Hope you’re well. If you haven’t already read the first part of my listing of the Ten Greatest Albums of All Time, I encourage you to go back before continuing on to the Grand Finale. I chatted with my friend Sam Kogon about the list on his RADIO show ‘Lavender Hour’ this past Monday—feel free to listen to that conversation here.
I have a lot to say about these final five, so we’re going to get right into it—after I give a quick shoutout to Shiva Baby, the new movie written and directed by Emma Seligman and starring Rachel Sennott, which I had the opportunity to see in theaters over the weekend!! It was one of my favorite moviegoing experiences of all time—the screenplay, directing, acting, and cinematography should all be getting serious awards attention. But more on that in next week’s Oscars deep dive (!!!).
I want to take a moment to say it’s springtime in New York City and the cherry blossoms are blooming in all their deliciously pungent glory. It makes me think of the Sex and the City episode where Miranda wears the bucket hat over the tracksuit. It also makes me think of the gorgeous song by Chet Baker, “I Get Along Without You Very Well”:
Nightmare: First, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson vetoed the transphobic bill HB 1570—Babbling On readers, I think it’s safe to say we were a huge part of that! BUT the Republican-controlled Arkansas legislature then overrode that veto, which I did not know was possible. Fuck this! The ACLU says they are “preparing litigation as we speak,” so until we know how to support that legal retaliation, join me in donating to G.L.I.T.S. Inc. to support the safety of trans sex workers.
Also — I’m fully vaxxed as of last Thursday! Inject me baby, I’m a freak bitch. Summer of slavant garde (that’s slutty avant garde) behavior, here we come. OK—to business!
The 10 Greatest Albums of All Time (Pt. 2/2)
I promise this newsletter will not just be me getting a boner for Lana Del Rey at every opportunity, though that is a huge part of my personality! I went with my gut in choosing which masterpiece of hers to include—again, I made a self-imposed rule to limit the list to one album per artist—though having just relistened to Ultraviolence I’m plagued with anxiety wondering if I should have shed the spotlight on that unsung magnum opus instead. Alas, I’ve decided to stick with my initial instinct.
I’d also like to address the meat dress-clad elephant in the room (yes, this elephantine humor will be a running joke): choosing one Gaga album as Supreme is homophobic, transphobic, and above all unsanitary. But, I already wrote out the blurb for my initial choice, and so I’m going to stick with that.
5. Melodrama, Lorde (2017)
If there was a knife to my throat, and my burly, bearded attacker was demanding I name the best song ever written or die, I would blurt out “‘Green Light’ by Lorde,” and then determine via eye contact if he were interested in copulating.
For the first many moons after “Green Light” was released, I went around to every bar in Brooklyn begging the DJ to play it. I understand this to be a huge no-no, and I do not care, Mommy! Some of those Disc Jockeys acquiesced my request (shoutout to Captain Barbosa), and I was thus able to thrash my way through the summer of 2017, severely damaging my neck muscles in the process.
No really, if you haven’t seen me screaming and dancing to “Green Light” on the Brooklyn Bridge, do me a favor and take a look at what some critics have called my magnum opus.
There was one time where I was at my old friend Faguette’s house to celebrate their birthday. They lived in a very chic basement at the time, but the ceiling was low, and so when “Green Light” inevitably began to play, and I subsequently began writhing across the room, my head rammed into a corner of the ceiling and began bleeding. Hopefully there hasn’t been too much lasting damage. We’ll see! :)
(^Skip to 1:26 for me dancing to this album on the Brooklyn Bridge)
It would be sinful not to mention the rest of Melodrama, produced by the incredibly sexy and virtuosic Jack Antonoff, who also helped crafted Norman Fucking Rockwell. I’ve heard rumors he’s bi—if it’s true, Jack, there’s a young woman named Hilton who would like a private word… in the bedroom.
“Sober” and “Homemade Dynamite” are the second and third tracks on the album, respectively. I used to work in media, and so was one of those lucky bastards who was able to swindle their way into free Coachella tickets, where I got to hear these songs before they were officially released, if memory serves. For her Melodrama tour and her Coachella performance, Lorde had a simulated party, with real people drinking from Red Solo cups, happening to mesmerizing choreo within a giant shifting glass box. It was unbelievable. Reader, I hope you got to see it. If you didn’t… well, shit. Good luck I guess.
“Liability,” “Supercut,” and “Perfect Places” are all huge standouts as well, but it’s truly another no-skipper. I’ll get dragged if I don’t mention “The Louvre” and “Writer in The Dark.” Listen. Love. Laugh!
4. Body Talk, Robyn (2010)
You know the hits—”Dancing On My Own” and “Call Your Girlfriend” remain two of the best dance songs ever written. And the connection to season 1 of Girls? Legendary.
But as far as I can tell not every fag in the room seems to realize how powerful the rest of this album is. I hesitate to even use the phrase “deep cuts,” since every song is a standout in its own way.
In my opinion, “Stars 4-Ever,” “Get Myself Together,” “Hang With Me,” “Indestructible,” “Fembot,” “Dancehall Queen” and “Love Kills” all deserve the attention that the aforementioned hits have rightfully received. There is no better dance album, or workout soundtrack (yeah, I’m getting into jogging, are you going to fight me about it or sit back and watch this sweaty twink adjust her kneebrace?)
(^I’d probably follow this up with the ‘SNL’ Taran Killam version if I were you.)
Robyn gave a talk at the MoMA a little while ago to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the album, I believe. I was lucky enough to attend, and let me just say: dream blunt rotation. She’s so cool and down-to-earth and brilliant, all of which became even more evident when she DJed a set at Brooklyn Bowl later that night, where my friend Peyton and I nearly broke our spines thrashing across the dance floor. I love this album so so much.
The opening lines of “Stars 4-Ever” paint the image I most associate with this record: “You and me on the hood of my car/ Saturday night, watching the stars.” Take that sweet, suburban drive-in vibe, put it on intense psychedelic drugs and throw it in a sweaty mosh pit and you have one of the great musical expressions of history.
3. Born This Way, Lady Gaga (2011)
Disclaimer: Just because Gaga is at number 3 does not mean she is not my number one artist. I’m trying to honor albums here and at a certain point I just had to go with my gut, jackass.
This was the hardest part of creating this list: picking a standout from Ms. Germanotta’s discography. The truth is, there’s a case to be made for each of her musical endeavors topping this list, except maybe Cheek To Cheek and Joanne (both of which I personally love but don’t think carry the same widespread cultural impact as her other albums).
I came very close to choosing The Fame Monster (Deluxe Edition), because it’s actually two albums. But is that cheating? Because really, The Fame and The Fame Monster are, in my mind, two separate, standalone masterpieces, and even considered on their own are both strong contenders for Best Album Ever Written. In terms of mainstream cultural impact, it’s hard to argue that anything else in the past two decades has been more potent than this pair. Each contains track after show-stopping track: “Just Dance,” “Poker Face,” “LoveGame,” “The Fame,” “Paparazzi,” “Bad Romance,” “Alejandro,” “Telephone,” “Dance In The Dark,” “Speechless,” “Monster”… This was the era that shaped my personality, my musical taste and my sexuality. I remember showing up for The Monster Ball in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a freshman in high school wearing an olive green North Face and khakis, and leaving my body as Gaga assumed the stage and local Wisconsin homosexuals wearing “Legalize Gay” speedos joined me in ripping their vocal cords and ascending to a new dimension, never to return to the grim banality of reality again.
I decided to re-listen to The Fame, The Fame Monster, and Born This Way this past Sunday as I biked around Brooklyn, to really try and make an educated decision about which album is most sonically impactful and cohesive. All three stand the test of time, and are true classics that will be remembered for millenia.
And yet, I’m going to go with my gut and choose Born This Way. Maybe it’s because I feel like The Fame and The Fame Monster have received plenty of praise already. Maybe it’sbecause Born This Way contains three of my all-time favorite songs ever: “Marry The Night,” “The Edge of Glory,” and “You and Ï,” as well as some of Gaga’s greatest deep cuts of all time: “Government Hooker,” “Scheiße,” “Electric Chapel,” “Hair,” “Bad Kids,” “Heavy Metal Lover”.... Maybe it’s because this album feels so cohesive thematically, and also truly groundbreaking in terms of its sonic production. When I listen to it I feel like I’m in a German nightclub sucking Jesus’ dick.
This album came out while I was in high school—I have a vivid memory of “Edge of Glory” being on repeat the summer I worked at a dry cleaners where I spent most of my time playing ‘The Sims 2: Open For Business’ on a laptop in the back room. I also vividly remember when “Born This Way” the song dropped, during a snowy drive to my all-boys Catholic school in Milwaukee, in a carpool with some sweet, lanky volleyball players (I wish there was more to that story, but there isn’t). I can also recall driving past the Milwaukee Public Zoo as “Judas” debuted and screaming like a banshee. Talk about production, bitch.
(^I think this might be my favorite music video ever?)
I remember when this album first came out, I was put off by all of the religious references. I didn’t grow up with any religion in my home, and loathed the mandatory theology classes I had to take at school. But in time I’ve come to realize Stefani wasn’t interested in pushing a religious agenda; she was more of the school of thought that one should spread their hole as wide as possible to allow a CockyBoy named Jesus to plow the Holy Spirit deep inside willing disciples. Our Father, who farts in Heaven, hallowed be thy cock. I think Gaga would have wanted me to say that.
2. Norman Fucking Rockwell, Lana Del Rey (2019)
My readers (Vapid Whores, Average-Sized Monsters, Hoteliers…? Sound off on nickname suggestions in the comments, please) already know I’m a gaping hole for Lana. If you missed my Chemtrails masturbatory session, please go back and catch the hell up.
I still have a vivid memory of walking around Berkeley, California—I was in town for an animation festival my boyfriend helps program (I’ve said it once, I’ll say it twice, if my bragging is bothering you, why not beat me to death next time we pass each other on the sidewalk?). It was Golden Hour, and it had just rained, so the pavement was glossy with mercurial divinity (Lana, if you’re looking for contributing lyricists for your next record, I’m available). “Mariner’s Apartment Complex” was blasting in my headphones, triggering my burgeoning tinnitus, and as I walked through a gas station parking lot I began sobbing uncontrollably.
The album came out at midnight on August 31st, 2019, my last night in my Bed-stuy fifth floor walk-up, where I’d lived for three extremely formative years, my first real apartment after graduating college. Earlier that evening, I’d gone to Madison Square Garden with one of my best friends in the world, the aforementioned Mister Peyton Dix, to see the Jonas Brothers. We had a blast, we SCREAMED to “Fly With Me,” we tried to find Taco Bell after, we parted ways feeling like we’d just done psychedelic drugs (a potential side effect of saying you’re going to eat Taco Bell and not following through).
I got home from the concert knowing Lana was dropping her new album at midnight, and climbed the ladder to my roof for the last time. I played the album twice through staring up at the late summer moon and the rows of Brooklyn townhouses stretching out before me in every direction. Someone had painted the words “You Go Girl” on a nearby wall. I smiled, and cried a little, bidding this freaky apartment of mine adieu with the most gorgeous, melodramatic, cinematic soundtrack possible carrying me into the next chapter of my adult life.
A month later, Peyton and I saw Lana perform at Jones Beach. While I’m still pissed off she didn’t sing “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have… but I have it” (name a better or funnier song title, I’ll wait), the concert was exceptional. My Mom came, too, randomly, and we had a beautiful canalside dinner with a few of the other Dolls (shoutout to Hayley!) beforehand. It’s a night I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Also, stream “Happiness is a butterfly” on iTunes.
1. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Ms. Lauryn Hill (1998)
The last concert I saw before lockdown happened was Ms. Lauryn Hill at the United Palace Theater in Washington Heights. Jealous?
I took the A train uptown, had some beers and hot dogs with my college theater girls who live in the area, and then saw the show alone. I’d never been to a concert by myself before, as far as I can remember. I sucked down a joint before taking my cushioned seat at the end of a row in the Orchestra, which gave me extra leg room and allowed me to dance freely. It was one of the most glorious nights of my life.
(^Not on the album but absolutely go stream ‘Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit’ on Disney+ after this if you know what’s good for you.)
By the time she played the United Palace in late February 2020, I’d been listening to this album on repeat almost exclusively for about a year. I was late to discovering Ms. Hill’s genius— familiar with “Doo Wop (That Thing)” but a complete tight-holed virgin when it came to the record as a whole. “Ex-Factor,” “To Zion,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You,” “Tell Him,” the interludes with school children waxing poetic on love and relationships.... This really is the greatest album of all time, any decade, any genre. There are no skips. Most people reading this are probably already aware of Miseducation Supremacy. But for those few tight-anussed virgins who still have not ascended to a higher plane… prepare for the next chapter of your life.
OK, A Couple More Honorable Mentions:
Wild Is The Wind, Nina Simone (1966)
You should know I cried to this album outside a Nascar track in Illinois a few summers ago under a huge Harvest Moon.
Dangerous Woman, Ariana Grande (2016)
The opening thumps of “Into You” will never cease to make my hole quiver with anticipation.
Fleetwood Mac, Fleetwood Mac (1975)
I could have gone with Rumours (1977), but that one gets all the love, and the self-titled album has some of the true best songs: “Rhiannon,”" “Say You Love Me” and “Landslide.”
Transformer, Lou Reed (1972)
I’m adding this one last minute as I deal with a nightmarish parking situation involving a Cadillac El Dorado named Joan.
I thought I’d make a little playlist of songs I can’t stop listening to and throw it in at the end here, for any of you true fans looking for new music. Listen on shuffle, they are not in order. Enjoy, loves, and talk next week!