Staff Picks: Lorde’s Piano Ballads, Penélope Cruz as Donatella Versace, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen… The Bronx Is Burning’

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. Scroll through for our picks below.


Ladies and Gentlemen… The Bronx Is Burning by Jonathan Mahler

This 2006 nonfiction page-turner is like catnip for me, covering as it does New York City circa 1977 – in which the city grappled with financial instability, out of control crime, a citywide blackout, a testy mayoral race, and the rampage of the Son of Sam killer. (The riveting documentary NY77: The Coolest Year in Hell is an excellent companion film.) But the city was also thrilled by the exploits of the New York Yankees and their new superstar, Reggie Jackson; Mahler’s book tells both of those stories, contrasts them, and connects them. If you’re not a baseball fan (guilty!) the sportswriter’s patter can get a little tiresome, but that complaint aside, this is one hell of an entertaining book – and a fascinating look back at a city that currently shares only a name and a passing resemblance. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor


Courtesy of DC, cover art by Yancey Labat

DC SuperHero Girls, Volume III

I, like most of the planet, enjoyed Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman. I role-played the character as a kid with friends (and had the Underoos). I admired Lynda Carter’s amazing spinning moves on reruns of the old Wonder Woman TV show. Seeing the new movie had me realizing how valuable it would have been to see a character like Gal Gadot’s on the big screen when I was younger. That’s why I got excited when I took a look at the soon-to-be-released volume three of DC SuperHero Girls, available on June 27. The series features teenage versions of comic book favorites, including Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, Harley Quinn, and more. For the new book, writer Shea Fontana and illustrator Yancey Labat created an imaginative, fun story about summer break at Super Hero High. Wonder Woman goes to Mount Olympus to visit her dad, Zeus. There’s a little family drama when her brother Ares shows up. The story talks about things women sometimes struggle with at all ages, like acceptance and sisterhood. — Alison Nastasi, Weekend Editor


Lorde’s “Liability” and “Writer in the Dark”

When “Liability” first came out as Melodrama‘s second single, I didn’t pay it much mind — I was still feeling the rush of the vitally counterintuitive structure of “Green Light,” and the straightforwardness of the new piano ballad at first turned me away. That was stupid. This week, as I’ve started digging into this album, it’s the downtempo, less embellished tracks that’ve really struck me. Lorde’s voice, at once stark and vulnerable as the surface of the moon, alone bears more than enough complexity, and “Liability” allows it to take full command of listeners’ emotions; experimental flourish on tracks like this proves totally unnecessary. Lyrically “Liability” is an (unsurprisingly) mature rumination on the social impediments of fame, contending with a newfound alienation and longing without ever sounding self-pitying.

The other song I’m loving is “Writer in the Dark” — which similarly sees Lorde’s voice contorting around piano notes with unpolished intimacy, but this one bears the surprise of an exhilaratingly weird chorus of higher pitched Lordes bursting into the track. The slightly bombastic pitchiness of the chorus works brilliantly, speaking to the track’s subversion of standard post-breakup pining, as the song wavers between longing to threatening (“I’ll love you ’til you call the cops on me”) to, as always, maturity and reflection. On your usual pop album, balladry can be used as filler between danceable singles, but there’s nothing superfluous or empty whatsoever about these tracks. In fact, they feel like the flesh and bone of the album. — Moze Halperin, Senior Editor


Ricky Martin and Penélope Cruz in American Crime Story

Words probably don’t need to speak to my — and hopefully, now, your — excitement over the images above. I’ll just say what may already be obvious: that that is Penélope Cruz appearing as Donatella Versace, and to the left is a speedo-ed Ricky Martin, as Antonio D’Amico (the partner of Gianni Versace, whose murder is the subject of American Crime Story‘s second season, The Assassination of Gianni Versace.) These images — and a few others, all shared in Entertainment Weekly — are all we’ve seen of the actors in these roles thus far, but as far as anticipating-building goes, they certainly hit the perfect, gaudy spot. — Moze Halperin, Senior Editor