Tipping Point: Our picks and pans
200 Best Singers of All Time
As they do on a regular basis, the writers and “special contributors” at Rolling Stone have released another (controversial-by-design) list — this one ranking the Best 200 Singers of the last century. Among the qualifications — excuses? — set forth by the editors are that “almost all the artists on this list had significant careers as crossover stars making popular music for the masses.” Now, Rocío Dúrcal (#139) and Mercedes Sosa (#160) and Caetano Veloso (#108) are certainly talented, but are they “crossover/music-for-the-masses” artists? No. However, their inclusion lets dolts like me stay aware of how hip the critics are for finding them! Another important stipulation is that this a list of “singers” and not “vocalists,” the distinction being something about the transcendence of genius rather than raw talent. This ostensibly explains why Lou Reed (#107), Courtney Love (#130 and 17 spots higher than Barbra Streisand!), Iggy Pop (#176) and Bob Dylan (#15! AND winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature!) are ranked — but Jon Anderson, Greg Lake, Peter Gabriel, John Wetton and Mikko von Hertzen — only, ah, singers, I guess — are left out.
— Rick Koster
Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody
Some people have the It Factor. Whitney Houston had the It Factor times a thousand. She was blessed with a voice that I’d argue is second only to Aretha Franklin’s as the best of the 20th century. She was supermodel gorgeous. She also had a unique spark about her. That’s where this biopic falls down – understandably so. Actress Naomi Ackie has the Houston moves down, but she can’t capture the magic. Or, perhaps more problematically, her soul. This is a very surface version of Whitney. While “I Wanna Dance” isn’t a great movie, it kept me interested as it raced through Houston’s life. And even though the script was approved by the Houston estate, it does include topics that her inner circle tended to try to keep hush-hush during her life, particularly her drug problems and her romantic relationship with friend Robyn Crawford. The biggest impression left by this movie is Houston’s staggering music legacy — the superhuman voice, but also the catalog of classic songs.
— Kristina Dorsey
Gruber is the author of the amazing Jimmy Paz crime trilogy as well as several other highly regarded novels. Despite these credits, Gruber has had to self-publish his last four novels, one of which is “Active Shooter.” How does a writer this good end up self-publishing? Hell if I know. “Active Shooter” is a remarkable and provocative read. In it, Marine officer Nora Kehoe returns from Afghanistan after a goodwill mission goes horribly awry. Slowly healing, she marries and becomes the mother of three. On a family Christmas excursion to a mall, her family is murdered along with more than 100 others by a shooter with an assault rifle. After slowly allowing herself to grieve, Nora decides on a course of action that, well, let’s just say it explores the frontiers of our Second Amendment. Bravo!
— Rick Koster