Zappagram #101: Now gather 'round class, it's time to learn what's going on in the world of music...

Hint: nothing but Beyonce apparently.

Zappagram #101: Now gather 'round class, it's time to learn what's going on in the world of music...

Hey Zappagrammers,

You’re probably going to want to read this:

Twenty one. As of the writing of this newsletter, over the course of the last 3 days, Rolling Stone has published no fewer than twenty one articles about Beyonce, her new album, the songs she’s covered or “reimagined," what people have had to say about it, how it has shifted the very course of both culture and nature itself, and on and on. Twenty one. We might as well call it “Rolling Stone feat. Beyonce” at this point, and this is Sunday morning—I predict at least another half dozen articles published by Rolling Stonea lone by the time this goes out Monday morning.

And okay…here’s the deal: I’m not a Beyonce fan. I could name maybe two of her songs. In my meaningless opinion, there isn’t a single thing wrong with Beyonce—she’s incredibly talented, and I’m sure she’s a lovely (albeit disgustingly rich) person, her music is just not my thing, but as far as this new album (which has 27 tracks!) I have but a few things to say, not the least of which is that’s too many goddamn songs on one album.

(Sidenote: if I hear that goddamned “This ain’t Texas…” song one more time I think I might just attend a rodeo so I can lie down and let a bull trample me to death.)

Again, with not being a fan, I honestly had no inclination to listen to it, until I heard about two particular songs on the album: one she covered and one she “reimagined.”

The cover song in question is “Blackbird” by The Beatles—one of my favorite Beatles songs of all time—and the other song is “Jolene” by Dolly Parton. Clearly, there is nothing that Beyonce cannot or will not do. Needless to say, I had to listen to these two particular songs and offer my unsolicited take.

At first, I felt offended that anyone should attempt to cover “Blackbird.” I mean, that’s sacred musical territory. I feel this same way when someone covers any legendary artist. Legendary artists don’t need covering. They did it best first. You’ll never top it, so don’t subject the rest of us to watching you try and fail. I’ve always held fast to the belief that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do something.

With regard to “Jolene” that’s also a classic, though I know Dolly loves everyone and is happy to have her songs covered, even if the covers can never touch the original…perhaps even because she knows no cover could ever touch the original. Sidenote, it’s unpopular opinion but I think Whitney Houston, as great of an artist as she was, did the same thing with “I Will Always Love You”—she “reimagined” it in terms of the song’s arrangement which simultaneously “reimagined” the song’s feel. That song is about nothing but feeling feelings of heartbreak and desperation and longing, and it wasn’t written to be some grand anthem sung from the highest mountaintop with enough force to knock one over like a sweeping aria in a fantastic opera. The song is sad and timid and broken and lonely and any “reimagining” of it, changes it entirely which is to say, too goddamn much, thank you.

But I digress.

I’m also tired of writing about this, so to wrap up I’ll say that I was very pleasantly surprised by “Blackbird.” I felt the song was treated with the respect it was due. I’ll still probably never listen to her version again, but it wasn’t the atrocious trainwreck I’d feared. It’s just…okay.

“Jolene” on the other hand…

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene…Jolene was a goddamn tragedy wrapped in a travesty, stuffed inside a catastrophe, and fatally cursed with calamity. In short, Beyonce’s version suuuuucks. #sorrynotsorry

First off, it’s a “reimagining” of the song which, in this case, means the lyrics are completely changed, save for the requisite repeating of the song’s title character’s name. More importantly, I was struck by how shockingly bad the vocal performance on this song was. It sounds like Beyonce had a cold and a hangover, and that leaves me absolutely mystified, wondering how anyone, especially she and her producers, could think that such a take was remotely passable, much less releasable, especially knowing how scrutinized and critiqued it would inevitably be.

I’ve stated at least a half dozen highly controversial things in these opening paragraphs which are likely to get me crucified, cancelled, and castigated, however such is the nature of music criticism—a handful of people will agree with you, and the majority of the rest will think you’re either an idiot, an asshole, or just clinically insane.

Truth be told, I’m probably all three.

And I mean no disrespect to Beyonce (or Whitney Houston) as a person or as an artist. I’m simply stating my feeble-minded opinion, and you know what they say about opinions. Honestly, I’m probably just irritated because I’m tired of hearing about Beyonce’s new album. I can’t open Instagram, or TikTok, or my front door without hearing about it, so it may stand to reason why I wouldn’t want to hear it at all. It’s called overexposure, and I don’t know that it’s ever a good thing.

So, despite what Rolling Stone would have you believe, there was far more than just this going on in the world of music this past week, and I think that deserves closer inspection.

Ground control to reader: Take your protein pills. Put your helmet on.

This newsletter ain’t gonna read itself.

If you cannot find peace within yourself, you will never find it anywhere else.
—Marvin Gaye




Local Natives Announce New Album But I’ll Wait For You
Watch the cinematic, Francis Ford Coppola-inspired video for "April"


My Morning Jacket Announce Co-Headlining Tour with Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
The "Eye to Eye Tour" goes down this September


Brian Setzer’s Stray Cats Announce 2024 US Tour
The rockabilly band's first tour in five years kicks off in late July


Lizzo Says She’s Tired of ‘Being Dragged’ by Everyone: ‘I Quit’
The "About Damn Time" singer was accused of sexual harassment and a toxic workplace in a lawsuit filed by former backup dancers last year


Lizzo Criticised After Calling Chris Brown “My Favorite Person in the World”
Footage has emerged of the singer asking Brown for a photo as she paid him the compliment


Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Homes Raided by Homeland Security Agents
The raids in Los Angeles and Miami are part of an ongoing sex trafficking investigation


Fred Durst and Billy Corgan to Host Shows on Bill Maher’s New Podcast Network
The Limp Bizkit singer will talk about UFOs and aliens, while its unclear what the Smashing Pumpkins frontman will focus on


A ChatGPT for Music Is Here. Inside Suno, the Startup Changing Everything
uno wants everyone to be able to produce their own pro-level songs — but what does that mean for artists?


New Beach Boys Documentary Out in May on Disney+
Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Lindsey Buckingham, and Janelle Monáe are among interviewees for Frank Marshall and Thom Zimny’s film


Spinal Tap II to Feature Metallica’s Lars Ulrich and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith
The drummers will cameo, joining most of the original cast, Paul McCartney Elton John, Paul Shaffer, and more


Bruce Springsteen Movie Starring Jeremy Allen White in the Works
”The Bear” star is reportedly in talks to portray Springsteen in a film about the making of Nebraska


The Hold Steady Announce New Children’s Book Stay Positive
The 32-page book, illustrated by David “El Dee” Espinosa, is based on the lyrics to 2008’s “Stay Positive”


Billie Eilish Blasts Artists Who Release Multiple Vinyl Variants to Boost Sales
“I find it really frustrating as somebody who really goes out of my way to be sustainable and do the best that I can and try to involve everybody in my team in being sustainable — and then it’s some of the biggest artists in the world making fucking 40 different vinyl packages that have a different unique thing just to get you to keep buying more.”


Josh Freese Rejoins A Perfect Circle for Spring 2024 Tour
The drummer will play with the band for the first time in 13 years


Modest Mouse Reissuing Good News for People Who Love Bad News for 20th Anniversary
The new edition of the 2004 album comes with remixes from Poolside, Justin Raisen, MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden, and more


Cake Confirm New US Tour Dates
Including shows in California, Texas, Oklahoma, and Virginia


Sheryl Crow Says Albums Are “Waste of Time and Money” While Promoting New Album
"People don't listen to records as a full body of work"



There has never been anyone else like Marvin Gaye. That man’s voice could move mountains. Here is an incredible live performance of “What’s Going On” from 1972—one of my favorite songs of all time. The audio here is astonishingly pristine. 40 years ago today, Marvin died tragically—from a gunshot wound inflicted by his own father—one day before what would have been his 45th birthday.



The Church: Eros Zeta and the Perfumed Guitars
Sarah Shook & the Disarmers: Revelations
Sheryl Crow: Evolution



- APR 5 -

The Black Keys: Ohio Players
Khruangbin: A la Sala
The Libertines: All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade
Lizzy McAlpine: Older
Novo Amor: Collapse List
Old 97’s: American Primitive
Phosphorescent: Revelator
Vampire Weekend: Only God Was Above Us

- APR 12 -

Eagles: To The Limit - The Essential Collection
Maggie Rogers: Don’t Forget Me
Mark Knopfler: One Deep River
Nia Archives: Silence Is Loud

- APR 19 -

Bruce Springsteen: Best of Bruce Springsteen (Expanded Edition)
Hozier: Wasteland, Baby! (Vinyl Reissue)
The Melvins: Tarantula Heart
Pearl Jam: Dark Matter
Pink Floyd: The Dark Side Of The Moon (Remastered Collector’s Edition)
Taylor Swift: The Tortured Poets Department

- APR 20 -

Record Store Day 2024!

- APR 26 -

Iron & Wine: Light Verse
Justice: Hyperdrama
Laufey: Bewitched: The Goddess Edition
Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Fu##in’ Up
Pet Shop Boys: Nonetheless
St. Vincent: All Born Screaming



- APR 1 -

Birthdays: Rudolph Isley of The Isley Brothers (1939) • Henry Gross (1951) • Legendary drummer Jeff Porcaro (1954) • Method Man of Wu-Tang Clan (1971) • As an April Fool's joke, John Lennon and Yoko Ono issued a statement to the press that they were having dual sex change operations. (1970) • Marvin Gaye was shot dead by his father at his parent's home in Los Angeles. The argument started after his parents squabbled over misplaced business documents, Gaye attempted to intervene, and was killed by his father using a gun he had given him four months before. (1984) • Cynthia Lennon, first wife of John Lennon, died at her home in Spain following a short battle with cancer. (2015) • Singer-songwriter, producer, guitarist Adam Schlesinger, best known for his work with Fountains Of Wayne, died at the age of 52 as a result of health complications caused by COVID-19. (2020)

- APR 2 -

Birthdays: Marvin Gaye (1939) • Leon Russell (1941) • Emmylou Harris (1947) • Fleetwood Mac went to #1 on the U.S. album chart with Rumours. (1977) Buddy Rich died aged 69 due to complications caused by a brain tumour. (1987) • Nirvana went into Smart Studios in Madison, Wisconsin and started working on demo versions of songs for Nevermind with Butch Vig producing. (1990)

- APR 3 -

Birthdays: Doris Day (1924) • Mike Ness of Social Distortion & Simon Raymonde of Cocteau Twins (1962) • Sebastian Bach of Skid Row & Jamie Hewlett, co-creator of Gorillaz (1968) • American jazz singer Sarah Vaughan died of lung cancer. (1990)

- APR 4 -

Birthdays: Muddy Waters (1913) • Jill Scott (1972) • A Swedish couple ran into trouble with authorities after trying to name their baby Metallica. Michael and Karolina Tomaro went to court with the country's National Tax Authority about naming their daughter after the rock band. The six-month-old had been baptised Metallica, but tax officials said the name was "inappropriate." Under Swedish law, both first names and surnames need to win the approval of authorities before they can be used. (2007)

- APR 5 -

Birthdays: Mike McCready of Pearl Jam (1965) • Paula Cole (1968) • Pharrell Williams (1973) • Kurt Cobain committed suicide at his home in Seattle. (1994) • Layne Staley of Alice in Chains was found dead in his apartment from a mixture of heroin and cocaine. (2002)

- APR 6 -

Birthdays: Merle Haggard (1937) • Frank Black, a.k.a. Black Francis of Pixies (1965) • 48-year-old punk icon Wendy O. Williams, former frontwoman of The Plasmatics, took her own life near her Connecticut home. (1998) • Merle Haggard died of complications from pneumonia at his home in Palo Cedro, California. (2016)

- APR 7 -

Birthdays: Billie Holiday (1915) • John Oates of Hall & Oates (1949) • Andy Johns, the veteran producer and engineer died at the age of 61. He worked on many classic albums including The Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street, Television's Marquee Moon, and a series of albums by Led Zeppelin. (2013) • John Prine died aged 73 due to complications from Covid-19. (2020)

Until next week, friends…peace and love to all.