A few people who know me know that I love Kanye West’s “Bound 2.” For those reading this, congratulations — you now have something in common with those good people.
I can’t entirely justify my love for this song, which arrives at the end of West’s aggressive, oppressive 2013 album Yeezus like a splash of cold water on a humid summer day. The rest of that album is striking and nasty; “Bound 2” is bracing and cuddly.
I took valuable time out of my life to rank every song on the 2016 year-end Billboard Hot 100 in order of my preference. There is nothing definitive or objective on this list, and I often felt no need to explain my choices. Some things speak for themselves.
I hadn’t heard “Never Be Like You” by Flume feat. Kai, “Antidote” by Travis Scott, “Wicked” by Future and “Middle” by DJ Snake feat. Bipolar Sunshine enough to consider them for this list. I don’t feel too bad about it.
I disqualified the following songs because I associated them more with 2015: “Sorry” by Justin Bieber; “Hotline Bling” by Drake; “The Hills” by The Weeknd; “Jumpman” by Drake & Future; “679” by Fetty Wap feat. Remy Boyz; “Here” by Alessia Cara; “What Do You Mean?” by Justin Bieber; “Same Old Love” by Selena Gomez; “Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weeknd; “Wildest Dreams” by Taylor Swift; “Lean On” by Major Lazer & DJ Snake feat. MO; “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” by Silento; “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa and “Perfect” by One Direction.
Each day this month (assuming I don’t get busy or bored!), I’ll reflect on a tiny sliver of pop culture that I enjoyed or appreciated this year — scenes, shots, gestures, verses, sights, sounds, moments. Today: complimenting Bruno Mars in a way that sounds like an insult.
Something unexpected happens at the 32-minute mark on Bruno Mars’ album 24K Magic. I sat back in my chair.
The album ends.
It’s over. That’s it! Nine songs, each less than five minutes long. No skits, no tangents, no filler. Four years between albums, and here’s what Bruno Mars has to show for it: nine songs, all stellar.
Each day this month (assuming I don’t get busy or bored!), I’ll reflect on a tiny sliver of pop culture that I enjoyed or appreciated this year — scenes, shots, gestures, verses, sights, sounds, moments. Today: three of the year’s most influential artists who stayed silent at just the right moments.
Three of the biggest stars on the planet — Rihanna, Kanye West and Beyonce — released three of the most popular and acclaimed albums of 2016 in the first few months of the year. At least one of them is virtually certain to earn a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year tomorrow. In all three cases, only a few weeks’ notice and a few confusing bits of teaser information preceded the unveiling of these sprawling works of art, which spanned musicals genres and technological platforms.
The surprise nature of pop stars’ latest artistic statements no longer carries the electric charge of spontaneity that accompanied the release of 2013’s Beyonce. We’ve come to expect the unexpected. What’s more notable, to me, is how little we’ve heard from the artists behind these works about their approach to creating them. Beyonce has granted a grand total of zero interviews about their creative processes this year — no magazine spreads, no newspaper features, no television spotlights. Silence. West, meanwhile, afforded a few minutes of his time to a phone call with Vanity Fair’s Dirk Standen, during which he exclusively discussed the intent behind his lightning-rod music video for “Famous.” And Rihanna talked to Vogue for its April cover, saying a fair amount while revealing almost nothing of substance.
Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston are dating. Perhaps you know about this from the The Sun. Perhaps you know about this from Taylor’s Instagram. Perhaps you know about this from three sentences ago.
But they’re not just dating. They are a Thing. An Item. A Couple. (They might even get married.) They’ve been plastering PDA photos of their romantic travails across the Internet, in what seems like a desperate attempt to convince people of something they probably would have believed anyway. A few weeks ago, Hiddleston’s parents joined the movement. On the Fourth of July, a cadre of famous people like Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds got in on the action.
And over July 4 weekend, so did the conspiracy theorists, of which I now consider myself one. (Much credit to Ellie Woodward of Buzzfeed UK for leading the charge on this important coverage.) The breaking point appeared to be the picture of Hiddleston sporting a gaudy “I Love T.S.” shirt that would be embarrassing if he were in middle school. It’s not a great look for the man who allegedly wants to parlay his T-Swift courtship into the dapper threads of 007. And, on the surface, none of this is a great look for Taylor Swift either. The charges frequently and often unfairly leveled against her — she fakes relationships for attention, she thrives on romantic drama with famous people, she perpetuates antiquated love fantasies and deludes her impressionable fans — don’t seem quite as unfair anymore.
Some of the year’s most popular songs were also some of the best. Below, I’ve listed my ten favorite Top 40 songs of 2015. All of these songs appeared on the Billboard year-end Hot 100 for 2015.
That self-imposed rules means I can’t include what I consider the cream of this year’s pop crop: Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Boy Problems” and “I Didn’t Just Come Here to Dance” and “Run Away With Me” and “All That” and “Let’s Get Lost.” This woman had her 1989 moment this year and America paid no attention. Her manager Scooter Braun now admits something went wrong on his end. Too little, too late. It’s a crime.
I’ve spent all week trying to avoid finding something nice to say about this year’s VMAs.
I watched this year’s show live through the MTV app on my iPhone. By the end, I had a headache, but I couldn’t tell if it came from the small screen or the sugar high. The show was an overcaffeinated mess, drunk on its own excess and obsessed with its own artifice. There were missed cues, bum notes, off-color asides and racist undertones. What appeared spontaneous also felt calculated. What appeared calculated also felt cliched.
(Photo by Kevin Winter/BMA2015/Getty Images for dcp)
Kanye West closed Sunday’s Billboard Music Awards with a medley of his current hit “All Day” and his two year-old album cut “Black Skinhead.” The performance elicited boos in the room and online, for different reasons. The audience objected to the introductory remarks from pop culture pariahs Kendall and Kylie Jenner and the blinding light that radiated from West’s stage setup, obscuring the performance from view.
Viewers at home objected to ABC’s decision to bleep out substantial portions of the audio from the performance. Such bleeps typically cover words the FCC has deemed profane. In this case, the bleeps covered entire verses of West’s two songs. The biggest ironies: the people let at least two swears slip amid the reckless bleeping.