Single art for “Sweeter” by Leon Bridges

Image: Rambo Elliott

There’s a lot going on right now. Maybe you’re protesting, maybe you’re donating, maybe you’re keeping tabs on the way your representatives are responding to the present moment. Keep doing that!

Our lives are not one thing, though, and you’re also probably looking to escape, however briefly, into a show or a book or an album that might help you shut out the world or understand it a little better. To get the wheels turning, here’s the stuff filling our queues at Portland Monthly this week, from Zootopia to the Chicks. 

Fly by the Chicks

The Chicks (née Dixie, a long-overdue but timely name change) released a new album last week, and it’s pretty good. Ubiquitous pop Svengali Jack Antonoff sits behind the dials, and barring a messy-but-obligatory foray into Political Protest Pop, the record (called Gaslighter) is a searing account of lead Chick Natalie Maines’s messy divorce. I listened a few times, glommed onto a few tracks (find me a better burn than “I hope you never find a sock to match the other one / Hey, will your dad pay your taxes now that I'm done?”), remembered that I grew up in a CMT household, and promptly revisited their back catalog.

Reader: it is rich. I always knew the Chicks as singles artists ready to populate semi-ironic college playlists and provide sterling karaoke material (also, yes, as accidental activists after the Bush Comment of 2003). I did not know that the records they released from 1998 to 2002 all hold together as a country-pop gold standard with sales so high that in the digital glare of 2020 they seem truly mythic.

The best, arguably, is Fly, frontloaded with a stretch of five genuinely perfect songs (including classics like “Cowboy Take Me Away” and “Goodbye Earl”) and shot through with virtuoso musicianship from Chicks Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer, plus spine-chilling vocals from Maines all the way through—listen to her howl on “Hole in My Head” and hear the likes of everyone from Courtney Love to Patsy Cline to Kim Gordon. I could write a tome about this record already, and it’s been in my adult life for five days. My advice as you begin this journey: do not skimp on the music videos. —Conner Reed, arts & culture editor

Sarah Cooper

You may already know Sarah Cooper or @sarahcpr. She's in your feed, in your timeline, or on your TikTok, should that be your cup of tea. She’s a young Jamaican American comic from New York City who somehow manages to transform herself on the regular into 45, one Donald J. Trump, for the funniest, most scathing lip syncs you’ve ever seen. No wigs, no orange makeup here; she’s doing it all just by mining the president’s own most nonsensical words, adding in a raised eyebrow here, a sly nod there.
Watch her “How to Cognitive,” riffing on Trump’s recent brag over his supposedly superlative results on a Walter Reed Medical Center–administered cognitive test, for a way in. Fall down the rabbit hole with “How to Immigration” or “How to Empty Seat” (clock the sly Austin Powers reference), and keep going, scrolling until you’ve gotten back to March, when the coronavirus pandemic kicked in and Cooper’s viral videos took off. She’s one good thing to emerge from All This, and people are noticing—per Vanity Fair, she’s now shopping a pilot about a boss who screws up absolutely everything and yet somehow comes out on top. Sound familiar? —Julia Silverman, news editor
 

Sweeter” by Leon Bridges

When your pre-med college roommate starts every study session with “Alexa, play Leon Bridges,” you know he has to be good. What started out as a couple of demo songs he released on Soundcloud in 2014 has turned into recording with Macklemore, performing for the Obamas, and a slew of Grammy-nominated R&B albums. The Texas-born singer-songwriter blends modern R&B with ’60s soul that’s perfect for driving with the windows down on a sunny day. His latest single, “Sweeter,” was released following the murder of George Floyd. “It was the first time I wept for a man I never met,” he shared on Instagram. “I am George Floyd, my brothers are George Floyd, and my sisters are George Floyd. I cannot and will not be silent any longer.” Let the music video say the rest. —Lauren Carlos, editorial intern

 

Zootopia

I have a friend in corrections. He annoys me because he is just so awfully successful, incredibly diligent and hardworking, and unabashedly bright. We talk occasionally, usually about nonsense, but sometimes I like to probe his brain on corrections and law enforcement, these days an undoubtedly important conversation to have. We were deep into a conversation about law enforcement culture and tactics, community policing, and what to do when consumed in tear gas when he suddenly said to me, “You need to watch Zootopia.” “Like, the animated movie?” I asked. He was deadly serious, called me an asshole, and told me to watch the movie. He has younger cousins, so I imagine he became familiar with the movie through them, although it’s entirely possible he very calmly queued up the movie on Disney+, made himself an espresso on his stupid espresso machine, and watched a little animated bunny and fox become best fwends. (To be fair, my viewing experience wasn’t much different.)

It’s not uncommon for children’s movies to hammer home the moral philosophies of the people who made them, but this movie, pardon the cliché, took me by surprise. The movie follows Judy Hopps, a bunny in a rural town whose dream is to become a big-city cop in Zootopia, where predators (foxes, lions, bears, etc.) live in harmony with prey (sheep, bunnies, mice, etc.). Finally, her dream comes true and she’s the first bunny cop on the Zootopia Police Department, but when she arrives Judy is constantly underestimated by her captain and reduced to parking duty. Meanwhile, 14 predators have gone missing. Judy manages to finagle her way onto the case with a con artist fox and unravels the secret about what’s making predators “turn savage.”
 
The movie has some interesting things to say about implicit bias, race relations, and community policing. It doesn’t always hit the mark (or even make sense), but it’s fairly sharp and thoroughly entertaining. NPR and Vox think pieces aside, Zootopia packs a lot of big ideas for small brains—you know, like little children. Or cops. —Gabriel Granillo, digital editor
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