Goodbye, 2017

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I couldn’t let 2017 slip away without indulging one more look back at the year in pop culture. Here are a few things that brought me joy. (And here are a few more.)

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The 2017 Billboard Year-End Hot 100, Ranked in 100% Subjective Order

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The Billboard Hot 100 in 2017 was filled with mainstream and underground hip-hop, emergent Latin pop that straddles language, and sadness. I’ve been listening.

Just like last year, I took valuable time out of my life to rank every song on the 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 disqualified the following songs because I hadn’t heard them enough to make a “fair” “judgment”: Ayo & Teo’s “Rolex”; YFN Lucci’s “Everyday We Lit”; Blackbear’s “Do Re Mi”; and XXXTentacion’s “Look At Me!”

I disqualified the following songs because I associated them more with 2016, or because they appeared on my ranking last year: The Chainsmokers’ “Closer” feat. Halsey; The Weeknd’s “Starboy” and “I Feel It Coming,” both feat. Daft Punk; Ariana Grande’s “Side to Side” feat. Nicki Minaj; DJ Snake feat. Justin Bieber’s “Let Me Love You”; D.R.A.M.’s “Broccoli” feat. Lil Yachty; Hailee Steinfeld & Zedd’s “Starving” feat. Grey; Shawn Mendes’s “Treat You Better”; Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”; Twenty One Pilots’ “Heathens”; and Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles” feat. Gucci Mane.

Without further ado…

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Tracing “Reputation” to…Kanye West (Who Else?)

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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.

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The M&M Report: Pop Culture in the Age of Trump

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Devin and I gathered our thoughts on the role of pop culture going forward in an era when the truth is a lie, facts are fiction and Donald Trump is the president of the United States. Plus: It’s our 100th episode! Quite a milestone for us.

Further reading: Alyssa Rosenberg on the importance of representation; Caroline Framke on Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers’ shows since the election; Todd VanDerWerff on the perils of overly simplistic pop culture criticism; Ira Madison III on Get Out; Mikael Wood on Lady Gaga.

Listen here. And please subscribe!

Taylor Swift Always Wins

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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.

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2015 in Review: Top 10 Top 40 Songs

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.

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Stepping Back from the VMAs, Maybe Forever

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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.

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