December 17, 2018

A year in popular culture

I have long had a habit of feeling as though my every waking moment had to be productive. It was a feeling that told me that if I wasn’t working, or volunteering, or doing something that felt like activity,” then I wasn’t really living my life fully and or effectively.

Part of my slowing down and shrinking of life over the past few years has led me to understand that there is nothing wrong with resting, with doing nothing.” In fact, these moments of downtime, however they are spent, are crucial to my rejuvenation and restoration: by allowing myself to be idle, or to occasionally passively consume rather than create, I am better equipped to make a contribution when I’m actually working on something worthwhile.

A large part of my downtime is spent reading—both online and in books—but I also spend a good amount of time consuming popular culture that is not simply text. Movies, music, television, and podcasts all bring me immense joy and fill my idle moments with entertainment. Below, I share a few of my favorite pieces of popular culture from the past year.

A year in music

When I discover an album I like, often get slightly obsessed, and listen to it repeatedly for a few days, if not weeks. Three albums occupied my always on repeat” list this year Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer (which was not only the best album of the year, in my humble opinion, but also one of the best concert experiences I’ve had in a long time), Ariana Grande’s Sweetener (which reminded me just why I love pop music so much), and Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy.

Zayn Malik’s release of Icarus Falls last week has captivated me for the past few days. I haven’t had the chance to listen to it often enough to proclaim it a favorite, but it is definitely my late December earworm.

My new obsession this year has been Naima Cochrane’s Music Sermons, which tell a story of the history of R&B, soul, and hip hop every week. Between Questlove’s Musiaqualogy playlists, the playlists I make and receive as part of The Mixtape Concern, and the Music Sermons, my days have been filled with excellent tunes this year.

Top Albums of 2018:

  1. Dirty Computer
  2. Sweetener
  3. Vibras
  4. Honey
  5. Invasion of Privacy

A year in television

It took me six years to finally realize why everyone was in love with Game of Thrones, but now that I’ve started watching it—and trying to catch up on all the previous episodes before the new season begins—I understand the hype. It still isn’t my favorite series, or favorite genre of show, but I am rapt. Similarly, it took too long for me to discover RuPaul’s Drag Race, but after watching a full season, I’m excited to catch up on the rest of the episodes in the new year.

The standout television series of my year are exactly what you’d expect, series that are either suspense thrillers or procedural crime dramas: Collateral, The Little Drummer Girl, Killing Eve, Homecoming, and Broadchurch. Each of these appeal to my sensibilities and my interests, and they were easily some of the best television I’ve watched in years.

Of course, I’ve also been engrossed with Bojack Horseman, The Good Place, Queer Eye, This Is Us, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Salt Fat Acid Heat and Big Mouth, but I’m assuming everyone is already caught up on those, so there’s no use in extolling their delights any more than I already do regularly.

Top Television Series of 2018:

  1. Bojack Horseman
  2. Collateral
  3. The Little Drummer Girl
  4. Killing Eve
  5. The Good Place

A year in film

I watch movies like I read books: never really focusing on what came out, but instead focusing on what I feel like I need to enjoy at the time, no matter what year it may have been released. As such, my list of film for the year is mostly filled with hits from years before.

The most important development in my film experience this year was watching Coco; the movie has now vaulted into my list of favorite pieces of cinema of all time. (Here’s a good article that explains just why it is a masterpiece.) There were many films I enjoyed that were released in 2018—Black Panther, Isle of Dogs, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, Roma, Sicario: Day of the Soldado, Annihilation, Blackkklansman, and Mission Impossible: Fallout are standouts—but the bulk of my top movies” list this year is a mishmash of movies I watched this year but may have been released earlier.

Top Movies of 2018:

  1. Coco
  2. Black Panther
  3. Won’t You Be My Neighbor
  4. Isle of Dogs
  5. Mudbound

A year in podcasts

I began the year by clearing out my podcast subscriptions and starting from scratch; I wanted to only subscribe to the podcasts that interested me most. I finish this year with 104 subscriptions, making it extremely obvious that there were a lot of podcasts that piqued my interest over the past twelve months.

There are a lot of long-time favourites in my list of subscriptions, but the past twelve months have brought with them some great new additions to the podcast landscape, as well. Articles of Interest, Black Tea, Everything Is Alive, Keep It!, The Realness, The Shadows, Sold In America, and Villains were all series that were launched in 2018 and are worth listening to, if you aren’t already.

Top Podcasts of 2018:

  1. Hit Parade
  2. Articles of Interest
  3. Code Switch
  4. The Shadows
  5. On Being