When Whiting Writers’ Award winner Teddy Wayne published his critically acclaimed debut, Kapitoil, it was hailed as “one of the best novels of [this] generation” by the Boston Globe and was shortlisted for a spate of national prizes.
Jonathan Franzen wrote in The Daily Beast that “no other writer, as far as I know, has invented such a funny and compelling voice and story for [this type of character.]” Now, in The Love Song of Jonny Valentine, Wayne turns his sharp wit, flawless narrative ventriloquism, and humane sensibility to our monstrous obsession with fame.
Megastar Jonny Valentine, eleven-year-old icon of bubblegum pop, knows that the fans don’t love him for who he is. The talented singer’s image, voice, and even hairdo have been relentlessly packaged—by his L.A. label and his hard-partying manager-mother, Jane—into bite-size pabulum. But within the marketing machine, somewhere, Jonny is still a vulnerable little boy, perplexed by his budding sexuality and his heartthrob status, dependent on Jane, and endlessly searching for his absent father in Internet fan sites, lonely emails, and the crowds of faceless fans.
Poignant, brilliant, and viciously funny, told through the eyes of one of the most unforgettable child narrators, this literary masterpiece explores with devastating insight and empathy the underbelly of success in 21st-century America. The Love Song of Jonny Valentine is a tour de force by a standout voice of his generation.
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Playlist for The Love Song Of Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne
The pop music in The Love Song of Jonny Valentine is, by 11-year-old singer Jonny’s own admission, utterly disposable. It’s a mainstream product that goes in one ear and out the other, but not before separating the listener from her money. Yet he dreams of creating art that is timeless, along the lines of his idol, Michael Jackson (especially “Billie Jean”). And though my own musical taste runs counter to Top-40 aesthetics, I, too, have a soft spot for catchy, hook-driven pop.
The contemporary landscape of dance-pop shares some attributes with the crooners of the 1950s and early ’60s, but has its strongest roots in synthesizer-heavy pop from the ’80s. That also happens to be the music I grew up with. Here are 17 songs from the decade, some iconic, some lesser-known. All remain, to me, listenable and danceable after all these years. In other words: timeless.
1. Billie Jean by Michael Jackson
2. (I'm a) TV Savage by Bow Wow Wow
3. 88 Lines About 44 Women by The Nails
4. Kiss by Prince
5. I Think We’re Alone Now by Tiffany
6. Take on Me by A-ha
7. She Drives Me Crazy by Fine Young Cannibals
8. Since Yesterday by Strawberry Switchblade
9. Turning Japanese by The Vapors
10. Walk Like an Egyptian by The Bangles
11. Mexican Radio by Wall of Voodoo
12. Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves
13. Come on Eileen by Dexy’s Midnight Runners
14. Girls Just Want to Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper
15. Material Girl by Madonna
16. 99 Red Balloons by Nena
17. Kids in America by Kim WildeAbout the Author:
Teddy Wayne, the author of Loner, The Love Song of Jonny Valentine, and Kapitoil, is the winner of a Whiting Writers’ Award and an NEA Fellowship as well as a finalist for the Young Lions Fiction Award, PEN/Bingham Prize, and Dayton Literary Peace Prize. He writes regularly for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, McSweeney’s, and elsewhere. He lives in New York.
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