatre-goers, “the smart set,” probably had heard. “Backstairs” was surely a reference to brothels or speakeasies. But what of these other lines? Though several of these references seem oddly random, two of my friends, Mark Cummings and Michael Dale, suggest that the whole stanza is about acceptance of varying sexual tastes, and I think they’re right. After all, anything goes. We know Porter loved to joke in code…

If saying your pray’rs you like = Good Girls
If green pears you like = Young Girls, Virgins
If old chairs you like = Older Women
If backstairs you like = Hookers (or Servants?)
If love affairs you like
With young bears you like = Young Men
Why nobody will oppose.

In other words, Free Love. That does make a certain Porter-esque sense, both in terms of his writing and his biography. With that in mind, this sure does feel like Cole’s quirky take on “chacun à son goût.” And if we’re right about this, that may explain why it was cut in 1934…

This last version of the bridge was written by P.G. Wodehouse for the first London production, and it’s been used in all the revivals, because so much of the original 1934 lyric is unusable today.

When grandmama whose age is eighty
In night clubs is getting matey
With gigolos,
Anything Goes.
When mothers pack and leave poor father
Because they decide they’d rather
Be tennis pros,
Anything Goes.

But this lyric is way too British for this show and these characters. Americans don’t use the word “matey” because we don’t use “mate” to mean friend; and most Americans don’t say, “grandmama.” Also in America, “father” and “rather” do not rhyme. Also, Porter rarely inverted sentences as awkwardly as these first two lines. Still, this stanza does get at another cultural phenomenon of the 1930s.

While the trend up to that point had been for the divorce rate to increase, that got interrupted in the early 1930s. Due to the Depression, many couples stayed together because they couldn’t afford divorce. It wasn’t until the unemployment rate went down that the increasing divorce rate trend continued. Unemployment was at its highest in 1933, and as the unemployment rate declined throughout the 30s, the divorce rate increased. At the same time, women’s tennis greatly increased in popularity. While Cole may be suggesting a connection – a lesbian joke? – I am not.

This cheat rhyme was written for the Act I finale of the 1962 revival:

They think he’s gangster number one,
So they’ve made him their favorite son,
And that goes to show.
Anything Goes!
Anything, Anything, Anything Goes!

But “show” doesn’t rhyme with “goes”! A different alternate Porter lyric I found corrects the bad rhyme with “And that plot twist shows…” Like I said, there is no single definitive version of this show or most of its songs.

Much of the original 1934 lyric for “Anything Goes” would just baffle today’s audiences, with references to Mrs. Ned McLean (a socialite who was the last private owner of the Hope Diamond), Eleanor Roosevelt’s radio broadcasts sponsored by Simmons mattresses, extravagant Broadway producer Max Gordon, movie studio head Sam Goldwyn, Ukrainian movie star Anna Sten, actor and socialite Lady Mendl, and others.

When Anything Goes first opened, the title song worked because it reinforced a feeling the audience already had – that the world is spinning madly out of control, and that sometimes that can be fun. (Or as Little Red might put it, “excited and scared.”) As proof of the show’s thesis, the songs “Anything Goes” and “You’re the Top” (the latter mocking our love affair with celebrities and brand names), offer up example after example ripped from the headlines (and society pages) of 1934. Today when we see Anything Goes, all those examples suggest the craziness in 2018, without literally referencing any of it. But it still works. Crazy is crazy.

In 1934, Americans were grappling with the massive, disorienting changes our country was going through. It did feel to many American as if all the rules had been ripped up, that literally anything goes. Today in 2018, we’re grappling with much the same thing, here in the early days of the Digital Age, at the start of huge demographic and social changes in America, when the very nature of truth is up for debate. Life today is just as crazy as it was in Reno Sweeney’s America, maybe crazier. Today, all these references may serve only as metaphors, but still pretty potent ones.

I’ve been telling people that the reason “the bad boy of musical theatre” decided to produce Anything Goes is that it’s built on two central themes that fit our kind of work perfectly – the American habit of making religion into show business and criminals into celebrities. But now, after taking such a deep dive into the title song, I realize those two themes are just the results of the show’s true central premise, which is literally “anything goes” – the world is upside-down.

Every element of this story is testament to this one idea. All the couples are wrongly coupled at first, the clergyman gets arrested and the gangster gets a cruise, the passengers deify a fake murderer, the real gangster is as nervous as a fucking cat, the worldly-wise speakeasy hostess falls for the dorky Englishman… Everything is up for grabs. None of the rules apply. We’re in Shakespeare’s woods.

And anything goes!

Now, the next time somebody tells you Anything Goes is just silly and mindless, I give you permission to tell them to shut the fuck up.

Long Live the Musical!
from The Bad Boy of Musical Theatre


I’ve Been a Sinner, I’ve Been a Scamp

A lot of musical theatre fans love Anything Goes, but consider it a guilty pleasure, the artsy equivalent of Mississippi mud cake, just a mindless, old-fashioned musical comedy confection. They register great surprise when I describe it as a sharp satire.

But it is.

Musical comedy had dealt in gentle social satire since the beginning, but Anything Goes was the first successful Broadway musical comedy to build its story on two parallel threads of fierce, pointed satire. This time the plot came out of the satirical agenda, rather than the satire being just a fun side joke.

I’ve written a lot about the neo musical comedy, which emerged in the 1990s as one of the dominant musical theatre forms. A neo musical comedy involves the devices and conventions – and usually the full-out joy – of old-fashioned musical comedy, but with a more socio-political, more ironic, and often more subversive point of view. Think of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Bat Boy, Urinetown, Heathers, Something Rotten, The Scottsboro Boys, Cry-Baby; but there were a few examples even earlier, like Little Shop of Horrors in 1982, The Cradle Will Rock in 1937, and really, The Threepenny Opera in 1928.

And arguably, Anything Goes in 1934. Anything Goes was a dead-on satirical chronicle of That Moment… which also happen to be This Moment.

Maybe we’re just too used to Anything Goes at this point, to see it as it once was. But this is a show that includes a mock religious hymn to a (supposed) murderer, skeet shooting with a machine gun, a love song that mentions snorting coke, and a parody religious revival meeting featuring a song with a slyly sexual hook line. If you doubt the double entendre of “Blow Gabriel, Blow,” this is the same songwriter who wrote in the title song, “If love affairs you like with young bears you like…” That meant then what it means today. And notice in the scene leading up to the song, most of the confessions are sexual. Reno is presented as an explicitly sexual presence from the beginning, so her spot as lead singer / evangelist, and with her randy angels as back-up, it’s hard not to read the song as sexual double entendre.

In comic counterpoint to that, the language of the “Blow, Gabriel” lyric is Religious Symbolism as a Second Language. This is an amateur, or more to the point, a religious outsider, leading this revival meeting – with the help of the fake-minister “Dr. Moon.” It’s obvious neither of them are really believers, and that doesn’t seem to bother the crowd a bit.

And by the way, why do we want Gabriel to blow his horn? The Bible says that “an archangel with the trumpet of God” will announce the Second Coming, and people have assumed that’s Gabriel, particularly since Milton made that connection in Paradise Lost.

During the Depression, many American believed that they were living through the “great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.” (Matthew 24:21) So riffing on that, Reno and her angels (I think we’re supposed to assume this is one of their regular numbers) pray for the archangel to signal the end of the tribulations (Prohibition, the Depression) and announce with his trumpet the coming of Christ. Reno assures Gabriel she’s ready to “trim [her] lamp,” a Bible metaphor meaning she’ll work at and maintain her faith (to keep oil lamps burning brightly and consistently, you have to trim the wick back), that she’s mended her ways (we can only guess what those ways included), that now, “I’m good by day and I’m good by night.” Of course, that line assumes that Reno hasn’t always been “good by night.”

But these “sinners” aren’t asking for forgiveness or anything; they just want to “play all day in the Promised Land.” It’s a remarkably crass take on the Book of Revelation’s thousand years of peace and righteousness. And all this to jazz music, until recently considered the devil’s music…

In one section, they all chant:

Satan, you stay away from me,
‘Cause you ain’t the man I wanna see!
I’m gonna be good as the day I was born,
‘Cause I heard that man with the horn!
Do ya hear it?

Once you really pay attention to this lyric, you realize this section is all about the End Times. They want to be good, because Jesus and Judgment Day are coming soon!

One of the more subtle jokes in the show is in this song, when the women take the melody and the men sing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” in counterpart, also a song about angels taking “me” to heaven. Since this is the male passengers and crew singing this counter-melody, are we to read that as spontaneous, that religious fervor is taking them over? Since this is always a big, involved, full-company, Broadway musical comedy dance number, it lays on top of our fake revival meeting an even more cynical layer of comment – religion really is show business.

But there’s even more swimming around in Anything Goes. When the show opened in late 1934, Prohibition had ended just a year earlier, but the Depression rolled on, and the Dust Bowl kept destroying lives. The FBI was at the height of its notoriety, but the public loved some of the gangsters on the FBI’s Most Wanted list (which is the whole point of “Public Enemy Number One”). Importantly, the FBI – standing in for law and order in general – is not on board the S.S. American. In fact, they arrest the wrong guy at the beginning of the show, and leave the ship! They’re not up to the job. They can’t/won’t protect us. Was this a comment on how hard it was for law enforcement to catch America’s celebrity criminals, John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Bonnie & Clyde, et al.?

Here on the S.S. American, we are in Shakespeare’s metaphorical woods, away from laws and civilization, where two things will happen. First, love will get “fixed” as our characters de-couple from the wrong partners and re-couple with the right partners. Second, with lots of liquor and very little “law,” these passengers are free to act on their impulses, to chase after various forms of vice, to be their “natural” selves. And notice that the ship is called the “American” – this place of no rules and no law is 1930s America, where (until a year earlier) lots of Americans broke the law by drinking alcohol. When that many Americans broke the law, when they stopped believing in the institutions that failed them, America became functionally lawless.

By calling the ship the S.S. American, the show’s writers were underlining their social commentary. As a comic microcosm of our country, these passengers showcase the worst of the American inclination to make celebrities out of criminals and show biz out of religion, an inclination as prevalent today as it was in the thirties.

But the satiric aim is more pointed than just those two overarching themes. So what else does Anything Goes satirize? A lot.

Even though economists will tell you the 1929 stock market crash did not “cause” the Depression, it was still the starting pistol, and most people in 1934 believed rich Wall Street types were to blame. Notice that in Anything Goes we have two representatives of Wall Street – the drunken, horny, nearly blind Mr. Whitney, and the shit-disturbing rogue Billy Crocker.

The name Crocker comes from the French for “heartbreak.” In this story Wall Street is decidedly undependable.

Richard Whitney had been the very famous president of the New York Stock Exchange and during the 1930s, he was famed for steering his clients through the treacherous waters of the Depression. But his success was a scam of the proportions of Enron and Bernie Madoff, and he was finally caught in 1938 when his firm collapsed. Still, as audiences watched Anything Goes in 1934, Whitney was the hero of the rich, so naming Billy’s boss Whitney – and making him a drunk – was a pretty subversive reference. According to Wikipedia:

On October 24, 1929, Black Thursday, Whitney attempted to avert the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Alarmed by rapidly falling stock prices, several leading Wall Street bankers met to find a solution to the panic and chaos on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The meeting included Thomas W. Lamont, acting head of Morgan Bank; Albert Wiggin, head of the Chase National Bank; and Charles E. Mitchell, president of the National City Bank of New York. They chose Whitney, then vice president of the Exchange, to act on their behalf.

 With the bankers’ financial resources behind him, Whitney went onto the floor of the Exchange and ostentatiously placed a bid to purchase a large block of shares in U.S. Steel at a price well above the current market. As traders watched, Whitney then placed similar bids on other “blue chip” stocks. This tactic was similar to a tactic that had ended the Panic of 1907, and succeeded in halting the slide that day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average recovered with a slight increase, closing with it down only 6.38 points for that day. In this case, however, the respite was only temporary; stocks subsequently collapsed catastrophically on Black Tuesday, October 29. Whitney’s actions gained him the sobriquet, “White Knight of Wall Street.”

It is a little weird that Mr. Whitney’s first name is Elijah, coincidentally (?) named after the nineteenth-century inventor and arms manufacturer…

The Harcourts (and Mrs. Wentworth, in the ’34 version) stand in for America’s “cafe society,” the 1% of 1934. In the original version of the show, the Harcourts’ family business was in serious trouble and needed saving, which was the reason for the arranged marriage. Is it any wonder Billy and Hope both would like to escape this culture? According to an article on the PBS website:

The Great Depression was partly caused by the great inequality between the rich who accounted for a third of all wealth and the poor who had no savings at all. As the economy worsened many lost their fortunes, and some members of high society were forced to curb their extravagant lifestyles.

But for others the Depression was simply an inconvenience especially in New York where the city’s glamorous venues – places to see and be seen – such as El Morocco and The Stork Club were heaving with celebrities, socialites and aristocrats.

For the vast majority the 1930s was a time of misery. But for many American dynastic families, parties helped to escape the reality on the street and the grander the better.

Parties and trans-Atlantic cruises.

Many stories of the Great Depression show us the shattered and disenfranchised turning to religion in their time of need. But church attendance grew during the Depression only about five percent. Notably, no one aboard the S.S. American in Anything Goes has that spiritual need, and so for these people religion becomes show business, entertainment, the latest fad. Though the content of “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” is basically reverent, the song’s rowdy, fast, jazz music quickly and comically short-circuits any hint of real religion fervor. This is religion as party.

The only genuine symbol of religion we see in the show is the comically clueless Bishop Dobson, who’s banished from this community (i.e.,mistakenly arrested) before the ship even sets sail; and all we’re left with is the fake religion of fake-minister “Dr.” Moon, and the gambling “Christian converts.” Genuine religion (and conventional morality), the Baptist tent revivals and religious radio shows of the 1930s, are all missing from this place. Here there is no moral control – it’s Shakespeare’s woods.

In the 1930s, the 1960s, and also today, Dark Times bring forth the most pointed satire. Anything Goes opened halfway through the Depression, which also begat brilliant satires like Of Thee I Sing, Let ‘Em Eat Cake, and The Cradle Will Rock.. The 1962 revival opened at the start of one of the most divided, angry decades in American history. The 1987 revival opened on the infamous Black Monday, the day the stock market crashed again.

None of the show’s targets feel dated, because we’re struggling with all the same things now. Still today, religion is often repackaged as slick, high-budget show biz. When America’s evangelicals strongly support the womanizing vulgarian and sexual predator Donald Trump, religion in America is on life support. And still today, we make celebrities out of criminals, and depending where the various investigations lead, Trump may be the best illustration of that too.

Cole Porter’s songs have all the bite, the sophistication, and the smartass humor of Ira Gershwin and Yip Harburg, but Porter’s songs often bite a little harder, his lyrics closer to how people talk, instead of always just building toward a funny rhyme. Like those of the great George M. Cohan, Porter’s lyrics sound like they could actually come out of the mouths of the characters. If his songs can often be transplanted from one show to another, that’s only because many of his shows were about the same kind of people – smartass, subversive, sexual, clever, ironic, complicated, and contradictory.

Just think for a second about all the characters in Anything Goes that have contradictory impulses.

Porter wrote both in contemporary slang and in genuinely elevated, powerfully poetic language when the moment called for it. His songs can be emotionally shattering and they can be icily cynical, about the most intimate insecurities or the most macro satire. Porter and his co-writers were writing old-school musical comedy, but they were also chronicling our times – then and now – most insightfully. It’s so much fun working on this rich, crazy material.

Long Live the Musical!
from The Bad Boy of Musical Theatre

Mabel Reunites With Not3s On Infectious New Single, ‘Flat Line’!

Mabel is deservedly finally becoming one of the UK’s hottest stars!

Not only has she already scored her very first Top 10 hit on the UK Singles Chat with Kojo Funds-assisted “Finders Keepers” (one of JonALi’sBlog‘s Top 60 Singles of 2017, no less) but she’s also landed another hit as the featured artists on London rapper Not3s‘ instantly catchy “My Lover” remix.

Now, following the release of her impressive mixtape Ivy to Roses at the end of last year, her first new track of 2018 has arrived. It’s called “Fine Line,” and it sees her reuniting with Not3s once again – he’s returned the favor!

The infectious throb sees Mabel dealing with the playful beginnings of any relationship while lacing her full-bodied vocals on-top of a riding tropical beat that she’s beginning to be known for. “Now I’m dancing on a fine line/ Somewhere between a minute and a lifetime/ You do it to me, to me/ I can’t lie, I got a bit caught up tonight/ But it’s a fine line/ You do it to me, to me,” Mabel confesses. The guest appearance from Not3s only adds to the energy, and it could very well replicate the soaring success of “Finders Keepers.” You gotta hit it while its hot!

“‘Fine Line‘ is a playful track that I wrote about that fun phase at the beginning of a relationship when you’re trying to figure each other out,” Mabel said in a statement. “It’s about getting lost in something without losing yourself completely and how that’s exciting but also dangerous.”

Mabel’s new single “Flat Line (feat. Not3s)” is also available on Apple Music and Spotify!

from Jon ALi’s Blog

SG Lewis Announces Long-Awaited Debut Album & Releases New Single, ‘Aura’!

London-based producer SG Lewis first started making waves when he was tapped to appear on Disclosure‘s Magnets Remix EP, which was later followed by not one, but two impressive EP releases: 2015’s Shivers and 2016’s Yours, one of our favorite EP’s of that year.

Since then, SG has also become quite a “One To Watch” rising talent, having recently remixed Dua Lipa‘s worldwide smash “New Rules” and produced one of G-Eazy‘s standouts (“No Less“) from his latest album The Beautiful & The Damned, all leading to the final piece of the puzzle: Dusk, Dark, and Dawn.

“Hey guys, so it’s been a long time coming but I’m really proud and excited to announce my debut album is broken up into 3 phases – Dusk, Dark, and Dawn,” SG announced in a statement. “Each phase encapsulates the energy and emotions I associate with these different stages of a night out. I wanted to create three sonic worlds for these stages in which I can evoke the emotions I felt as a result of night life and club culture, as well as explore creating new music without genre boundaries. Thank you so much for your patience, I hope you enjoy listening to this just as much as I have enjoyed making it.”

On Dusk‘s lead single “Aura” featuring J Warner, SG Lewis takes his love for soul, spacey atmospherics and groovy four-on-the-floor drum kicks and turns up the volume a few notches. J Warner‘s seductive vocals make for the perfect companion to the gentle and progressively gaining energy throughout, making this an effortless collaboration. I simply CAN NOT wait to hear this album in full. GET FAMILIAR NOW!

SG Lewis’ new single “Aura (feat. J Warner)” is also available on Apple Music and Spotify now!

from Jon ALi’s Blog

Rudimental Team Up With Jess Glynne, Macklemore & Daniel Caplen On ‘These Days’!

Rudimental has worked with an unbelievable slew of talented singers and songwriters over the past seven years, entirely redefining what it means to be a collaborative act in the dance music world in the interim. Most notably, their discography lists the enviable work of Ed Sheeran, Foxes, Emeli Sandé, Becky Hill, Anne-Marie, MNEK, Ella Eyre, Foy Vance, John Newman and Sinéad Harnett.

After their latest chart-topping single, “Sun Comes Up,” which saw them reuniting with frequent collaborator John Newman, the popular Drum n’ Bass group’s latest single “These Days” sees them bringing together some big names: Jess Glynne, Macklemore and Daniel Caplen.

Rudimental successfully blend soulful, church-like piano melodies with with tropical-house undertones to amount to the perfect uplifting anthem, whose mission is to ultimately bring people together. “I hope someday/ We’ll sit down together/ And laugh with each other/ About these days, these days,” Jess and Dan chant on the soaring hook. “All our troubles/ We’ll lay to rest/ And we’ll wish we could come back to these days/ These days/ These days, these days.”

It’s just one of those songs that immediately feels like a breath of fresh positive air. The world could use more of this – LOVE!

Rudimental’s latest single “These Days” is also available on Apple Music and Spotify now!

from Jon ALi’s Blog

Justine Skye’s Debut LP ‘Ultraviolet’ Was Worth The Wait – Enter To Win A Copy!

Happy #NewMusicFriday my music loving babes. This is a time to rejoice!

Why? Because after years and years of mixtape and EP releases, the debut studio album from singer-songwriter-fashionista-actress Justine Skye, Ultraviolet, has officially been released – And yes, it was certainly worth the wait.

The 10-track project comes packed with her current irresistible single “Don’t Think About It” and boasts contributions from PARTYNEXTDOOR (“You Got Me,” “Goodlove“), Jeremih (“Back for More”), WizKid (“U Don’t Know“), and Hitmaka (“Back for More“), among others. It also showcases a new and self-assured side of the R&B songstress known as the Purple Unicorn. There’s a little something for everyone on this set! So, if you like wonderfully-crafted R&B-pop… Ultraviolet is sure to be the right fix for you!

In celebration of the release, JonALi’sBlog is proud to be giving away THREE copies Ultraviolet! To enter to win, comment below with your favorite track off of Ultraviolet or simply follow me on Twitter and tweet out: We about that all day loving, all night @Jon_ALi #Ultraviolet! Three winners will be randomly selected and notified by the end of January.

Justine Skye’s debut album Ultraviolet is available on Apple Music and Spotify now!

from Jon ALi’s Blog

Betty Who Begins Anew On Liberating Anthem, ‘Ignore Me’!

Betty Who is moving on… on her own terms from now on.

As of this year, the ridiculously talented 26-year-old Australian songstress is officially out of her prior label deal with RCA Records and is back to being an independent artist – And today (January 19), we celebrate with a new song called: “Ignore Me“!

“‘Ignore Me‘ will be my first song released as an independent artist in five years. Every decision made was mine, every detail was agonised over, and every last bit of my heart is in this song,” Betty said in a statement. “I can finally put out music the way I’ve always wanted to: straight from me to you. If I’m being honest, this is a totally unknown and terrifying time for me. While being exciting, of course, it is very much uncharted territory and my biggest fear is that I will let you beautiful humans down. But I’ve never let fear dictate the choices I’ve made or hold me back from something I have wanted to do since I was five years old, so why start now? Because that’s really all this is: my childhood dream come true. I used to spend hours in my bedroom choreographing NSYNC dances and trying to recreate the Britney HBO special just imagining that one day I would be on stage singing songs that I wrote and entertaining thousands of people. And holy shit, that’s already happened. How lucky am I? The only reason I can say all of this, be honest with you and share this new music and live out this amazing fantasy of mine is because of you and your support. Lots of people don’t believe in me. That’s never going to change. But you guys, for what ever reason, have and I will continue to try to live up to that and give you all of me. So this is for you and only you. And there will be so much more to come.”

She won’t be ignored, motherfuckers. The Leland-co-penned “Ignore Me” is perhaps the most appropriate place to re-start. It’s a classic-feeling slice of straight-up, heart-on-her-sleeve power pop empowerment, relying almost entirely on Betty‘s superb voice to carry the track and deliver that earnest message: “The best you thing you can do is just to ignore me/ Forget I was born/ Baby, ignore me since you don’t need me anymore.”

But that first chorus go-around is merely a tease… each time Betty hits that chorus, the song swells with more epic vocals and more gorgeous intricate production. Is this about a former love? her label? WHO knows! Betty is Queen Liberated! SHE DID THAT, am I right?

Betty Who’s latest single “Ignore Me” is also available on Apple Music and Spotify now!

from Jon ALi’s Blog