Staff Picks: ‘The Sellout,’ Thom Yorke’s “Villain” and Donald Trump’s ‘Hotline Bling’ Cover


Need a great book to read, album to listen to, or TV show to get hooked on? The Flavorwire team is here to help: in this weekly feature, our editorial staffers recommend the cultural object or experience they’ve enjoyed most in the past seven days. Click through for our picks, and tell us what you’ve been loving in the comments.

The Mississippi Grind Soundtracks

One of the most striking elements of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s forthcoming road movie Mississippi Grind is its use of music; the filmmakers masterfully employ an evocative mixture of hard blues (both classic and modern) and vintage country to score the story of two losers giving it one more doomed shot, tapping into the music’s bottomless well of hopelessness and hard luck. Thankfully, we can deep dive into that sound via not one, but two soundtrack albums, named after the leading characters. But Vol 1: Gerry’s Road Mix and Vol 2: Curtis’ Road Mix , which feature everyone from John Lee Hooker to O.V. Wright to Odetta to Tom T. Hall, aren’t just soundtracks; as the titles imply, they have the feel of mixtapes, carefully curated, riding out a vibe of joy in the face of despair. Put them on, pour a glass of bourbon, and disappear—or, even better, put them on your car radio late one night, point it into the darkness, and see where you end up. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

The Sellout, by Paul Beatty

I’m several months late to one of the most widely acclaimed novels of 2015 (if there’s one phrase to describe my reading habits, it’s “buzzworthy books from several months ago”), but no matter: this is America, and the time for vicious satires of race and racism is always. Beginning with an idea so horrific, so counterintuitive that the reader can’t help but laugh—what if a black man tried to bring back full-blown slavery and segregation?—and working its way back through the nameless narrator’s quest to rescue the fictional Los Angeles satellite community of Dickens, California, The Sellout shrugs off easy polemicizing in favor of Beatty’s electric, absurd approach. I’ll be furious if it’s not on the National Book Award’s fiction longlist, due out tomorrow, but I also won’t be surprised. — Alison Herman, Associate Editor

The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach

On a long plane ride I picked up Chad Harbach’s critically and commercially baseball novel, The Art of Fielding. I wanted to dislike it — the white guy themes, the N+1 pedigree, the big advance, etc. — but it touched all the bases. It’s a lovely novel in the mostly realist mode, pleasant to read with well-drawn characters, even the female one. The only real blooper I could pick up wasn’t with the novel itself, but with the way it was packaged. Because truth be told, if the very same novel had been about roller derby, the characters female, the author Charlene Harbach, it would have most likely been given a pink cover and a much smaller advance. Swing and a miss, gender bias. — Sarah Seltzer, Editor-at-Large

Narcotest by Capitan Alegria

I don’t know anything about the artist Capitan Alegria (though here, apparently, is his Linkedin profile), but this bit of (what I’m assuming is) détournement is easy to describe. It’s an animated Donald Trump head singing Drake’s “Hotline Bling.” Even though I was tired of the song one or two days after its release, I can’t stop watching to the Alegria-Trump version. I think it’s because Trump here is far from the self-controlled “real talker” he’s made out to be by American media. Instead he’s more like what he actually is: a nearly animatronic Hegelian puppet who, Bing-like, spits out bits of cultural detritus. — Jonathon Sturgeon, Literary Editor

Show Me a Hero

In case, like me, you missed David Simon’s HBO miniseries Show Me a Hero during its actual 6-episode run, and are now letting it sink to the back of your “must watch” list as buzz moves towards newer, longer serialized dramas, don’t. Watch it now. As Flavorwire’s Alison Herman wrote in her review, it’s “everything you could want from a David Simon miniseries.” Simon brings to Hero all the elements that have won him acclaim as one of the most astute makers of television and writers exposing the frameworks of America’s systemic injustices. Here, he explores the insidiousness of a small town’s vehemence in protesting new housing developments in wealthier neighborhoods. At the beginning, the protesters rarely utter directly racist remarks, sidestepping them or hiding them under the generalizing veil of good old classism. But as their protesting fails to sway the judiciary powers, the city’s — a small scale representation of America’s — hysteria shows just how far people will go to perpetuate oppression for the sake of their comfort. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor

Thom Yorke’s NYFF Contribution, “Villain”

Fashion and pop music have never been more in sync. At the New York Fashion Week show for Serena Williams’ HSN Signature Statement collection, Drake blared from the speakers as her rumored beau looked on. And Kanye West, whose last-minute exhibition drew ire from fellow nascent designers who were now forced to go up against his celebrity circus, used the debut of his Yeezy Season 2 collection to play “Fade,” a new song from his upcoming (and still without a release date) album, Swish. But quite possibly the most tasteful crossover belonged to Thom Yorke, who debuted a new song, “Villain,” at the NYFW show for erstwhile New York label Rag & Bone. He’s lent a hand with such duties before, soundtracking shows for the line in 2011 and 2013; this year’s offering, “Villain” is a sparse, hushed piano ballad with ghostly background harmonies from the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Rag & Bone’s spring/summer 2016 collection featured lots of blacks and whites with bright green and yellow accents on loose, flowing garments. At first, “Villain” seems a little dour for a runway show—some of which can be quite raucous—but when the drum programming and synths pick up late in the track, the juxtaposition of the music and the models’ stoic faces gives the show an air of seriousness that feels appropriate. The finale, a segue into Rhythm Control’s “My House,” is a bit more upbeat, with a wubby bass beat that serves as the crowd’s exit music (look for Anna Wintour making a beeline for the exit at the end of the video). On to the next one. — Matthew Ismael Ruiz, Music Editor