Whitney Houston and the Pro Tailgater: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

The highlights from seven days of reading about entertainment

Ethan Miller / Reuters

When Whitney Hit the High Note
Danyel Smith | ESPN the Magazine
“You have to understand. Key to American blues is the notion that by performing them and by experiencing them being performed, one can escape them. ‘I will be free,’ sang this black American woman to a mostly white, tucked-in-tuxes audience attending an event at which black achievement has been and remains segregated and minimized. This is our most familiar pop dance.”

Why I Tailgate, by Professional Tailgater Michael Mina
Hillary Dixler | Eater
“We would get to the point where there were 200 people at our tailgates out in the parking lot. We’d invite fans from the other team just so that we could get the jawing going. I’d be like, ‘Come on. Come over here and have some lobster tortellini.’ We just embraced how everybody makes fun of us being from California and San Francisco, meaning that we drink cheese and wine. We always kept it within the spirit.”

Winona, Forever
Soraya Roberts | Hazlitt
“The teen actress who sought to make her own life nostalgic before it had even passed her by peeks out from within the woman Marc Jacobs now imbues with nostalgia—she is a Russian nesting doll of reminiscence. That Winona Ryder’s image makes more of an impression than her current performances—in The Ten, The Last Word, Stay Cool—confirms our culture’s chronic desire to preserve the past rather than accept the present.”

From Berlin’s Warehouses to London’s Estates: How Cities Shape Music Scenes
Ian Wylie | The Guardian
“Most modern music is an urban animal. Cities regularly birth music scenes, and artists often claim to be inspired by ‘the streets,’ or by their neighborhood. Yet the actual link between the music they make and the built environment where they do so is generally underplayed—spoken about as a matter of mood, or a source of lyrics.”

I’m a Mom. Make Fun of Me on TV, Please!
Elissa Strauss | Elle
“Though there might be something deeper going on here than just good old Hollywood ageism. The absence of mom-coms might also have something to do with the way in which our culture continues to, simultaneously, idealize and diminish motherhood—much to the detriment of actual mothers.”

Darkness on the Edge of Town
Eric Benson | Texas Monthly
“Still, Lansdale was always one step short of crossover success, a little too vulgar, a little too bleak, his humor a little too politically incorrect—or maybe he was just always a little bit unlucky. ‘The only thing more certain than Lansdale’s eventual fame is tomorrow’s sunrise,’ the best-selling horror writer Dean Koontz wrote in 1989.”

Roger Goodell’s Unstoppable Football Machine
Mark Leibovich | The New York Times Magazine
“The sport might represent the great spectacle of 21st-century America, played by extraordinary, bulked-up specimens before millions of viewers. But it’s these needy billionaires who own it. They are the heads of the football city-states that stir our civic passions and twist our moods from September to February.”

If Rihanna Can Go Platinum Giving Anti Away for Free, What Does Platinum Even Mean?
Michael Nelson | Stereogum
“Why would people break the law to obtain music if they weren’t interested in hearing it? Forget about piracy—how about mixtapes? It seems grossly unfair (and radically unrepresentative) to award plaques only to those artists who are able to strike lucrative deals with gigantic multinational conglomerates.”

How the O.J. Simpson Case Explains Reality in 2016
Lili Anolik | Vanity Fair
“This, too: Reality TV can offer, as the O.J. trial did, as the recent Making a Murderer did, sex and violence, real sex and violence, but real sex and violence on a screen, and thus at a distance; which means you don’t have to take the moral pain that usually goes along with real sex and violence. Win-win.”

The Waves: The Brotherhood of Madlib
Hilton Als | The New Yorker
“The song sounds like nothing that West has ever been part of; it has a depth beyond his bombast and a soulful mellowness that dials him down—a bit ... Making the past matter in the present is just one aspect of Madlib’s genius, as is pushing hip-hop’s more commercially minded performers to move beyond the fans and the record-company executives and listen to themselves.”