This very moment, we’re facing a worsening pandemic that has forced many of us to hunker down within the confines of our homes. Which, some might argue, makes this an opportune time to put out a 17-minute-long song about the assassination of president John F. Kennedy in 1963. Specifically, Bob Dylan might argue that, as he released that very song around midnight last night, his first original in eight years.
What is the song like? Well, it starts off painstakingly describing the national tragedy in detail, and then turns into what Rolling Stone calls “an impressionistic, elegiac, increasingly apocalyptic journey through the through what feels like the entire Sixties and then perhaps all of 20th-century America.” Quite the undertaking, one might say. Above all else, it left the Cut staff with a burning question: If you were to write a 17-minute song right now, at a time when many of us are deprived of meaningful human interaction and consequently watching our sanity diminish by the day, what would your subject be?
From the darkest depths of our brains, here are ours:
A bug I unintentionally swallowed
My song is called “The Bug I Swallowed on My Walk Yesterday, What Was She All About?” and the opening lines go something like, “Hey girl, you flew in my mouth, did you have dreams? / I’m coughing you out / It’s freaking people out / ‘It’s just a bug,’ I shout.” —Bridget Read, writer
If I were to release a lengthy song nobody asked for about a random topic nobody is thinking about, mine would certainly be about bog bodies. Are you familiar with bog bodies? I wasn’t until a few months ago when — well, I guess I’ll save that to put in minutes 1–6 of the song, I don’t want to spoil anything. Anyway, bog bodies are human cadavers that have been naturally mummified in peat bogs. They are so well preserved by the acids in these bogs that some unearthed bog bodies were believed to be recent murder victims, when in fact they were thousands of years old. It’s a really fascinating phenomenon, and one that I think about a lot, so I would love to write a song about it. Mine wouldn’t be 17 minutes long, though. It would probably be more like 45 minutes long. Maybe a full opera? We’ll see. —Madeleine Aggeler, senior writer
My foster cat, Pizza
I have a song about my new self-isolation rescue cat, Pizza, that I have been singing for the last few days. I think I could easily stretch it out to 17 minutes. It’s to the tune of the Counting Crows “Mr. Jones” and it goes “Mrs. Pizza and me … stare out of the window … we stare at the beautiful birds … she’s looking at them … ah, no, no she’s looking at me.” It’s possible Pizza may have given me Toxoplasma gondii. —Anna Silman, senior writer
The JFK Assassination (but 18 minutes long)
I would simply write an 18-minute-long song about the assassination of JFK. —Callie Beusman, news editor
My ingrained belief that Link (Zelda character) is bisexual
After playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the very first time earlier this week, I have developed a full-blown crush on the protagonist Link, who’s a sexy, androgynous, rock-climbing man. He’s also, in my head, a bicon (bisexual icon), a theory I’ve seen explored on some old Reddit pages and queer sites, but one that deserves more far more attention than it has thus far received. Therefore, it would be my honor to write the definitive 17-minute-long manifesto on Link’s queerness, featuring vidid lyrics about his tiny earrings and delicate bone structure, and the sexy way he wields his weapons. —Amanda Arnold, writer
Top Chef season 8
My song would be about Top Chef season 8, which is “Top Chef: All-Stars.” (I’m watching it currently.) It has been a real blessing to be able to throw myself into an old season of a reality competition show. It gives me a lot of things to have opinions about that have nothing to do with our current global situation, and plenty of material for a 17-minute song, for example:
“Richard Blais, Richard Blais
I could sing about you for days
You use liquid nitrogen in every challenge
I guess things were different in 2011 and molecular gastronomy was much more of a thing?
Dale Talde, Dale Talde
That fish dish you made was a little faulty
And the crouton had too much mustard
Still, at one point you had three restaurants on 7th avenue in Park Slope simultaneously, which is pretty good, though I must say they’ve all closed since then”
(Et cetera.) —Kelly Conaboy, writer-at-large