There’s always promise at the turn of the year, and memory. I’m partial to divas, and the songs here all feature them in one way or another. But they also carry the reminder that however out-sized the individual, life is social; life is a collaboration, in real or historical time. Most of these songs are overt collaborations, at least one of which (Bette Midler at the Continental Baths) being most notable for the relationship between artist, audience and setting at a moment of imagined freedom in the heady days of gay liberation.
Now, in 2018, all these songs are, in a way, memorials, too. You can find purer versions of Maria Callas’s “La Mamma Morta,” but I’ve been listening to its iteration in a scene from Philadelphia, in memory of Jonathan Demme but also as a tribute to the embodied nature of music — what people say to each other when other words fail. The finale is an encouragement, an up beat, because, for now, we got life.