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Five for Friday - August 6, 2021

Sexy Beasts: The nightmare fuel of the trailer did not prepare me for the harsh reality of watching this Netflix dating show. I tapped out partway into the second episode when it became clear it wasn't interested in subverting stereotypes about such shows or their participants. Rather, it doubled down on them. Of course, everyone under the prosthetics is comely. And the men in the first two episodes are as entitled, arrogant, and narrowminded as any villains reality TV coughs up with alarming frequency. At least Rob Delaney sounds like he had fun cashing a check. But the result isn't offensive enough to be a hate watch, weird enough to be a sensation, or dull enough to cure insomnia. It's just a dog.

Prince - Welcome 2 America: Prince recorded this in '10 and shelved it. You can hear why. The grooves are deep and funky, but a bit too tidy and laid back. And the lyrics lack the incisiveness and sarcasm of his best work to grab your full attention. That said, you can see why they released it now. Not just because it compares well to his late-period albums but also because it has the feel and the scope of a classic, like Curtis or What's Going On. If only it reached those levels, or even his own levels with the otherness, the restlessness, the experiments of his classic era. A sign o' the times, I guess.

The Sparks Brothers: Every music artist should have a valentine like this. Especially artists as influential but non-ubiquitous like Sparks. If this lacks the kind of drama or wildness of other music biopics, it's because director Edgar Wright has a different mandate--to introduce some of you to their music one album at a time and to remind those of you in the know what makes Sparks so special. For some, this sweet playlist of songs may be too exhaustive, too positive, too heartfelt. But given all we've lived through over the past year, this modest but cheery little encomium is a perfect love letter to the spirit of perseverance, not to mention doing things your way. Even if, or should I say especially if, doing it your way means writing songs from the perspective of sperm cells.

Icon - Music Through the Lens: This documentary series, currently available to stream on PBS Passport, races through approximately 60 years of rock and pop music photography, with each episode serving as a frame for different aspects of iconography. At times, I wish it would slow down and go a bit deeper into some of the many great stories the assembled photographers share. Or that it would at least address a few threads that become hard to ignore as it rolls along. For example, the fact that much of what we consider iconic was predominately determined by white male photographers. Or the fact that women appeared naked or nearly naked on music magazines more regularly than their male counterparts. And yet, there are many anecdotes that more than compensate for these lapses, giving you amusing and illuminating insights into how your fave bedroom poster came to be or how certain artists were more involved in shaping their image than others. If you want to dip your toe in, choose episode three, which recounts how some of the most famous album covers of all time were created. It's a perfect snapshot of this series at its best.

Rihanna is officially a billionaire: Proving anything is possibly if you are willing to put in the work, work, work, work, work, work.


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