100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #61: “Heathens” by twenty øne piløts

The song at #61 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is the superb “Heathens” by twenty øne piløts. The third of their six songs on this countdown, it was written and recorded for the Suicide Squad film soundtrack. The dark song is in the style of rap rock, with a haunting arrangement set to a slow hip hop beat. The mournful piano keys, rough scratching sounds, Tyler Joseph’s monotone vocals, and a mysterious disembodied voice chanting “watch it” contrast with the dramatic, sweeping orchestration, creating a menacing sense of foreboding.

The lyrics speak to not making snap judgements about people you don’t know, and to be more sensitive to others, as we all have hidden issues. “We don’t deal with outsiders very well. They say newcomers have a certain smell. You have trust issues, not to mention, they say they can smell your intentions. You’re lovin’ on the freakshow sitting next to you. You’ll have some weird people sitting next to you. You’ll think ‘How did I get here, sitting next to you?’ But after all I’ve said, please don’t forget.”

The song was a big hit, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it spent four weeks at that spot, held down by the inferior Chainsmokers/Halsey hit “Closer”. However, it reached #1 on the Alternative and Rock charts, as well as in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The video for the song has been streamed more than one and a half billion times.

Top 30 Songs for November 1-7, 2020

  1. CAN I CALL YOU TONIGHT? – Dayglow (1)
  2. DOWNS – Roadkeeper (4)
  3. IS IT TRUE – Tame Impala (5)
  4. BLOODY VALENTINE – Machine Gun Kelly (6)
  5. MY OWN SOUL’S WARNING – The Killers (2)
  6. FEEL YOU – My Morning Jacket (3)
  7. ARE YOU BORED YET? – Wallows featuring Clairo (8)
  8. MARIPOSA – Peach Tree Rascals (9)
  9. IT’S YOU – The Frontier (7)
  10. GIANTS – Dermot Kennedy (11)
  11. COME & GO – Juice WRLD featuring Marshmello (14)
  12. MOOD – 24kGoldn featuring Iann Dior 15)
  13. HOODIE UP – MISSIO (10)
  14. MONSTERS – All Time Low featuring blackbear (12)
  15. FAULT LINES – Callum Pitt (13)
  16. FRIDAY NIGHT – Heist At Five featuring Francesca Confortini (18)
  17. IDENTICAL – Phoenix (20)
  18. TANGERINE – Glass Animals (21)
  19. THE LET GO – Elle King (22)
  20. AMOEBAS IN GLASS HOUSES – Moonlight Broadcast (23)
  21. VISITOR – Of Monsters and Men (26)
  22. BURN THE VISION – Amongst Liars (27)
  23. VIRUS – Vanity Fear (29)
  24. HALLUCINOGENICS – Matt Maeson (17) 22nd week on list
  25. CARDIGAN – Taylor Swift (16)
  26. BEAUTIFUL ANYWAY – Judah & the Lion (28)
  27. FIRE FOR YOU – Cannons (N)
  28. CAN I BELIEVE YOU – Fleet Foxes (N)
  29. FOR SURE – Future Islands (19)
  30. THINK I’M CRAZY – Two Feet (N)

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #62: “Trampoline” by SHAED

The song at #62 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is the hauntingly beautiful “Trampoline” by indie dream-pop band SHAED. The band consists of lead vocalist Chelsea Lee and multi-instrumentalist twin brothers Max and Spencer Ernst (Chelsea and Spencer are married to each other). Their inspiration for “Trampoline” came one night as the trio sat together watching old family videos of Spencer and Max jumping on a trampoline as small children. The song’s meaning has been the subject of debate, ranging from death to suicide to drug addiction, but SHAED has stated that they simply wanted to write a great song loosely based on the idea of the Stranger Things alternative dimension “Upside Down” (Genius.com). This is artfully captured in the stunning and rather surreal video for the song.

A breakout hit for the Washington, D.C.-based threesome, “Trampoline” was originally released in May 2018, but got little airplay until it was featured in an Apple MacBook Air commercial that October, and the song quickly took off. The song finally debuted on the Billboard Alternative Chart in early December 2018, reaching #1 in the summer of 2019 and and spending 63 weeks on the chart. It also peaked at #13 on the Hot 100, and was named the #1 song of 2019 on the Alternative chart, and finished at #5 on my own year-end list for 2019.

New Song of the Week – DISCIPLES OF BABYLON: “Liberty”

Los Angeles-based alternative rock band Disciples of Babylon were one of the very first acts to follow me on Twitter back in the fall of 2015 when I was just starting out as a new blogger. The four band members – Eric Knight on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Ramón Blanco on lead guitar, Gui Bodi on bass and backing vocals, and Chris Toeller on drums – all of whom are gracious and kind, subsequently followed me too. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them perform live three times at various venues throughout the L.A. region, so needless to say I have a special fondness for them.

I first featured them on this blog in January 2016 when I reviewed their debut EP Welcome to Babylon, and wrote about them several more times in 2017 and 2018. (You can read some of those reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the end of this post.) Now, three years after the release of their fantastic debut album The Rise and Fall of Babylon, which they premiered in October 2017 at the legendary Viper Room on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, Disciples of Babylon returns with their politically-charged new single “Liberty“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week.

Eric and the band feel quite strongly about the subject of social justice, and The Rise and Fall of Babylon forewarned us about the beginnings of civil unrest stemming from the growing toxic political divisiveness in America. In a previous interview, Eric explained the impetus behind the album: “These are precarious times we live in. The Rise and Fall of Babylon signifies something that I feel has been a long time coming. Babylon, meaning the USA, is slowly spinning out of control and entering into vast turmoil. I feel we are at the beginnings of a revolution. one of which the likes we’ve never seen before. As a nation, we are no longer viewed in the regard we once were. The title reflects this shift and quite possibly a prelude of what’s to come.”  

Now, three years later, he explains the band’s inspiration behind their new single “Liberty”: “We have now entered the perfect storm. The great divide that this country is currently facing is deeper than ever before. We have a government that is corrupt and has run amuck with impunity, with a global pandemic that has just exacerbated and accelerated everything tenfold. Our mission as a band has always been to be a mirror and write about our observations on what the world is showing us, but at the same time being a beacon of hope, strength and unity.”

The lyrics were written by Eric, who wrote the music along with band guitarist Ramón Blanco. The track was produced and mixed by drummer Chris Toeller, engineered by bassist Gui Bodi along with Alan Sosa and Rup Chattopadhyay, and mastered by Joe Bozzi (U2, Van Halen, Imagine Dragons). The dramatic lyric video was conceived by Eric and created by Shane Richardson.

“Liberty” is a powerful anthemic battle cry from the band, urging us to stand up to injustice and divisiveness, and to resist those in power who continually work to tear us apart. To drive home their message, the guys unleash their arsenal of sonic weaponry to create a crushing monumental soundscape befitting the seriousness of the subject. Each band members’ strong musicianship is on full display here: Ramón rips through the airwaves with an onslaught of snarling grungy riffs while Chris smashes his drums with greater force than I’ve ever heard on their previous songs. And ever the master bassist, Gui drives the song’s explosive rhythm forward with a fearsome pummeling bass line that cuts straight to our cores.

Eric’s an outstanding vocalist, with the ability to stir our emotions with his powerful unbridled passion, and he’s in fine form here. He sings the verses with a heartfelt fervency that beautifully conveys his anguish over the current situation, then launches into soaring impassioned wails in the choruses that, combined with the thunderous instrumentals, cover me with chills. I also love his and Gui’s soaring vocal harmonies.

I’m so happy Disciples of Babylon are back, and “Liberty” is one of their best songs yet!

This war has come into our doorstep
The price for love of country
There is no retreat
Our chains are forged here
The brave the bold is our decree
They’ll say, this is our destiny
We’ll raise our hands for amnesty
We all want liberty
We all want liberty
I will fight for liberty
Or give me death
Divide us and conquer
Was that your goal
You’ve got your wish
How does it feel
They’ll say, this is our legacy
United in arms till victory
I will fight for liberty
We all want liberty
I will fight for liberty
Or give me death
We all want liberty
We all want liberty
I will fight for liberty
Or give me death
Oh I will fight for
If you can’t save me
Heaven help us now
The battle cries out

Follow Disciples of Babylon:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / YouTube
Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon Bandcamp

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #63: “Adventure of a Lifetime” by Coldplay

The song at #63 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “Adventure of a Lifetime” by British alternative pop-rock band Coldplay. I’m not ashamed to admit that I love Coldplay, who were my favorite band in the 2000s (six of their songs appear on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2000s, including “Clocks” which I ranked at #1). They continued to produce some great music in the 2010s, although some have criticized their later music as being too ‘pop’. I suppose that’s partly true, but I still love a lot of their songs from this decade.

Coldplay pulled out all the stops with “Adventure of a Lifetime”, which was released in November 2015 as the lead single from their seventh studio album A Head Full of Dreams. That album was a stylistic departure for the band, as they wanted to make something more colorful and uplifting than their previous works. And though they’d collaborated with other artists on some of their songs in the past (such as Rihanna on “Princess of China”), this album saw them collaborate with many more artists, including Beyonce, Noel Gallagher, Tove Lo, Khatia Buniatishvili and Merry Clayton.

It’s a beautiful, joyously upbeat track, featuring Jonny Buckland’s gorgeous swirling guitars, Will Champion’s thumping drums and Chris Martin’s signature soaring vocals that make for a truly great song. Guy Berryman’s strong bass gives the feel of a heart beating and the mandolin at song’s end is stunning.

The whimsical video. directed by the band’s long-time collaborator, Mat Whitecross, shows the band members transformed through the magic of CGI into gorillas cavorting about in the jungle. According to The Guardian, the video was shot at The Imaginarium, where the reboot series of Planet of the Apes and parts of Avengers: Age of Ultron and Star Wars: The Force Awakens were filmed. Hannah Clark, the producer of the video commented, “As creatures go, chimps are one of the more difficult to animate. Not only are they quite human in their movement, but they are covered in hair. Add to this that we had no backgrounds shot, and we were asking an awful lot of any post-collaborator.

The band’s faces were covered in a special, reflective and light-catching make-up that allowed the computers to appropriately interpret the video feed and create renders of the chimpanzees’ characters. The band members didn’t play real instruments, but instead held similarly-shaped objects that enabled creation of realistic body positions. The video took six months to complete, and has been viewed more than 1.1 billion times.

KROSST OUT – Album Review: “Phone Calls With Ghosts”

I’ve been following Canadian singer-songwriter and rapper Krosst Out since early 2017, when he reached out to me about his debut EP Life of the Party, an outstanding work that examined the darker aspects of party life, along with the sex, drugs and alcohol abuse that often go hand in hand. (You can read my review here.)  Since then, the hard-working artist has released a number of singles and collaborations with other artists, and just dropped his debut album Phone Calls With Ghosts, which was a labor of love for him.

Born and raised in the small town of Campbellford, Ontario, he first studied piano as a child, then took up the bass guitar in his teens. He moved to Toronto, where he started his music career, but earlier this year he relocated to Montreal with his girlfriend and fellow music artist Melotika (who I’ve also featured on this blog several times). Influenced by the music of artists such as Manafest, Eminem, Underoath, Rage Against The Machine, System Of A Down, Nas, and Marilyn Manson, he fuses hip hop with grunge, alt-rock and punk to create his own unique contemporary sound. And like a lot of hip hop artists, his songs draw heavily from his own life experiences, with brutally honest, introspective and raw lyrics.

Phone Calls With Ghosts is a decidedly bleak work addressing youthful mistakes, broken relationships, and the reality that nothing will ever again be what it once was. Krosst Out elaborates: “Ghosts aren’t just your run of the mill spooks, they’re the thoughts and actions of your past that torture you, the baggage you never seem to shrug off. I’ve spent so much of my life trying to hide my demons from myself and the rest of the world, that I thought it was time I faced everything head on. It was like these ghosts were trying to call [me] my whole life and I never picked up. Writing this [album] was my therapy, it helped me come out of this dark place I’d been in, and made me realize more about myself. Ghosts are real, they are the thoughts that torture you, the people you leave behind, the moments you never get back.

The album was recorded mostly at Pink Distortion Music in Toronto, under the guidance of producer and mixer Adam Van Ameringen aka Rain, although “Intro (Preface)”, “Reckless” and “Black & White” were produced by another frequent collaborator Jor’Del Downz. The entire album was mastered by Sean Savage.

Opening track “Intro (Preface)” does just what it implies, laying out for us what the album’s about and setting the overall dark mood. Against a backdrop of throbbing, reverb-heavy bass accompanied by enchanting synths, Krosst Out tearfully pleads “Can you hear me? Can you really hear me out there? Pick up the phone!” A heavy beat then kicks in as he launches into an angry freestyle rapping tirade, recounting his early dreams of making it as a successful hip hop artists, the sacrifices he made and poverty he endured, and decrying those who never had faith in him: “Don’t ask me why I’m angry / Don’t ask my why I’m upset / These likes and these retweets don’t amount to much / Fuck every single person that ever doubted me / Cause I’ve been down and out.” The song ends with a woman’s voice (who I’m guessing is Melotika) saying, as if a telephone operator, “Welcome to phone calls with ghosts. Thank you for calling.

Funerals”, the lead single from the album that I reviewed this past April, touches on how Krosst Out has changed and grown since leaving Campbellford. It’s often challenging when leaving home and moving away to make a new life for ourselves, and though we generally maintain a sense of love and fondness toward family and friends we left behind, the distance and passage of time can complicate and/or diminish relationships. He told me the song title “Funerals” is a metaphor for the death of his old self. “I feel like I’ve just grown so much that I’m unrecognizable now, but at the same time, if I wanted to go [back] home I couldn’t. Also, the more you grow, the more you have people that will hate you for that.” The song has a heavy dub step beat, with a dramatic mix of spooky psychedelic synths, deep, throbbing bass and glittery keyboards creating a dark and moody backdrop for his impassioned free style rapping as he laments about the guilt trips foisted upon him by his mother and friends.

Krosst Out taps into his love of grunge on “Drive“, a cynical song about just saying fuck it, ditching your problems and heading out on the road in search of thrills, because nothing really matters anyway. “Cause I’m living for today, put that on my gravestone.” I like the dark vibes and Rain’s badass grungy guitar riffs at the beginning and in the choruses.

The haunting “Edges” speaks of a failing relationship, with the singer pleading to his partner to stop torturing him. Swirling keyboards contrast sharply with ominous harsh industrial synths to create a darkly beautiful backdrop for Krosst Out’s bitter vocals as he bemoans “We push, we pull, we scream, we shout, you say you want me out.” Guest vocalist Kyle Laird of Ontario metal band As the Structure Fails growls the chorus “You’re breaking my heart. So I’m burning these bridges. Stop tearing me apart. Cause I’m only these edges.” 

On “Reckless“, he sings about not giving a fuck what others think of him to a guitar-driven melody over a dubstep beat. Rain’s grungy guitars make a return appearance on “Running in Traffic“, a song that continues on the theme of living life recklessly with a fatalistic attitude. With his voice brimming with emotion, Krosst Out raps “Never played it safe. Screaming here I am. Running in that traffic. Please don’t hold my hand. Gotta take my chances, gotta be a man. Now the ghosts are calling.

Background” is a bleak yet beautiful song about that seems to be about a person contemplating suicide. Over a sharp knocking beat and pulsating rhythm, Krosst Out and Rain layer haunting piano keys and a lovely strummed guitar. Krosst Out raps about his feelings of depression and futility, with Rain joining him in vocal harmonies on the chorus: “There are days I wish to just not wake up. I won’t be that shoulder that you needed to lean on. I can’t be that person that you need right now. Let me go, let me go into the background.

The final track “Black & White” has a funereal grunge rock vibe, with a deep, reverb-heavy bass groove, accompanied by an almost haunting chiming guitar riff played by Andrew Falcao. Krosst Out ruefully raps the lyrics that speak of past regrets he has no desire to correct, and the pain he continues to self-medicate: “I never said goodbye to my friend that died at 25 / But these hard pills get easier to swallow. Don’t be alarmed, numbing myself is just part of the process. All of this shit is just hard to process /  You can erase me if you like, black & white. It makes no difference, so take me out.” The instrumentals continue for the final two and a half minutes of the song, highlighted by Falcao’s marvelous guitar solo.

Phone Calls With Ghosts is a marvelous little album with a huge, impactful sound. I love Krosst Out’s songwriting and lyricism, and while he doesn’t have a particularly strong voice, he’s a highly emotive vocalist and terrific freestyle rapper. It’s been a distinct pleasure following on his musical journey over the past four years and watching him grow as an artist. I’m so very proud of him.

Connect with Krosst Out:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp 

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #64: “So Tied Up” by Cold War Kids feat. Bishop Briggs

The song at #64 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “So Tied Up” by blues rock band Cold War Kids featuring vocals by Bishop Briggs. Based in Long Beach, California, Cold War Kids formed in 2004 and has undergone numerous changes in lineup, and now consists of Nathan Willett (lead vocals, piano, guitar), Matt Maust (bass guitar), David Quon (guitar, backing vocals), Matthew Schwartz (keyboards, backing vocals, guitar, percussion), and Joe Plummer, who formerly played drums for bands Modest Mouse and The Shins (drums, percussion). I love their vibrant, hard-driving sound, and they have two songs on this list – “So Tied Up” and their 2015 single “First”, which appears later.

Singer-songwriter Bishop Briggs, based in nearby Los Angeles, is pretty awesome too, with a distinctive, powerhouse voice. Combining her passionate vocals with the commanding vocals of Cold War Kids lead singer Nathan Willett on “So Tied Up” results in auditory fireworks to match the biting lyrics about a destructive co-dependent relationship that’s become so toxic the two partners loathe each other, yet are powerless to escape from it. The song is from Cold War Kids’ sixth album L.A. Divine, which also features another great song “Love is Mystical”. I loved “So Tied Up” at first listen and never tired of hearing it.

The song is positively electrifying, with an aggressive stomping beat-driven melody highlighted by pounding drums and piano keys, and fortified with a heavy thumping bass line, gritty synths and fantastic guitar work. The track’s massive sound combined with Willett and Briggs’ fiery vocals never fails to cover me with goosebumps. Shockingly, the song was not a very big hit, peaking only at #9 on the Billboard Adult Alternative and #12 on the Alternative charts. It spent two weeks at #1 on my own Weekly Top 30 chart, however.

The darkly amusing and rather violent video shows Willett and Briggs singing the song interspersed with scenes of a couple hell-bent on killing each other. By the time the song was released, Bishop Briggs had become quite popular in her own right, and many of her fans complained that her vocals weren’t prominent enough on the song. So, Cold War Kids invited her back into the studio so she could dub more of her vocals onto the track. The official video was reissued with her vocals given greater prominence.

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #65: “Coming of Age” by Foster the People

The song at #65 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “Coming of Age” by Los Angeles-based alternative pop-rock band Foster the People. Though I really liked their debut single “Pumped Up Kicks” a lot (it appears later on this list), it was their beautiful, introspective song “Coming of Age” that made me fall in love with them, and they’ve been one of my favorite bands ever since. I saw them in concert at L.A.’s Shrine Auditorium in November 2014, and a photo I took of them has remained as my Twitter header pic since I created my account in August 2015. A few months after creating my account, I was pleasantly shocked when Foster the People followed me back, most likely because band front man Mark Foster saw his band pictured on my Twitter page.

Hard as it is to believe, prior to hearing “Coming of Age” upon its release in January 2014, I was unaware of any of their other songs besides “Pumped Up Kicks”. I’ve previously mentioned my musical awakening when I discovered the Billboard Alternative Chart in late summer of 2013, and when I saw “Coming of Age” appear on that chart, I naturally had to check it out, and instantly loved it. I then searched for more of their music and discovered their fantastic debut album Torches, which in addition to “Pumped Up Kicks” was filled with great songs like “Helena Beat”, Houdini”, “Call it What You Want” and “Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)”. When Foster the People released their second album Supermodel that March, I purchased it along with Torches, and had both on repeat for the rest of 2014.

“Coming of Age” was inspired by Foster’s experience and introspection after two years of touring with the band, and was actually the last song to be written and recorded for Supermodel. He told XFM London: “Lyrically it is almost a confession. It’s about having a moment of clarity…after the storm of touring for two years and my life drastically changing. It was kind of the first breath I had to really look around and see that there were some things that happened during that period with my friends and with my loved ones, with the people that are close to me and with myself as well. It’s about growing up.

Musically, the song is melodically complex and stunning, with swirling synths, haunting piano and gnarly guitars layered over Cubbie Fink’s thumping bass line and Mark Pontius’ aggressive percussion. I love the piano movement in the bridge, as well as Foster’s soaring heartfelt vocals that at times seem to channel his idol Brian Wilson.

The song was a hit on the Billboard Alternative and Adult Alternative charts, but unbelievably, did not chart on the Hot 100.

And here’s a cool time-lapse video showing the artwork for Supermodel, designed by Dutch artist and musician Young & Sick, being painted on the side of a building in downtown Los Angeles. With assistance from artist Daniel Lahoda, street artist Leba, and American graffiti art groups LA Freewalls and Vyal, the mural was painted over a period of 12 days, beginning the night of December 29, 2013 to the morning of January 9, 2014. Measuring 148 ft. by 126 ft., it was one of the largest murals ever created. Unfortunately, due to legal issues with both the building owners and the City of Los Angeles, the mural was later painted over.

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #66: “Live in the Moment” by Portugal. The Man

The song at #66 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “Live in the Moment” by alternative rock band Portugal. The Man. Originally from Wasilla, Alaska and now based in Portland, Oregon (they’ve sometimes referred to themselves as ‘Lords of Portland’), the band currently consists of John Gourley, Zach Carothers, Kyle O’Quin, Jason Sechrist, Eric Howk and Zoe Manville. They’ve released a fair amount of music since forming in 2004, but “Feel It Still,” from their eighth and most recent album Woodstock, was their breakthrough single. Following up on that monster hit, (which was my #1 song of 2017 and will be showing up later in this countdown), they hit the mark again with “Live in the Moment.”

It’s a gorgeous and electrifying track, with a hard-driving beat, sweeping synths, chugging guitars and soaring choruses dominated by John Gourley’s wonderful tenor vocals. The song lyrics are pretty deep with lots of hidden meaning, but they basically touch on subjects of religion and mortality: “Let’s live in the moment. Come back Sunday morning. Got soul to sell. When you’re gone goodbye, so long, farewell.” Toward the end it transitions to an almost church-like hymn with a dominant organ riff and chant-like vocals produced by computer text-to-speech software that sing “Oh, God, I can hardly believe my eyes. Wake up everybody you know. Come and watch the garden grow. I’ll see you when you get there.”

The imaginative and entertaining video shows the band riding in a car with a giant puppet of a guy skateboarding on top, being chased by another with a policeman puppet on top of that car.

EML’s Favorite Albums – “Cabaret” Original Soundtrack

One of my favorite soundtrack albums is the one for the 1972 film Cabaret. It also happens to be the very first soundtrack album I ever purchased, after seeing the film as a teen. Not only is Cabaret a great film, I also think it’s one of the best film soundtracks ever, and a fun listen from start to finish.

Cabaret was directed by acclaimed dancer and choreographer Bob Fosse (whose first film as director, Sweet Charity, was a flop). It stars Liza Minnelli as American singer/nightclub performer Sally Bowles, Joel Grey as the androgynous and flamboyant emcee of the Kit Kat Klub, and Michael York as a sexually conflicted English writer and teacher.  The film is loosely based on the 1966 Broadway musical Cabaret by John Kander and Fred Ebb, which was itself adapted from Christopher Isherwood’s semi-autobiographical novel The Berlin Stories, and the 1951 play I Am a Camera. The story takes place in Berlin during the waning days of the Weimar Republic in 1931, when the Nazi Party was rapidly gaining power. Only a few songs from the original stage musical were used for the film, with Kander and Ebb writing new ones to replace those that were discarded.

Because the film contained – for the time period – a considerable amount of sexual innuendo, profanity, references to both heterosexual and gay casual sex, anti-Semitism and abortion, it was initially given an X rating, but later re-rated “Restricted”. Despite those early roadblocks and controversy, the film went on to win eight Academy Awards – Best Actress (for Liza Minnelli), Best Supporting Actor (for Joel Grey), Best Director (for Bob Fosse), Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Sound, Best Original Song Score and Best Film Editing – and still holds the record for most Oscars earned by a film not honored for Best Picture. (The film had the unfortunate timing of being up against the masterpiece The Godfather.)

Unlike many typical musicals where the characters often break into song in various random settings, Cabaret is really more a drama with musical numbers, all but one of which is performed on stage in the Kit Kat Klub nightclub. As such, the musical numbers are what is known as ‘diegetic’, in that they’re used to tell the story narrative through their lyrics. All of the songs are fantastic and memorable, but I’ll touch on some of the highlights. The delightful opening track “Willkommen”, sung by Joel Grey as emcee, welcomes us to the Kit Kat Klub and sets the tone for the film, which is ‘enjoy your life today, because we never know what tomorrow may bring’: “Leave your troubles outside. So, life is disappointing, forget it. In here, life is beautiful. The girls are beautiful. Even the orchestra is beautiful.”

The rousing “Mein Herr” is our introduction to Sally Bowles, who sings of her sexual independence and desire to play the field and remain uncommitted, getting what she wants from men and then discarding them. She blithely gives her latest paramour the heave ho: “You have to understand the way I am, mein herr. A tiger is a tiger, not a lamb, mein herr. You’ll never turn the vinegar to jam, mein herr. So I do…What I do…When I’m through…Then I’m through…And I’m through…Toodle-oo!

But then she later changes her tune on the hopeful torch song “Maybe This Time”, where she shares her hopes that perhaps this time she’ll have success at romance with Brian, whom she’s fallen for. The song became one of the signature tracks in Minnelli’s repertoire.

Another favorite is the hilarious “Money, Money”, a song celebrating hedonism and all the joys that having a little money can bring. Minnelli and Grey’s vampy, over the top performance and on stage chemistry is delicious to watch and hear, and I love the numerous little sound effects performed by the band.

The one album cut not sung at the Kit Kat Klub is “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” a song that begins as an uplifting ballad extolling the beauty of the German countryside, then transforms into a Nazi anthem celebrating the German fatherland as it enters a new and greater future.

And of course, there’s the wonderful title track “Cabaret”, which appears toward the end of the film. The song sums up once again what the film is about, as Sally Bowles emphatically urges us to live life to the fullest as everything falls apart around her: “I used to have a girlfriend known as Elsie, with whom I shared four sordid rooms in Chelsea. She wasn’t what you’d call a blushing flower…As a matter of fact she rented by the hour. The day she died the neighbors came to snicker: ‘Well, that’s what comes from too much pills and liquor.’ But when I saw her laid out like a Queen, she was the happiest corpse I’d ever seen. / Start by admitting, from cradle to tomb, it isn’t that a long a stay. Life is a Cabaret, old chum, It’s only a Cabaret, old chum. And I love a Cabaret.

Everything comes full circle in the final track “Finale”, as Joel Grey asks “Where are your troubles now? Forgotten! I told you so“, accompanied by the same jaunty melody we heard in “Willkommen”. But then the tone turns dark and ominous, signaling that these good times are about to come to an abrupt end.