Excellent

LITTLE ORPHAN ANI

TYLENOL TALENT

STUPID BLOODY STUPID!

Interview

All the News That Didn't Fit

On the Record

The Olympia Connection, Or Lack Thereof

Excellent

The Numbness Is Just a Bonus

Hiphop City

WEEN ARE THE WORLD

Soul by the Pound

EXCELLENT REAL ROCK QUOTES

Incest is Best

The Rise and Fall of the N-Word

DEXYS MIDNIGHT RUNNERS

If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say, Tell the Truth Anyway

You Don't Own Me

Summer Lovin'

Stagger Lee

Music to Lose Your Job By

Boy, You Sure Can Take the Fun Out of Music

CINEMATIC CLICHE

Stuart Braithwaite From Mogwai

Going to New York City?

THE CHURCH OF COLTRANE

A Whole N'other Level

Who Says Morrissey Fans Don't Get Laid?

ISSA ROCKA ROLL

Not Modest Enough

It's easy to be tricked by Billie Holiday. There's her name, first off, with its implications of familiarity and furlough. And there's her famously beautiful profile: the hair pulled back in strict elegance, the well-waxed eyebrows, the high cheekbones. When she sings, early on, her voice is plump with delight and longing, a kind of near/far audible illusion. She is backed by big bands, the shoop-shoop of romantic dances, or by the rich horn that highlights her own clear voice. Holiday seems, on the surface, to represent nostalgic melancholy better than any jazz singer because her voice is "cuter" than Nina Simone's, "brighter" than Ella Fitzgerald's.

But look again. Billie Holiday is pure pain. True: Because of Holiday's apparent pop superficiality, her early music has been adopted in recent years as ubiquitous coffee house and hip clothier background music, but the irony of this is almost too much to bear. That a woman who lived through abandonment, racial abuse, sexual abuse, and heroin addiction has come to soundtrack the bubble-bright culture of the leisure class, resigns me to putting away my Solitude, my Songs for Distingué Lovers, at least for the time being. I just don't want to associate Holiday with commerce. After all, she was originally banned from white clubs and was never paid for her early recordings. Her most famous venue was New York's Café Society (the only integrated club outside of Harlem), where WPA murals adorned the walls alongside a sculptured 3D caricature of Hitler.

Café Society was, according to Vanity Fair's David Margolik, a place that "mocked empty celebrity worship." It seems that hardly anyone would be less susceptible to being reduced to an emblem than the openly wounded Billie Holiday, but here we are. Somehow, Lady Day has become the lady of the day, when she's really the torchlight of the night. Somehow she's remembered as the singer of "Moonglow," and not as the singer of "Strange Fruit."

So forget Billie Holiday for a while. This year, the 40th anniversary of Holiday's premature death, take a holiday from Holiday. I'm willing to give up Billie if it means a break from hearing her subsumed beneath idle chatter, that ache in her voice made as unremarkable as the passing rumble of a truck.

Or, maybe I'll listen only to the later stuff. Lady in Satin, perhaps, the last studio album. Here, Holiday's voice is stripped of its glad-wrapped veneer. Wholly un-satiny, it scrapes with fresh emotion, splintered in self-abuse. No one can deny her humanity, her anti-celebrity, on Lady in Satin. Lady in Satin is an album for home, where it invites intimacy and hard drinking. And that's the kind of holiday Holiday would have condoned.