Sometimes, you stumble upon an artist, song, television show, album, and you think, “Damn, this is scary good.” Maybe it’s fundamentally macabre and intriguing, or maybe it’s scarily, head-scratchingly, shouldn’t-be-this-good, good. Here are some recent discoveries playing on this “scary good” theme.
Ryan Adams re-imagines Taylor Swift’s 1989. “Blank Space” becomes a quietly introspective, heart-wrenchingly exquisite ode with softly picked guitar and restrained swells of strings, Adams’s delicately sweet delivery saturated with such yearning it gets you a little choked up, while “Shake It Off” transforms into a slow, brooding, heartland-tinged rock track with mournful slide guitar. Not only is his interpretation of 1989 eerily well-wrought, it makes me want to return to the Taylor Swift album. Scary.
Empire. Sure, stereotypes are firmly intact and certain realities of the current music industry are completely disregarded, but this hit Fox TV show — about a hip-hop music company and the dysfunctional family fighting for ultimate domination of it — is like daytime drama meets urban Shakespeare. It shouldn’t be good, but the vibrant characters are just the right mix of tormented, vibrant and self-righteous, the story-driven music (much of it created and overseen by hip-hop super-producer Timbaland) is pretty damn fine, and the plotlines and twists are outrageous enough to keep you tuning back in to find out what the hell’s gonna happen next.
Chris Cornell. The “Black Hole Sun” video used to scare the holy shit out of me. Chris Cornell howling about doomsday as suburban denizens with wax-stretched smiles get sucked into a blackly roiling abyss? It still gives me the creeps. And more than two decades later, the Soundgarden frontman is still scary good — powerful pipes and an overabundance of sex appeal seemingly unaffected by the passage of time. I mean, has this dude aged or what? Peep the possible real-life vampire in the flesh when he plays an intimate acoustic show this Fri., Oct. 30, at Mahaffey Theater.
Outkast, “Dracula’s Wedding.” Of all the hip-hop groups I love, Outkast remains at the top, so I'm not really sure how I never heard this deep cut off 2003’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below until about a week ago. Over acoustic guitar strums and a fizzing bumpin’ beat, Andre 3000 delivers a soulful falsetto as the infamous vampire waxing on his lady love (“I wait my whole life to bite the right one, then you come along and that freaks me out”) with velvety low feminine back-up from Kelis. Dracula never sounded so sexy-scary good.
American Horror Story: Hotel. Two words: Lady Gaga. But seriously, the avant pop star’s malevolent beauty, first-class wardrobe and chillingly impassive countenance are enough to make the FX horror show worth the watch. Factor in the incredibly sinister, vaguely retro hotel she haunts along with the ghosts of drug addicts and serial killers, vampires, supposed-to-be-dead children and a freakish demon rapist with a spiked strap-on, among other macabre guests, and you have one wickedly good show.
Ghost. The Swedish metal outfit combines novelty, technicality and church satire into one scary good formula as piloted by Papa Emeritus III (a Satanic caricature of the real person) and backed by his band of Nameless Ghouls (who sport matching mouth-less masks and black cardinal outfits). Ghost recently hit The Ritz behind third album Meloria; check out the review and photos at cltampa.com/music, then see what you missed when Ghost performs on The Late Show with Steve Colbert this Fri., Oct. 30.