The 2nd Republican Debate


You can’t be bigger than the Beatles by imitating the Beatles.

There was only one Beatles, we haven’t seen an act that big, with that kind of impact, since. Their music will maintain whereas the rest of the British Invasion has almost already disappeared.

I loved “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter.” “I’m into Something Good” was resuscitated by its inclusion in the movie “The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!” thirty five years ago, and it has sustained as a result thereof, albeit not as impactfully as “Bohemian Rhapsody” after its inclusion in “Wayne’s World.” I did the Freddie, does anybody remember what that was? Eric Burdon and his Animals had a unique sound, the only problem was the songwriting, they never grew into great scribes, unlike the Beatles. Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders had a great cut, but the band split, Fontana ran out of gas and ultimately Eric Stewart had a hit with the Mindbenders, but he’s most remembered for his work in 10cc, if he’s remembered at all. There were a couple of acts that followed in the Beatles’ direct footsteps, mostly by utilizing their songs. Peter & Gordon… The world certainly lacks love, but Peter Asher made his rep as a record producer and manager. And Badfinger might have broke with “Come and Get It,” but they explored new territory thereafter. (Does anybody realize that “Without You” was a Badfinger song, opening up the second side of “No Dice”? Most people think it’s a Mariah Carey cover of a Nilsson number, if they think about its writer at all. And I love “Day After Day” and “Perfection” from “Straight Up,” but it’s “Without You” that has carried on, illustrating the power of a great song.)

And then there were the Rolling Stones. They used to have battles on the radio between them and the Beatles. And although plenty of people did love both, there were people who loved the Stones and hated the Beatles, as well as vice versa. The Stones were an alternative. Dark and dirty, playing blues-influenced numbers. They might have begun with a Beatles cover of “I Wanna Be Your Man,” but they grew from there quickly, and when they tried to imitate the Beatles they failed miserably, with “Satanic Majesties,” a poor imitation of “Sgt. Pepper.” But “Beggars Banquet”? Completely different from what the Stones had done before, more acoustic, and even more dark and dirty, the album got reviews just as good as the White Album. And then came “Let It Bleed,” and when the Beatles had exhausted their run there was “Sticky Fingers,” the true breakthrough, the album that made the Stones truly iconic, because it contained the ubiquitous hit “Brown Sugar.”

Mick Jagger won’t sing “Brown Sugar” anymore, with its lines about slavery. That was fifty years ago, times have changed. But the Stones are not set in amber, they’re still doing it, they even have a new album in the wings. 


So last night there were constant references to St. Reagan. You know, the guy whose tenure as president ended in 1988, a mere thirty five years ago. Think about that. You’d have to be at least forty five years old to have any remembrance at all of the Reagan era. But the so-called Party of Lincoln keeps trotting him out. It’d be like constantly talking about the IBM Selectric in the era of computers, never mind smartphones. That was then and this is now. The Selectric was a keeper in its era, better than everything else on the market, but typewriters…do they even sell them anymore?

The Democrats are too hung up on Obama. I’ll argue, quite strongly, that Biden has been a better president that Obama. Because Biden woke up and realized the opposition was unmoveable, and instead of trying to appease the Republicans, instead of constant gridlock, Joe marched forward and got things done.

But the Democrats don’t bring up FDR or Kennedy. That’s too long ago, a completely different era. If you were aware in the Reagan era you know the eighties were a time of celebration, MTV was the heartbeat of not only America, but the world. We can criticize the eighties as the beginning of income inequality, because of the greed, because of the hedonism, but things didn’t really turn dark until the nineties, with the Branch Davidians and Oklahoma City and even O.J. So why are the Republicans continuing to pay fealty to this old dude who was president once?

Because the people in control, the party apparatus, is out of touch with the young demographic. But there are more people on earth who don’t remember Reagan than do.

This has hamstrung the Democrats too. The party apparatus. Completely clueless. After 2022 AOC declared the party was out of touch, that it needed to advertise online, to give up on TV, its old methods. What happened to AOC? She was shouted down.

As was Vivek Ramaswamy last night.

Man, I was grinning when Vivek owned TikTok. Like that old Sam Kinison joke about buying the starving residents of Africa suitcases, so they could move where the food was, Ramaswamy was speaking truth. But Vivek was shouted down. Doesn’t he know that TikTok is controlled by the Chinese, the enemy, and it must be shut down immediately? It’s got all the kids mesmerized, it’s got all the data… Yeah, the younger generation does not hate China the way the older one does, never mind paying attention to how China is failing economically. As for privacy? That ship sailed long ago. Google knows more about you than your spouse.

Now this happened once before, when Johnson came to the baby boomers’ door. The younger generation saw the light, that Vietnam was a folly, that the country needed a new direction. Today Vietnam is a tourist destination, Americans go there on a regular basis. The Domino Theory, like the Trickle Down Theory, proved false. The kids were not only alright, they were right. Johnson walked away, Humphrey lost and the Republicans gained control. The Democrats misread the room. Even worse, they went so far into Vietnam, were so committed, that they lost the youth and more, Humphrey could not convince these people he was alright.

Both parties are completely ignoring the younger generations, who can now vote at eighteen, and contrary to conventional wisdom do, vote that is. They’re shaking their heads… Two old men running for president who don’t understand their lives whatsoever. They’d like an alternative.

But the Democratic party brass says they’ve got this. To look at the data. Examine the past. No matter how much the music business self-analyzed, and it didn’t, there was no way it would have foreseen Napster. Which might have been defeated in court, but there was no return to the old days. And at this point the new days, the new paradigm, are much better than the old. I won’t try to convince you if you are not in agreement, I’ll just dismiss you, like I do with the oldsters complaining about Spotify payments, never mind the Luddites who keep telling me they need to own their music. Do you need to own “White Lotus”? Everything is on demand, at your fingertips today, ready to be delivered from the cloud. Are these the same people who refused to get a telephone, listen to the radio, never mind not buy a TV? There are always buggy whip acolytes, they get too much airtime.


So what do we know about today? No one is happy. Except maybe the aforementioned party brass that believes it is in control, the same Democratic party brass that put all their faith in Hillary Clinton, who couldn’t read the room, seeing she’d been branded by the right, was seen as inauthentic. Trump didn’t win, Clinton lost, remember that.

Just like we get these idiots saying to put our faith in Kamala Harris. I’ve got no faith in her and I’m never going to vote Republican. She was bad in the 2020 debates and she’s not demonstrated any great skill, certainly not in communication with the people, bedrock in winning races, and she’s been branded by the right too.

As for Old Joe… Man, I saw him walking the other night and… He looked like an eighty year old man, shuffling, like he needed to hold on to someone’s arm. I’m not saying the brain doesn’t work, but if you think Joe inspires confidence, you’re delusional.

As for Donald Trump… It’s over, he’s sinking. Have you noticed there’s been little right wing blowback about the fraud decision? Oh, they come up with some cockamamie stories why he shouldn’t be liable, like Trump’s attorneys, who were sanctioned for it, but no one is sitting there saying the properties were worth what Trump said they were. That doesn’t square with anybody. Everybody who’s ever bought or sold a house, gotten a mortgage, knows that you can’t get an appraiser to value your property at a zillion times beyond what’s accurate. Forget the papers in Mar-A-Lago, the other indictments, the fraud just makes Trump look bad.

And now Trump is unhinged. Like a kid in high school making his last defense before punishment. Executing Milley? Never mind buying a gun in South Carolina, never mind all the insanity on Truth Social. Trump is spiraling out of control, and everybody, on the right and left, can see it. Sure, there is a core of Republicans who will never waver, who will support the man, then again there are friends and family members who will support the most heinous murderer, we don’t let the criminal off because he’s got a core constituency who will deny his behavior.

Yet the Democrats keep pushing Biden and the Republicans are shrugging their shoulders and saying their man is Trump. It’s bizarroland. Other countries are laughing. Hell, I’d be laughing if it wasn’t so damn scary.

Now if you’ve been paying attention, the Democratic journalists, the opinion-makers, have started to throw the long ball. The drumbeat is growing, there have been numerous articles recently about how Democrats don’t want Biden, that he needs to step down. Will he? He should. And there’s a strong chance he will. Like Johnson, too late in the game to allow the new candidates to gain attention and ground so they can win in November. But at least there were new candidates in 1967-68, today the Dems are too afraid to break ranks. But we must unleash Newsom, Whitmer, Polis and Pritzker, let them start duking it out now, because we need a new candidate.

The Republicans are letting candidates duke it out, but all you’ve got to know is Trump won’t show up. The same Trump who wouldn’t commit to supporting the ticket in 2016 if he wasn’t on it.

Now in the old days, the political party would make the candidate show up. But today Trump is bigger than the Republican party. It’s the Trump party, not the Republican party. So many of the things the Republicans stood for Trump is against, never mind the looney-tunes. The lunatics have taken over the asylum. It’s raw chaos.

But no one will stand up to Trump, other than Chris Christie, who cavorted on a beach he closed, who was behind Bridgegate… Christie is a smart guy but those were dumb moves and you don’t have to be an insider to be aware of them, I see interviews with people all the time where they reference Christie’s shenanigans on the beach, Christie crossed a line, as bad as Billy Squier jumping on that bed in that red tank top, there’s no coming back. Finito.

History repeats, but with a twist. You need to study history to win in the future, albeit not be beholden to it. Don’t the Republican candidates know there was never a new Beatles? That to win you must take a different path?

Doesn’t seem like it.


The first forty five minutes or so were positively insane. If you were a Democrat or were undecided your head was spinning. All we heard were right wing tropes. Biden’s a criminal, the main issue is the border… It’s like these people weren’t even living in the same country.

But if I forgive all that, and consider the remaining hour and fifteen minutes…

It’s all about electability. That’s what you’re looking for. What they say is secondary to how they deliver it. Doug Burgum was actually pretty good, but when he got the mic he was so thrilled that he spoke so quickly that you couldn’t catch everything he was saying. Burgum looked desperate. That’s a bad look. Forget it.

Mike Pence? Man, he was o.k. in the first debate, last night he looked like a gasoline car in an electric world. Electric cars feature incredible acceleration off the line. It always took Pence a while to get going. And he spoke slowly. And he got nailed on the Obamacare question. Like a typical weasel he avoided the query, but then Dana Perino came back to it, stuck the needle in him and it was over. Pence is a joke. People don’t want puritanism. Most people want abortion. They don’t want a second-rate religious zealot to be their president.

Vivek? He was scared straight. He got so much negative blowback from the first debate that he was more controlled, to his detriment. He listened to conventional wisdom, he should have stayed the course, confident young man on the verge of insanity. Vivek did himself no favors.

As for Nikki Haley… She made some good points in the first debate, attacking Trump for his flaws with the economy, admitting we’re never going to get a national law prohibiting abortion after a short period of time. But this time… She focused on attacking Vivek. Made her look small and irrelevant.

Tim Scott.  Wow, he rose from the ashes. This guy could be a contender. I doubt it, but he was one of the stars last night, if not the star.

As for Ron DeSantis…he had a good night. It wasn’t so much the details, more the confidence. By the end you could see how this guy won so big in Florida. But DeSantis is not a winner, he’s the robotic military freak who lives next door, a man who flies straight in a direction you don’t agree with and doesn’t waver, serious all the time. No masks? New College? Disney? I could go on and on, DeSantis may have won in Florida, but he can’t win nationally, well at least I don’t think he can, but he surprised me last night, in a good way.


So what are the alternatives?

I don’t see any. I mean it’s Trump or…

Now the newspapers have addressed this too. That you can’t win by being Trump light. You’ve got to be different. But what we got was the same.

Now you should read yesterday’s story in the “New York Times,” “Trump and the 2024 Republican Primaries: 13 Voters Discuss”: That’s a free link, you should click, it’s got pictures and everything, it’s not a hard read. Bottom line, these people don’t want Trump. And you might think they are handpicked, but then they utter some right wing tropes and you know they were not. These people want an ALTERNATIVE! And the Republicans refuse to give them one.

It’s not too late for a new candidate, the election is over a year out. Chris Sununu said he wouldn’t run, but he spoke English on Bill Maher’s show, this guy is smart, articulate and knows how to fight, this guy could be a contender.

Then there are those who say the Republican candidates are not fighting that hard because they’re waiting for 2028, when Trump is gone. This is always bad strategy, Biden ultimately became president, but he should have run against Hillary, this is not about friends, politics is cutthroat. And who knows, if Trump wins there may not even be an election in 2028. Don’t laugh, did you believe he would refuse to concede in 2020? Don’t look at America, look at authoritarians around the world.

But the odds of Trump winning are infinitesimal. Well, not that low, but close.

Ignore the polls.

First and foremost, you’ve got to pick up the call. I won’t. Most people won’t. Who has time for a pollster? And these pollsters, who have consistently gotten it wrong in the past decade keep telling us about their adaptations, their changes in modalities, and then they point to the margin of error to say they were right when they were really wrong. The election seems to always be decided within the margin of error, so what use are the polls?

But like I said, they’re often just plain wrong.

Trump is not beating Biden, nowhere close. But who in the hell is going to pick up the phone and say they want Biden? I don’t. I’m not going to testify to some pollster. I’ll vote for Biden reluctantly. I’m not going to vote for a third party, I’m not going to sit at home, but Biden is too damn old, period. Sure, he could keep his marbles for another half decade, but that’s not a bet I want to make. Athletes retire… It’s a rare person who continues to work into old age. And based on my inbox, so many oldsters are completely out of touch with what’s going on in America.

Like “The Voice.”

Wanna know why no one can break from that show? The core audience is over sixty years old! Yes, network television now plays to the boomers, the oldsters, because who else is going to watch TV in real time…ALMOST NOBODY! In an on demand world you’re going to sit through commercials? At a defined time? And it’s not like “The Voice” is so hot that you need to record it, you’re better off spending time on TikTok, which the rulers of our country pooh-pooh. I’m sick and tired of people pontificating with no experience. My accountant told me she was all about free speech, that she endorsed Musk’s take on and ultimate changes to Twitter. I was kinda shocked, because Twitter is now a completely different experience. I asked her, has she been on the new Twitter? She hasn’t been on Twitter at all, not even once. I mean you’re not entitled to an opinion if you don’t play. But oldsters do this constantly, think they’re familiar when they’re not, they think by getting plastic surgery and owning a smartphone they are hip, but it’s all exterior, inside they’re clueless. Oh, they have some wisdom, some experience from being on the planet so long, but they’re overwhelmed with change, and they want to do different things with their time, like watch network TV.

Trump can’t win. Not that he’ll admit defeat if he loses. But if the Republicans nominated almost anyone else, they’d have a chance. Because Biden is not beloved.

Not to mention it’s over a year out. Please tell me what is going to happen in Trump’s life to his advantage politically. Do you think there are undecided independents at home saying this guy has been indicted four times, he’s a fraudster…HE’S MY MAN! Not a single one. Period. But that’s speaking English, and you can’t speak English in politics today. Today it’s all about authenticity, credibility, and the more last night candidates talked, the more they sacrificed it, never mind it being a charisma free zone.


How come I can see all this and nobody else can? Well, the truth is everybody can see this, but those inured to the process, the party apparatus, don’t want to admit it. Biden beat Trump once so he can do it again. My mother started losing it in her eighties… Repeating herself a bit. And you’d be in the car with her and she’d be straight and then…she’d do it again and you’d wince. You were hoping and praying the previous events were anomalies, but they weren’t. Biden’s gait and intellect are not going to get better in the next year. Never mind when he was young he was a faux pas machine. And he may not campaign from the basement this time, but if he’s on stage with almost anybody he’s going to look bad. How come I know this and nobody else does? Once again, everybody knows this.

The only way you can win against Trump is by being different. Not being hamstrung by his acolytes. The Stones didn’t care about the Beatles’ audience, they grew their own. There was enough room for both. And then the Stones crossed over a couple of times, with “As Tears Go By” and “Ruby Tuesday,” and those who thought they hated the Stones suddenly cottoned to them.

There are so many problems in America today. Bush II won by saying he was a uniter, not a divider, even though that was completely untrue. Why is there all this hate on the right, where is the optimism? Who is speaking to those who have not drunk the kool-aid? Look into the camera and tell us that there needs to be child care, that there needs to be Obamacare, don’t be beholden to the orthodoxy, most people want Obamacare, why are you speaking to the tiny minority who don’t? They’re not going to vote for a Democrat ever, they’re locked in, you don’t have to pander to them.

Politics is ripe for disruption. Just like Napster with the record industry. Actually, it’s already happened. With Trump. He said the unsayable, turns out people don’t really care how many times you’re divorced. And he appealed to the workers who were ignored by the Democrats, who thought they had this constituency locked up.

But that was back in the teens, and now we’re in the twenties. Disruption looks different. When an industry is calcified, set in its ways, overcharging the same damn customers, opportunities for the new are ripe. And the new always start outside the system, and are rough around the edges, but they appeal to early adopters and then overnight, the new triumphs. Just like Napster. First only on college campuses because of high speed connections, and then everybody got a high speed connection at home to download music. Like AOL before that. People saw no use for a computer, and then everybody bought one. Like digital photography. Remember Fotomat? It’s not coming back. And Blockbuster? Who knew that Netflix, a DVD by mail company, would end up implementing this new paradigm, streaming, and become the biggest force in content distribution, never mind production?

Our politics are certainly calcified. Set in the old. Run by the old. Appealing to the old, with the canard that oldsters vote and youngsters don’t. With old candidates… If you don’t see a landscape ripe for disruption, you’re probably part of the apparatus, never mind clueless.

Look at it this way… How did Vivek Ramaswamy go from nowhere to somewhere almost overnight? By being different. He might have overplayed his hand, squandered his chance, but that doesn’t mean someone smarter can’t win. Never forget, Rhapsody predated Spotify.

And it’s all about exposure. And that first debate got in excess of twelve million viewers, never mind those who saw clips after the fact, online. Ramaswamy got more exposure, was better known to the public, than Taylor Swift. It’s always been about mass. And right now that’s what people care about, politics, not music. Everyone thinks their life, their future, hangs in the balance. There’s a vacuum, ready to be filled by someone living in the present who is not beholden to orthodoxy.

Don’t say it can’t happen. Never underestimate the power of the individual. And no one can predict the future.

It can’t go on this way.

Class Act (And Thicker Than Water)

“Class Act”:

“Thicker Than Water”:

I can’t wait to finish “Thicker Than Water” tonight, which is funny, because I almost gave up on it.

It’s not much of a commitment, about eight half hours, but it seemed somewhat contrived and predictable, and then it didn’t. You know something is good when you think about it all day, when you look forward in anticipation.

But before “Thicker Than Water” we watched “Class Act,” which I felt somewhat similarly towards. As in I got where the first two episodes were going, was it just going to be a repeat of those until the end? A somewhat comedic story of an underdog triumphing in the business world? No, it wasn’t. The show got deeper, and more unpredictable in its predictableness. And you’ll read the warning right up front, about fictionalization, but you’ll also see that everybody in France knows this story.

But I don’t live in France. So I took “Class Act” at face value until the end, until I realized it was real.

Now these two shows are not A+ ventures, not must-see. But everything American they say I’ve got to check out is substandard. Like that Hulu show “This Fool.” The “New York Times” raved about it, and maybe it gets better, but there was a hokiness in the first episode that made us refrain from watching any more. “This Fool” wasn’t quite gritty enough and wasn’t quite funny enough, it existed in a no-man’s land where you had to accept it on its own terms and that was a land I chose not to inhabit.

But “Class Act”… This is a classic story, of the underdog who wants more, who is working the angles without portfolio, stretching the truth all the while. Ascending the financial and public ladder as he goes. But the thing about it, as broadly comic as Tapie, the main character, might be at times, it’s true. The essence, much more than the disclaimer would have you believe, is true.

Now if “Class Act” were an American show it would be a phenomenon. Then again, what are the odds of an American triumphing to this level? America, despite all the b.s. about social mobility, is ruled by a class system. Not quite as bad as Britain’s, but pretty damn bad. Let’s put it this way… Even if you’re smart and dedicated on the low end, you aren’t even aware of the opportunities on the high end, you go to the state school even though you could go to the Ivies, the elite, for free because they’re need-blind, but you don’t know what that means and they don’t want you to. America is all about unlocking information. The more you know, the further you can get. If you’re sitting at home b.s.’ing with your friends, getting high, watching television, you’re missing out. (Meanwhile, did you catch Paul Simon’s anti-dope talk at the end of his marvelous interview with Howard Stern? In the old days this interview would be front page news, today if you’re not a Stern listener you’re clueless. Simon is not sexy, he’s not in the gossip pages, but what he’s got to say…) The thing about the information age is… There’s so much information at your fingertips, a lot of it free. As for the expense… Well, Apple News+ is ten bucks a month, and you can subscribe to the papers digitally in some cases for less than $200 a year. But it’s easier to be cheap, say it’s too expensive as you blow this amount and more on evanescent experiences, on trifles that you don’t even recall.

Man, I’m stuck on this. You can glean so much if you just hoover up the information. Most people are uneducated and full of crap, despite their bloviating around the table. They perceive themselves as experts, even though they’re far from it. They’d rather jockey for position in the lower echelons, make you feel bad about yourself so you’ll be too intimidated to play, than venture into the real game and lose.

Yes, there’s always a real game. The real game of music is in Los Angeles. Let me see… You’ve got the heads of Live Nation, AEG, Universal Music and Warner Music here. Come to L.A. if you want to play, elsewhere you are hamstrung, a hand behind your back.

Forget all the b.s. about San Francisco. You want to be in tech, go there. Rents are cheaper right now, albeit not that cheap. You see that’s the epicenter, where most of it happens in tech. Of course it happens elsewhere too, but why play in a small pond when you can go directly to the source?

Yes, disinformation is rampant. They want to keep you down in the hole they’re in, to paraphrase Bob Dylan. They don’t want you to dream big, they don’t want to believe in you or support you, they just want you to know your place and follow the rules.

Tapie doesn’t believe in all that.  And therefore he keeps moving up the ladder. Always based on good ideas, sometimes with poor execution.

The bottom line is no one is better than you, but you don’t believe that, even if you hear it.

Tapie believes he can play, and it’s fascinating to watch him do so.

As the episodes progress, the action slows down, the story slows down, and the interactions are more intense.

But you’ve got to commit to it. You can watch Zaslav’s naked dating show on Max for titillation, but if you watch “Class Act” you’ll have something to think about, gain insight.

Not that it’s a chore, not that it’s work.

Yes, it’s all happening in streaming TV. But you’ve got to work for it. You can’t just pick the low-hanging fruit, which is inherently homogenized for mass consumption. You’ve got to go deeper, for the nougat.

Not that either “Class Act” or “Thicker Than Water” are highbrow, intellectual. It’s just that they’re not made for the brain dead.

And we’ve all got a brain, you choose whether to kill it or not.

But if you want to expand your horizons, be bigger than those in your neighborhood, think about the big issues in a way that those ruling the world do…you can read the news online (not the endless opinion blogs) and watch shows like “Class Act.” And “Thicker Than Water.” They don’t require much other than dedication. Sit your butt down and watch them. It’s not a sentence, when “Class Act” is over you’ll be glad you did. The end of “Thicker Than Water” hangs in the balance, but…I like art that is primary, that demands all your attention. I don’t go to the show to shoot selfies with my friends, I’m there to communicate with the act on stage, it’s a one on one experience, transcendent when done right.

I get a similar feeling watching streaming TV. It’s just me, with no interruptions. I can focus, marinate in the message.

I live for this. It makes my life complete.

Noah Kahan

This never happened before. At least since the sixties and seventies. You know, act percolates in the marketplace and starts to sell beaucoup tickets sans hit. Since the eighties at least it’s been all about the hit. You know, getting the track on MTV, on the universal Top Forty radio, reaching the masses and then having the piñata break so the money rains down. But growing from the bottom up, the long-lamented “artist development,” that’s been history. Until now.

Yes, Noah Kahan has been at it for years. And not alone, building his audience on social media, but supported by a major label, Republic. Today the major usually skims the cream, it doesn’t start from zero, and it finds one track and pushes and pushes and…

If you’re paying attention, and you either are or you’re not, you may still think we live in a monoculture, dominated by Taylor Swift and the Weeknd, as if we all were exposed to the same stuff, knew it and liked it, a paradigm that evaporated over a decade ago. Noah Kahan was happening long before the collaboration with Post Malone, that’s just icing on the cake. But even stranger, the music Kahan makes has been considered niche for eons. Sure, Jewel broke through three decades ago, but her music was remixed for radio and her face was plastered everywhere and you couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing her performing. Personal music, a variation on what we used to call singer/songwriter? That was for AAA, that was a backwater, a slice of the market that existed but the mainstream gave up on nearly completely.

Yes, Noah Kahan was selling tickets, in prodigious numbers, before the Post Malone number. Somehow the audience knew. People were not beaten over the head, it wasn’t about publicity, exposure, it was about the music. The audience embraced it and needed more. It was not manipulation, it was organic.

Selling tickets. They say Noah Kahan can now do arenas. And having built his name over time, with the music, he can now sell tickets for the rest of his life. This can happen in country, but it does not happen in Top Forty. Top Forty is all about the low hanging fruit, the streaming numbers, the recording revenue, whereas today the business is more holistic (I hate that term, don’t you?) In other words, it’s about the vaunted 360. You’re a musician, not a recording artist. It’s about everything, not just the hit. And the avenues of remuneration seem to be endless. For those bitching about streaming payments…the joke is on you. In the old days your music would have been unavailable to the masses unless they bought it. Sans radio play there was no exposure. Word of mouth was much slower. As for today…everyone can play. But rising above? That’s nearly impossible.

We keep hearing how the industry can’t break new stars. But what do you say about Zach Bryan, never mind Noah Kahan and Morgan Wallen? This is not the music that people want, right? They want hip-hop, overblown pop, not this personal, touchy-feely stuff from weak boys as opposed to macho boasters. And one thing about the foregoing three, it’s about the songs. To use the Grammy distinction, not the record. In other words, if you’re a fan you can sing along.

But all the news is about Doja Cat. The rest of the TMZ acts that populate the Spotify Top 50. The train-wrecks. Fighting with each other, getting in trouble. Many are cartoons. It resembles the WWE more than music. And my point is not to criticize them, but to point out there’s a whole ‘nother world out there, that we don’t live in a monoculture, that the audience is hungry for more, and if it hits a nerve, the public will spread the word.

Furthermore, the music is not made by the usual suspects. I love and respect Max Martin, he’s more talented than the acts he works with. I’m not as big a believer in Jack Antonoff, nice guy, doesn’t have the same magic as Max, but Jack’s fingerprints are all over the records of the supposed household names. But Noah Kahan co-produced his album with Gabe Simon. Oh, you know Gabe, from the Kopecky Family Band, a ubiquitous outfit if there ever was one… Ha!

Zach Bryan’s right hand guy is the well-known Eddie Spears, who doesn’t even have his own Wikipedia page!

And another thing Kahan and Bryan have in common…they write their own material, alone! What a concept! Directly from their heart to yours. No collaboration, no writers camp, no trolling the wares of the writers du jour, no top line, no nothing except the artist themselves. What a breakthrough! Well, a return of what once made this business triumph. Their music is not worked-over, homogenized, burnished, willed into a hit, it just is.

And I mention Morgan Wallen, the biggest person in recorded music today, whose only true competitor is Bad Bunny, because you can sing his music too. Yes, Wallen started off on a TV competition show, which he did not win. Yet even though he’s a pariah for employing the n-word when he was drunk, he keeps dominating the charts. I loved the story of the Black NFL player who rallied his team by playing a Wallen song in the locker room. Forget Usher, Morgan Wallen should have been the Super Bowl headliner, but everybody involved is too inured to the past. You get the most modern teams, the ones who won that season, in the game, but during halftime you get acts long in the tooth, on a victory lap to sell tickets. What do they say, throw the long ball? The NFL can’t do it, it’s the establishment. And the greatest music, the most successful music, the music that has resonated most has always been anti-establishment. And that means anti-NFL, anti-low hanging fruit, anti all the crap promotion that we have had for the past decade, if not longer.

Yes, the above three artists are white. So that brings up the issue of race. I’ll just go to the heart of the matter. Not everybody likes hip-hop, some people abhor it. Meaning there’s a whole ‘nother market in existence, that for a long time has been ignored. And Noah Kahan is speaking to that market, as is Zach Bryan. Both of whom have been at it for years.

Now I’d never heard of Noah Kahan until June. I was out to lunch with Jim Guerinot who spontaneously told me his girlfriend had turned him on to Noah Kahan, that he’d never heard of him before, but he liked Kahan’s music, more than liked, and he got tickets for them to see Kahan at the Greek.

I’ve been paying attention to Kahan ever since. First I could hardly believe it. An act I’d never heard of before was selling out the Greek? Used to be if you were in the music business you knew everything, felt everything, even if you hadn’t heard it. But today that’s impossible, there’s just too much in the landscape.

The audience has broken Noah Kahan.

And he won’t be the last.


My father wouldn’t get a vanity plate. Because he wanted plausible deniability. Not that my dad was the type to step out, but if someone said they saw his car here or there he could always say it wasn’t him, but if the license plate said “Lefsetz,” he’d be nailed, he’d have to admit it.

Life used to be different, then income inequality burgeoned and the only thing left for the little people was fame, they certainly couldn’t make beaucoup bucks. In order to win the jackpot, you’ve got to put your nose to the grindstone and complete years of education. Or you can be an entrepreneur working 24/7 for years with no guarantee of return. Most people would rather party. The lottery can give them the illusion of becoming rich, but ultimately it’s just a tax on the poor, and the supposed American Dream, which George Carlin said you have to be asleep to believe, has become statistically less achievable over time.

But you could be on reality TV. Or ultimately an influencer on social media. As far as becoming rich, did you read that Kylie Jenner is not the youngest self-made billionaire? Because she’s not even a billionaire, nowhere close, “Forbes” crunched the numbers, turned out she was lying.

But Kylie Jenner is an entertainer, using her fame to try and generate capital, and that’s what entertainers do, lie.

All the time, on a regular basis.

If you read how rich an entertainer is… You can probably discount that number by 25%, if not 50% or 75%. That’s part of their image, that they made it and are enjoying the spoils. And the devil is in the details anyway. The news constantly prints the gross, not the net… And the net might not even exist, the tour might have ended up in the red. But you heard they grossed $100 million!

Who’s to call them on it?

“Forbes” was just correcting Kylie to exclude her from their list of billionaires, “Forbes” wanted to be authoritative. The rest of the world? Either didn’t care or bought it hook, line and sinker.

Records… Taylor Swift won’t release the gross per gig because she wants to wow everybody with the final number, setting a record. Good for her, but she ain’t netting a billion dollars, nowhere close. And there are Fortune 500 executives you’ve never heard of who are richer than Swift. Yes, you can work for the man and end up making a billion, primarily based on stock rewards. That’s where the real money is, in corporations, on Wall Street, entertainment is chump change.

But it’s entertainment that the people see.

You can make up any story you want, they said Frank Zappa crapped on stage. Of course that didn’t happen, but who was going to check on it? Furthermore, who in the artist’s camp is going to say it’s untrue if it benefits their boss?

You see people in entertainment are selling their image. And the public is imitating the entertainers, as it has always done.

But if you’re not in entertainment, if your income is not based on image, setting records, being bigger and better than anybody else, STFU!

That’s what the blue bloods did.

Back in the fifties and sixties, even into the seventies, you couldn’t tell who the really rich were. At that point, the rich had inherited the money. And they drove old Country Squires and wore threadbare khakis and Top-Siders. They undersold their assets, they didn’t want the attention. They didn’t want their kids kidnapped, they didn’t want to anger those less fortunate, they flew beneath the radar.

However, starting with lower tax rates in the eighties, and then the tech boom, never mind the financialization of America, today’s rich have actually made the money, they earned it…and too many want to tell you about it.

They want to tell you how hard they worked and still do. And they want you to envy their significant other and lifestyle. They want to tell you they’re better than you. When in truth they should be fading back into the woodwork, like the blue bloods of yore. Because the image is paying no dividends, it might even have a cost. Have you noticed that David Geffen has been out of the fray since he posted on Instagram that he was spending the Covid lockdown on his yacht? He’ll never live down the backlash. And goofy, laughing Jeff Bezos was tolerated as a brilliant nerd until he stole his good friend’s wife and was seen cavorting and canoodling with her all over the world. I mean what’s the benefit?

Well, in truth to make that kind of dough you usually need to fill an unfillable hole. Maybe you never got the love you deserved from your mother, maybe you were bullied in school. And, in truth, most of these people never get over it, but whereas entertainers tend to have a lifespan, living on fumes after a peak, these business people continue to rake in the dough and they want to continue to impress you who they are and you’re not.

And that brings attention.

In other words, if your business is not based on gaining attention, do your best not to get attention.

The odds of getting audited are low. But boast about your riches and spending and the odds increase.

Like those people who give quotes to newspapers, about their financial situation. Do you think no one in the government reads? No one is paying attention? Raise your head and it might get chopped off.

And for the little people… You don’t want to be in the news either. It’s a momentary high and then you’ve got to live with what you’ve said for the rest of your life, it stands online, and you might not be proud of it, and it might draw negative attention and consequences. And if you didn’t know before, I’m telling you now, journalists are not your friends, they cozy up to you and then dump you after they get what they want.

So Donald Trump was lying about the value of his assets ad infinitum. It was part of his brand, how rich he was. But no one in New York really cared, many saw him as a braggart, an irrelevant second-rate real estate developer from Queens. The real movers and shakers, the traditionalists, were never going to let him in their club.

And Donald was unhappy with this. So he kept upping the ante, raising his public profile. But there were so many skeletons in his closet.

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em. Kinda like Kylie Jenner, she could boast how rich she was, but if she wanted to call herself a billionaire and be on the “Forbes” list, there were going to be consequences.

So Donald Trump is on Fox, talking about Obama’s birth certificate, bloviating on Howard Stern’s show, but when he started to run for President…

I’m not talking about the hoi polloi. I’m not talking about the people who voted for him. I’m talking raw business here. Donald Trump thought his secrets, his shenanigans, would never catch up with him. But how does that song go? I fought the law and the law won?

Not every time. But it’s never defeated all the time either. And Trump had a lot of smoking guns, which continued to smolder. And he was making enemies all the while. Raise your head above the fray and people less fortunate, or those who don’t like you, will want to bring you down a peg, show that you’re not that special, no better than them.

Think about it… You can’t get rich working for the government. So why are people doing so? For the power, for the ability to set the record straight, to separate right from wrong, to punish bad actors. This is literally their job, this is what they live for. And they cannot be bought off, not all of them, even though the rich regularly try. Isn’t that the story of Clarence Thomas? It’s all about working the refs. It’s never black and white. It’s about shading. You want to get the benefit of the doubt, and if the person deciding your fate has been the beneficiary of your largesse, they don’t want to wake up one day and go against you, because then they’re toast. Believe me, in the music business sycophants are rampant, the perks can be amazing, the whole system is based on fake news stories amplified by those essentially on the take. However, go against your benefactor even once, and you’re done, there’s no coming back. You see stories in the “New Yorker,” never mind the “Times,” pontificating about the truth, the details of the entertainment business, and they almost always get it wrong, or never get to the key elements, because everybody inside, who wants to remain inside, knows there are certain things you cannot say, certain truths you cannot reveal. Furthermore, the participants are smart, they might talk up a storm, but they don’t put it in writing, they never put it in writing, because if it’s oral, something they said, they’ve got plausible deniability. It’s their word against…

But our entire country is based on entertainment, hype. No one believes they have enough, people believe they’re entitled to more. They’re busy keeping up with the Joneses when…there’s always somebody richer than you, always. Or someone with a better education, who’s better traveled. Which is why the truly elite that sustain never boast. You don’t know what they have, so they can never be caught in a lie, never be judged negatively, the image of a business person should be mystery.

Notice how managers never reveal their income? You want to stay out of the fray. Punters know who Scooter Braun is, to his detriment.

So unless you’re making your money on your image, of being super-successful, larger than life, stay quiet. You’re only antagonizing others by boasting. And when those people have the power of the law, or even the power of the pen, you’d better watch out.

Believe me, Donald Trump is scared. He’s fighting these legal situations, but he couldn’t change the vote so he would remain President and he can’t beat the Feds on every count, never mind the State actors. He’s got a strategy, to go on offense, to throw the book at opponents, and with individuals this often works, because they can’t afford to defend themselves, whereas the government? The cash is not unlimited, but the investigation, the prosecution, can sustain.

Trump made some bad decisions. If you’re gonna lie and cheat, do your best to never be in the sunshine, and Trump broke this immutable law. Because criminals almost never skate, not when they’ve got such a high profile. Al Capone was nailed for tax evasion, and Whitey Bulger was living the life of a nobody before he was captured and put in prison and ultimately killed by inmates.

I’d love to tell you to fly right, on the straight and narrow, but the truth is, unfortunately, to get ahead you often do have to lie. Try getting a job without experience, good luck. Everybody lies. But is lying your business, like in entertainment? If not, know when to hold back. Otherwise your lies are going to bite you in the ass, it’s just a matter of when.