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Live Music Logs Record-Setting 2022 as Bad Bunny and Elton John Lead With Booming Stadium Tours

The sector grossed $6.28 billion this year, per Pollstar.

By Thania Garcia

Thania Garcia

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Elton John Concert Dodger Stadium - Disney Plus

As the year draws to a close, the live music industry can take comfort in having achieved record-setting revenues for 2022, thanks largely to the post-pandemic boost of new festivals, global stadium tours and astronomical box office receipts, correlating to sky-high ticket prices.

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Among the artists touring stadiums in 2022: the Weeknd, Coldplay, Daddy Yankee, Billy Joel, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Def Leppard & Mötley Crüe, Dua Lipa, Zac Brown, Eagles, Daddy Yankee, Iron Maiden, Blackpink, Morgan Wallen, the Lumineers, Dead & Co., Garth Brooks, Lady Gaga and countless others.

John’s 65-date “ Farewell Yellow Brick Road ” sits at No. 2 after first hitting the road more than four years ago and will continue raking in the gold as it finally wraps next summer. Because of its length and popularity, its likely the John tour will pit the English icon against another U.K. favorite — Ed Sheeran , who currently claims the highest gross ever for a single tour with his “Divide” trek that reached $776 million when it closed in 2019.

Sheeran once again hit the road this year in support of his previous records on the “Mathematics” tour, a European stadium trek, that earned $251 million gross this year and enters Pollstar’s chart at No. 3. Sheeran is also the only concert performer to hit the 3 million mark in sold tickets with 3,047,694 sold over 63 shows in 28 venues throughout the year for a massive average of 48,376 tickets sold per show.

Harry Styles’ “ Love on Tour ” sits at No. 4 in the Top 100 based on its box office glory that kicked off in September of last year with a string of North American arena dates. Stadiums followed in 2022 with the singer’s rescheduled 23-show European run that kicked off in June. He performed in 15 countries through the end of July, selling more than 638,000 tickets.

And who could forget the singer’s mini residencies — most notably, the historic string of 15 nights at New York’s Madison Square Garden. That run logged a total of 276,852 tickets sold and rang in a $63 million gross – the highest gross of the year for a single venue worldwide, according to Pollstar. Styles had another 12-night run at Los Angeles’ Kia Forum where he left with $38 million in sales from over 200,000 tickets sold.

The historic feats continue as this becomes the first year that each tour in the top 10 grossed over $100 million and the top five each took in more than $200 million — with inflation playing a factor. Rise in ticket prices placed the Top 100 Worldwide ticket sales in 2022 at 59.2 million, surpassing 2019’s total of 57.7 million tickets. On Pollstar’s North American Top 200 chart, ticket prices increased 19% from $87.19 in 2019 to cross the three-figure barrier of $103.71 in 2022.

And as 2022 comes to a close, it’s clear 2023 will ring in another big year for the live music industry. Taylor Swift’s “Eras Tour” has already managed to break the internet with an unprecedented, and drama-filled, record turnout for presales on Ticketmaster, and hints of a possible stadium/arena trek from Beyoncé has fans ready to drop thousands for a ticket. Not to mention the several confirmed tours of stars who have already made 2022 a standout year like Ed Sheeran, Elton John, Harry Styles, Dead & Co. (the band’s final trek), the Weeknd, Def Leppard/Mötley Crüe, Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks, among others.

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Top Tours of 2022: Crew and Gear

  • By: FOH Staff
  • Featured , January 2023 , News
  • December 26, 2022

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Bad Bunny’s World’s Hottest Tour topped Billboard’s 2022 chart and smashed the all-time record for a concert tour by a Latin artist or act.

Top Tours of 2022

WORLD – Billboard magazine recently ranked tours around the world by total ticket sales from November 2021 through October 2022. They included the following artists: 1-Bad Bunny, 2-Elton John, 3-Ed Sheeran, 4-Harry Styles, 5-Coldplay, 6-Rolling Stones, 7-Red Hot Chili Peppers, 8-Def Leppard & Mötley Crüe, 9-Kenny Chesney, and 10-The Weeknd. FOH’s Showtime section for its January 2023 issue focuses on the audio production supporting these tours, with info on crew and gear. Scroll down and follow the links for all the details.

1:  Bad Bunny

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The Bad Bunny crew

  • Tour: World’s Hottest Tour
  • Sound Company: Clair Global
  • FOH Engineer: Luis “Peewee” Velazquez
  • Monitor Engineer: Luby Muñoz
  • Systems Engineer: Ricardo Barragan
  • Consoles: Yamaha Rivage PM10
  • Speaker System: Clair Cohesion
  • Mics: Sennheiser, Shure

More details: www.plsn.me/FOH-TT22-1

2:  Elton John

top tours 2022 billboard

Elton’s long Farewell tour began in September 2018. Photo by Steve Jennings

  • Tour: Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour
  • FOH Engineer: Matt Herr
  • Monitor Engineer: Alan Richardson
  • Systems Engineer: Nick Giameos
  • Consoles: Yamaha Rivage PM10; Custom Monitor Setup
  • Mics: Audio-Technica, Sennheiser, AKG, Shure

More details: www.plsn.me/FOH-TT22-2

3:  Ed Sheeran

top tours 2022 billboard

Chris Marsh and Charlie Albin at FOH. Photo by Ralph Larmann

  • Tour: + — = ÷ x ( Mathematics )
  • Sound Company: Major Tom Ltd
  • FOH/Monitor Engineer: Chris Marsh
  • Audio System Designer: Charlie Albin
  • Loop Pedal Tech/RF Engineer: Dave White
  • Console: DiGiCo Quantum7 w/KLANG:kontroller
  • Speaker System: Meyer Sound Panther
  • Mics: Sennheiser

More details: www.plsn.me/FOH-TT22-3

4:  Harry Styles

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The in-the-round touring production morphed into a series of residency shows after the release of Styles’ third album, Harry’s House, in May 2022.

  • Tour: Love on Tour
  • Sound Company: Britannia Row Productions
  • FOH Engineer: Karl “Snake” Newton
  • Monitor Engineer: Charles “Chopper” Bradley
  • System Engineer: Michael “Monk” Shear
  • Consoles: Avid S6L, DiGiCo SD12
  • Speaker System: L-Acoustics K2

More details: www.plsn.me/FOH-TT22-4

5:  Coldplay

top tours 2022 billboard

The band set out to make its audio rig 50% more energy efficient than the sound system they used in 2016/2017. Photo by Stevie Rae Gibbs

  • Tour: Music of the Spheres Tour
  • Sound Companies: Firehouse Productions (U.S.); Wigwam Acoustics/Solotech (UK/Europe)
  • FOH Engineer/Audio Producer: Daniel Green
  • Monitor Engineer: Chris Woods
  • Audio Designer/FOH Tech: Tony Smith
  • Consoles: DiGiCo SD10, Quantum 7, SD10RE
  • Speaker System: d&b audiotechnik GSL, KSL
  • Mics: Shure Axient Digital, Sennheiser Digital 6000

More details: www.plsn.me/FOH-TT22-5

6:  Rolling Stones

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Photo by mhvogel

  • Tour: SIXTY Tour
  • FOH Engineer: Dave Natale
  • Monitor Engineer: Steve Carter
  • Systems Engineer: Jo Ravitch
  • Consoles: Yamaha PM4000, Midas H4000
  • Speaker System: Clair i-5, i-5b
  • Mics: Sennheiser, Shure, Austrian Audio

More details: www.plsn.me/FOH-TT22-6

7:  Red Hot Chili Peppers

top tours 2022 billboard

Systems engineer Ville Kauhanen and FOH engineer Toby Francis at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL. Photo courtesy d&b audiotechnik

  • Tour: Global Stadium Tour/Unlimited Love Tour
  • Sound Company: Clair Global/Eighth Day Sound
  • FOH Engineer: Toby Francis
  • Monitor Engineers: Vish Wadi, Matt Andrade
  • Systems Engineer: Ville Kauhanen
  • Consoles: Yamaha PM5000 w/RND 5059, DiGiCo SD7 Quantum, Yamaha PM5000
  • Mics: Shure, DPA, Audio-Technica, AKG, Sennheiser, Telefunken, Neumann

More details: www.plsn.me/FOH-TT22-7

8:  Def Leppard & Mötley Crüe

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Photo Courtesy KLANG

  • Tour: The Stadium Tour
  • FOH Engineers: Ronan McHugh (DL), Brent Carpenter (MC)
  • Monitor Engineers: Ted Bible (DL), Scott Megrath (MC, Band), Scott Flaws (MC, Vince)
  • Systems Engineer: Jason Brandt
  • Consoles: DiGiCo SD7 Quantum, Avid S6L
  • Speaker System: L-Acoustics K1, K2, Kara
  • Mics: Audio-Technica, AKG, Shure

More details: www.plsn.me/FOH-TT22-8

9:  Kenny Chesney

top tours 2022 billboard

  • Tour: Here and Now
  • FOH Engineer: Robert Scovill
  • Monitor Engineers: Phillip “SidePhill” Robinson (Chesney), Bryan “Opie” Baxley (band)
  • Systems Engineer/Crew Chief:   David Shatto
  • Consoles: Avid S6L 48D, S6L 24C; Yamaha PM7
  • Speaker System: Clair Cohesion CO-12
  • Mics: sE Electronic V7/V7x, V Kick; AEA KU5A

More details: www.plsn.me/FOH-TT22-9

10:  The Weeknd

top tours 2022 billboard

The audio production worked around the front-and-center set design and video wall. Photo by Todd Kaplan

  • Tour: After Hours til Dawn
  • FOH Engineer: Derek Brener
  • Monitor Engineer: Lewis Lowder
  • System Tech: Randy Weinholtz
  • Consoles: Yamaha Rivage PM10, DiGiCo SD5
  • Mics: Sennheiser, Shure, AKG, Audio-Technica, Telefunken, Royer

More details: www.plsn.me/FOH-TT22-10

More info? Contact FOH at [email protected]

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Ultimate Classic Rock

Elton John and Rolling Stones Among 2022’s Top-Earning Tours

Elton John and the Rolling Stones  sold more than half a billion dollars of total concert tickets in 2022 with their respective tours.

John earned over $334 million with 85 Farewell Yellow Brick Road dates, second only to Bad Bunny on Billboard 's 2022 Top Tours chart . The Stones came in at No. 6 with more than $179 million, an impressive number considering they played only 20 shows.

Four other rock tours earned over $100 million on the road last year, led by Red Hot Chili Peppers with $176 million from 31 shows, the combination of Def Leppard and Motley Crue with $173 million (35 shows), Paul McCartney with $105 million (16 concerts) and  Eagles with $104 million (40 shows).

Further down the list, Guns N' Roses earned $93 million from 27 shows, Genesis made $81 million from 35 farewell dates and Iron Maiden rang up $76 million from 47 shows. Roger Waters and Billy Joel also made the Top 40, with $66 and $65 million in respective ticket sales.

John's farewell tour, which began in September 2018 , is currently scheduled to end with a July 8 show in Stockholm. The Rolling Stones are reportedly working on a new album , which would be their first collection of original material since 2005's A Bigger Bang .

After focusing on North America this past summer, Motley Crue and Def Leppard will bring their co-headlining tour to the rest of the world in 2023, with new guitarist John 5 taking over for Mick Mars .

Billboard Top Tour Chart 2022 1. Bad Bunny - $373,463,379 (65 shows) 2. Elton John - $334,385,023 (84 shows) 3. Ed Sheeran - $246,287,916 (63 shows) 4. Harry Styles - $214,408,180 (71 shows) 5. Coldplay - $208,000,727 (40 shows) 6. The Rolling Stones - $179,349,815 (20 shows) 7. Red Hot Chili Peppers - $176,998,650 (31 shows) 8. Def Leppard and Motley Crue - $173,474,649 (35 shows) 9. Kenny Chesney - $135,046,047 (41 shows) 10. The Weeknd - $131,056,262 (19 shows)

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Loudwire

Rolling Stones, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Motley Crue Among 2022’s Highest Grossing Tours

The Rolling Stones , Red Hot Chili Peppers  and Motley Crue are just three of the rock and metal bands among Billboard 's year-end ranking of the overall top-grossing tours of 2022.

In the second full year since the COVID-19 pandemic effectively shuttered all touring in 2020 , some big-time rock artists returned in an even bigger way .

Guns N' Roses , My Chemical Romance , Iron Maiden and Trans-Siberian Orchestra are just a few of the other rock artists on the list.

Overall, the top 5 highest grossing tours for the year were the Latin rapper Bad Bunny ($373.5 million in gross receipts), the rock king Elton John ($334.5 million), the pop stars  Ed Sheeran ($246.3 million) and  Harry Styles ($214.4 million), and the band Coldplay ($208 million).

The Rolling Stones land at No. 6 in the list with a total 2022 gross of $179.3 million, followed by Red Hot Chili Peppers at No 7. with $176.9 million. Motley Crue and Def Leppard's 2022 "Stadium Tour" comes in at No. 8 for the year with a take of $173.5 million.

The Beatles legend Paul McCartney  (at No. 15) toured to the tune of $105 million in gross receipts in 2022. Guns N' Roses (No. 17) put up $93.4 million for the year. My Chemical Romance hit at No. 20 with $87.9 million, Iron Maiden at No. 26 with $76.1 million, and the perennial Trans-Siberian Orchestra at No. 36 with $54.6 million. Billboard ranked the 40 top tours.

Below, check out the top 10 rock artists on the list and their positions among the highest-grossing 2022 tours. You can see the list in full at this location .

2. Elton John, $334.5 million 5. Coldplay, $208 million 6. The Rolling Stones, $179.3 million 7. Red Hot Chili Peppers, $176.9 million 8. Motley Crue and Def Leppard, $173.5 million 15. Paul McCartney, $105 million 17. Guns N' Roses, $93.4 million 20. My Chemical Romance, $87.9 million 26. Iron Maiden, $76.1 million 36. Trans-Siberian Orchestra, $54.6 million

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Harry Styles' Golden Moments From His Love On Tour Are Award-Worthy

Curious why harry styles is nominated for top tour at the 2022 billboard music awards perhaps these authentic, magical moments will explain why so many fans adored this concert experience..

When your show is the hottest ticket in town, an award may be necessary.

As excitement continues to grow for the 2022 Billboard Music Awards airing May 15 on NBC and Peacock, one category is grabbing the attention of voters. This year, event organizers established an award for Top Tour with nominees including Eagles , Genesis , The Rolling Stones and Green Day 's shows with Fall Out Boy and Weezer .

But perhaps the musician favored to take home the special trophy is none other than Harry Styles for his Love On Tour.

Before dancing the night away with Shania Twain and Lizzo during his headlining performances  at Coachella  in April, Harry was traveling the world and performing hits from his solo album Fine Line . Night after night, the 28-year-old would put on more than just a show thanks his candid talks with the audience, unforgettable fashion and impressive surprises.

With his new album , Harry's House , coming out May 20, the singer is preparing to hit the road again in select cities including Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. But as fans race for tickets, E! News is taking a look back at some of his best tour moments so far.

Find out why so many fans think the "Best Song Ever" singer created the best tour ever.

All Are Welcome

While performing at New York's Madison Square Garden in October, Harry spotted a fan's sign that read, "I came with my ex for you." What came next was a teachable moment about being cordial with former flames.

"It's very nice that you guys are here together," Harry said during his concert. "It's very mature. It's very nice that you can enjoy an evening out, you know, as friends. Seven months ago, seven months and two weeks ago, there was a time when you thought, 'We like each other a lot.' I don't know where your relationship is at now. It's clearly better than some people. But for tonight, just for tonight, let's take it back all the way."

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Halloween won't stop Harry from putting on a show! During his Oct. 30 and Oct. 31 shows, the former One Direction singer invited fans to dress up in costumes for his "Harryweeen" Fancy Dress Party. Sure enough, Harry didn't disappoint with a variety of costumes over the two-day event. How can we forget his rendition of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz ?! There truly is no place like (Harry's) home!

Baby Surprises

While visiting Nashville, Harry had the honor of helping a couple find out the sex of their baby. According to fan photos shared on Twitter, one mom-to-be had a sign with her that read, "I'm having a baby. Please make it your business," a play on Harry's "Kiwi" lyrics. Someone with her had another sign that read, "And open these gender results." Spoiler: It's a girl!

Olivia Wilde's Support for Harry Styles 

What happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas. When kicking off his tour in September, Harry was fortunate enough to have the support of his girlfriend Olivia Wilde  in the audience . "She was so happy and dancing all night!" an eyewitness told E! News. "It was very cute. She was singing along to almost every song...and having a good time with the people she was with." The actress was spotted at multiple shows after proving to be a great cheerleader. 

A Birthday to Remember

In the middle of his Oct. 21 show in Connecticut, Harry told the crowd that his mom,  Anne Twist , was celebrating her birthday . A heartfelt request soon followed that guests happily agreed to follow. "If it's OK with you," the singer asked the crowd, "Would you mind please singing happy birthday to my mother? And I hope that maybe she will hear it…and she will, because I will show her."

Love Is Love

When performing in Wisconsin on Nov. 3, Harry spotted another sign in the audience that read, "My mom is in section 201. Help me come out?" This fan's wish was Harry's command. "There's a lot of people," Harry told the concertgoer. "Do you want to tell her or should I tell her? I can tell her. ‘Lisa, she's gay!'" The audience member later told E! News said it was the "biggest blessing."

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Taylor Swift Rules Billboard 200 for Third Week With ‘The Tortured Poets Department'

Taylor Swift 's The Tortured Poets Department spends a third straight week at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart (dated May 18), marking her first title to spend its first three weeks atop the chart since 2020's Folklore spent its first six weeks at No. 1. (Between Folklore and the new album, Swift earned six No. 1 albums.) The Tortured Poets Department is the first album to spend its first three weeks in the pole position since Travis Scott's Utopia led in its first four weeks last summer (Aug. 12-Sept. 2, 2023).

The Tortured Poets Department earned 282,000 equivalent album units in the U.S. in the week ending May 9 (down 36%), according to Luminate. That marks the largest third-week for any album since Swift's own Midnights clocked 299,000 units in its third frame (Nov. 19, 2022-dated chart).

Also in the top 10 of the new Billboard 200, Dua Lipa achieves her highest-charting album yet, as Radical Optimism debuts at No 2. Plus, SEVENTEEN logs its fifth top 10-charting effort with the No. 5 arrival of SEVENTEEN Best Album '17 Is Right Here.'

The Billboard 200 chart ranks the most popular albums of the week in the U.S. based on multi-metric consumption as measured in equivalent album units, compiled by Luminate. Units comprise album sales, track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA). Each unit equals one album sale, or 10 individual tracks sold from an album, or 3,750 ad-supported or 1,250 paid/subscription on-demand official audio and video streams generated by songs from an album. The new May 18, 2024-dated chart will be posted in full on  Billboard ‘s website on May 14. For all chart news, follow @billboard and @billboardcharts on both X, formerly known as Twitter, and Instagram.

Of The Tortured Poets Department 's third-week unit sum of 282,000, SEA units comprise 229,500 (down 30%, equaling 298.33 million on-demand official streams of the set's songs), traditional album sales comprise 51,000 (down 53%) and TEA units comprise 1,500 (down 43%).

Swift adds her 72nd career week at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, extending her record among soloists (Elvis Presley has the second-most among soloists, with 67). The total encompasses her 14 leaders. (She's tied with Jay-Z for the most No. 1s among soloists.)

Dua Lipa scores her highest-charting album yet on the Billboard 200 as her third studio effort, Radical Optimism , bows at No. 2. It enters with 83,000 equivalent album units earned - a personal best for the singer-songwriter. Of its starting sum, album sales comprise 51,500 (it's the top-selling album of the week, and it's Lipa's best sales week ever), SEA units comprise 30,500 (equaling 39.7 million on-demand official streams of the album's songs) and TEA units comprise 1,000.

The album's sales were bolstered by its availability across 20 physical variants, all with the same 11 songs. There were 11 vinyl editions in assorted colors (one of which was signed, and most variants were exclusive to specific retailers) and two cassette tapes. In terms of CDs, there was a widely available standard CD with a lenticular cover, and then multiple CD iterations sold exclusively in Lipa's webstore (a signed standard CD, a zine CD package, and four deluxe CD boxed sets - each containing a branded T-shirt and a CD, and two of the boxes also included a signed art card).

In addition, the album was issued as a widely available standard 11-song digital download and a deluxe digital album with two live bonus tracks sold exclusively in Lipa's webstore.

Radical Optimism is Lipa's second top 10-charting effort, following her sophomore set, 2020's Future Nostalgia , which peaked at No. 3.

The new 11-song album was announced on March 13 following two previously-released singles "Houdini" and "Training Season." The former dropped last November and peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 that month, while the latter topped out at No. 27 in March. A third single, "Illusion," bowed at No. 43 on the chart dated April 27.

On the promotional front, Lipa opened both the Brit Awards (March 2) and the Grammy Awards (Feb. 4). On the former, she performed "Training Season," while on the latter she presented a medley of "Training Season," the Grammy-nominated Barbie soundtrack hit "Dance the Night" and "Houdini." On May 4, a day after the album's release, Lipa hosted and performed on NBC's Saturday Night Live , performing "Illusion" and the album's "Happy for You." Further, the entertainer was named to Time 100 list of the most influential people of 2024 (and appeared on the magazine's April 29 cover), graced the covers of both Rolling Stone (for its February issue) and Elle (May issue), sat down with Apple Music's Zane Lowe for an hour-long interview (May 1) and even went day drinking with Seth Meyers (Dec. 11, 2023).

Two former No. 1s are up next on the Billboard 200, as Morgan Wallen's One Thing at a Time is pushed down 2-3 despite a 3% gain (to 71,000 equivalent album units) and Future and Metro Boomin's We Don't Trust You falls 3-4 (down 1% to 61,000 units).

SEVENTEEN collects its fifth top 10 on the Billboard 200, all consecutive, as SEVENTEEN Best Album ‘17 Is Right Here' debuts at No. 5. The retrospective compilation earned 53,000 equivalent album units in its first week. Of that sum, album sales comprise 49,000, SEA units comprise 4,000 (equaling 5.5 million on-demand official streams of the set's songs) and TEA units comprise a negligible sum. The set's sales were supported by its availability across a dozen CD variants, all containing branded paper merchandise like posters and photocards (some randomized). Exclusive iterations were sold by Barnes & Noble and Target, while signed editions were also available.

Ye (formerly Kanye West) and Ty Dolla $ign's chart-topping Vultures 1 flies back into the top 10, as it wings 52-6 following the set's arrival on vinyl. The effort earned 45,000 equivalent album units in the tracking week (up 173%), while album sales comprising 31,000 of that sum (up 37,841%). Essentially all of its sales were from vinyl - nearly 31,000, which marks the biggest sales week on vinyl for both Ye and Ty Dolla $ign. The vinyl edition of the album was exclusively sold via Ye's official webstore, and was initially sold as a pre-order when the album was first released on Feb. 10 (as a paid download and via streaming services). At that time, when customers pre-ordered the vinyl, the webstore stated the vinyl would ship in "2024."

Wallen's former No. 1 Dangerous: The Double Album is squeezed 6-7 on the new Billboard 200, though with a 4% gain (to 42,000 equivalent album units). Beyoncé's chart-topping Cowboy Carter falls 4-8 with 41,000 units (down 21%), Noah Kahan's Stick Season slips 5-9 with 40,000 units (down 2%) and SZA's former leader SOS falls 9-10 with 39,000 (down 1%).

Luminate, the independent data provider to the Billboard charts, completes a thorough review of all data submissions used in compiling the weekly chart rankings. Luminate reviews and authenticates data. In partnership with Billboard , data deemed suspicious or unverifiable is removed, using established criteria, before final chart calculations are made and published.

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A key to Moscow by Victorias hand - Moscow Top Tours

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Our guide Victoria picked us up at our hotel, helped us navigate the metro, then led us on a... read more

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Victoria was an excellent guide who could keep one engaged all through the day by making the tour... read more

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A key to Moscow by Victorias hand

Victoria was an amazing tour guide! With a limited amount of time (I had about 8 hours), she showed me the highlights of downtown Moscow (Bolshoi theater, the Kremlin, the Red Square and others!) as well as some markets and wonderful metro stations! I loved the old sculpture park and the walk next to the river! I don't think I would have taken advantage of my time (and wouldn't have enjoyed as much) in Moscow if it wasn't for Victorias tour. She is very accommodating to ones interests so that helps a lot. Highly recommendable for customizable tours.

Cristina, thanks for the amazing review! I still remember YOLO!! All the best, Victtoria

We went to Russia in June. Victoria was our tour guide in Moscow and she is wonderful. She went above and beyond, reaching out to us via email before our arrival to inquire about our interests so she could custom tailor our tour. She gave us an excellent tour that exceeded our expectations. At the end of our tour, she took the time to make us a list of good restaurants and shopping areas. She is knowledgeable, friendly and fun. I highly recommend her to all who want a great tour guide.

Dear Carol, thank you very much for such a warm review! All the best from Moscow, Victoria

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A Gentleman In Moscow Cast & Character Guide

Ewan mcgregor's historical drama weirdly copies his 2022 star wars show, the deeper meaning behind a gentleman in moscow episode 3's bees.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for the finale of A Gentleman in Moscow.

  • Count Rostov finds family, love, and purpose in his confinement at the Metropol Hotel, despite his initial imprisonment.
  • The ending of A Gentleman in Moscow remains ambiguous, leaving Alexander's fate open to interpretation.
  • Love and sacrifice are the central themes of the show, as Alexander risks everything to ensure the safety and happiness of his found family.

The ending of A Gentleman in Moscow brings with it the conclusion of Alexander Rostov's story, with his 35-year stretch of imprisonment inside Moscow's Metropol Hotel coming to a halt. After returning home from Paris in 1918 to save his grandmother from the violence of Russia's Bolshevik revolution , Count Rostov is sentenced to life imprisonment for his status as a member of the nation's ruling class. However, instead of being locked in a prison cell, Ewan McGregor's character is confined to the walls of a luxury hotel in the nation's capital.

Alexander's is spared execution, unlike so many of his other social peers. The reason for the leniency is Alexander being incorrectly credited with a poem titled "Where is our Purpose Now?" The literary work, actually written in 1913 by Alexander's old friend, Mishka, was partially credited as inciting the Revolution. The count manages to carve out some level of existence for himself at the Metropol , with the novelty of his situation quickly wearing off. Along the way, Alexander Rostov finds the family he'd never had before, giving a man who'd lost everything something else to lose.

The Paramount/Showtime limited series A Gentleman in Moscow is led by Golden Globe and Emmy winner Ewan McGregor and his wife Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

What Happens To Alexander Rostov After He Leaves The Metropol Hotel Explained

The post-escape fate of mcgregor's character is unknown.

At the end of A Gentleman in Moscow episode 8, "Adieu," Alexander dons his hat and strolls through the doors of the Metropol Hotel. After all the phones in the building ring at once as Richard Vanderwhile's signal that Sofia is safe, Alexander can depart while knowing his surrogate daughter is in trusted hands. While Alexander is shown successfully leaving the building , the other side of the door isn't shown, so it's impossible to confirm what happens to the Count after this scene. Even the show's narrator, an older Sofia, confirms that she never knew what her father did next.

"I discovered that Papa had escaped the hotel, but what happened after remains a mystery. I like to imagine [Alexander and Anna] finally free, living out the rest of their lives together. They gave me the greatest gift of life. I'll keep them in my heart. Always. "

The sequence that's shown of Alexander's reunion with Anna in "Adieu" is shot in the same 4:3 aspect ratio as A Gentleman in Moscow 's flashbacks sequences, which were often from Count Rostov's point of view. However, as Sofia confirms that she never saw her parents again , this particular scene can't be a memory. Instead, what's being shown is Sofia's imaginings, dreaming of the two people who risked so much to save her enjoying a well-deserved, peaceful life.

Alexander does still have his stolen Finnish passport when he leaves the hotel, so it is possible he was able to flee the country and reunite with Anna.

The black apples shown during this scene are another sign that it's nothing more than Sofia's fantasy . Earlier in the same episode, Alexander tells the Metropol staff of an old legend from when he was growing up. The story tells of a tree hidden deep in the woods, bearing " Apples as black as coal ." If a person found and ate the apples, they would have the chance to live their life anew. Alexander immediately adds that he wouldn't eat the apples if he were to find them today, as despite his tumultuous life, it's a journey he doesn't regret.

Alexander is never shown telling Sofia this same story, but the presence of the black apples in the story's closing sequence suggests that he did share the tale with her at some point.

How & Why Sofia Flees Russia At The End Of A Gentleman In Moscow

Sofia's one-way trip to america took careful planning.

Despite being a staunch patriot, Alexander is still of the opinion that Sofia would have a better life in America than she would if she were to stay in Russia. Thankfully, Alexander's spying on the country's top brass in A Gentleman in Moscow episode 7 , "An Assembly," also presents an opportunity for McGregor's character to send his daughter to safety. The scheme is carried out in collaboration with Alexander's American ally , Richard Vanderwhile, who plans the operation for them.

Only Sofia is granted asylum by the Americans, with Alexander telling his daughter that the request for himself and Anna to receive the same treatment was simply too much to ask.

With the recordings from the meeting in her possession, Sofia heads to Paris as part of a musical tour. After performing, she cuts her hair short and changes her clothes to blend in with the crowd and leaves without being spotted. The powers that be grow wise to her scheme, as they move her performance slot from before the interval to the penultimate position in the running order. Thankfully, Sofia still has just enough time and barely manages to avoid being detected. After arriving at the American embassy in Paris, Vanderwhile arranges for Sofia to be flown to the USA .

Where Alexander Rostov Stands With Osip Glebnikov At The End Of A Gentleman In Moscow

Alexander & osip exchange declarations of friendship.

Alexander's relationship with Osip Glebnikov is intentionally unclear throughout A Gentleman in Moscow . Although Osip is essentially responsible for making sure Alexander doesn't break the terms of his sentence by leaving the Metropol, Alexander's jailer chooses to spend more time with his prisoner than is necessary for him to perform his duties. They engage in etiquette lessons, debates about literature, and even start to watch movies together. However, it mostly seems as though Osip is forcing the interactions to take place. Despite the ambiguity of their arrangement, Osip admits in the finale that he values their relationship .

The story of Ewan McGregor's Alexander Rostov from A Gentleman in Moscow shares some strong parallels to that of the actor's Star Wars character.

While warning McGregor's character of the danger Sofia is in - and by extension, Alexander himself - Osip says, " I like you, Alexander. I think of you as a friend ." The count replies in his signature guarded style: " As do I you, in a manner of speaking ." Osip may not have been the most valued figure to Alexander in his day-to-day life, but their friendship offered both men a different perspective. In addition, Osip also assisted Alexander return to the Metropol undetected following Sofia's trip to the hospital - an act that could have had both characters severely punished, if not killed.

Osip is also instrumental in making sure Anna departs for Finland without Alexander. By the time of "Adieu," Osip's wife and daughter are dead. So, Osip wants to make sure Alexander's family doesn't suffer the same fate.

Did Alexander Leave Manager Leplevsky To Die?

Alexander finally takes the revenge he's been trying to avoid.

Leplevsky is the biggest villain throughout the story of A Gentleman in Moscow , with Alexander's life at the Metropol Hotel becoming more difficult as his nemesis rises through the ranks. With Alexander's planned departure from the hotel imminent, it initially seems as though he's willing to let bygones be bygones and spare Leplevsky any acts of revenge. Unfortunately for the hotel manager, his last-minute discovery of Alexander's plan to escape results in McGregor needing to take action .

After arming himself with the dueling pistols from the manager's office, Alexander chains up Leplevsky in the bowels of the Metropol Hotel.

After arming himself with the dueling pistols from the manager's office, Alexander chains up Leplevsky in the bowels of the Metropol Hotel. At the same time, he incinerates the files the manager had been collating about the hotel's staff - Alexander and Sofia included. Leplevsky begs to be set free as Alexander departs , with the exchange between the two adversaries suggesting it would be a while before anyone finds the trapped hotel boss. So, while Alexander doesn't directly murder Manager Leplevsky, he could still be responsible for his death.

How Alexander's Imprisonment In The Metropol Hotel Was The Beginning Of His Life (Not The End)

Alexander rostov's personal life somehow flourished at the metropol.

When Alexander was sentenced to life imprisonment, he was in his early thirties. His only surviving family member was his grandmother, whom he had helped escape the country four years previously. In addition, he was estranged from Mishka - his oldest friend. Alexander had never married, nor fathered any children. Despite his life of wealth and privilege that had preceded his incarceration, he was deeply alone. Somewhat surprisingly, Alexander's decades trapped in the Metropol led to some of the most important relationships in his life .

Despite the early trauma of seeing Prince Nikolai being dragged out of the hotel to be shot in the street in A Gentleman in Moscow episode 1 , Alexander went on to hit a rich vein of social bonds. His friendship with Nina was vital during the early stages of his sentence, and although the pair struggled to stay on the same political wavelengths at times, their special relationship weathered the storm. Alexander also eventually managed to build bridges with Mishka .

Eventually, Alexander's on-and-off romantic dynamic with Anna Urbanova solidified into a solid foundation of love and trust, with the pair essentially becoming joint parents to Sofia.

If Alexander was a father figure to Nina, then he was essentially a grandfather in his role as generational caretaker when Sofia was left in the count's care. Alexander raised Sofia as his own , while making sure she never forgot her birth mother. Eventually, Alexander's on-and-off romantic dynamic with Anna Urbanova solidified into a solid foundation of love and trust, with the pair essentially becoming joint parents to Sofia. As a result, Alexander hit several milestones during his imprisonment that he either neglected or failed to achieve while he was a free man.

The Real Meaning Of A Gentleman In Moscow's Ending

Alexander's unconfirmed destiny compounds the story of love and loss.

A Gentleman in Moscow , like so many other stories, is about love. However, the show's theme of love is also tied into the concept of loss, and how the two interact with one another. The love that Alexander Rostov has for Anna and Sofia results in him putting their safety first , ensuring they are away from the Metropol Hotel and safely on their respective ways to their new homes at the time of him making his escape attempt.

Alexander Rostov's journey in A Gentleman in Moscow has been full of twists and turns, but the bees in episode 3 serve as a brilliant metaphor.

Alexander is fully aware of the risks to himself, Anna, and Sofia that their plan presents. Still, the love he has for his found family makes him willing to put himself in harm's way if it means there's a chance of a better tomorrow for the daughter he cherishes and the woman he loves. Osip acts in a similar vein by helping Alexander. Despite losing his wife and daughter, Osip chooses not to let his grief turn him bitter and instead makes sure Alexander doesn't suffer the same heartbreak.

Sofia's fantasy of her parents living out their days together is about as perfect an ending as the show can expect, with the unconfirmed nature of the scenario contributing to the dark beauty of the story's conclusion.

Sofia's fantasy of her parents living out their days together is about as perfect an ending as the show can expect , with the unconfirmed nature of the scenario contributing to the dark beauty of the story's conclusion. The trio would never have had the life they'd wanted in the building that brought the three of them together. Knowing this, they give their best effort to free themselves of the restrictions imposed upon them by Alexander's prison sentence. A Gentleman in Moscow 's final episode perfectly encapsulates the tale's message of sacrifice in the name of love.

All episodes of A Gentleman in Moscow are available to stream on Paramount+.

A Gentleman in Moscow

Based on the novel by Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow is a historical dramatic-thriller created by Ben Vanstone for Paramount+ and Showtime. Following the advent of the Russian Revolution, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is forced to spend several decades locked away in a hotel room and watch as the country around him transforms.

A Gentleman in Moscow (2024)

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Georgia’s puppet master turns towards Moscow

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Anastasia Stognei in Tbilisi and Ben Hall in London

Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.

There are few places in Tbilisi from where you cannot see the steel and glass palace perched on Mount Mtatsminda belonging to Bidzina Ivanishvili. But unlike his imposing property, the richest and most powerful man in Georgia has stayed out of the public eye.

Since serving as prime minister from 2012-13, the oligarch — whose $5bn fortune is equivalent to one-third of his country’s GDP — has largely wielded power from behind the scenes.

Last week, however, he descended from his mountain to deliver a conspiratorial, anti-western speech in which he depicted Georgia as a victim of a “global party of war” and its alleged agents among civil rights groups.

His rare address, at a pro-government rally, was a show of support for a highly contentious foreign agents law being pushed through parliament by his Georgian Dream party. The law would require NGOs and media outlets with foreign funding to register with the justice ministry or face fines.

Critics say it has been inspired by Russia’s crackdown on civil society and will be used to help Georgian Dream win parliament elections due in October.

The bill has sparked the country’s biggest demonstrations in decades, with many Georgians fearing its passage will jeopardise — and indeed may be designed to stymie — their hopes of joining the EU.

The Georgian government’s rapprochement with Moscow has been under way for three years, despite Russia’s war against Ukraine. But analysts and government critics say that the foreign agents law and Ivanishvili’s speech, in which he echoed Kremlin lines, mark a turning point and that the former Soviet republic is now heading back into Russia’s orbit.

Locator map of Georgia

Ever since independence, Georgian governments have sought to integrate with the west, said Natalie Sabanadze, a former Georgian ambassador to the EU, now with the Chatham House think-tank. But recent events, she said, had been a “big, dramatic shift”.

Ivanishvili spent his formative years in Russia where he built his fortune like other oligarchs who acquired Soviet-era state assets through privatisations. While studying at a Moscow university in the 1980s, he teamed up with a Russian-Israeli national, Vitaly Malkin, and began trading in computers and telephones from Hong Kong. They expanded into banking and metals.

The Georgian oligarch is part of semibankirshina or “seven bankers” — a group of influential Russian financiers and businessmen that included Boris Berezovsky, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Mikhail Fridman — who salvaged Boris Yeltsin’s campaign for re-election as Russian president in 1996.

In 2003 Ivanishvili returned from Russia to his native Georgian village of Chorvila. He stayed out of politics until 2011 when he founded Georgian Dream, a coalition of all the forces opposing then president Mikheil Saakashvili. Within a year, the party won parliamentary elections, marking the first peaceful transition of power in modern Georgia, and the billionaire became prime minister.

During his time in office, Saakashvili passed successful, albeit painful economic reforms. His attempts to steer Georgia out of Russia’s orbit and into the EU and Nato prompted a Russian invasion and occupation of two border regions in 2008. Saakashvili became increasingly authoritarian, cracking down on dissent to hold on to power.

“People were so tired that they would vote for anyone who opposed Saakashvili”, said Victor Kipiani, a senior partner at Tbilisi-based law firm MKD that represented Ivanishvili for five years until the oligarch halted their co-operation in 2023, after Kipiani criticised the ruling party’s first attempt to adopt the foreign agents law.

The steel and glass palace on Mount Mtatsminda belonging to Bidzina Ivanishvili

Ivanishvili tried to stabilise relations with Moscow, with the blessing of the west, while at the same time prioritising Georgia’s integration into the EU and Nato, says Chatham House’s Sabanadze. But the balancing act became impossible after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

One theory is that, as is the case with many Russian oligarchs, his business interests are under threat unless he toes the Kremlin line. Another possible explanation is that he is reacting to an EU request for Georgia to drastically curb the sway of its oligarchs before starting accession talks.

Ivanishvili did not respond to requests for comment.

As honorary chair of Georgian Dream, a role created specially for him, he holds no formal government or party role. But he crucially has the right to nominate the party’s candidates for prime minister.

“This arrangement gives Ivanishvili almost absolute power without any formal accountability,” said Eka Gigauri, head of Transparency International Georgia.

Ivanishvili maintains his grip on power by appointing close associates to key positions. His bodyguard is now the minister of interior, former chief executives of his companies have been appointed at the helm of the intelligence service and the ministry of infrastructure and the former minister of education was once a maths tutor for his children, said Gigauri. “The list goes on and on.”

Another explanation for his Russia pivot is that, with elections looming, Ivanishvili is adopting tactics used by Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, polarising the political debate, painting domestic opponents as foreign lackeys and fighting culture war issues to appeal to socially conservative Georgians, especially those in rural areas.

Demonstrators in Tbilisi protest against the foreign agents bill last week

“People support EU integration because they believe that life is better there,” said Kornely Kakachia, the director of the Georgian Institute of Politics. “But when it comes to values, many do not believe in them,” he said, giving the example of LGBT+ rights.

In his speech Ivanishvili reiterated that it was still Georgia’s objective to join the EU. But Brussels has warned that passing the NGO law would threaten Georgia’s membership prospects.

As many as 89 per cent of Georgians support EU accession, according to the Washington-based International Republican Institute. Tens of thousands have taken to the streets of Tbilisi since early April and clashed with police, some draped in EU flags, to protest against the law and their country sliding back into Russia’s sphere of influence.

So Ivanishvili is taking a “possibly suicidal” risk, said Sabanadze. Some members of the European parliament have called for sanctions against the oligarch.

Georgian Dream has paid lip service to EU integration to buy domestic and international legitimacy while “incrementally eroding democracy in the country”, said Anastasia Mgaloblishvili of the German Marshall Fund think-tank. Now, she said, “the pro-EU veil has finally come off”.

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Book Tour: At home with Amor Towles

The author of “A Gentleman in Moscow” and “The Lincoln Highway” guides us through his personal library.

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Photographs by Jeenah Moon for The Washington Post

The library in Amor Towles’s beautifully appointed home not far from Gramercy Park in Manhattan looks and feels like the Platonic ideal of the concept: tall windows, tasteful art on the walls, many comfortable seating options and well-ordered shelves filled with classic literature. Perfect for reading in, of course, but when I visited in March, Towles first wanted to talk about writing. This is the room where he composed, among other books, his acclaimed bestsellers “A Gentleman in Moscow” and “The Lincoln Highway.” (His newest, “Table for Two,” a collection of stories and a novella, was published last month.)

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Towles first brought out a few of what he calls the “design books” for his novels — notebooks that he fills with details for about four years before he starts officially writing. “I’m just trying to imagine: What happens? Who are the people?” he said. “Where are they from, what’s their personality? What are the settings? Who says what, and why? What are the tones?”

Some of the notes he scribbles are longer and more fully realized than others, but Towles estimates that he writes 80 percent of what ends up in his fiction on a computer, once the handwritten design books have done their duty.

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Guides from the past

To conjure all those details and tones, Towles partly and very happily relies on documents dating from the eras he writes about. His shelves still include classic travel guides to Moscow, including one published by Intourist in 1932 and a Baedeker guide from 1914. “Intourist was the Politburo-owned tourist agency of Russia,” Towles said, “and at one time its offices were in the Metropol Hotel [the primary setting of ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’]. I had street maps from the ’30s that I could look at. Part of it was to see how they described for the Westerner something that they were trying to impress them with, et cetera.”

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A framed picture of Ewan McGregor, in character, used in the production of the recently released adaptation of “A Gentleman in Moscow,” sits on a shelf nearby. Towles said it appeared as part of a secret police file in the show: “You don’t even notice it on screen, but it’s tucked under a paper clip on top of the file.”

A full encyclopedia set from 1931 is another treasure that combines pleasure and work for Towles. “I think it was 48 cents per book. My first novel, ‘Rules of Civility,’ happened to be set in 1938, and I thought: ‘This is great, I can check the population of New York City right there.’ I love old, weird reference.”

A treasured checklist

Towles majored in literature as an undergraduate at Yale and took the few creative-writing courses the school offered at the time. When he was a sophomore, the experimental-fiction writer Walter Abish was a visiting professor.

“At the end of the class,” Towles remembered, “he said to us: ‘All this has been great. I liked your work. I hope my comments have been helpful. But probably the most valuable thing I can do is give you a hundred books that I like.’ So he gave us this list. And because he was an avant-gardist, it was a lot of people who, at the age of 19, I had never heard of: Andre Breton, Barthelme, Beckett, Heinrich Böll … international writers, but all playing with form, that’s what he was interested in.”

Towles immediately started checking for the recommended titles anytime he visited a used-book store. “I’d stack them up, and I’d read a novel a day off of his list,” he said. “That was a totally different kind of experience than studying Henry James or Shakespeare or Chaucer in the academy. A lot of these books [on Abish’s list] were not perfectly made. A lot of them are stabs at something.”

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Matthiessen, mentor and friend

The year after Abish taught at the school, Peter Matthiessen arrived for a semester. Matthiessen was already a celebrated writer of both nonfiction (“The Snow Leopard”) and fiction (“At Play in the Fields of the Lord”). He singled out Towles’s work for praise and told the young writer, “I’m going to take your time here very seriously, and I hope that you’re going to take your time with me very seriously, too.” The encouragement was “a gift,” Towles said. The next year, Towles worked with him again, and the two struck up a long friendship.

Towles laughed remembering Matthiessen’s underwhelmed reaction to the draft manuscript of “Rules of Civility” (“He didn’t know why I was writing a book set in 1938”), but when the book became a bestseller, the mentor wrote him a note of congratulations, saying that his sister had loved it and was thrilled to find her brother’s name in its acknowledgments.

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New ideas, new language

In addition to his fond remembrances of his formal education, Towles referred to himself more than once during the tour as a “reader-writer,” someone who is constantly refining each of those skills in a conscious conversation between them. He stopped at a shelf of books — the “big ideas” collection, kept together — by Augustine, Darwin, Nietzsche, Marx, Freud and others. “What these things have in common for me is that [their authors] had to invent a new language to express their discovery. They weren’t doing the new version of something or doing a ‘spin’ on so and so. [Freud’s] ‘Interpretation of Dreams’ is a totally radical, weird book.”

“Marx and the group around him, they invented that whole thing of, ‘There is no more time! Now is the time to make a decision!’ This sweeping, bold things in single-sentence paragraphs: ‘ All people must …’ That’s electric. And you realize that you can apply that language in your novel. It’s doing something very different. I get very interested in how non-narrativists turn on language in the pursuit of a particular outcome, that I can then sort of use in some weird way.”

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“Now you’re in the first-edition zone,” Towles said, opening the glass doors directly behind his writing desk. “And now you’re really into heroes: Faulkner, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Conrad, Emily Dickinson.” (Towles also listed the Transcendentalists in this league; he was born and raised in the Boston area and said that “a lot of the personality aspects of Emerson and Thoreau are second nature to me.”)

“This is kind of crazy, just time coming around the corner,” he said, pulling one modest-size blue book off the shelf. “This is a first edition of ‘The Great Gatsby.’ It was owned by Dorothy Ann Scarritt,” he noted, pointing to her signature inside the book. “This is August 1925. She later becomes famous because she is Oppenheimer’s secretary at Los Alamos. She’s like the second employee at Los Alamos; she’s there the entire time and she organizes his entire life. She’s involved with bringing everyone in, getting them set up.”

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Scarritt’s signature has a lot of company among Towles’s books. A signed copy of Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize lecture — a small book nestled inside a larger case — was a gift from his wife. Towles is a longtime fan of Dylan’s and mentioned him in the same sentence as Rimbaud and T.S. Eliot, so when the singer received the Nobel in literature in 2016 to divided opinion, Towles was ecstatic. “It was not controversial for me at all .”

Going back a century further, Towles took down a copy of Proust signed by its translator, C.K. Scott Moncrieff, to Joseph Conrad in 1922.

On a shelf across the room, Towles has another edition of Proust’s work, as well as several books about what he calls “Proust-y stuff” — “different things about Proust — Proust’s letters, paintings in Proust, the music of Proust …”

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A long-running book club

Proust also holds a place of honor in an intense book club that Towles has been in with three close friends for just over two decades. “We basically read a novel a month, and we do projects. And we do almost explicitly dead authors; occasionally we veer from that, but mostly it’s dead. We started with Proust. Twenty years ago, we read it as a team. That took longer. We didn’t do it over seven dinners [one per book], more like 14 — over a year and a half.”

The club’s creation was inspired by Harold Bloom’s “Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?,” in which the literary scholar and critic pondered which writers he’d learned more from about the human condition: Plato or Homer? Freud or Proust?

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“I was turning 40 in like two months,” Towles said, recalling when he read Bloom’s book. “I thought, if I live to 80 and read a book carefully a month, that means I have 480 books left. And if that’s true, I better focus on books that you could reread at 20, 40 and 60 and learn something new. I was ranting about this to my friend Ann Brashares at a cocktail party, and she said, ‘I’m in.’ And we’ve been going ever since.”

Given the size and ambitions of the books they normally choose, one of the friends recently suggested a “palate cleanser,” which led to “a dinner we called the Fitzgerald-Salinger Death Match. We realized that we’d all read ‘The Great Gatsby’ and ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ as children . So the question was: Which was better? We would reread both in a week and then come back and debate.” I later realized I had left Towles’s home without asking who won.

An earlier version of this article misidentified the person who sent Peter Matthiessen a note after reading "Rules of Civility." It was Matthiessen's sister, not his daughter.

About this story

Editing by John Williams. Photography by Jeenah Moon for The Washington Post. Design and development by Beth Broadwater. Photo editing by Annaliese Nurnberg. Copy editing by Jennifer Morehead.

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Billie Eilish’s ‘Hit Me Hard and Soft’: All 10 Songs Ranked

The pop star's third studio album dropped at midnight May 17.

By Hannah Dailey

Hannah Dailey

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At just 22 years old, it’s hard to believe that Billie Eilish is already a veteran pop star who’s three albums and seven years deep into her career — but here we are. Hit Me Hard and Soft , her third and most skillful studio LP yet, arrived promptly at midnight Friday (May 17), bringing with it 10 new tracks about life under the spotlight, complicated friendships-turned-romances and Eilish embracing her sexuality.

From the emotional accountability on “Wildflower” to the self-scrutinizing “Skinny,” Eilish’s latest set finds her fully in possession of the narrative maturity she was grasping at on her 2021 sophomore effort Happier Than Ever , which spent three weeks atop the Billboard 200 . But with gothic allusions to death and criminal activity on songs like “Birds of a Feather” and “The Diner,” and shades of blue adding darker dimension to even the happiest moments on the album, the project also makes good on the star’s promise that Hit Me Hard and Soft would mark a return to the charms of her No. 1 hit debut record When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

“This whole process has felt like I’m coming back to the girl that I was,” she told Rolling Stone in April of making the album with her brother and producer, Finneas, whose best work to date is displayed on HMHAS . “I’ve been grieving her. I’ve been looking for her in everything, and it’s almost like she got drowned by the world and the media. I don’t remember when she went away.”

Keep reading to see how Billboard ranks the songs on Eilish’s new LP Hit Me Hard and Soft , from worst to best, below.

"Bittersuite"

The album’s penultimate track relies more on Finneas’ artful production tricks than it does on any lyrics or message, but it’s definitely a fun listen. Its fragmented pacing may also intentionally reflect the impatience Eilish feels with maintaining a relationship under the demands of her public-facing job, which she addresses on lines like, “I gotta be careful, gotta watch what I say/ God I hope it all goes away.”

"The Diner"

A feverish daydream of a song, “The Diner” marks a less-serious break in the album, akin to Eilish’s early hit “Bellyache,” on which she fantasized about toting her friends’ dead bodies around in the back of her car. This time, she imagines herself as a delusional stalker — perhaps even embodying one of her own rabid fans — breaking and entering into her target’s home in the hopes of someday getting married.

“I came in through the kitchen looking for something to eat,” she croons. “I left a calling card so they would know that it was me.”

Named after Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away heroine, “Chihiro” has a lot going on. A groovy slap bass and distorted synth twinkles underscore one of the hookiest moments of the whole album, when Eilish sings, “Did you take my love away from me?” As a whole, though, the song creates more of a video game-ready ambience as opposed to obeying a more traditional structure.

"L'Amour de Ma Vie"

“L’Amour de Ma Vie” calls back to the cheekiness of Eilish’s earliest tracks, like “Bitches Broken Hearts” or “Party Favor.” “I need to confess I told you a lie,” she sings ruefully on the first half of the distinctly two-part track, “when I said you were the love of my life.”

On “Blue,” Eilish and Finneas reprise many of the motifs introduced throughout the album — similar to “Goodbye” on When We All Fall Asleep — including the glorious string break on the first track, “Skinny.” Swelling and cumulative, the album’s swan song is all about accepting circumstances for what they are, for all their beauty, pain and everything in between.

And yes, you heard her correctly at the very end. “When can they hear the next one?” Eilish asks in a matter-of-fact speaking voice, possibly hinting at a second album coming very soon.

“Lunch” finds Eilish fantasizing about a girl she wants to — as she puts it — eat for lunch, singing over an instantly addictive beat that eventually devolves into an all-out club-ready dance banger. It marks the musician’s first time explicitly expressing her attraction to women in a song, a task she takes on joyously and freely.

"Birds of a Feather"

“Birds of a Feather” is full of clichés; even its title is one of the English language’s oldest idioms. But coming from a young star whose fame was propelled by her quirky outfits, edgy lyrical subjects and brash interview responses, such a simplistic love song is actually quite refreshing. Critics of Eilish’s vibrato-heavy signature vocal style will be silenced upon hearing her belt with her full diaphragm on this sentimental track, which is perfectly primed for a placement in a summery teen rom-com or two.

Eilish opens Hit Me Hard and Soft with a song that bridges the reflection she did on Happier Than Ever about stardom and self-image with the more nuanced perspective she’s gained since then. Three years later, the star seems to have made peace with her station while still being honest about its drawbacks, describing it here as being like “a bird in a cage” or “a dog in a dog pound.”

“Twenty-one took a lifetime/ People say I look happy just because I got skinny,” she continues before letting listeners in on a little secret, one of the thesis statements of Hit Me Hard and Soft : “But the old me is still me/ And maybe the real me and I think she’s pretty.”

"The Greatest"

Fans of the back half of “Happier Than Ever” are bound to love “The Greatest.” It starts as an unimposing ballad about yearning for more appreciation and reciprocation in a relationship, but eventually ramps up into a cinematic rock free-for-all, in which Eilish once again lets loose for a moment of glorious belting. This time, Eilish takes overdue stock of her own self-worth, instead of just focusing on her ex’s shortcomings, making this a self-love anthem as much as it is a breakup song.

"Wildflower"

“Wildflower” boasts some of Eilish’s most mature songwriting yet, in terms of both craft and perspective. Soulful and gloomy, it makes telling a complex story look simple, with the singer quietly suffering as she comes undone obsessing over her partner’s ex-girlfriend.

Lyrics like “I’d never ask who was better/ ‘Cause she couldn’t be more different from me/ Happy and free in leather,” for instance, are both straightforward and visceral, while the line “I know you didn’t mean to hurt me/ So I kept it to myself” is devastating in context. And as opposed to some of the other standout songs on HMHAS , Eilish’s narration is the centerpiece, not the production.

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IMAGES

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