“A critical tour-de-force…”—The New York Times

millennium pop: music love & squalor

Tim Riley's Digital Anthology


Over 100 essays by NPR music critic Tim Riley covering the past forty years. Coming soon...

The past four decades saw “classic rock” peak and the music industry implode, then roar back through Napster, go digital, and finally re-emerge through online streaming. All along, the music critic's role kept changing. This turn-of-the-century period saw new vantages on history as well as aesthetics. Starting at the Boston Phoenix and moving through NPR audio clips, this book compiles Riley’s lively reviews for the New York Timestruthdig, and the Los Angeles Book Review, and conference papers that will see their first publication. Links to streaming services punctuate each chapter, and an audio track of Riley reading his prose aloud turns it into a one-of-kind hypertext + audio package—an entirely new kind of celebration for music lovers. In addition, eight “podcast” segments, “Cutaways,” feature audio interviews with critics like Evelyn McDonnell and Hunter Harris. Coming in 2023...

What Goes On: The Beatles, Their Music, and Their Time (2019)

Walter Everett and Tim Riley’s first textbook devoted to the band blends historical narrative, musicology, and music analysis to tell the full story of the Beatles and how they redefined pop music.

What Goes On is a valuable addition to a variety of courses on the Beatles. Its overlapping approaches to content make the book a foundation for courses in not only music history and theory, but also broader historical investigations of pop music in the 1960s. When it comes to the Beatles, there are many musical, literary and cultural veins to mine, and Everett and Riley provide an excellent jumping-off point.”

Alex Ludwig, College Music Symposium

Lennon: The Man, the Myth, the Music – The Definitive Life (2011)

Riley explores Lennon in all of his contradictions: the British art student who universalized an American style, the anarchic rock ‘n’ roller with the moral spine, the anti-jazz snob who posed naked with his avant-garde lover, and the misogynist who became a househusband.

“…Paradoxically, what Riley calls Lennon’s ‘crumbling inner life’ gave vent to some of his finest mid-period Beatles songs: the ‘gleaming arrogance of “And Your Bird Can Sing,” the alternate reality of “Rain” and the shimmering cynicism of  “She Said She Said…”’

Mark Edmunds in The Sunday Times

Fever: How Rock ‘n’ Roll Transformed Gender in America (2003)

In Fever, music critic Tim Riley argues that while political and athletic role models have let us down, rock and roll has provided enduring role models for men and women.

“Tim Riley’s Fever combines brainy and audacious cultural analysis with genuine musical understanding—a combination rare enough to inspire exhilaration.”

Tim Page, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Tim Page on Music

Madonna Illustrated (1992)

Featuring more than 100 photos from the early days and the glory days, here is a large-format tribute to America’s most daring and enduring musical sensation — Madonna.
“Criticism of unprecedented fulsomeness…”
Kirkus Reviews

Hard Rain: A Dylan Commentary (1992)

Examining over thirty years of Dylan’s recordings, films, and live concerts to deliver fresh, and sometimes heretical, judgements of his work, Tim Riley frames Bob Dylan as the most important American rock ‘n’ roller since Elvis.

“Album by album, song by song, sometimes verse by verse, Riley ponders the lyrics, arrangements and delivery of Dylan’s work, from his first album in 1962 to the most recent outing of the Traveling Wilburys.

Riley has adopted (and mastered) the approved idiom of high-toned rock criticism invented by Greil Marcus, an approach that applies hermeneutics, cultural anthropology, textual deconstructionism and social history to the down-and-dirty artifacts of rock ‘n’ roll. And so, with Hard Rain, Riley writes his own ticket into the canon of Dylan tribute literature.”

Jonathan Kirsch, Los Angeles Times

Tell Me Why: A Beatles Commentary (1988)

Riley offers a new, deeper understanding of the Beatles by closely considering each song and album they recorded in an exploration as rigorous as it is soulful.

"In Tell Me Why, a labor of loving obsession, Tim Riley minutely examines the music of the Beatles... Song by song, he notes the subtleties of craft and inspiration that keep the Beatles' recordings contemporary, illuminating music so familiar it's often taken for granted."

Jon Pareles, The New York Times