Best of 2020: Benny Sings on Charlie Kaufman and Noah Baumbach

The songwriter loved I’m Thinking of Ending Things this year.

Two of my ultimate filmmakers released new movies this year, so it was hard to pick. Charlie Kaufman blew me away with I’m Thinking of Ending Things, but I did what you should never do: I Googled “I’m thinking of ending things” EXPLAINED. The explanation (coming from Kaufman himself) was so much more ordinary and less weird and magical than I’d thought, that it kind of lost its spark for me. So I have to go with the new Baumbach, which actually came out late last year. Noah Baumbach blew me away several years ago with The Squid and the Whale, a movie about a divorce, children in their teens, in the ’80s — a story that was so close to my own. I kept following him, and loving the movies more and more. What he does in his movies is present characters that are flawed. And not in the sense of the anti-hero that has its quirks, but is actually, underneath the weaknesses, a super great, morally correct, puppy-saving superhero. No, Baumbach’s characters are actually flawed. Real people with real not-so-great features. But still you learn to love them, and that’s magic. Marriage Story does the same. And don’t forget the soundtrack composed by Randy Newman, the legend. His songs are a great inspiration to all of us songwriters, but his soundtrack does the trick as well. We’re still playing that soundtrack at home a lot on Sunday mornings. And when Adam Driver sings Sondheim’s “Being Alive” mannnn. I forgot about that song. That might be one of the best songs ever written.

(Photo credit: left, Nadine Maraamba)

Benny Sings is a songwriter’s songwriter.  A surprising talent from the Netherlands, he signed to Stones Throw last year and his upcoming 2021 album will feature lots of cool guests, which is just the latest in this incredible run of collaborations.  Benny co-wrote and is featured on Rex Orange County’s platinum single “Loving Is Easy.”  He’s featured on Anderson Paak and the Free Nationals’ album from last year, plus Mayer Hawthorne, Goldlink, PJ Morton, Cornelius. Another big supporter is NPR.  Benny taped a Tiny Desk in 2016 and was invited to do a Tiny Desk (Home) Concert this summer.