Hi there, just checking in from New England! It’s 46 degrees outside as I write this, y’know, at the end of April. 2018 was certainly not the coldest or snowiest winter of my lifetime, but it sure as hell feels like the longest. Here are a few things keeping me sane (or driving me crazy).
Spring’s not coming. Here is a series of jean jackets that I may not have a chance to wear this year: this one, this one, and this one.
I just started using New Wash and I’m NEVER going back! Pricey, worth it.
I think I should do Dry January again…Dry May? I loved the feeling of being free of vices—it’s easier to do in the dead of winter, since everyone is cooped up at home!
Hello, hello, Opalhouse is in the building. I’ve been laboring under the suspicion that Target is trying to bankrupt me for quite some time, but this is egregious. So g-d, m-f–ing cute! You KNOW I bought this dish towel. #EastCoast
Céline Dion is Québécois royalty and this we avow*. If I’m being completely honest, for most of my life, I never gave much intentional thought to Ms. Dion. Growing up in the nineties and early ’00s, she was a ubiquitous, essential presence. I absolutely dare you to go grocery shopping without hearing at least one of her enduring bangers on the radio. The soft rock/pop vocalist genre never really did it for me, but it is impossible to deny both Dion’s talent and her contributions to pop culture.
*I deeply apologize for this ill-placed Evita reference.
The music of Céline Dion harkens back to a simpler time in popular culture, when talented composers created sleek, radio-friendly hits for talented songstresses and their angelic voices. Now, I’m all for the singer/songwriter as a cultural character and a genre, but in many ways the push for authenticity of subject may have actually done damage to pop music in general. I want Ryan Adams to write all of his own songs, but I don’t feel personally connected to Kelly Clarkson’s input in the songwriting process, y’know? Songcraft is important.
Dion, whose 49th birthday is next week, is experiencing something of a career Renaissance right now (or maybe I’m just projecting?). She’s been performing on tons of awards shows, she recently recorded a version of Queen’s “The Show Must Go On” that did quite well, and she recorded a ballad “How Does A Moment Last Forever” for the new Beauty and the Beast live-action film, starring Emma Watson and literally every other actor. The new song was a sweet throwback to when she recorded the theme song to the 1991 animated Beauty and the Beast with the criminally underrated Peabo Bryson.
Last January, Dion lost her husband René Angélil, whom she had known since she was 12 years old. In honor of this beautiful queen rising from the ashes of tragedy, I’ve put together a short retrospective of her classic English-language hits.
Vive la Reine, and may she never relinquish her French-Candian accent.
That’s right, guys. The “I’m your lady / and you are my man” song. You are lying if you don’t know at least one couple that used this as their wedding song. This song is a classic—it’s sappy, romantic, and that high note at the end? Girl’s got the pipes. If you, unlike me, are ashamed of your love of power ballads, watch this video for no other reason than the haircut. #thefuckingnineties
How to listen: Drunkenly, at the end of a girls’ night out. Alternately, karaoke at a Bachelorette party.
From the first aggressive piano chord, “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” is a fantastic, nuanced jam that manages at once to be angry ex-girlfriend diss track and a lament of lost love. It’s equal parts “I Will Survive” and “You’re Still the One”. Céline adopts a sexy rasp during the pre-choruses that breathes life into me. Baby, baby, BABY, this is, possibly, a perfect song.
How to listen: Home alone, belting along with hairbrush microphone in hand.
“Because You Loved Me”
I can’t find a decent version of this video, which is a shame. This song is excellent, so excellent in fact that it was the theme song to a Robert Redford movie. This is one of those Céline songs that has burrowed itself so far into your brain that when you hear it, you will unwittingly sing along to every word. The lyrics are essentially a laundry-list of reasons to love your bae, and frankly, it was a missed opportunity that I didn’t use them wedding vows.
“Because You Loved Me” won a Grammy and was nominated for the damn Oscar. I would be mad that it lost the Oscar, but it lost to “You Must Love Me” from Evita, and Andrew Lloyd Webber can do no wrong. In any case, the following year, Céline was vindicated, because “My Heart Will Go On” won for Titanic!
Céline’s cover of the 1975 Eric Carmen song is arguably as popular as the original—not an easy feat! This is an anthemic jam and you all know it. The lyrics are beautifully minimalistic, which imbues them with even more meaning—she’s by herself and she DON’T WANNA BE all by herself, damnit! “All By Myself” is probably the #1 sad jam ever written, and putting a varnish of Céline talent on it makes it all the more iconic.
How to listen: Driving home from work in the rain after a really hard day. Crying optional. I’d say post-breakup, but you’re no cliché.
This is the most late-nineties song ever recorded. Every pop artist had a song that sounds eerily like this one in the late nineties (see “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)“, “As Long As You Love Me“, and “Shape of My Heart” by the Backstreet Boys, “Sometimes” and “Born to Make You Happy” by Britney Spears, and probably an entire LeAnn Rimes or Faith Hill album, if I’m being honest. Is it the chord progression?) Céline’s, of course, is the epitomization of the trope. “That’s The Way It Is” is a pep talk in song form. Only Céline could get away with the lines, “Don’t surrender / ’cause you can win / in this thing called love,” and make the word “love” span 3-5 syllables.
How to listen: In the car with your single friends, to subliminally plant inspiration and positivity into their brains! Because you’re not a busybody or anything!
This song is about the birth of her son. Could anything possibly be sweeter? Lines like “I was waiting so long / for a miracle to come” and “I can’t believe / I’ve been touched by an angel with love” are so uplifting and precious! What kind of sociopath doesn’t want to listen to a new mother’s impassioned love song/lullaby to her baby?
How to listen: At a gender reveal party, to liven up the mood when everyone finds out it’s a boy.
It is beyond fitting that the theme song for the movie about the French Disney princess would be sung by the only French (Canadian) singer most Americans can name. And Peabo Bryson! How good is that guy? You may recognize his voice from every Disney theme song of the late eighties/early nineties.
It is also incredibly fitting that the updated 2017 version of this song is performed by Ariana Grande and John Legend—two powerhouse vocalists who can actually hold a candle to the original performances. Ariana Grande’s impression of Céline is a divine inspiration. Go forth and reward your ears with this sultry ballad.
This Oscar-winning song is an enduring classic. I will never yield in my belief that this song is at the pinnacle of songwriting achievement. I don’t care that it’s cheesy. I don’t care that it conjures up images of baby-faced Leonardo DiCaprio. If you don’t feel a profound connection to your emotions when you hear this song, check for a pulse. That flute/recorder part in the beginning? I melt. When the guitar and the harmonies come in in the second verse? RIP me. Dramatic key change? My spirit rises from the grave and floats off into outer space.
“My Heart Will Go On” is still a part of the zeitgeist 20 years later for a reason. Do you still hear “You’ll Be in My Heart” by Phil Collins on the reg? Of course you don’t. You forgot that song even existed until right now. Before you rush off to watch Tarzan, at least finish reading this, though.
How to listen: When you can give it your full attention. When you can let the calming strains wash over you like a soothing bath. This song is the essential oils of music.
Welcome back to another installment of Kool Things, a series in which I blab about the handful of things that brought sparkle and shine to my life this week. Let’s dive in!
This Comedy Special
Remember how, in the first installment of this series, I said, “Get you a Netflix special that can do both”? Well, here’s another one, coming at you. Amy Schumer serves up some realness on her latest, The Leather Special, which has, like all specials released by women, been ratings-trolled by the same MRA garbage piles that do things like, I assume, picket Planned Parenthood and still bring up Bernie Sanders all the time.
Amy’s stand-up is not my absolute fave (we all know I’m a Jen Kirkman stan), but her show, Inside Amy Schumer, has done some really important work, tackling topics like gun violence, online harassment, and sexual assault in the military, among others. The show was even given a Peabody! The special was no different—it’s mostly her trademark “blue” comedy, but she devotes a portion of the hour to discussing the insane gun loopholes that allow the severely mentally ill, domestic abusers, and suspected terrorists to legally purchase guns in the U.S. At a 2015 screening of her film, Trainwreck, two young women, Mayci and Jillian, were fatally shot, inspiring Schumer’s dedication to sensible gun law advocacy. The special, and a portion of Amy’s book, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, are dedicated to the memory of the two women.
It’s the particular burden of comics and artists, at least in my opinion, to simultaneously distract and delight us in the ever-darkening political landscape and to raise awareness about social and legislative issues in a way that politicians are failing to do. It is clear from The Leather Special and Inside Amy Schumer that Amy takes the responsibility of her platform seriously and is using her voice to spark positive change. So, if you live outside of the glorious liberal havens known as “blue states”, call your Congressperson and demand gun regulation! Amy Schumer even prints a list of the Congresspeople who receive NRA money in her book—what a handy guide!
Two-fer this week! Jerrod Carmichael’s latest special, 8, is currently streaming on HBO and it is wild! I watched it today, on the heels of badass news about his returning NBC sitcom, and I’m glad I did. I’ve really enjoyed his sets on late night shows, so I was super pumped to check out the special, which was directed by my fave, local hero Bo Burnham.
Carmichael’s performance was atypical of what we expect from such a high-profile special. HBO! He appeared to be performing in the center of the room, as opposed to from a giant theatre stage, and his delivery was slow and deliberate. The material itself was, as expected, controversial, but the takes were refreshing and unexpected. I can’t believe a comic got me to laugh at the fact that he doesn’t care about global warming! I plan to watch this special again with my husband—maybe I’ll devote a whole post to it then!
A note: post-watching the special, I read a bit of the press on the special and was really surprised to hear some of the criticism. For example, he got called out on doing divisive rape material, but the material itself seemed (at least to me) to be drawing attention to the issue of consent, and how the culture surrounding sex in this country discourages an open dialogue surrounding consent. So, I guess I’m gonna throw a trigger warning on my recommendation to watch this? I encourage everyone to feel their own feelings about the material.
Relatable pull quote: “I’ve got a lot of fears…I’m afraid of going bald before I fuck Rihanna.”
The live action Beauty and the Beast is out! I went to see it yesterday with my dad (cuz we cute), and it was a visually spectacular delight!
Obviously, as a feminist, I have a lot of issues with the content of this and other fairy tales. Narratives like Beauty and the Beast can have really damaging consequences on malleable young minds, and if I have children, I plan to allow them to watch these films with a side dish of discussion on consent, agency, and whack societal norms. I went into this film prepared to love it, but willing to be critical. Also, just FYI, I 100% agree with Dana Schwartz’s brilliant Observer piece, “Why Belle Should Have Chosen Gaston”.
Also, while it was super important for Disney to announce that it would include an out, gay character (Le Fou, played by Josh Gad), the “exclusively gay moment” amounted to little more than cheeky innuendo. The portrayal of Le Fou, and the “Musketeer” that he eventually dances with at the end of the film, leaned very heavily on outdated gay stereotypes, like the assumption that all gay men harbor a secret desire to dress in drag. Drag is a magical, beautiful art form, but not all gay men are drag queens and not every drag queen is gay. I shouldn’t have to explain this to filmmakers in the year of our Lord 2017. To clarify, I’m happy that Disney is finally taking baby steps towards inclusivity, I was just deeply underwhelmed.
All of that being said, I loved this movie. I started tearing up during the opening musical number, “Belle”. Beauty and the Beast and all of the (now) classic animated Disney films, like Aladdin, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, came out right around the time I was born. I must have worn holes in my VHS tapes watching them. I was shocked at how much emotion hearing those songs again brought back. The whole film is visually stunning (I’m sure it will be up for an Oscar next year for costume design or visual effects), Emma Watson holds her own with the singing, and hot British men abound.
Dan Stevens, who I loved on Downton Abbey and still haven’t forgiven for leaving the show, looks exactly like the cartoon prince/Beast in the animated film. It is uncanny! And Luke Evans as Gaston—dear God, that is one beautiful Welsh man. The cast for this film is insane—you spend the whole film internally screaming, “I KNOW THAT VOICE!” whenever you hear Cogsworth, Lumière, and Mrs. Potts speak, and lo and behold, it’s Ian McKellan, Ewan McGregor, and Emma Thompson! Audra McDonald and Stanley Tucci as the wardrobe and the maestro was simply inspired casting. We were also graced with the presence of Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who is so beautiful that, upon her transformation from feather duster to human, I nearly had a stroke. I hereby demand that all movies be remade with her as the lead!
The new songs were, well, underwhelming, as they always are in these circumstances (“Paris of My Childhood” is never taking off), but the old songs hold up beautifully and were nearly shot-for-shot the same as the animated film. Notable exceptions are the line, “Marie! The baguettes!” which is the best moment in the original film, and “every last inch of me’s covered with hair” during “Gaston”. Did we not, as audience, deserve to see Luke Evans shirtless, Disney?
Run, don’t walk, to go see this lovely film. I will fully be buying it on Blu-ray as soon as it comes out!
Watch Ariana Grade & John Legend sing the theme song here. Listen to Queen Céline’s new BatB ballad here.
This Tote Bag
I have been to the mountaintop, y’all. The JCrew All-Day Tote in Aqua Haze is where. it. is. at. I’ve been dying to get one of J.Crew’s gorgeous leather bags for ages, and I finally took the plunge this week. Why the hesitation, you ask? Well, price point for one. I have a lot of designer bags (ugh, you rich bitch) that I’ve gotten during sales or at similar price points, but those have the added bonus of resale value/demand, so they’ve been (somewhat) justified purchases. But you’ll have to pry this one out of my cold, dead hands. No resale, just love. *very Stefon voice* This bag has everything: pebbled leather, interior slip pockets, an exterior slip pocket that would fit a novella, a sweet little exterior buttoned pocket the size of a credit card, and a cute little hang-tag. It’s the perfect bag for school or work—it easily fits my MacBook!
Basically, I’m obsessed. I recently read this amazing article on Racked about the surprising inclusivity of handbags, so lately I’ve been super appreciating my growing collection.
Right now this bag is on sale in three colors, with an extra 30% off with code “HAPPYSPRING”! Happy shopping!
Wow, really, Chels? Following up a call for sensible gun law reform and a Disney movie with a beverage referenced in a System of a Down song? #priorities
But who cares—I love kombucha! Every time I bring up the ‘buch, I feel like that scene in Annie Hall where Alvy orders the alfalfa sprouts and mashed yeast in L.A. However, I’ve recently started drinking kombucha on the regs and I really love it! The American diet is appallingly lacking in probiotics, so ‘buch is a fun and delicious way to up your daily dose. I haven’t tried making my own yet, but I plan to get a kit soon.
My local Wegman’s (shout of to Wegman’s, the best grocery store ever) has an entire cold case devoted to the stuff, and after weeks of lusting after it, I decided to grab a few to try. KeVita has a bunch of amazing flavors that make the idea of drinking fermented mushroom tea a little bit more palatable. GT’s sells them by the case—I highly recommend “Trilogy”.
I am officially a kombucha convert—come join my club!
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m pimping my own recipe from earlier this week. But this series is about my favorite things, damn it, and corn chowder is the best! Haters, make the Beyoncé song and exit to the left. This soup is vegan, contains six different vegetables, and tastes like summer cookouts in a bowl. I’m so into it, I might make it twice this week!
Thanks for listening! Check out some of my other weekly faves here and here!