A savvy, effervescent, and definitive document of a pivotal time in pop.

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  • Rolling Stone & Kirkus' Best Music Books of 2020

CAN'T SLOW DOWN

HOW 1984 BECAME POP'S BLOCKBUSTER YEAR

A close study of the artists and economics that made 1984 a monster year for music.

The year overflowed with chart-topping talent—Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Madonna, Van Halen, and more were at or near their creative and commercial peaks—but veteran critic Matos avoids gooey rhapsodizing about big-name performers, instead honoring their musical brilliance while also exploring the market mechanics that undergirded their success. The watchword of the year was crossover, as rock radio lost listeners and MTV disrupted genre definitions. That allowed Van Halen’s “Jump” to shift the boundaries of both pop and metal, British dance acts like Duran Duran and Culture Club to gain prominence, hip-hop groups like Run-D.M.C. to elbow into the R&B and rock consciousness, and Lionel Richie to own the pop, soft-rock, and country markets. The author organizes the period around signature events, like the launch of the Jacksons’ much-hyped (and price-gouging) Victory tour, a Supreme Court ruling on home taping, the movie premiere of Prince’s Purple Rain, and the recording of the for-better-or-for-worse pioneering charity single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” But Matos ranges widely within those confines and writes authoritatively and entertainingly about a host of genres, whether it’s R.E.M. and Hüsker Dü presaging the 1990s alternative explosion, the rising visibility of global artists like King Sunny Adé and Rubén Blades, or country acts like the Judds angling for chart dominance. That diversification cleared a path for future corporate sponsorships and genre fragmentation, but at the time it felt like unity: Matos cheats a bit by concluding with 1985’s Live Aid concerts, but no moment better exemplified how the era’s breadth of artists captured the world’s attention. It was a big event for a good cause and a last hurrah for a singular cultural phenomenon. One of Kirkus and Rolling Stone’s Best Music Books of 2020.

A savvy, effervescent, and definitive document of a pivotal time in pop.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-306-90337-3

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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