The Pop Culture Rainman™ Presents: The Best of 2015
If 2015 had a working title it would be “Wait…whatttt?!” ’cause it feels like just hours ago that I was finishing up my 2014 year in review!!??
‘Tis true my friendsicles—time waits for no one, and the years are seemingly flying by at warp→speed. But enough about me and the fact that I’m finding granny hairs in all the wrong places on my person—it’s time to celebrate the Year in Pop Culture with a front row seat to the most splendiferous list on the web!
**Cue the Royal Horns** (basically the echoes of the royal baby George letting one rip…)
(((Stage Whispers))) “Places, places, everybody…”
…Annnnd Cue Biggie Smalls “Hypnotize…”
Call me a thousand years old, but I still subscribe to the model of sustaining an attention span long enough to listen to an album all the way through without blacking out. It’s a lost art, really. Here’s to the most noteworthy news items and phenomenal sounds that got us all ear pregnant in 2015.
They had us all at ‘Hello…’ (my originality kills me).
Seven Grammy nominations for Beauty Behind the Madness, back to back record breaking #1 tracks and the most ‘streamed album of 2015’—the Toronto native wrote a love letter to Cocaine plus no-strings sex romps with ‘bitches’ and takes his rightful place in the history books.
Adele’s 25 was the best selling album of 2015, quite the feat since it only came out in November + it wins the prize for selling over 1 million albums two weeks in a row. A hundred ‘Hello‘ memes later she remains the quintessential flawless voice of a generation—pass the tissues.
If Adele is the quintessential perfect ‘voice’ than Brittany Howard—lead singer of Alabama Shakes is the ‘loud speaker’. The group returned with a genre-agnostic album Sound and Color nominated for 4 Grammys—flawlessly executed with the soulful ferocity of Howard’s raspy vocals.
My personal favorite of ’15, Miguel’s sophomore offering WildHeart was like a breath mint with a battery. Intricate production and utterly original in scope—gorgeous songs like “Leaves” and “Coffee,” his high register falsetto funk in “NWA” and Latin flavored highly-danceable track “Waves” all pass the repeated play factor with flying colors.
With 80’s influenced dewdrops culled from the likes of Abba, Yaz, Robyn + Tegan and Sara’s LP Heartthrob,—Chvrches sophomore album is both strikingly familiar and utterly innovative at the same time. Every Open Eye is saccharine pop cat nip that could easily double as the soundtrack to a dreamy anime cartoon. Top tracks: “Leave a Trace,” “Never Ending Circles” + “Bury It.”
What can I say about this spoken word, hip-hop origami tapestry (sorry, ‘rap’ just doesn’t cut it here) imbued with dense, lyrical genius that would do it any justice? I can tell you that it’s jarring, painful, irate, weighty, sullen, transformative, prophetic, poetic, proud, educational and uplifting. The production is at a level that I forgot had existed; the samples, conversations and guest vocals chosen and placed with such brilliant character and acumen. The imagined interview (or is it?) between Kendrick and Tupac on “Mortal Man” will give you goose bumps on top of goose bumps. Its potent story-telling at such a prescient level of excellence that is more than deserving of its 11 Grammy nominations. Every track on To Pimp a Butterfly will burn itself into your soul chakras as you go through a musical journey that will never leave you.
I can’t let 2015 go without mentioning how utterly overrated Leon Bridges and his album Coming Home were? Why was his whole gimmicky, paint-by-numbers shtick plastered all over my year like sh**ty wallpaper? If I wanted to listen to 50’s soul I’d listen to the greats like the Sam Cooks of the world, not Bridges watered down formulaic imitations? There’s literally only one good song on the album (“Smooth Sailin”) and he can’t perform live if his life depended on it. **DROPS MIKE**
The News Makers
Tidal, Jay Z’s online streaming service launched in 2015 and with it a self-important press line up of millionaire music stars posturing like they just discovered the cure for Cancer. I’ve only used it to download both of Prince’s new albums that he launched this year exclusively on the site—simply because I had no other choice in the matter.
As a side-bar Prince, please invite me to a private music journo listening party at Paisley Park (yes, I made that middle meme) or to one of your new piano-only concert series? Yes, the
tangent campaign is still on people.
Lenny Kravitz had a notable stake in 2015’s zeitgeist. First there was his collab with James Franco in the Guitar Hero commercials, his collab on Miguel’s song “Face The Sun,” and then when his light saber—suddenly and without warning, escaped the confines of his jeanery and came out to play.
And lastly Dave Grohl gets an honorable mention for a) simply being Dave Grohl—but b) for reminding us that he’s the last bastion of ridiculously talented post grunge rockers that we have left besides Eddie Vedder. In 2015 Grohl famously broke his leg on stage, yet continued to PLAY…
…played us out of Dave Lettermans last show with all the **feels** of “Everlong”
…and lastly released a new EP titled “Saint Cecilia” for FREE download as a tribute to the Paris Attacks and encouraged fans to donate to victims.
The Tape Cassette
I couldn’t believe it either, but 2015 saw a rise—nay, dare I say a ‘comeback‘ in the tape cassette?! Call it retro tech curiosity, call it an interest in the craptastic analog ‘hiss’ sound but according to the largest audiocassette factory in the US there was a 31% increase volume over the previous year. Most of the output was from indie bands whose names I don’t recognize nor can pronounce, so its safe to say this is a very niche market trend.
#SquadGoals got a lot of airtime in 2015, and yet let record show that Squads have been around since forevs my younglets.
90’s Supermodels ↓↑ West Side Story
Hey, T Swift? I too had 30 besties in my 20’s, and that stops being adorbs once the marriage and child rearing divide kicks in and before you know it 17 years pass, and Selena Gomez blocks you on Facebook and, *AND*, Gigi Hadid didn’t even invite you to her son’s Bar Mitzvah?!
My modern day squad can all fit onto my one hand (it’s more of a squid, than a squad, really) and one of them is my cat—Lulu sooo, yea, YAYYYYY SQUAD GOALS!
NY trend forecasting agency K-Hole came up with the term Normcore back in 2014, but it really only became ripe in the collective lexicon in 2015. Jo Hoare came out with the hilarious tome This is Normcore; for people who don’t want to stand out from the crowd—describing everything that is proactively bland and anonymous in fashion and in ‘tude.
Pineapples were seen everywhere in ’15. From clothing to home accessories and jewelry—after years of hipster animals like foxes, bears and deer taking center stage, it was nice to see a tropical fruit get its due!
Sure Caitlyn helped the cause (before she opened up her clueless trap) but it was high time for gender neutrality and transgenderism to become part of the mainstream conversation as bills were put forth to once and for all put a hard stop on conversion therapy. Gender neutral ads were an enormous trend in fashion as were gender fluid ads for children like Sweden’s Top Toys. And even though the Mochino Ad was essentially a ‘fauxmercial’ it got people talking.
Gender fluid models like Andreja Pejic and Ruby Rose dominated top fashion spreads…
…and the first transgender modeling agency opens in New York.
Even Bankok University redefined the standard ‘checks and balances’ of what it means to dress as female or male in their new choice driven dress code prompts. Hope it can kick off a chain reaction in high schools and elementary/middle schools.
Just as the Supreme Court finally passed the same sex marriage law in the US, while coinciding with many a cities pride parade—rainbows were seen everywhere. On sunglasses, shoes, fashion, even Doritoes got in on the celebrations.
Adult Coloring Books
2015 was the year of the adult coloring book. The choices were abundant; from classic literature, celebrity inspired, to pop culture infused, proving to be a white noise activity that was meditative and relaxing with intricate layouts that made time melt away.
Stars Lip Synching
T’was Jimmy Fallon’s late night skit buffoonery that started the celebrity lip sync fad du jour. Sure, we’d seen stars do karaoke for years—but lip synching was a whole new performance phenom, previously untapped. Will Farrell no doubt lip synched like a boss, and it was equally entertaining to watch Tom Cruise take on The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face,” in a try-hard attempt to reach ‘millenials’ having no idea as to what the song was actually about, and L.L. Cool J got a new spin off gig Lip Sync Battle, co-hosting with the lovely Chrissy Teigen.
The following trends are so moronic that it begs the inclusion of judgemental potty-mouthed kitty gif as an extra bonus.
Square Faced Dog Cuts
While I love the Japanese for their attention to detail in all things teeny-tiny like nail art and mini edibles—this square faced grooming trend is one for the dogs.
Sun Burn Art
Yup, its as idiotic as it sounds, yet that didn’t stop people from literally charring their skin (apparently, the paler the better?!) this past summer with hashtags like #sunburnart, #tantattoo, and #suntattoo on Instagram.
Man Bun Extensions
I can’t even with this one? Numero uno, the Man Bun—aka the ‘Mun’ is soooo 10000 minutes ago, 2014 styles?! And as you can see from these glamour shots above, the extensions—which started to pop up in ’15, are as realistic looking as slapping a Kaiser roll on your head.
It’s hard for me to believe that this was ever a real trend, as one night out for me at the clubs (I never go to the clubs) costs me a week of finding glitter all over my hoo hoo. But yea, apparently this was a trend for all of a minute, pre-holiday styles. I imagine clean up had to be a full shave, otherwise they can look forward to finding glitter in their homes (and definitely on their Johnsons) until the year 2017.
Live Streaming Apps
Two live streaming apps went live in 2015; Meerkat and Periscope adding an entire new dimension to the growing trends of citizen journalism and oddly enough, a new fascination with the inside of strangers fridges—hashtag #showusyourfridge. That’s not weird or anything?
If your wondering which app fared better, iPhone recently named Periscope the best new app of 2015.
The hottest videos on YouTube are adorbs ‘small cooking’ aka ‘tiny cooking’ spots made from a mute Japanese man with flawlessly manicured hands who goes under the moniker of Miniature Space. It’s fascinating to see his tiny ‘working’ kitchen, an arsenal of miniature utensils and hear the sizzle of food cooking—everything from tiny chicken kabobs to shrimp tempura and mini winnie pancakes!
But words do little justice to describe the phenom that keeps people tuning in for hours on end to watch a faceless Japanese dude make tiny edible food—so voila!
The first is the most watched Minature Space video on YouTube of a smurf sized strawberry vanilla cake…Could. You. Just. Die?
…and if you weren’t impressed enough, here lies the art of the Thumbelina teeny-tiny cheese burger…
Hello Giggles Sells for 30 Million
If it wasn’t already greatest thing ever to be Zooey Deschanel in 2015; a critically acclaimed music career, a hit TV show, a brand new baby daughter, residuals from appearing in the Xmas classic Elf that must keep paying her on the yearly until infinity—when this past October her famed girly-centric blog Hello Giggles gets bought out by Time for 30 million dollars?!
Twitter Stars vs. Hearts
Collectively were extra sensi when it comes to people moving our STUFF—even if we didn’t design the stuff to begin with, so I get the ‘discomfort factor’ to a degree. What I didn’t expect when Twitter switched its star format to a happy heart, was the complainy recital hemorrhaging of homophobic slurs. This was actually a strategic move on behalf of the powers that be at Twitter to attract new users. The simple ipso facto is, that HEARTS are a more familiar visual cue than stars—and its the official prompt of Instagram which is leading in new users, per platform.
old young Baddie Winkle is an Instagram juggernaut who dresses up in raver clothes, loves rap music, promotes marijuana legalization and has famous admirers like Miley Cyrus and Nicole Richie. With her tag line “Stealing Your Man Since 1928“, there’s no end in sight for this Texas native and her badass posts!
While I rarely watch ‘the basic cable’ anymore, 2015 boasted a couple of great new shows. First up UDATEABLE, which came on in the summer of 2014 for a midseason replacement, but went for its first full season in 2015 and only started its all LIVE format in 2015. There’s that palpable air of anything -can-go-wrong ad lib excitement, that even the well-oiled slickness of Saturday Night Live doesn’t quite have, and the shows lead comedian Chris Delia (pronounced de-leeya) has that whole funny-sexy, greasy (pronounced GREEZY) possible infection thing going on that I dig.
While his ratings are lagging behind the other late night hosts (I attribute this to the dumbing down of ‘Merica) I still think Stephen Colbert is the most compelling host and that The Late Show is saving television! Read my full story here.
SNL has one of the strongest cast members its had in years and has been pulling off record ratings in the process, with guest hosts Donald Trump and SNL alum darlings Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
I was so looking forward to The Muppets TV show which debuted on NBC this past fall and yet, it fell flat on arrival. I wasn’t offended by the sexual ideation of my childhood friends like so many others, but rather the fact that most, if not all of the familiar voiced characters had changed!? Frank Oz is still alive yet did not participate in the show, and the new Fozzie and Miss Piggy voices are so off, it’s unwatchable for me? I never really got over the change in Kermit’s voice after Jim Henson passed, but now it seems a good portion of the characters voices are played by someone new (Gonzo, Scooter?) and I can’t get past it? Everyone I know can do a spot on Yoda impression and yet they couldn’t find someone to nail Fozzie the Bear? Pffffft.
I am absolutely obsessed with FX’s Fargo series, played by a changing cast of ‘already famous’ and fairly unknown cast members every season. The hokey accents, the set design and rich almost 70’s muted hues are a sight to see, but its the story lines and quality of acting that gets you hooked. There’s an undeniable spiritual, philosophical quality to the show, in that there is always a karmic debt lesson learned, and the varied musical soundtrack is also phenomenally obscure, perfectly accompanying the closing credits every time.
I’m equally enamoured with Aziz Ansari’s Netflix series Master of None. First off it’s absolutely hilarious—that’s a given, but the casting is also fantastic and the characters also wonderfully diverse. It’s utterly original in that it gives us an inside view on what its like to grow up as a first generation Indian-American (I love his parents!)and opens up a new dialogue about the daily racism that all minorities endure, which Aziz reflects in a very honest way that’s both educational and comedy GOLD. Also, its filmed in my favorite city of New York, and if you’re a classic hip hop head like me, you will love this mainly urban soundtrack. It continues along the narrative of finding love and success in the big city like the beloved Sex and the City series, except now its Dev Shah’s world we are exploring and we can’t get enough!
YouTube personality Grace Helbig got her own E! network show—part talk show, part sketch comedy. The news was a big win for anyone trying to make it famous on the net, but luke warm reviews mean The Grace Helbig show hasn’t found its legs yet, and may never will.
And finally I haven’t personally eyeballed any of these, but I’m hearing great things. First up is IFC’s Documentary Now! starring Fred Armison and Bill Hader parodying actual documentaries in a comedic mockumentary style. It’s got tons of special guest stars appearing on it, and has already been renewed for season 3! Also getting rave reviews is the CW’s Crazy Ex Girlfriend, which boasts an unknown cast of newbies. Series lead character Rebecca Bunch played by Rachel Bloom who also does double duty as writer of the series just got nominated for her first Golden Globe for best actress. And lastly, many of my tastemaking compadres are going tits to the wind GAGA over the new Netflix Jennifer Jones series starring well known actress Krysten Ritter. I know I will never watch this one as I don’t really dabble in the super hero, fantasy, pop culture geek stuffs—I still don’t understand how people actually tune into Super Girl, so yea not for moi, but feel free to use the facilities.
Also I’m still not a fan of Comedy Centrals Broad City, and I know I’m a minority in this. I find it mostly grotesque and over the top, but I loved hearing the news that Hilary Clinton is allegedly going to appear in a 2016 episode—go future Madam President!
Well there you have it lover heads, stay tuned for The Pop Culture’s Year in Review Part Deux. It may not be as strong as Part One…but hey you can never, really go home again amirite? Just kidding it will be totes HILAR, I always deliver, don’t cha know? To make sure you don’t miss out on the Sonny to this Cher, the Marie to this Donny… pretty please follow this blog on WordPress or go to the side bar and sign up for email alerts to follow my postings.
Stay Tuned for Part Deux’s categories: Pop Oh No They Didn’t, Pop Nom Nom Nom, Pop Beauty, and much much more!