Chuck Berry and Drake: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

Highlights from seven days of reading about arts and entertainment

Chuck Berry performs at the Concert for the Hall of Fame in Cleveland in 1995.
Chuck Berry performs at the Concert for the Hall of Fame in Cleveland in 1995. (Mark Duncan / AP)

Chuck Berry Was the Sound of 20th Century America
Stephen Thomas Erlewine | Pitchfork
Chuck will be a coda to a career that's already legend, but it may also confirm a simple truth about Chuck Berry’s art: He didn’t change his music but he did adapt with the times. He wound up documenting his era and, in turn, created the idealized version of 20th century America, from coast to shining coast. He captured all the gilded glory of the terrain, the inventions, and the people while also hinting at the darkness that lies within these borders.”

Dave Chappelle’s Intimate New Netflix Specials Are Brilliant
Justin Tinsley | The Undefeated
“Race is a constant in both The Age of Spin and Deep in the Heart of Texas—the sun in Chappelle’s comedic solar system. For three decades now, the gravitational pull of his views on racism, sexism, and bigotry have morphed crowds of fans into cult-like congregations, and comedic bits into mandatory gospels.”

How Dancehall-Inflected Is Drake’s Album More Life, Really?
Eddie “Stats” Houghton | The Fader
“At the heart of the question of ownership is the question of what’s been invested. Drake surely has not paid down quite the same stakes in having ‘chunes for your headtop’ or getting ‘blem’ as a youth in Kingston (or London). But even if he talks about what he does have at stake in ways that self-consciously reference the waves of pan-Caribbean immigrants that have actually given his hometown ‘more life,’ it doesn’t make his experience—a reimagined and more rootless connection to blackness—any less valid.”

The NBA’s Secret Addiction
Baxter Holmes | ESPN
“No matter how you slice it, it's hard to swallow: The NBA is covered in experts, obsessed with peak performance—and still this pillar of grade-school cafeteria lunches is the staple snack of the league. An exorbitantly wealthy microclique, backed by an army of personal chefs, swears by a sandwich whose standard ingredients boast a street value of roughly 69 cents.”

Female Trouble
Tausif Noor | The Los Angeles Review of Books
“[Mary] Gaitskill and [Ottessa] Moshfegh’s characters aren’t friends in the traditional sense, but that’s because they aren’t characters that invite the typical one-dimensional feelings of empathy or pity. In this way, they illustrate perfectly a feature of the human condition that is often overlooked: that of self-interest, and the way self-interest manifests between and among people. The characters deftly sidestep the conundrum of ‘likeability’ that women (and women authors) the world over have been subjected to care about. Rather, they occupy a world from which they feel uniquely disjunctured, but by which they are continually buffeted.”

Missing Richard Simmons and the Queasiness of Deep-Dive Entertainment Journalism
Sarah Larson | The New Yorker
Missing Richard Simmons, like Serial and the documentary Making a Murderer, has raised serious questions about the ethics of deep-dive entertainment journalism that investigates current real-life mysteries. When millions of people tune in to shows that expose the minutiae of real lives of real people in something like real time, the subjects’ day-to-day lives can change dramatically, and forever, through no intention of their own. Simmons caught a bit of heat, but the genre is burgeoning, and will continue to.”

Why Porn PR Is Rarely About the Porn
Lux Alptraum | The Verge
“These days, sites like Pornhub make splashy announcements about shooting porn in space or plowing streets overrun with snow, only to largely abandon these efforts as soon as the earned media value has run out. For many people— especially beleaguered members of the press exhausted by press releases announcing things like Pornub-branded lube, Pornhub promoting the cause of pet sterilization awareness, and a service nobody wants that involves texting emoji to receive porn—porn promotion doesn’t do much to challenge the adult industry’s reputation as a seedy business with a primary focus on immediate gratification.”

Wandering New Orleans After Seeing It From the Stage
Dessa | The New York Times Magazine
“No place wears gravity as beautifully as New Orleans. Spanish moss, tinsel and strands of colored beads drape over trees, street signs, statues, people—anything and anyone not fast enough to escape ornamentation. Gold ribbons are tied to handlebars, braided into horses’ manes and woven through the filigree iron balconies that stand like sheets of weaponized lace. The unrelenting abundance doesn’t even feel man-made—decorations pile on themselves like lichen, or like snow.”

The Price of Neverland
Molly Lambert | MTV News
“For [Michael] Jackson, idealizing the myth of the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up was tied to the feeling that he had been robbed of a normal childhood when his stage father pushed him and his siblings into performing as a way to escape crushing poverty. That they succeeded so spectacularly allowed Jackson money and power with which to approximate an idyllic, carefree childhood world of climbing trees and spending hours playing aimlessly—experiences he'd never had as a child whose free hours were spent rehearsing.”