Andrew Yang New York Mayor

"Times Square," said Andrew Yang in a recent interview with Ziwe. "What's not to like?"

As a New Yorker who once walked through the hellscape that is the Times Square subway station twice a day, I find that question not only abhorrent but stunningly tone deaf. Sure, Times Square has its own kitschy appeal and the subway station is still part of the city I love so much, but also… it's Times Square. Real New Yorkers know that Times Square is a distorted tourist trap, and the subway station bears none of the charm and beauty that so many of the city's other subway stations do.

Take, for example, the Coney Island Stillwell Avenue station, my favorite subway station. Rising out of the ground to the sight of the ocean is an experience I'll never be over. There's Brooklyn's Prospect Avenue station, with its tangles of vines and its mournful yellow lamplight. There's 28th Street Station, with its cherry blossom mosaics… I could go on.

I could possibly forgive Yang's comment if I felt it came from a place of love — perhaps the man has a special adoration for chaos, souvenirs, the smell of things burning, and stations that allow transfers to almost every other part of the city.

But Andrew Yang has been making out-of-touch comments since the beginning of his mayoral candidacy. He confessed that he'd spent most of the pandemic out of the city, saying, "We've spent more time upstate than in the city over the last number of months." He misidentified a food market as a bodega. He complained about life in his two-bedroom Hell's Kitchen apartment, stating, "Can you imagine trying to have two kids in virtual school in a two-bedroom apartment, and then trying to do work yourself?" Why yes, Andrew Yang. (Why yes, many thousands of the New Yorkers you hope to represent have been doing exactly that for over a year now.)

Yang was also criticized for name-dropping LGBTQ+ spots like a tourist looking to explore the gay side of Greenwich Village for the first time. "Well, first, let me say that if I go to Cubbyhole, I think I'm going to be accompanied by at least one of my two campaign managers who are both gay," he said. "So there's like a lot of, you know, familiarity with, with the community, at the head of my campaign leading it." Later on in the same speech, he told a mostly LGBTQ+ audience that their community is "so human and beautiful."

His tweets are a mess as well. He later apologized for a tweet reading, "You know what I hear over and over again - that NYC is not enforcing rules against unlicensed street vendors. I'm for increasing licenses but we should do more for the retailers who are paying rent and trying to survive." But the damage was done. New York City's vibrance comes in large part from its street vendors, many of whom make their living selling food on the sidewalks. Many saw Yang's comments as further evidence that he had no connection to everyday New Yorkers.

He also recently apologized for a blatantly pro-Israel and anti-Arab tweet, which garnered praise from none other than Donald Trump Jr. The tweet read, "The people of NYC will always stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel who face down terrorism and persevere." Yang also said, in a Forward op-ed, that the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement was the result of "anti-semitic thought and history."

In another interview, Yang confessed that he has never voted in a single mayoral election in NYC. In a recent press conference, he stated, "One thing that I think would be extraordinarily helpful is to have specific shelters for victims of domestic violence, who are often fleeing from an abusive partner," Yang said during the forum. "It's a distinct population with distinct needs, and they should have separate [facilities]." Others were quick to point out that New York City does, in fact, have these types of shelters, and Yang tried to walk back his claim, but the damage was done.

In yet another fumbled press conference, Yang was asked, "Do you agree with the repeal of 50-a?" He replied, "The repeal of 50-a," prompting the interviewer to ask, "Do you know what 50-a is?" Yang fumbled the reply further by saying, "This is not the — it's not the mandatory interview of the—" prompting another candidate to clarify that 50-a is actually a bill that hides police officers' disciplinary actions from the public. The bill received widespread attention during the George Floyd protests this year.

Later on, Yang was asked about the MTA's debt, and he responded, "The MTA doesn't break its numbers out that cleanly, but you're looking at revenues around eight or nine million dollars and an operating deficit of around three-and-a-half." The MTA's debt is actually in the billions of dollars, which Yang likely meant to say, but he further flubbed the response by mentioning MTA bridges that go out of the city, which there are none of (the Port Authority controls outer-city transit).

Each one of these foibles reveals a candidate who is blatantly out of touch with the extremely complicated everyday realities of New York City. All these little mishaps are arguably easy to forgive on their own — but look at them together and it becomes easier to piece together who Andrew Yang is (and who he is not).

Look deeper at his policies and the practices he hopes to implement as the mayor of the Big Apple — a position he may very well win — and a more ominous picture starts to take shape.

Policy Flaws and a Poor Track Record

For example, Yang — who grew famous during the 2020 election cycle thanks to his promises of Universal Basic Income — has since walked back his promises and has failed to garner critical union and progressive support. He pledged, for example, to offer $1,000 to $2,000 per year to "each family of a student whose family income puts them at the poverty threshold," as well as English language learners and special education students. $1,000 or $2,000, essentially a one-time stimulus check, would, of course, not lift any student or their family out of poverty, especially in a place like New York City, nor would it be anything close to a universal basic income.

Even Yang's original Universal Basic Income proposal, the "Freedom Dividend," would have required families to choose between receiving some public benefits such as Medicare and $1,000 per month.

If you weren't already aware at this point, Yang, though allegedly a Democrat, with wide residual progressive appeal from 2020, has conservative-leaning policies. That's part of what makes him so insidious and competitive as a candidate: He can appeal to progressives who don't do their research, to Democrats looking for an acceptably centrist candidate, to independents looking for a non-establishment politician, and to Republicans who know Yang is probably the closest thing to a conservative mayor they'll find right now.

Rightly so, Yang is facing vehement opposition from many groups, particularly among the powerful coalition of progressive organizations in NYC. "Andrew Yang's pro-cop, anti-public education, anti-union, big business-centric platform is not what New Yorkers need," Senti Sojwal, cofounder of the Asian American Feminist Collective, told Teen Vogue. Sojwal, along with 790 grassroots AAPI organizers and leaders, recently signed a letter opposing Yang's mayoral bid.

Yang is apparently "in talks with Tusk Strategies, the consulting firm that worked on Mike Bloomberg's 2009 mayoral campaign." The CEO of Tusk Strategies is Bradley Tusk, a former consultant for the city's largest police union.

Yang also advocated for putting more police in subway stations and has been a vocal critic of the defund the police movements.

In general, Yang seems to glorify a capitalist free market that many fear would be damaging to NYC's already fragile housing situation. Back in 2019, Yang proclaimed his distaste for zoning laws and seemed to advocate for a kind of wild free-for-all situation based on the premise that the market would work its magic. However, New York City is in the midst of a housing crisis that free market development will certainly not help solve.

A look at Yang's record reveals that he has long been oscillating between progressivism and conservatism.

After working as a test-prep executive, he started a nonprofit called Venture for America, which promised to create 100,000 jobs. It only created around 4,000.

Running New York City is far, far more complicated than running a single nonprofit, and Yang's record is not promising. His policies are chaotic at best; he has promised to bring cryptocurrency to New York despite the potentially devastating environmental impact. He confessed to having never visited one of New York City's public housing developments prior to the mayoral race, and after living in Hell's Kitchen for 25 years, he seemed surprised after visiting Brownsville, Brooklyn, saying, "You saw things that were very, very dark and bleak." Talk about out of touch.

In general, critics say Yang lacks the expertise to address NYC's most pressing problems, including its failing subway systems, its housing crisis, and impending environmental crises such as future hurricanes.

So Why is He a Frontrunner?

In spite of all this, Yang is polling strongly. There are several reasons for this. Yang has the name-factor recognition, and he has leveraged his celebrity status to the max, promising to be a "cheerleader" for a post-COVID New York. Like Trump, his controversial tweets and gaffes tend to bring more attention to him. As The New York Times writes, "Andrew Yang Believes in New York and Himself. Is That Enough?" It may well be, though it seems strange that in a city that prides itself on its no-nonsense, no bullshit ethic, wild optimism could be a winning campaign.

Yang has amassed a coalition that includes Orthodox Jews (Yang promised to take a hands-off approach to yeshivas), some Asian American voters, and some young people still riding the high of the Yang Gang.

In addition, none of his competitors have managed to overtake him in popularity or notoriety. His opponent Scott Stringer, the current comptroller, was recently accused of sexual assault, causing key groups to withdraw their support. Candidate Dianne Morales is a strong progressive champion running on a promise to bring social housing to NYC, but she lacks the name recognition of Yang, and the same goes for fellow candidate Maya Wiley. The fact that Yang seems to be running on a platform based on unearned confidence that is eclipsing the campaigns of two qualified Black women is reason for pause in and of itself.

As of now, Yang's primary opponent seems to be Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president who is a former cop who promised to carry a gun if elected. Another major opponent is Kathryn Garcia, the former New York City sanitation commissioner, who came out on top in a recent poll.

So, in spite of all this, it seems that New Yorkers may be stuck with Andrew Yang. Of course, he's probably not the worst man for the job. Yang has big, optimistic visions: invest in the city's failing infrastructure and affordable housing, reinvigorate the city's arts and culture sector, develop education, a People's Bank for the city, address the homelessness crisis and more. After Bloomberg, almost any new energy will feel welcome.

Whether Yang can achieve any of his visions is to be seen. But with New York City on the brink of rebirth, change is coming fast — and it's up to voters to decide what kind of change they ultimately want to see.

Music Features

New York Entertainment Venues Can Open at 1/3 Capacity in April

Governor Cuomo announced that indoor venues can open to 33 percent, with a 100-person maximum.

On April 2, concert venues and other performance spaces in the state of New York will be able to open at limited capacity.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday at a conference in Albany that arts, entertainment, and events venues could reopen April 2 at 33 percent capacity, with an indoor limit of 100 people and outdoor limit of 200 people. While live music fans might rejoice in this new, these restrictions may not be enough to keep business afloat for many well-known venues across New York City.

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She is amorphously famous in a way only a millennial could be: She can best be described as a comedian/podcast host/writer/content creator.

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MUSIC

From SXSW to Coachella, Will the Coronavirus Kill Live Music in 2020?

With a recent spate of cancellations and mounting fear of an emerging pandemic, the near-future of live music is in doubt.

Getty Images

UPDATE:

Both SXSW and Coachella have been canceled, with the latter beung technically postponed until October. Coachella organizers released a statement on March 10:

At the direction of the County of Riverside and local health authorities, we must sadly confirm the rescheduling of Coachella and Stagecoach due to COVID-19 concerns. While this decision comes at a time of universal uncertainty, we take the safety and health of our guests, staff and community very seriously. We urge everyone to follow the guidelines and protocols put forth by public health officials.

Coachella will now take place on October 9, 10 and 11 and October 16, 17 and 18, 2020. Stagecoach will take place on October 23, 24 and 25, 2020. All purchases for the April dates will be honored for the rescheduled October dates. Purchasers will be notified by Friday, March 13 on how to obtain a refund if they are unable to attend.

Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to seeing you in the desert this fall.

Less than a week prior, for the first time in 34 years, SXSW was canceled by the city of Austin, citing public safety concerns over the coronavirus.

There's something so special about seeing music live.

The energy from the crowd all around you. Thousands of bodies pressed together—moving in rhythm, sharing one voice, one breath, and one expanding cloud of viral pathogens…

Is it even really a concert or a music festival if you aren't making forced physical contact with two to five strangers at all times? With fears around the nascent coronavirus pandemic already disrupting tourism—Disney is forecasting tens of millions in losses from drops in park attendance—and leading to the cancellation and closure of various large, public events and venues, the thought of a music festival is starting to seem like a relic of a simpler time.

Louvre Coronavirus Chesnot/Getty Images

All across the globe people are stocking up on dry goods and hand sanitizer and avoiding crowds as much as possible. So-called "self-isolating" is not just for binge-watching TV shows anymore, it's become actual medical advice along with "social distancing," which adds impossible precautions like maintaining six feet of physical distance when navigating public spaces. Tokyo all but canceled their yearly marathon, and it remains to be seen whether the city will be hosting the summer Olympics as planned. While apps and websites launch to help people avoid crowds, the Louvre is finally reopening in Paris this week with added precautions to protect staff and visitors.

In the US, the first real test of the new state of things will be taking place in Austin from March 13-22. South By Southwest—the annual amalgam of music, tech, and media events—is slated to begin next Friday, and it would normally be expected to draw attendance of more than 150,000. But events are already being canceled. Apple confirmed on Wednesday that it will be joining Netflix, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook in pulling back from scheduled events amid calls to cancel altogether. Meanwhile Austin's Public Health offices released a statement posted on the SXSW website saying that "no health departments in the state have requested the cancellation of any gatherings as the current risk of person-to-person spread in their jurisdictions remains low."

If that statement turns out to be correct—and attendance is not substantially affected by mounting fear and the slew of cancellations—then perhaps Coachella will proceed as normal from April 10-19 in Indo, California. With an impressive lineup including Rage Against the Machine, Frank Ocean, Travis Scott, Run the Jewels, and Lana Del Rey, that's certainly what a lot of people are hoping. But if attendance tanks, or if even one new case of COVID-19 ends up being traced to Austin during SXSW, it seems unlikely that Coachella will take place without some major adjustments.

sxsw SXSW

Some companies are looking at the prospect of monitoring attendee's temperatures at the entrance to festivals, but there is reason to believe that this method has limited value, and with people practically living on top of each other for days on end—breathing the same air and swapping all manner of fluids—even one sociable carrier could quickly lead to a mass outbreak among nearly 100,000 daily attendees at Coachella. The venue has already proven to be an impressive petri dish for other diseases. Now imagine the Japanese cruise ship quarantine, except it's a crowd of underdressed Instagram influencers sharing not enough porta-potties.

Inside China, the rate of new infections is rapidly dropping. If that trend extends to the rest of the world, then perhaps there won't be a need for concern much longer. But if new cases continue to crop up as they have in California, Washington, New York and elsewhere, will bands even be willing to perform in mass venues? What if conditions worsen? Already, some live performances have been converted to livestreams from empty venues. Will that be the model for live performances in 2020?

There is an outside chance that as the seasons change the threat of the coronavirus may recede (or migrate to the southern hemisphere), in which case current concerns about the death of live music may be overblown. If the incidence rate drops in time for the Bonnaroo, Governors Ball, and Lollapalooza, then maybe live music can survive this brush with modern pestilence. On the other hand, if vaccine research doesn't proceed at a rapid pace, outbreaks could recur just in time for the fall and Austin City Limits from October 2-11. Tough year for Austin...

For anyone who's already committed to a crowded public event, the best advice is just to be aware of your vulnerabilities, to keep your hands clean, and to cough into the crook of your elbow. Also, use a condom. Good luck.

MUSIC

Janet May Finds Harmony in Music and Activism

Protest movements, music, and human beings are more similar and interconnected than they are different and alone, and Janet May lives her life in a way that reflects this.

Pete Voelker

Janet May's heartfelt ballads are deeply personal, but she has a decidedly global outlook.

The artist, currently on tour opening for the indie band Palace, has found ways to merge her passion for music with her dedication to activism.

She's involved in many organizing groups around New York City, working for everything from environmental justice to ICE abolition and beyond, constantly appearing at protests, taking part in a residency at Riker's Island, and performing for incarcerated women.

Her intimate music expresses a similar but more private kind of strength, an earnest reflectiveness that stems from a place of interconnectedness, love, and undeniable, breathtaking talent. A former backup singer for the Bombay Bicycle Club and MGMT, May's solo career is catching on after she took some time off to care for her father and move to Los Angeles. She currently has two singles on Spotify, which explore two different sides of strength: "New York, I Am Home" is an aching, wintry ballad about returning to New York and finding strength in solitude, and "Lessons to Learn" is a guitar-driven sparkler of a song about female complexity and resilience. Peppered with gems of wisdom and honesty, and delicately wound together by simple and elegant musical motifs, they're intoxicating songs that blend the best of modern pop with vintage Laurel Canyon-esque Americana.

Over coffee and tea at a Williamsburg bar near the sold-out venue where she was about to perform, Janet and I spoke about the personal and the political, about the importance of personal connection to larger issues, and about our deep love for New York and all the music and people of the city.

EG: How do music and activism connect in your mind?

JM: My impetus to move on things—whether in music or activism—feel similar, in the sense that they're the first things I think about when I wake up. I write about what I care about, and I work on what I care about, and both things really come to fruition when the time is right and when the opportunity and inspiration strikes. I think they're similar in that artists and activists can be pretty integral to shaping change in culture. So I think they belong in the same conversation.

A lot of movements seem to involve music and singing, so they're definitely connected. What actions have you done that stand out in your mind, and what organizations have you partnered with?

JM: About a month ago, I was out front of Cuomo's office with Sane Energy Project and a coalition of people working to shut down a pipeline going into New York Harbor. We brought petitions to the office. I recently marched the Brooklyn Bridge as part of that same movement against that pipeline. That was a great march—there were loads of kids involved, as well as some of the Lakota women who had been at Standing Rock. They're powerful voices in the environmental movements—and to march with them and that they'd come to New York for our water was amazing.

I've also witnessed and been a part of some big actions with Extinction Rebellion, and I've seen them shut down City Hall.

I got into activism because there was part of me that wanted to understand the movement as a whole, including this idea of resisting, and the idea of acknowledging our responsibility to try to at least steer the ship because we're not being represented well.

At first, I was just checking out loads of different groups, just to see how they were organizing, so I've dabbled in a lot. Here in New York, Rise and Resist has been an incredible and constant system of organizing. They were just down in DC, and I played in DC as well, and it meant a lot to me to know that they were all on the floor of the Senate. Also, they organized a Non-March for the Women's March, so disabled individuals and people who couldn't march could also have a rally. I think they're really inclusive and they're all 30-year organizers or more, so I've learned so much from them.

I also work with a group called 8 Ball Community. They're an art-activist collective located in downtown New York. They have an ongoing zine library that is so unique and so special in terms of presenting alternative news and making it accessible in terms of finding information that may not be in the news. We recently did a big Fox News protest when Fox was trying to get money for advertising. We turned up with some glitter signs.

How do you balance music with all this?

For a long time, I was really overwhelmed with how much is going on, and I wouldn't say I'm not now, but I would say I'm learning through my music and am listening to where I feel like I should be activating. I'm trying to narrow down that overwhelming feeling, and focusing on working on what enrages me, inspires me, and moves me.

What motivates you to write a song?

My songs are so personal to me, and I feel like I can't really write about something unless I really know it. I'm married to that idea. Usually, I'll write a song and feel like that's led me somewhere else, so it's always a multi-step process.

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I know you performed a Riker's residency—what was that like?

I have a monthly residency at the women's jail on Rikers' Island, so I've been in a few times. My reason for going in… there's multitudes of reasons, and this is something that I've sat with for a long time prior to even being able to get access.

I wrote a song about having a loved one who's incarcerated called "Feet on the Dashboard," and that's about a personal lived experience for me. I felt really isolated through that experience. It's something I felt was stigmatized, and I didn't really understand and was totally happening to us, not just to that individual. While writing that song and living through that experience, I'd seen this panel discussion with Bryan Stevenson, a leader in criminal justice reform and a lawyer and a writer. He said that when you want to learn about an issue or have an effect, the most important thing is your proximity to that issue.

That's where it started for me. When a loved one is incarcerated, you can really feel that border between yourself and that person. I was interested in rectifying some of that experience for myself and providing some healing by being with other people's sisters, mothers, and loved ones. And that's been amazing. I'm always taken aback by how resilient these women are, and hearing their stories—and that they hold space for my story—is an honor.

I like that quote about proximity—it's so important to elevate the voices of the actual people who are people being affected. And music that directly relates to actual emotions always seems to be the strongest. You seem to have connected your music and activism.

For me, the real idea behind activism is understanding your agency and taking ownership over what you can do. It's not glamorous, and it's not about the outside-in; it's totally about the inside-out.

I got into music and activism because I'm so fascinated with people and movement, and live music—to me—is a direct exchange of energy with a larger group. There's magic inside of that, and so I feel like I started to seek out activism because I was curious about how people were moving with one another and sharing concern and bringing that to action.

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There seems to be a lot of rhythm involved in both music and strong movements.

I've heard the reason why music is able to move us so much is that the second we're conceived—the second the egg is fertilized—it splits into two cells, and they start beating together, and that's a heartbeat. That will stay with you until you pass, and that's almost like the first thing that we are, is this shared pulsation.

I've read a lot about how sound waves are central to our makeup.

And sound waves are real, as real as this table.

You're on a pretty intense tour. How do you spend your time off?

I just had one afternoon off in New York recently, and I had to ask myself: In just a few hours, who did I want to see?

One of the places I went was the WPA, the Women's Prison Association. It's a shelter for women who experienced incarceration. It's providing resources in terms of materials for creativity, whether facilitated workshops or what have you with the women who are currently living there. The women who run the WPA are incredible. They're the only group providing resources to specifically women who are concerning themselves with female incarceration. Women are definitely preyed upon, and the system fails so many. Proximity is really important for me here in New York.

Apparently, my yoga studio is important to me, too. I practice on my own, and that day it was heaven. I went in and they were steaming a kettle with eucalyptus and burning firewood, and it just reversed whatever was taking over my sinuses on the tour bus. So, New York gives me life.

Congratulations–you've survived 2019.

We've been through haunting commercials, traumatically bad movies, and the fall of a favorite childhood author. But through it all, there's been Spotify, judging our music tastes like a disapproving boomer. And yet, we persisted. In alphabetical order, these are the top 50 musical lifelines of the 2010s. In the top 25 are the likes of BTS, Bon Iver, Kendrick Lamar, and Childish Gambino. Among the bottom 25 are FKA twigs, Tayor Swift, Julien Baker, and Charli XCX. Notably absent is anything by Ed Sheeran or Justin Bieber, because we don't believe bad listening habits should be encouraged. Happy listening in 2020!

Top 50 Songs of the Decade

Top 50 Songs of the Decade open.spotify.com


TOP 25

33 "GOD": Bon Iver

With 22, A Million, Bon Iver shattered expectations and blended innovative electronic arrangements with typically opaque lyrics, albeit this time more about religion and technology rather than snowstorms and forests. "33 'GOD'" is one of its most joyful and reverent moments. "I could go forward in the night / but I better fold my clothes," Vernon sings just before the song explodes into its shimmering chorus, a line that perfectly encapsulates the strangeness of being human while thinking about transcendence.

Bon Iver - 33 "GOD" - Official Lyric Video www.youtube.com


Bloodbuzz Ohio: The National

What happens when your hometown is full of bitter memories? If you're the National's Matt Berninger, you drink to the point of oblivion. But the instrumentals of "Bloodbuzz Ohio"—named after Berninger's home state and, well, an alcoholic buzz—aren't as somber as one might expect, its stadium-sized piano melody driven by intricate, racing guitars; like the malaise of homesickness squared up with an unyielding desire to move forward.

The National - Bloodbuzz Ohio (Official Video) www.youtube.com


Dancing On My Own: Robyn

Seeing your ex with someone new can often behold the same "don't want to look, but can't look away" quality as a gnarly car accident. At least, that's the case for the narrator of Robyn's definitive sad banger, "Dancing On My Own"—and what better medicine for heartbreak than doing just that? The song might be sung from the perspective of being lonely, but truthfully, its listeners are never fully alone; just take it from the New Yorkers who threw a dance party to the song on a subway platform after Robyn's Madison Square Garden show earlier this year. "Dancing On My Own" pines for closure, but in the end, making yourself your own partner—both in life and in the club—is the best remedy for moving on.

Robyn - Dancing On My Own (Official Video) www.youtube.com


Cardi B: Bodak Yellow

Cardi B's breakout hit became so unavoidable and beloved that it's pretty mind-boggling to think that just months before it dropped, she was only a reality TV audience favorite on VH1's Love & Hip Hop. "Bodak Yellow" is boastful and unapologetic, an anthem of bad b*tchery—the kind of song that makes you want to hit the club with your girlfriends and disregard every man in sight. Cardi had long left the stripper's pole behind her, but with "Bodak Yellow," all eyes remained on her.

Cardi B - Bodak Yellow [OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO] www.youtube.com


Cranes in the Sky: Solange

The younger Knowles wrote "Cranes in the Sky" after an especially painful breakup with the father of her son. On the centerpiece of her 2016 record A Seat at the Table, Solange delivers a laundry list of coping mechanisms: dancing, spending, sexing, working hard. It's a jazzy, R&B ode to life's inevitable pains, and whichever vices we select in order to ease them.

Solange - Cranes in the Sky (Video) www.youtube.com


Everybody Wants to Love You: Japanese Breakfast

In the dream-pop she makes as Japanese Breakfast, Michelle Zauner wears her emotions on her sleeve. She wrote the first incantation of "Everybody Wants to Love You" with her previous band Birthday Girlz, for a woman who had no clue the song was about her. Years later, it was sped up and extended for Japanese Breakfast's version, a deliriously enamored love anthem that's as intoxicating and thrilling as a new crush.

Japanese Breakfast - Everybody Wants To Love You (Official Video) www.youtube.com


Fake Love: BTS

As Popdust's resident "Only Person Who Listens to Kpop," (Dan) it's important to me to see BTS represented on our Top 50 Best Songs of the Decade list. As our world becomes more and more connected in the age of the Internet, we can no longer pretend that Western media is the only relevant pop culture content. With their incredibly diverse range of hits and a global appeal that transcends language barriers, BTS feels like a once-in-a-generation musical group.

All that being said, I reached out to ARMY (BTS's dedicated fanbase) on Twitter to get a sense of which BTS songs meant the most to them. I really enjoyed reading the range of their responses, as it seems like pretty much every BTS song is someone's favorite, many of them for deeply personal reasons. Out of every BTS song, Fake Love was echoed most frequently.

It's not hard to see why. Fake Love is a musical masterpiece that entirely escapes genre categorization. Structurally superb, the song's solemn, trap-rock-influenced melody effortly flows into both catchy pop refrains and emotional hip hop segments, with a little bit of grunge built in for good measure. The complex sound compliments the deep, mature lyrics, which explore the dissolution of an intense romance wherein a person realizes that they've lost sight of their own identity in order to shape themselves for a love that was never really there. Fake Love is easily one of BTS's darkest songs, making for an emotionally resonant experience that's sure to stick with listeners for decades to come.

BTS (방탄소년단) 'FAKE LOVE' Official MV www.youtube.com


Formation: Beyonce

Beyonce dropped "Formation" the day after Trayvon Martin's 21st birthday. On the surface, the Lemonade standout is a widely accessible party jam, Queen Bey at her boldest. But under its bombastic bass and victorious marching band instrumentals, there's an undeniable spirit of Southern black empowerment, reaching levels of unimaginable success against all odds.

Beyoncé - Formation www.youtube.com


Gold: Chet Faker

Chet Faker's "Gold" is one of the finest offerings on his debut album, Built on Glass. The track's smooth R&B and electronica match his soft-spoken drawl, punctuated by his crisp falsetto, as he croons about being in love with love.

Chet Faker - Gold (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com


I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times): Jamie xx

With his debut solo record In Colour, Jamie xx—one-third of the hushed, stoned indie trio the xx—proved he was no one-trick pony. That message is heard clearest on "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)," an irresistible party track featuring rapper Young Thug, Jamaican dancehall artist Popcaan, and a sample from '60s acapella group the Persuasions. Altogether, it's a certifiable good time indeed—maybe even too good if you're Rue from Euphoria.

Jamie xx - I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times) ft. Young Thug, Popcaan www.youtube.com


Levitate: Kendrick Lamar

Track seven on Untitled Unmastered, unofficially known as "Levitate," is a stand out Kendrick Lamar track among a long list of contenders, mostly for its opening. The trippy instrumentals and the increasingly chaotic vocals capture a strange, surreal feeling of drifting away from the world. The lyrics are strong, but mostly, nothing will get as high as this song.

untitled 07 | 2014 - 2016 www.youtube.com


Man on Fire: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

The indie folk of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros lives in the American heartland of the past, which we're disillusioned with but nostalgic for at the same time. That includes frontman Alex Ebert, who describes "Man on Fire" as being a release from "all the problems, pain, murder, heartache, shame, and those things I bring up, especially the conflict." He told Artist Direct, "I felt like instead of trying to fix it or work on it within the paradigm of problem-solving, I wanted to throw it all away and just dance in the streets. That's what it's about. It was born from a really intense, defiant, and frustrated place. That's one of the reasons I love that song."

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - Man On Fire [Official Video] www.youtube.com


Midnight City: M83 -

Repeating a series of four notes eight times in a row is a method as old as pop music itself, but that didn't stop Anthony Gonzalez—the one man behind M83—from creating one of the most recognizable chorus melodies of the decade.

M83 - Midnight City www.youtube.com


Nights: Frank Ocean

Blond, which seems to exist in twenty more dimensions than the majority of other music, is a master class in the art of building worlds through sound and panning and pure poetry. "Nights" is one of its lush centerpieces, a song about the exhausting and thrilling nature of the nighttime and everything that comes with it; dreams, the subconscious, love, sex, unfiltered emotion, exhaustion. As the song switches from its initial beat to its frenetic guitar interlude and finally breaks down to that too-dreamy, silky-trap outro, you know that Frank has been hacking your ears to transport you somewhere else. The lyrics help, too; when Frank sings, "Wanna see nirvana and I wanna die," you really feel it every time.

Frank Ocean - Nights (Visuals) www.youtube.com


Oblivion: Grimes

Claire Boucher turned her violent street assault and its lingering emotional toll into the defining song of her career. The staccato, arpeggiated bassline of "Oblivion" mimics the persistent, heightened wariness of walking by yourself at night; though the track is largely centered around being alone, the anxieties Grimes sings about are something all of her female listeners can relate to.

Grimes - Oblivion www.youtube.com


Pure Comedy: Father John Misty

"Pure Comedy" is a song that's memorable not so much for musical content but for its message. The melody is straightforward without a lot of elaboration, and the vocals don't make any attempt to show off. It's a song that serves the almost singular purpose of delivering its unambiguous lyrics and using them to dig into the profound and sad absurdity of life. It may not do much else, but it does that as well as any song of the decade.

Father John Misty - Pure Comedy [Official Music Video] www.youtube.com


Run Away With Me: Carly Rae Jepsen

By the time her third album, Emotion, dropped, Carly Rae Jepsen was a known auteur of potently catchy bubblegum pop songs. But the dark side to her breakout "Call Me Maybe" was that it overshadowed much of her work to come, even the chugging, euphoric "Run Away With Me." With it's chant-along chorus, a perfectly utilized saxophone solo, and a globetrotting music video, it's Jepsen at her most fun and most inviting.

Carly Rae Jepsen - Run Away With Me www.youtube.com


Runaway: Kanye West

Say what you want about Kanye West's trajectory post-Life of Pablo, but My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a truly magnificent achievement. "Runaway" is the bloody, ragged, triumphant beating heart of the album. It begins with those iconic syncopated staccato piano notes and then explodes into a growling bassline, and all together it taps into the deep pain and guilt at the core of the human experience, something Kanye's always been an expert at exposing to the light. When the cello section at the end breaks loose, it's heaven in hell.

Kanye West - Runaway (Video Version) ft. Pusha T www.youtube.com


Silver Spoon (Baepsae): BTS

Whereas many of BTS's songs evade easy genre categorization, Silver Spoon (or Baepsae, which means crow-tit––a Korean term roughly equivalent to calling someone a "try-hard") falls firmly in the realm of hip hop. In that same vein, Silver Spoon is also one of BTS's most politically biting songs.

Serving as an anthem for disenfranchised millennials, Silver Spoon places the tension between younger generations and older generations into stark contrast. The title, Silver Spoon, refers to a popular Korean metaphor for class divides (the same concept plays a large role in Bong Joon-ho's Parasite, which also happens to be one of my favorite movies of the decade). In the song, BTS calls out the hypocrisy of older people acting like millennials don't work hard enough while simultaneously subjecting them to an unfair system with a dearth of opportunities. By wearing the derogatory term "baepsae" like a badge of honor, BTS takes power back from an older generation who would otherwise write younger people off.

With a platform as big as theirs, BTS's political messaging has the potential to reach further than most, and while Silver Spoon specifically speaks to issues in South Korea, its message has obvious parallels all around the world.

BTS (방탄소년단) – Baepsae (뱁새) (Crow Tit/Try-Hard/Silver Spoon) Lyrics [Color Coded_Han_Rom_Eng] www.youtube.com


Someone You Loved: Lewis Capaldi

America's been slow to catch onto Scottish singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi, but the 23-year-old's piano-driven anthem topped the UK charts for seven consecutive weeks in 2019. Through his all-too-charming social media presence, he showcases his dry humor and pokes fun at himself and the seeming perfection of successful musicians: "A lot of people say that 'the best songs fall into your lap' and that they're the easiest ones to write and take the shortest amount of time," he told NME. "I wholeheartedly disagree with that. I think my best songs come from me sitting at a piano, bashing my head against a brick wall for hours and hours on end to get one good melody."

Lewis Capaldi - Someone You Loved www.youtube.com


Spring Day: BTS

If I were to recommend K-pop to someone who had never listened to a single non-English-language song before, Spring Day is probably the first song I would play for them. One of BTS's most fascinating talents (and I'd wager a major reason behind their widespread international success) is their unprecedented ability to imbue their music with real, raw emotion that completely breaks through cultural barriers and hits on the core universal sentiments underlying their songs. Spring Day is all about longing for someone who isn't there, and even without translating the gorgeous lyrics, the song fills you with the melancholy sensation of nostalgia. It's almost impossible to listen to Spring Day without missing someone or something from your past.

Couple this with one of BTS's most imagery-dense music videos, full of references to Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer and Ursula K. Le Guin's false-utopian short story, "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas," and Spring Day plays out like an almost literary endeavor. For a group renowned for their ability to tear up a dance floor and hype up an audience, a deeply sentimental piece like Spring Day stands as testament to BTS's vast range of talents.

BTS (방탄소년단) '봄날 (Spring Day)' Official MV www.youtube.com


Take Me to Church: Hozier

In 2014 you could hardly leave the house without hearing someone butchering the lyrics to "Take Me to Church," Hozier's infectious folk-rock break out single. Many interpret the song as a critique of organized religion interfering in people's personal lives, particularly their sex lives. As such, the song was as divisive as it was wildly popular. Hozier's velvet voice and gospel-inspired songwriting prowess came together to create a song that was markedly more substantive and interesting than most other hits from 2014.

Hozier - Take Me To Church (Official Video) www.youtube.com


This is America: Childish Gambino

When "This is America" dropped, it came at a moment of breathless rage and fear in America. With its themes of gun violence and racial discrimination, it lit up like a match thrown on gasoline—but it had staying power because of its sonic juxtapositions of African folk-pop against brooding trap, and that breathtaking chorus line. When Glover says, "This is America," you're forced to wonder exactly whose America he's talking about, and that was always the point.

Childish Gambino - This Is America (Official Video) www.youtube.com


Your Best American Girl: Mitski

"Your Best American Girl" starts soft, but then explodes into a forest fire of electric guitar. When Mitski sings the iconic lyrics, "Your mother wouldn't approve of how my mother raised me / but I do / I finally do / and you're an all American boy, guess I couldn't help try to be your best American girl," she expressed a delicate balance of emotions: rage mixed with self-love, freedom combined with regret. The result is an unforgettable, cathartic love letter to music and solidarity.

Mitski - Your Best American Girl (Official Video) www.youtube.com



BOTTOM 25

A More Perfect Union: Titus Andronicus

In his famed Lyceum Address, Abraham Lincoln told the United States: "As a nation of free men, we will live forever, or die by suicide." These words are uttered at the beginning of "A More Perfect Union," the opener to punk rockers Titus Andronicus' cult favorite The Monitor. Chock-full of New England references both historical and modern, it teeters the line between that invincibility and impermanence. But as the roaring second half marches on, it seems to rejoice in that at least we are free either way.

Cellophane: FKA twigs

Twigs has built a delicate and impressive body of work over the years, but few songs had the emotional resonance and total desperation of "Cellophane," an impossibly fragile breakup song for the ages off 2019's Magdalene. Its gorgeous video was a masterpiece of dance, endurance, and surrealist art, and socially, it's everything a cathartic cry into the void should be and more.

Despacito: Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee (NOT Justin Bieber)

Before Justin Bieber ever tarnished this song, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee had a globally viral hit that shone thanks to its magnetic, compulsively danceable beat and tune. "Despacito" is a tightly wound pop-reggaeton hybrid, one that checked every box and went further, becoming an irresistible earworm that will have us dancing for a long time to come.

Everything Is Embarrassing: Sky Ferreira

This Sky Ferreira track is utterly infectious, the kind of tune that gets in your bloodstream and makes you want to dance and cry at the same time. Written by Blood Orange's Dev Hynes, it's the perfect bridge between feeling everything and nothing, between taking things seriously and laughing at the absurdity of it all. When the chorus kicks in, you feel ecstatic despite the eye-rolls implicit in Ferreira's lyrics, then the bridge takes the song to an entirely new level.

Green Light: Lorde

Lorde's Melodrama was a tribute to parties, love, and heartbreak, and its opener set the tone for the entire cycle. "Green Light" starts out with restraint, but once Lorde starts singing about hoping her ex gets bitten by a great white shark as her voice plays in two octaves, you know she's not messing around. This unconventional and brilliant pop song is an open door into Lorde's neon dreamworld, a party invitation that's impossible to refuse.

How Great: Chance the Rapper

Chance has made an indelible mark on the music industry since releasing his mixtape 10 Day independently as a teenager. Since then, he's continued to push the boundaries of R&B and rap, perhaps most notably on his magnum opus Coloring Book, which he also released independently in 2016. One of the best, and most political, offerings off this album is "How Great," Chance's take on the classic gospel song "How Great Is Our God." Here, Chance combines biblical imagery with imagery from the technological age, creating a stirring juxtaposition between the holy and the seemingly mundane. The lyrics are thematically dense and brilliant, and the verses leave no doubt that there's no other MC in the game with flow like Chance the Rapper.

I Love It: Icona Pop feat. Charli XCX

This Charli XCX-penned bop contains so much joy and rage and energy, it's impossible not to dance along. A defining presence at every party of 2012 (and still a force to be reckoned with), it's the ultimate finally-getting-over-your-breakup song. Lyrically, it's an aggressive and punk-headed evisceration of bad memories, over a beat that's undeniably infectious.

Motion Sickness: Phoebe Bridgers

In early 2019, the New York Times published a report in which multiple women accused songwriter/producer Ryan Adams of sexual coercion. One of these women was then-up-and-comer Phoebe Bridgers, whose folksy single "Motion Sickness"—released almost two years prior—was rumored, and later confirmed, to be about Adams. "I hate you for what you did / And I miss you like a little kid," go her opening lines, as her anger unfolds. In that couplet, Bridgers perfectly summarizes the dichotomy of processing abuse at the hands of a confidant, a mentor, and lover all in one.

New Romantics: Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift built her country-pop crossover empire off teen heartbreak and the ill-fated tribulations of high school romance. But by "New Romantics," a bonus track from her full pop-pivot 1989, she ushered in a fresh generation of lovers-to-be. She cleverly ties in her adolescent anguish—"honey, life is just a classroom"—before launching into a shimmering chorus that exudes the joyful rush of youth.

Old Town Road: Lil Nas X

When "Old Town Road" was released in December of last year, it made Lil Nas X a household name almost overnight. The blend of country themes and sound with elements of trap music made the song both memorable and controversial—with contention over whether it belonged on country music charts, and accusations that the distinctions was tied to racial animus in the country music industry. The controversy may have contributed to the song's record-breaking streaming and the fact that everyone in the world now knows the lyrics.

Pa'lante: Hurray For the Riff Raff

Few songs manage to pack as much power as "Pa'lante," a Spanish word that can be loosely translated to "go onward" or "go for it." The song begins as a monologue about having to go to work and wanting to fall in love and prove our worth—all things we're told we have to want—then spirals into suicidal ideation about feeling colonized and ignorant and helpless—and then grows into a cry of revolution and solidarity with all people who have been blinded by the selfishness of capitalism, which tells us that we have to "be something" at the expense of all others.

Pompeii: Bastille

"Pompeii" was the British band's breakout hit and one of the most popular songs of 2013. A deep chant backs frontman Dan Smith's smooth tone as he sings about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. "'Pompeii' is actually an imagined conversation between two charred corpses reflecting on the city," Smith told The Sun. The famous disaster was the perfect allegory for pent up emotions. "It is essentially about fear of stasis and boredom," he added. "Being quite a shy, self-conscious person, I was afraid my life might get stuck."

Queen: Perfume Genius

Perfume Genius's raw, ecstatic "Queen" is an anthem and a howl, a cry of brokenness and triumph. When Mike Hadreas sings "No family is safe / when I sashay," his voice (along with a yowling synth and threatening vocal punctuations) tell a story of decades of queer and trans oppression and resilience. But beyond its identity politics, "Queen" is also a magnificent song, innovatively orchestrated and expansive and ragged as human emotion itself.

Rejoice: Julien Baker

In 2015, Julien Baker quietly released her sparse, dimly lit debut album, Sprained Ankle. It gathered cult status for its searing observations about sadness, religion, death, and queerness, and it didn't hurt that Baker knew her way around a Telecaster and a pedalboard. "Rejoice" might be the album's most powerful track—it starts soft and downtrodden, and by the time Baker is screaming about God over reverb-heavy loops, you feel like you're in a church in the middle of the wilderness.

River: Leon Bridges

Leon Bridges' 2015 song, "River," may be a modern hit, but its sound is pure old school soul and R&B. The video for the song makes it clear that Bridges wrote the song with the intention of celebrating the past and future of soul music, as many of the images portray the 2015 Baltimore uprising that shone a light on the racism still built into the structure of America. "I want this video to be a message of light. I believe it has the power to change and heal those that are hurting," Bridges told NPR. In a fraught moment in history, "River" reminded us of the power of catharsis through music.

The Bug Collector: Haley Heynderickx

Haley Heyndericx's ethereal debut album I Need to Start a Garden is full of shattering observations about simple, everyday events, and no song exemplifies this like "The Bug Collector," which finds metaphors for Catholic guilt in the many-legged creatures that invade the narrator's bathtub and bedroom. The song layers delicate fingerpicking over foggy French horn and effortlessly transports the listener to a place outside of time.

The greatest: Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey may have found viral fame and loathing thanks to "Video Games," but she's disproven every naysayer by consistently producing excellent, electrifying and challenging work. Norman F**king Rockwell's "The greatest"—a piano ballad cut through with wailing guitars, and an elegy about aging, global decay, and of course, lost love—may be her greatest work yet.

The Morning: The Weeknd

After nearly 10 years, Abel Tesfaye still stands as one of the defining influences of the modern R&B soundscape. The Weeknd has forever revolutionized the aesthetic of modern-day R&B, and it all began in 2010 with a little song called "The Morning." It was the apex of Tesfaye's mystique. His haunting falsetto vocals, his drug-fueled braggadocio, emotional promiscuity, and the minimalist production all culminated into something breathtakingly unique. For the first time in R&B, an awkward loner could become a sex icon in his own way. "I was everything an R&B singer wasn't," Tesfaye said in his first-ever cover story with Rolling Stone. House of Balloons shifted the tide of what was possible in R&B; now, The Weeknd's influence is inescapable. "I'm not gonna say any names, but just listen to the radio," the singer said. "Every song is House of Balloons 2.0."

The Suburbs: Arcade Fire

To be honest, 2017's Everything Now was one of the most disappointing albums in recent memory. Arcade Fire is all about massive statements on culture, love, and the human condition, but Everything Now presented all of the flair without any of the substance. In retrospect, it made us realize how hard it is to do what they do. The coming of age tale of "The Suburbs" is one of the band's most heart-wrenching musical narratives, with the metaphorical lyrics still studied under a microscope to this day by music snobs. The yearning for home when you leave and then the disillusion that follows when you return are palpable on "The Suburbs" and creates for a timeless anthem for the Millennial experience.

This Feeling: Alabama Shakes

Sometimes in the midst of life's chaos, you hit moments of stillness where you know it's going to be okay. "This Feeling" might be about these moments, and the fragility and importance of these all-too-ephemeral feelings. Emotions can change with the weather and anything can change on a dime, Brittany Howard seems to be saying, but just for now, we know that things are gonna be alright.

Uptown Funk: Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars

"Uptown Funk" is the 2014 hit single by Mark Ronson, featuring Bruno Mars. The appropriately funky baseline and the high energy vocals make for a contagious energy that more or less guarantees that this song will play at every wedding for the foreseeable future. Coupled with the absurdly self-aggrandizing lyrics—like a contemporary "I'm too Sexy"—it's not hard to see why this song has gotten so much play. So much play that a lot of people would rather never hear it again…

Vroom Vroom: Charli XCX

If there's one thing Charli XCX loves as much as partying, it's cars. But before she ran too fast like a white Mercedes or fantasized about a Porsche, she just wanted to hang with people who could keep up with her. So goes the title track from the pop experimentalist's Vroom Vroom EP, a song that became the national anthem of Charli Land despite gaining little traction outside of her core fanbase. From it's instantly-recognizable synth intro to its infinitely-quotable "Beep beep! Let's ride," with "Vroom Vroom," risking a speeding ticket has never sounded so enticing.

We Bros: WU LYF

Manchester quartet WU LYF were short-lived and hid in a veil of mystery, having disclosed little information to the press during their four active years. "We Bros," from their sole LP Go Tell Fire to the Mountain, perfectly encapsulates what's been missing from the music scene since they called it quits. A six-minute anticapitalist indie rock odyssey, it embodies a sense of freedom, joining forces, and just singing.

You're Not Good Enough - Blood Orange

The immensely talented polymath Dev Hynes has an uncanny knack for capturing the minute intricacies of human turmoil. He is rarely vindictive of those who have wronged him, instead choosing to remain caustic. "I never was in love, you know that you were never good enough," he says calmly over a dark, funky instrumental. "It's always the self-identified nice guys who pack the cruelest, most vindictive punches," wrote Pitchfork. On "You're Not Good Enough," Dev Hynes' matter-of-fact delivery revolutionized the way emotion was conveyed in R&B. Hynes is a master of tactically communicating awkward in-between moments of pain. You're not really pissed anymore, nor have you forgiven those who wronged you for their transgressions, but you're still just kinda...bitter. Hynes reassures us that those feelings are genuine and important to dissect, especially within the context of LGBTQ culture.

Your Deep Rest: The Hotelier

Emo revivalists the Hotelier cut right to the chase with their second album Home, Like Noplace is There, an admittedly dark record. Its high point "Your Deep Rest" (which, when said out loud, sounds quite a bit like "you're depressed") centers on the guilt and shame that ensue after a close friend's suicide, so much so that the song's narrator skips the funeral completely. It's a gutting retrospective, but one that reminds us to look out for those who are still here.