As John Oliver (more on him below) put it in his epic, season-ending video, Fuck 2016. From celebrity deaths to Aleppo to Voldemort himself assuming the highest office in the land, 2016 has been a real shit show. Yet for all the heartbreak and dismay this year has served up, people are refusing to back down. This resilience has been no more apparent than in the aftermath of Trump’s election, when the country’s grief, outrage and confusion funneled into profound pieces of creation, protest, organization and action. Things might be bad right now, but they’ve been worse, and 2016 proved that America—and our world—still knows how to dust itself off and stand up.
It’s in solidarity with this resilient spirit that Not Mad is proud to present our Third Annual Big List of Shit. While wholly aware of the work ahead going into the new year, we still wanted to take a second to celebrate the good and bizarre from 2016, which provided us with incredible music (too much, honestly), sports, movies and TV, raucous memes and more than a few WTF moments. If you’ve read our first two lists (sadly, for the first time, we have no incident of Diddy smacking someone), you’ll know that there is absolutely no method to our madness: the List is simply a bunch of shit that we loved and freaked out about this year, in no understandable order, and most likely will not resemble any end-of-the-year recap you’ve already read. Each year the List gets bigger (I really urge you to read the whole thing, though), and this year is no different. In addition to Rio and myself, a huge group of Not Mad hoodlums—Leo Abbe, Haley Albert, Eaghan Davis, Gabriel Frieberg, Olivia Forman, Brandon Handelsman, KiNG, Will Kirkland, Thomas Klepacz, Ike Rofe, Elliot Schiff, Daniel Ungar and Mimi Zak—provided their takes on the happenings of this wild year. So as we turn the corner into 2017, escape your family function, pour one out for Prince and dive into The Third Annual Big List of Shit.
NOT MAD TURNED TWO!!
Damn. I never thought we’d get this far, but alas, here we are. This year, we launched our long overdue creative writing section, interviewed Ed Templeton, Jacob Collier and KING, and published pieces about post-college gentrification, gender transitioning booty calls, punk-rap, getting married, Kobe, and VETEMENTS. Our God-sent web developer, Corey Griffin, is getting married. We hired a new editor (hi, Leo). FRANK151 wrote some nice shit about us. Rio and I graduated, moved to New York and have no clue how to live like adults. Also, fuck Ethan Mark. —JH
Coloring Book — Chance the Rapper
As hip-hop music drifts towards the dark side (see 21 Savage, Schoolboy Q), Chance the Rapper has become our literal ultra-light beam. That’s because Chance’s third crack at a mixtape, Coloring Book, is unrelentingly optimistic. Every track, one way or another, hammers down Chance’s ultimate goal to give Satan a swirly. “Blessings” reminds us that happiness and family are the most important things in life. “No Problems” is the feel-good banger where youthful exuberance overcomes corporate greed. “Finish Line/Drown” enlists gospel legend Kirk Franklin to invoke a decidedly gospel impulse, that “Someday Chicago will be free/Someday we’ll all be free.” “All Night,” with a killer Kaytranada beat, and “Smoke Break,” featuring an on point Future verse, are pit stops along the joyride. Chance The Rapper is the closest thing our generation has to Bob Marley, a constant reminder that every little thing gonna be all right. While our news feeds burst with daunting real-world headlines, Chance the Rapper is there to bless us with necessary remedies and antidotes—whether in the form of a Sasha Obama approved Christmas tree lighting, a soothing bath-time playlist, or a Frank Ocean cover from his own tub. Coloring Book is my favorite album of the year because it’s hip-hop doubling as a catharsis-inducing therapy session. —Ike Rofe
With Game of Thrones-like efficiency, 2016 killed off many of our best and brightest. Bowie, Prince, Ali. Hillary. Kanye. Not among the dead, culturally or otherwise? Barack Obama, still every bit as cool as the day he took office.
As we embark—together, terrified—into the great Trumpian unknown, it feels right to honor the president who’s held it down the last eight years and made it look like our country had its shit together way more than it really did.
There’s much to look back on: achievements in politics, changes in culture. In 2008, healthcare reform was a liberal pipe dream, no major political party in America supported gay marriage, “mass incarceration” was a term used only in academic criminologist circles, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was still two years away. Eight years later, gay marriage is the law of the land, Black lives matter, 22 million Americans have health insurance that didn’t before, even the Koch Brothers want to fight mass incarceration, and direct flights depart daily from Miami to Havana.
But as we bid deuces to 2016, we’re leaving more than the policy progress and cultural change of the Obama years behind us. We’re also saying goodbye to the man himself. Can we just take a minute and appreciate the guy?
As Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote of the nation’s first Black president, “for eight years Barack Obama walked on ice and never fell.” He presided over the least scandal-ridden presidency in recent history—the biggest scandal on his watch, Benghazi, didn’t even stick to him but to his Secretary of State—and somehow made it all look easy. He just kept doing him, kept on being a good dad, singing Al Green, rocking to “Hotline Bling” at the BET Party in the East Room of the White House. He sat in his office every night for five hours, pouring over briefing books and feasting on his seven nightly chocolate-covered almonds, thinking about what was best for the country. Even now as he’s handing over the keys to the White House to the man who did more to spread the Birther lie than anyone else, he’s doing it with dignity and grace and cool because that’s what a fucking grown up does.
Now, Obama’s fundamental goodness doesn’t seem to have had much of a trickle-down effect. If anything, America’s response to having a really good dude be the president was to become even more cynical and selfish. Our new president seems to have been picked by those pivotal 80,000 white voters in the Upper Midwest precisely because he lacks Obama’s qualities of empathy, rationality, and integrity.
That doesn’t mean those qualities didn’t matter. In the coming years, when the massive stink of this election has cleared, I think we’ll look back on the 44th President and see a rare, generation-defining moral leader. —Will Kirkland
Mariah Carey Definitely Doesn’t Know You
Mariah Carey is pretty much a deity to us at Not Mad, and her status as the shadiest diva in the game (sorry, Aretha) is probably the reason why. This year, Mariah’s shade went mainstream after a video surfaced of her dismissing any affiliation with J. Lo with a devastating comment: “I don’t know her.” Not only is this the most disrespectful shit to say about someone you don’t give a fuck about (“Who? My ex, you say? Sorry, I don’t know him”) (lol…I’m shady too, I know), it evolved into Mariah’s answer about anyone she deemed irrelevant. People still asking about J. Lo? I don’t know her. What about Arianna Grande and Demi Lovato? Nope, don’t know them either. By next year, experts predict Mariah’s shady ass will know exactly zero humans, which is most likely exactly what she wants. —JH
A Seat at the Table — Solange
Solange’s new record is simply stunning. Elegant, provocative, soulful, eloquent and original, A Seat at the Table finds the younger Knowles sister truly coming into her own: over piano-heavy beats courtesy of R&B legend Raphael Saadiq, Solo ponders what it means to be black, to be a woman, to be a mother; the meaning of the American Dream (punctuated with excellent, if unexpected, interludes courtesy of Master P); and the value of family. More than anything, ASATT is a calm indictment of a world that kills black men without consequence, a world where Solange is harassed by white women at a concert; the album is a statement on what it means to belong not only in 2016 America, but in the troubled history of the country since its inception.
Don’t forget about the music itself, though. Songs like “Cranes in the Sky,” “Don’t Touch My Hair” and “Where Do We Go” are as compelling musically as thematically, and the videos, directed by Solange and her husband, Alan Ferguson, are profound visual celebrations of Solo’s ever-expanding artistic vision. An album like this comes around once in a generation—the first record that comes to my mind is Stevie’s landmark Songs in the Key of Life. Similar to that album, A Seat at the Table is a risk-taking and ambitious musical exploration of blackness, family and personhood that—like many of this year’s best records—is more powerful consumed whole than in pieces. “And I don’t know where to go / No, I don’t know where to stay / Where do we go from here? / Do you know?” Solo sings on the album’s 11th track. I don’t know, none of us do, but on the strength of music like this, hopefully we can all find some direction. —JH
A devastating, searing, soul-crumbing-and-falling-into-nothing meditation on the complete exhaustion of grief. The silence in this film is more deafening than the cries one might expect to find in a story about profound personal tragedy. But the tears rarely come, and instead Casey Affleck’s masterfully restrained performance is one of the loudest I’ve ever seen. The characters never needlessly wallow, and are most affecting in their humor, wit, and absurdity.
It is like nothing I have ever seen, which is why I’ve just finished watching it for a third time. —Haley Albert
A coworker/friend (not sure which one yet; we just started working together but I have high hopes) described this album to me as “wistful,” and I’m inclined to agree. The record’s muted horns and nostalgic lyrical reminiscences will have you thinking back on ex-lovers/summer adventures/dorm room conversations/the general experience of being young, yet the album is melancholy rather than sad: there is still palpable joy here, irresistible, lighthearted, pop-hit hooks, and an equal appreciation for the Now as for the Then. Light Upon the Lake is as profoundly stunning as it is superficially enjoyable; it’s the musical equivalent of watching a sunset with a group of friends at the end of summer, basking in the joy of shared company, increasingly aware that the moment will inevitably fade and that some time from now you’ll be alone, looking back, sipping bodega wine and wondering, to no one in particular, how “those golden days snuck away from us.” —JH
“Fade” — Kanye West (and Teyana Taylor)
Teyana Taylor’s been around for a minute now, but the epic “Fade” video was her coming out party: looking all kinds of snatched only a few months post-childbirth, Teyana got on some Flash Dance shit and put together one of the dopest dance routines in recent memory. But this is still Kanye, and so of course the video couldn’t end without Teyana morphing into a cat in a room full of sheep. I have a video of Rio attempting a few of these moves and it’s my most treasured possession. —JH
This was the funniest meme of 2016 without question. Considering I tend to make this scowling/”mmhmm” face unintentionally on a regular basis, the screenshot of Conceited, a rapper throwing some shade in the midst of a heated battle, really spoke to me. The face embodies the inevitable, tragic nature of life: sometimes we’re so sure about something, only for reality to kick us in the face. Shit rarely goes how we want it to. Sometimes we can’t account for our actions. Conceited and his pursed lips understand this. Once the meme went viral, people started getting really fucking ignorant with it. Like I’m screaming right now looking at these memes. —JH
math teacher: alright so I'm letting you guys use your calculators on the test, nobody should fail
my calculator: pic.twitter.com/tRQsNVvZMm
— memes (@memeprovider) November 15, 2016
So when I first saw a trailer for Westworld, I was thinking, a futuristic robot-Western on HBO? Great. And Anthony Hopkins is the villain? Perfect. Sunday nights will be fantastic. Not Thrones level, obviously. But at least HBO is giving me something not named Ballers. Shit started to get insane with Bernard being a robot, but also being Arnold at the same time. That was a mind fuck. And mind fucks are good. But there’s usually a certain esoteric fulfillment that I get when my mind is blown after a crazy plot twist, like in Inception or Memento. Westworld’s twists made me confused, but that was it. The sensational dramatics started to feel like low-hanging fruit. William’s douchey brother-in-law pretended like the park was one big fraternity hazing session. Maeve’s sex with that outlaw in the burning tent was basically HBO bragging to other networks that they are allowed to get raunchy on TV. But every time I got fed up with Westworld, it pulled me back in. It reinvigorated my interest by transforming Dolores from goody next-door neighbor to rebellious, sexy outlaw. Then it got me again by injecting Maeve with superhuman powers. The show also gets bonus points for their epic, piano-laden Radiohead covers. So, despite all my issues with Westworld, one thing it did do was keep me coming back for more. —IR
MAN OF THE YEAR: In 2016, Anderson. Paak taught me that it’s cool to be happy. Along with Chance and D.R.A.M., he ushered in a new wave of Hip-Hop/R&B on some post-ironic, new sincerity shit that pushes back on the genre’s recent mood-swing. The sound of 2016, rather, was emphatically joyous, triumphant music, liberated from the hurt, doubt, and cynicism Kanye gave birth to on his staggeringly influential 808s & Heartbreak. No rapper this year, though, not even the cartoonishly optimistic Chance, had a more meteoric rise than .Paak.
Indulge me while I recap how intergalactically prolific this dude has been the past eighteen months: .Paak was deployed by Dr. Dre to work on his borderline mythic comeback album, Compton, and transcended his supporting role like Viola Davis in . . . everything; he had his fingerprints all over The Game’s underrated double album; he released arguably the album of the year, Malibu, in January, which earned him a spot in Dre’s ruthlessly exclusive Aftermath lineup; he was featured on eleven, count ‘em eleven, projects this year, including Kaytranada’s 99.9%, Schoolboy’s Blank Face LP, (“TorcH” and “Blank Face”) and Tribe’s We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service (Movin’ Backwards)—each artist knowing full well they were forfeiting the track to .Paak; and he and Knxwledge dropped Yes Lawd! as NxWorries (best producer-rapper hip-hop duo since Madvillain?) .Paak was a relative unknown no more than a year and a half ago, but this year, after toiling away in L.A. for years, he achieved omnipotence and had a ball all the while.
Mad people are wishing 2016 away for many reasons, but I’m not buying the narrative that this has been the worst year ever. The world is always on fire. .Paak managed to cut through the pain with his swiss army knife of a voice, consistently giving us a reason to celebrate. —Brandon Handelsman
Mary J. Blige Singing to Hillary Clinton
Look at Hillary’s face as Mary J passionately sings to her. HRC keeps it together, but only because she was mentally strangling the staffer who thought this was a good idea. I, on the other hand, screamed into a pillow in a mixture of laughter and agony and slammed my computer shut. —JH
No political commentator has been more effective over the past few years providing not only quality news coverage, but also informing the public about stories it should care about, from FIFA corruption to mass incarceration. Balancing whimsical, Dad-joke humor with a love of provocation and a passion for hard journalism, John Oliver and his HBO antics kept America sane this year, and, after this election, we need him now more than ever. —JH
Lemonade — Beyoncé
Considering that if you printed out every think piece written about this album you’d be left with a mountain of paper weighing as much as the moving truck Bey probably threatened Jay with, I’m not going to get crazy here with this blurb. But man oh man did Lemonade consume me. Watching the album’s videos in one sitting is comparable to witnessing the most significant art of this generation, truly, whether it’s the multi-faceted glory of “Formation” (whose Rap Genius page, with 4.7 million views, reads like an annotated bibliography) or Serena Williams twerking next to a throne, Lemonade is so thematically dense and so musically varied—we get trap, country, R&B, island flair and electronica—that the only option is to truly bow down. She seamlessly wove James Blake, The Weeknd and Kendrick into the same album and then managed to outshine all of them. Come on.
Whether or not Jay and Bey were/are on the rocks isn’t even important at this point. Lemonade is an earth-shattering celebration of female sexuality, independence, community and self-care. I fucking love this album. The first string of tracks, starting with the Blake-infused “Pray You Catch Me” to the gleeful “Hold Up” (and its video, with that coat!) to the don’t-fuck-with-me Jack White-assisted rage of “Don’t Hurt Yourself” and ending with the you-know-what-fuck-you-I’m-in-charge swag of “Sorry,” established the album as a classic from the jump. And don’t get me started on her live performances. How about when she decided that the VMAs were just going to be a mini Beyoncé concert, Rihanna’s lifetime achievement be damned? She ain’t sorry, and neither am I. —JH
In the 60s and 70s, my dad scrambled from the backdoor of one Broadway theater to another to sneak his way into musical after musical. By the end of his childhood, he had seen virtually every production Broadway had to offer. So he raised me with a serious appreciation of show-tunes. This is the movie that is made for us. Whip-smart script, razor-sharp plotting, and picture-perfect performances from Gosling and Stone make this an absolute winner. 2016 was a year steeped in irony, and for Damien Chazelle to so unironically commit to his love of musicals is a joy. —Elliot Schiff
Savage Mode — 21 Savage
I’ve thought about how I could put this more eloquently but at the end of the day, 21 Savage is really fucking scary. Aside from the fact that 21’s previous was called Slaughter King with a really spooky album cover to match, his most recent album, Savage Mode, a collection of bangers produced by Metro Boomin’, features some of the most blood-chilling lyrics I’ve heard in a while. Note that the first lyric on the album is “I smashed the stripper in the hotel with my chains on.” Also, you better not put “X” on when I’m fucked up at the club. —Rio Viera-Newton
Make no mistake, Anohni does not do subtlety. On Hopelessness, she’s not hinting at government hypocrisy as much as diving head first into its fiery pits. In “4 Degrees,” her agonizing climate change battle cry, she sings, “I want to hear the dogs crying for water / I want to see the fish go belly-up in the sea / And all those lemurs and all those tiny creatures / I want to see them burn.” And on “Drone Bomb Me,” “Obama,” and “Execution” (seriously), she inflames listeners with her assault on the outgoing president, atop Oneohtrix Point Never and Hudson Mowhawke produced dizzying synths and pitch-shifted-beyond-comprehension organs that sound as apocalyptic as her account of the last eight years. The result is one of the most direct, defiant, and profound protest records in recent memory. —HA
The Gag Is . . .
Singer, dancer, model, actress and all-around icon Keke Palmer is one of the most entertaining people on Instagram (no, seriously: I just watched her Instagram story, which began with her recording her audio book, proceeded to her twerking upside down against a wall and concluded with the birthday party for one of the dudes in Rae Sremmurd. On a Wednesday). This year, she also changed our lives with her saying, “but the gag is….” It’s gloriously petty, instantly hilarious and surprisingly useful in day-to-day life. When you’re Keke Palmer, the gag is never on you. —JH
This show is the reason I’ll never use flashing Christmas lights as decorations. The fashion on this show makes photographs of my parents as children look like shit. Pretty sure I speak for everyone when I say the chubby kid was my favorite character. And one more thing: RIP Barb—both you and your glasses will be missed. —Leo Abbe
Rihanna’s been the perfect pop machine since she was 17, but ANTI interrupts this pattern, instead finding one of the industry’s most lucrative vessels taking her own artistic reigns for an authentically endearing moment. My favorite track, “Consideration,” stuns with its ornate vulnerability, and while likely addressing a lover, speaks to her entire evolution: “I’ve got to do things my own way darling . . . will you ever let me grow?” She also put out “Work” and in effect made 2016 the most dutty year since when Sean Paul was around.
While her roster of bangers puts her in the diva-league of those harness-flipping in stadiums, ANTI suggests Rihanna cares to pour her heart out on a small, smoky stage like Thandie in Gridlock’d with Tupac on bass behind her. Thus, in 2016, I went from someone who respects her hustle to a fainting-fan of Beatle-groupie proportions.
Oh, and if you know me, you know I’m dying to say that “Needed Me” is script-flipping napalm: give me a dollar for every rapper shouting out RiRi as a sex object, but here she makes it clear this Khaleesi is as savage as any Khal, if not more so. —Olivia Forman
Ted Cruz Loves Queso
What if I was to tell you that Ted Cruz had something dribble down his chin, onto his shirt, then went into a trance-state and gave a spoken-word testimony about how it “speaks to the soul” “relaxes [him]” and creates a “family bond?”
Wouldn’t you also wonder why Ted Cruz refers to Antonin Scalia’s sack as “queso dip?” Sad! —Haley Albert
Moonlight just makes you feel. Barry Jenkins proves his capabilities as an auteur, beautifully crafting the film from the opening shot orbiting around Mahershala Ali to that final penetrating look, altogether composing an unrelenting, but affectingly intimate look into the life of Chiron, a black man from a rough Miami neighborhood dealing with the realization that he is gay. Moonlight is an emotional journey through three episodes covering twenty years of Chiron’s life that will leave you in a tempestuous typhoon of anger and despondency, and Jenkins and his DP James Laxton will most definitely be contending for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography come late February. —Daniel Ungar
A Good Night in the Ghetto — Kamaiyah
Don’t worry, we all thought she was a 16-year-old boy when we heard “Why You Always Hatin’” the first time. But Kamaiyah is actually a 90s Ralph Lauren-clad, dude-curving, champagne-popping powerhouse femcee (who I was lucky enough to interview), and her debut tape, A Good Night in the Ghetto, will set off ANY party. Sometimes at work I close my eyes and listen to it and pretend I’m at a house party in Oakland and not in a cubicle in Chelsea wanting to die. —JH
No one is more in love with her friends than Greta Kline. And we know this because most of the bite-sized pop miniatures on Next Thing are odes to them, and the worlds they’ve dreamt up while living as vigilant city dwellers. It’s not your friends she’s singing about, although it could be. I often listen to “Embody,” where Kline sings “Sarah is a lightbeam / from the picture Jonah sent me / it makes me so happy / she embodies all the grace and lightness,” and replace Sarah with Lucy and Jonah with Jackson because being obsessed with your friends is as crucial as it is fun (friends, if I had an iota of Frankie’s silky eloquence, I would write songs about what light formations you all remind me of too). Lucy sounds better next to lightbeam, anyway. There is nothing quite as enchanting or relatable as the personal specificity and candour imbued in each of the songs on Next Thing. Artists often couch their ideas in so much abstraction that it’s difficult to get a sense of who they are. It’s in Kline’s ability to abstain from this trap, and instead offer the most honest parts of herself to us, however unflattering and small, that give her songs so much weight and beauty. —HA
Dave Chappelle’s Glorious Return on SNL
Me and Rio’s favorite comedian of all time came out of hiding to deliver the most relevant—and, in the wake of the election, most necessary—SNL opener in recent memory. He joked about white people and Trump, police brutality and Harambe, and screamed at Obama for taxing his new contract. Yet in classic Chappelle fashion, every joke carried extra weight: with one fell swoop, he broke down the racial politics of 2016 America and gave hope for the future. Nothing made me happier than to see Dave back in the driver’s seat, and his monologue served as a much needed healing moment for the country. He also brought back his best Chappelle Show characters and it killed me. —JH
Blond — Frank Ocean
Forget the agonizing wait, the memes, the glory of his first two records. Frank Ocean’s Blond, when it finally emerged this summer after four long years of waiting, met expectations in the sense that it naturally, somehow, exceeded them. Examining masculinity, sexuality and youth with the raw honesty and delicate introspection that endeared him to fans since the release of Nostalgia, ULTRA, Frank’s new record nonetheless found him striding into new territory: a dreamy, desolate, defiant display of shimmering guitars, vocal manipulation and an album’s worth of crying (on the listener’s part. Aka on my part. “Self Control” and “Godspeed” will never not wreck me). With this album—and the stair-building mindfuck of Endless—Frank confirmed his place not only as a once-in-a-lifetime talent and the voice of a generation, but also, more importantly, as a role model. As a voice for those needing one, for those boys too scared to cry. —JH
Whose Billy Goat is This?
Whose billy goat is this?? This is the monumental question legendary soul singer Anthony Hamilton and his group, the Hamiltones, pondered upon seeing a billy goat at the Indiana State Fair. The group promptly serenaded the animal, questioning after its owner and showering it with love in one of the best videos of the year. They even got invited to sing to other animals on Kimmel, including a hedgehog, which Anthony Hamilton called a “sticky back.” —JH
A Moon Shaped Pool — Radiohead
Radiohead deleted their presence from the internet (how?) and then dropped a heavy dose of potent, cryptic electronic-rock melodies, elegiac as ever. And that P.T.Anderson-directed “Daydreaming” video is haunting, and keenly codified with hidden messages in ways only Thom Yorke and PTA could devise. —DU
Warning: this epic, ongoing Beyoncé fan-fiction saga is dangerously addicting and potentially scarring. It is also incredibly long (25 parts, I think, as of press time), so buckle up. There’s nothing I could write to do this Odyssey-level saga justice, but basically, The Lemons brings to life the core of Bey’s Lemonade—in this world Jay absolutely cheated, and Beyoncé is a katana-wielding, Rihanna dissing, head bitch in charge one second away from killing her husband and constantly dishing out destructive one-liners. But this is just the tip of the ice berg.
Over the course of the insane tale, we’re introduced to a blunt smoking, crap playing Ava DuVernay, who is forced to, among other hysterical escapades, assist Octavia Spencer in cleansing the ghost of Bernie Mac from her home; we get Taraji P. Henson going full Cookie Lyon, Solange in constant elevator-attack mode and a tiger-owning Aretha Franklin attempting to write a diss track against Patti LaBelle; Kanye is here, of course, as is Kim, Drake, Rihanna, Blue Ivy, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin, J. Cole, Taylor Swift, Frank Ocean, Lil Mama (!!) and Bruno Mars. Oh, and then there’s Prince, who is living in Beyoncé’s secret underground palace, and who is being hunted by Warner Bros. execs determined to secure his music. There’s sex, murder, shade, exorcisms, tiger mauling, freestyles and more. The Lemons is truly unlike anything I have ever read, and after reading it, you will be unable to look at any of these celebrities the same. Here’s a taste:
Ava: Is there a female singer younger than you that you actually fuck with?
Bey: Ones that ain’t fucked my husband
Ava: Ima die
Taraji: Look, you gotta hook me up with the boy that did the tribal make up. Lee [Daniels] saw Lemonade and now he’s writing a storyline where Jamal makes a visual album called Sweet Tea.
Bey: I will buy Fox and make every show a documentary about West Africa if that happens in front of me
Kubo and the Two Strings
Kubo combines Laika’s signature papier-mâché meets stop-motion animation with classic Japanese gallantry and mysticism straight out of a Miyazaki movie. The result is an exciting, really good-looking, and powerful hero’s journey with a sobering ending that leaves you thinking about Kubo long after the credits roll. —Gabriel Frieberg
“Fake Love”/”Controlla” — Drake
Here at Not Mad, we like to say (or once said) that if Biggie is dark chocolate, then Drake is some high fructose corn syrup, and the gag this year is he tried to give us diabetes. 2016’s radio rap has been punctuated with cuts from “Drake’s Emotions: The Musical,” often inspiring the image of a Billy Eichner backstage in all black screaming into a headset “That was the queue for the dancing chorus line of haters!” —OF
Pool — Porches
Aaron Maine, the visionary behind Porches, is so sweet, synthy and intimate, and so obviously in love with the album’s backing vocalist, singer-songwriter Greta Kline (of Frankie Cosmos). Pool is, on some level, a little love poem from Maine to Greta and the Manhattan apartment that holds their hopes and dreams and all of the recording equipment for this album. Warm melodies, sonic motifs throughout—it’s an undeniably cool album. “Mood,” “Shaver” and “Be Apart” are all especially good tracks, worth a listen, share and replay.
But to the surface-level, one-time listener, a lot of Maine’s extra meaning on Pool will be lost. Buried beneath the cool kid chill-wave sounds, Pool is an ode to something else. It’s speaking to the lucky and many millennials that find themselves lonely in the big cities they’re living in. It’s about repressed fear as the years pass. It’s talking to the dance-floor loneliness, the inevitable acceptance of the simplicity of life, and the formula for being alone without the feeling of loneliness. —Mimi Zak
Nick Cannon Looking Crazy Wearing a Turban
Who told Nick Cannon he could leave the house looking like Jafar? —JH
Young Thug, once again, exceeded all of hip hop’s expectations by pushing the boundaries of not only the genre’s musical stereotypes but the gender binaries so deeply entrenched in its history. Absolutely everything is perfect about the JEFFREY album cover—his pose, the dress’s ruffles, the umbrella on Thug’s head (also where is he going in this gown? A gala for Gucci’s release? Somewhere it’s raining? I have questions). Also, can we talk about the Louis Armstrong undertones heard throughout this album? I truly hate everything about the “Harambe” meme (mostly on account of the thousands of dumb asses that maybe decided to vote for him in the 2016 election), however, Young Thug’s superstar track is responsible for the only bit of fondness I have for that gorilla. In my personal opinion, 2016 belonged to Young Thug and I can’t wait to see what he and his many personas bring forth in 2017. —RVN
The Cubs Won the World Series
The feel good story of a year which otherwise will be unfortunately remembered as a heaping pile of shit. Game 7 was tight though. —DU
Ava DuVernay decided to wreck every American’s worldview this year with the release of her documentary, 13TH, on Netflix, in which she links slavery to the modern day prison industrial complex. There is not much I can say about this documentary without writing a college level dissertation, which ain’t nobody got time for, but what I can say is that every. single. human. being. is. required. to. watch. this. to. make. it. into. 2017. —KiNG
Both O.J. Simpson Shows
Before ESPN and FX released respective specials on O.J., I didn’t really know much about his murder trial. Only that a glove, a controversial lawyer and a Kardashian were somehow involved. I had no idea that O.J. Simpson’s trial intertwined sports, celebrity, race, class and law in one of the most fascinating, revealing and utterly strange stories in American history. ESPN’s five-part documentary special, Made in America, provided nitty-gritty detail, leaving no stone unturned when exploring The Juice’s bizarro life path of rags to riches to chains. I finished it feeling entranced, but also like I just sat through a history lesson. FX’s show, American Crime Story, synthesized bravado and flair in a realistic adaptation of the trial’s seemingly endless, hard-to-believe dramatics. Surprisingly inspired performances from a motley crew of Hollywood’s hasbeens added to the fun. Cuba Gooding Jr., John Travolta and David Schwimmer all in the same show? And it was good? Absolutely ridiculous. Time and again, both shows had me questioning if I knew anything about the complex history of the city that I grew up in. —IR
We Are KING — KING
KING’s debut album is a smooth, tender, funky, explorative and deceivingly complex collection of flawless harmony, heartfelt message and communal warmth. I hate when people describe music as “timeless,” but this album truly is. KING transcends what we usually describe as R&B (whatever that means), but more than breaking boundaries, We Are KING is simply good for the soul. —JH
High Maintenance takes the organic idea of following a pot dealer simply called ‘The Guy’ around Brooklyn and uses him and his uniquely personal business as a conduit to enter the lives of the many nuanced and overwrought people who rely on marijuana. Each episode paints a compassionate portrait of a new character, individually imbued with a genuine humanity, comprising a collection of some of the most peculiar and original characters currently on television (or the internet, from what I’ve seen). Favorite character: can’t decide between Gramps and Patrick. But noble nods to Colin, Beth, the day-raving dad, and Ellen and Ruth. —DU
We here at Not Mad were big fans of YG’s DJ Mustard-helmed, banger of a debut, My Krazy Life, and the Bompton rapper’s sophomore effort, Still Brazy, reaffirmed our faith. YG was shot a year ago—he still doesn’t know who did it—and the traumatic experience distinctly shapes the tone of his new record, which takes from the paranoia infused into legendary West Coast classics by Snoop Dogg and 2Pac and spins it with a distinctly 2016 twist. The production this go round is exceptionally more L.A., and YG’s delivery is as nimble as ever: whether wondering who shot him or celebrating his coast, YG’s personality remains his strongest attribute; his skepticism, swagger and style ground the album lyrically and thematically. Still Brazy is also the most overtly political west coast record since 2Pac’s day. The album closes with three songs commenting on police, politics and race, with the strongest (and most infamous) track, “Fuck Donald Trump,” emerging as a rallying cry against our demagogic new President-elect. YG made it out the west without Dre, and he’s bringing the rest of the coast with him on the way up. BOMPTON! —JH
Amber Rose WILL Pull Receipts
Say what you will about Amber Rose, it’s pretty tough to not find a place for her in your heart. After all, what woman doesn’t have sympathy for someone who walked in on her husband cheating with twins and pioneered a movement that calls for an end to rape culture. But that’s not all she’s done for me and women everywhere.
On January 27th 2016, Amber unleashed what could only be described as the ultimate clap back. In a series of tweets numbered 1-10, fired at Wiz Khalifa, Kanye West used 4 and 5 as opportunities to slam his ex girlfriend and Wiz’s baby mama, Amber Rose. Little did he know, this would backfire into a slurry of attacks from MUVA herself, among them a tweet about Kanye’s sexual appetites with the accusatory hashtag, “Fingers In The Booty Ass Bitch.” We all learned something that day: Amber [clap] Rose [clap] does [clap] not [clap] play [clap]! —RVN
— Amber Rose (@DaRealAmberRose) January 27, 2016
The Life of Pablo — Kanye West
Look, this year was a lot for Kanye. He popped off at Wiz Khalifa on Twitter, and subsequently was told to take a stadium of seats by Amber Rose (see above). He lost his damn mind (or continued losing it). He let Desiigner out of whatever zoo he was born in. But yo, real talk, for all the bullshit, The Life of Pablo is a goddamn EPIC record. He flipped Nina Simone, went verse for verse with Kendrick, made a house record, and produced a sliver of heaven on “Ultralight Beam” (and, in the process, launched Chance’s epic year). Yes, Kanye’s lyrics have never been worse, and yes, the whole “THE ALBUM IS NEVER FINISHED” schtick is total B.S., but TLOP is still a Kanye album: it’s a collage of every sound worth hearing in 2016, a stunning and meticulous celebration of life, self-worth, and family. Like all his work, this album is something only Yeezus could create—there are appearances from Young Thug to Kirk Franklin, infinite producers on every track, and a sense of untouchable, inexplicable, frustrating brilliance. —JH
Richard Linklater’s best movies are casual meanderings and musings through relationships, friendships, and youth, and Everybody Wants Some!!! is no different. The film follows a 1980 college baseball team in Texas. The squad is replete with jokesters, jocks, intellectuals, and rookies, and their banter feels natural and good-hearted. —GF
“Friends”—Francis and the Lights feat. Bon Iver & Kanye West
With the help of hip-hop’s smiliest prophet, Francis Starlite merged into the mainstream this year. And about fucking time. For over a decade he has been crafting his artistic vision, which lives somewhere between an insomniac’s sweat dream and a Brooklyn soul funk band’s fuzzy basement performance. Then throw a synthesizer and 808 into that something. You’ve got Francis.
His video for “Friends,” his collaboration with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, is in that sweet spot of simple that requires crazy discipline and vision to maintain. It’s so uncomplicated that it’s unnerving. Kanye, that jacket—baby you’re crazy but you’ve still got it. Justin Vernon, you can’t dance—reaffirming your title as the soft boy’s hero. Francis, you’ve got me thinking there is something sexy about Frankenstein. Thanks for saving minimalism, can’t wait to see who else falls for you in 2017. —MZ
The Multi-Spigot Tea Kettle
If you were previously unaware, “tea” is slang for especially juicy gossip; alternatively, while spilling tea can refer to revealing said gossip, sipping tea (word to Kermit) can refer to a petty demonstration akin to a mixture of, “I told you so,” “that’s none of my business, but it is,” “thank god that isn’t me” and some sense of joy at others’ drama. This year, Rio and I lost our collective shit when we stumbled across this glorious stock photo of a multi-spigot tea kettle serving up some major tea. The image—and kettle—has many uses. In theory, five friends could be gathering for an epic tea spilling moment. But the image can also be deployed in the aftermath of an especially shady comment, which had such an impact that one cup of tea simply would not do. Perhaps you need to be so petty that you’re required to sip five cups of tea simultaneously (novices be warned, this is an expert move). Regardless of the use, the multi-spigot tea kettle isn’t going anywhere, and I strive every day to live up to its lofty expectations of tea pouring. Also, whoever gets this for me for my birthday wins my heart for life. —JH
The first line in Carseat Headrest’s first official studio album Teens of Denial sums up pretty much everything about frontman Will Toledo and his unique brand of bedroom indie rock. Behind jangly guitars, a boisterous Toledo quips, “I’m so sick of/fill in the blank” That line, just like the rest of the album, is playful, earnest and cynical, but above all, thoroughly depressed. But, the beauty of this record is Toledo’s not entirely sure why he’s depressed in the first place. He just is. This album is an instant indie classic that I wish came out when I was 17. I love to think about a bunch of highschoolers yelping, in unison, one of Toledo’s most simple, yet complex lines at a live show: “Drugs are better/ drugs are better with / friends are better / friends are better with drugs,” over and over again. —IR
“YOU NAME IT!!”
Thanksgiving was never the same after a clip of Pastor Shirley Ceasar listing all the shit she’s got—greens, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, rams (!!), hogs, dogs, chicken, turkey, rabbits, YOU NAME IT!!!—went viral. Obviously, because the internet is insane, someone produced a slapper of a remix, people started covering it, and the #YouNameItChallenge was born. And I can watch Chris Brown dance to it all day. (Side note: Rio wanted me to include this video of Chris Brown killing the Milly Rock, just for reference) —JH
If you haven’t Netflix and Chilled to Black Mirror, you’re missing out. There’s nothing quite like freaking after freaking out about the many ways our future will probably devolve into a technological apocalypse. This Twilight Zone-like dystopian British show (picked up by Netflix for a third season of episode-length nightmares) sees out unanticipated side effects of our digital dependence to mind-abusing extremes. They really go there with the most disturbing yet plausible causes for how we might slowly lose our minds, even depicting society as a social media caste system.
That said, please someone explain how to scam my way onto Raya. —OF
Neo Nazis decided to lose their damn minds and attempted to infiltrate Black Twitter this year. How? Well . . . Andrew Anglin, founder of the white supremacist website Daily Stormer, started a campaign online to “create a state of chaos on Twitter, among the Black twitter population, by sowing distrust and suspicion.” This required fascists to A) create fake handles such as “BigBlackHoodlum” with B) fake “government names” such as D’Arnell . . . not Darnell but . . . D’Arnell and C) tweet things like “my beautiful ebony wife”—mind you nobody uses the word ebony to describe Black people unless you are an ignorant white dude on PornHub. This resulted in Black people doing what we do best and dragging the “Alt-Right” with #BlackTwitterVerificationQuestions. Needless to say, Neo Nazis are back at the drawing board. —KiNG
What flavor is this?
— Black Aziz Ansari (@Freeyourmindkid) December 14, 2016
Noname makes the kind of music that must have been recorded during a lucid dream or in the warm embrace of heaven. For such a sonically ethereal record, though, and her debut at that, Telefone’s scenery feels remarkably wild and broken. The project is informed, at least lyrically, by the condition of death and the bleakness of life. Noname processes this inevitability with a poet’s deliberateness and an elegiac cadence, delicately painting her desolate external world with a muted palette of soft, subtle pastels (like millennial pink, you know). The spirits of an aborted baby, her cancer-stricken auntie, Brother Mike, and all black youth gone too soon weigh heavy throughout this album. Still, though, she flutters along, simultaneously treating mortality with childlike fascination and a mournful resignation. Death is only a phone call away, yet somehow Noname manages to not drown in this uncertainty but rather floats righteously amid the unrest. —BH
Park Chan-wook, the visionary and clearly out of his mind Korean director responsible for Old Boy, blew my damn head off with The Handmaiden, a two-and-a-half hour revenge thriller rich with graphic lesbian sex, stunning cinematography, Korean-Japanese espionage and two badass women. Like Old Boy, it’ll leave you messed up for a few days, but it’s a true masterpiece and endlessly innovative and enjoyable. —JH
They did it again. In their sixth and final studio album, the members of Tribe prove why they are bona-fide legends. While many artists with comeback albums attempt to strike the fine balance between nostalgia and innovation, Tribe has actually done it. The instrumentals and song structures have a dynamism that could exist only in 2016. But this Tribe record still has the chemistry and bar-trading that made their previous releases so special. A potent, successful combination of the old and the new and packed with the usual mix of political commentary and introspection, the record’s stacked feature list comprises emcees young and old. Tribe honorees Consequence and Busta Rhymes make frequent, welcome appearances. Kendrick, Kanye, Anderson .Paak, Andre 3000—all of whom owe parts of their style to Tribe—pack their features with sheer fanboy-like joy. Oh, and then Elton John and Jack White stop by. Somehow, the biggest comeback record of the year carries the attitude of a casual, confident and humble debut. And Phife cements his legacy as one of the best to ever do it. —ES
Put Some Respek on Birdman’s Name
In the shortest interview in Breakfast Club history, Birdman, before a swift exit, demanded that DJ Envy, Charlamagne, Angela Yee, and fuck it, the rest of the world, stop running their mouths about him and “put some respek on his name.” He also asked the eternally confounding question, “Y’all finished or y’all done?” Like all things Birdman, it was unintentionally funny, a little scary and utterly evil. Naturally, the memes that followed are equally as important as the event itself. —RVN & JH
For All We Know — NAO
I was hooked on this raspy, metallic-sounding British goddess the second I heard “Inhale, Exhale” last year, and her debut lives up to the hype. With the help of Jai Paul’s brother A.K. Paul, NAO’s (pronounced *nay-oh*) album mixes 90s R&B sensibilities, Paul-ed out guitar grooves and surprising vocal range, and “Bad Blood,” in addition to being one of my favorite songs of 2016, is the rare breakup song that allows you to both pity yourself and move on. —JH
Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones is among the top echelon of fictional worlds ever created, alongside Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Harry Potter in no particular order. It’s that good. To those of you who watch Thrones, I see you. Good shit. To those who don’t,
I resent you I hope that something else brings you as much excitement as Thrones brings us. —IR
Chloë Brown and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit — “Dancing in the Boardroom”
To be honest, we probably don’t care about your latest think piece about Detroit. Too often, attempts at “understanding” Detroit fail to capture and appreciate the city’s rich history, and its iconic place in defining an ever illusive idea of American cultural and economic progress. British artist Chloë Brown’s 2016 exhibit “Dancing in the Boardroom” examines the parallels of deindustrialization between her city, Stoke-on-Trent, England, and Detroit, Michigan. In the late 1960s and 70s, the “Northern Soul” movement was promoted by english DJs who discovered and played rare and overlooked Motown records. Brown contends that the records “are always about heartbreak and loss, but there’s this kind of lift in them.” In her piece, Brown films English factory workers dancing to “Northern Soul” records in a crumbling corporate boardroom. “It’s almost like they’re dancing on the grave of the industry,” she says. “But … it wasn’t as negative as that. There was a positive influence in this space.” —Eaghan Davis
22, A Million, like all Bon Iver projects, feels like it should be accompanying a solitary twig falling innocuously from a lofty tree limb in the dead of winter. Except this time, that branchlet is actually a lightsaber in a polar vortex and it is taking the entire tree down with it. I mean, it’s hard to believe actual human beings made this video game of a record. The almost alien production is willingly spastic, evoking Radiohead’s exploratory tour along the astral plane on Kid A. If For Emma, Forever Ago was Justin Vernon’s Thoreauvian unraveling of the masculine psyche in isolation, then this album is his more prescient, more socially concerned existential crisis. Yes, this album may have been forged from within Vernon’s own anxieties, but these are outward concerns of fast approaching technological singularity, of human extinction. After all, it’s 2016 and Donald Trump is our President-elect. “It might be over soon,” but maybe we’re already there. —BH
I thought these were funny. Looking back, they’re not, probably because they both lost. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ —HA
99.9% — Kaytranada
I am in love with Kaytranada. No, seriously, if he ever looked my way I would probably melt like that witch in Wizard of Oz. Screaming and shit. The Montreal based, Haitian-Canadian babe producer had been around for a minute before dropping his debut record, 99.9%, this summer; in the years leading up to the album, he became a Soundcloud legend and produced for Vic Mensa and The Internet, yet it was this spectacular record—one of my five favorites of the year—that broke him into the mainstream. Like The Neptunes, Kanye, Dr. Dre and Timbaland, Kaytra has a distinct sound that is instantly recognizable as his own: his throbbing bass and drums and his bubbly and crescendoing synths make it known instantly when Kaytra is on the track. This is not a typical debut: Kaytra’s attitude is that of an established veteran flaunting his tricks, not an unproven rookie showing himself to the world. He nimbly navigates guest features from Anderson .Paak, Mensa, and 90s soul king Craig David, all the while sneaking in incredible instrumental acrobatics and maintaining the signature funky, soulful, hip-hop, space odyssey sound that is Kaytranada. This year, he produced standout tracks on two of 2016’s most celebrated projects, .Paak’s Malibu and Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book, and, in a revealing FADER profile, came out as gay. Not only is Kaytra constantly pushing his musical limits (just wait till you see him live), he’s quietly but assuredly coming out of his bubble to become a welcoming and supportive voice for a generation. Kaytra, if you read this, call me, because I’ll be your 00.1% any day. —JH
In many ways, Atlanta is about money. Conversations about money are rife from the series’ beginning—the first episode sees Earn, Donald Glover’s character, asking his parents, his cousin (Alfred, aka Paper Boi), and his pseudo-ex Vanessa (Zazie Beetz) for financial help—all the way to season end, when Earn cherishes an 100 dollar bill pulled from his Nike Cortez’s in a storage unit he sometimes calls his home. Nearly every episode features a dialogue on the necessity of capital, and what people do in order to get it.
The show sees Earn and his friends doing many things they don’t want to do. This allows for plenty of funny dilemmas, but also for the serious (and sometimes somber) cultural critique that drives the show forward. Earn, Vanessa, and Alfred are the “reality-checks”; the moral barometers to a world that, in many ways, wants to see them fail. And although they may fail, the characters are almost always right—or at least always trying to do the right thing. In their actions, the three provide a keen, critical eye for their viewers that encourages keen, critical reflection in the viewer’s self and actions. Atlanta looks great, sounds great (the music supervision has gained accolades on Twitter and elsewhere), and allows for great laughs. But the show is truly great because it allows its central characters to be good—which really makes us, the viewers, better. —Thomas Klepacz
The most gripping modern western since No Country for Old Men, complete with a classic High Sierra-like shootout in the mountains and a forbearing performance from Jeff Bridges. My favorite film of the summer, for its distinctly western iconography and its distinctly non-western classist overtones. —DU
The documentary filmmaking don Adam Curtis made a new film that is longer than you would like and more earth-shattering than you are prepared for. He weaves together a grab-bag of hypnotic archive footage, to create an epic sci-fi conspiracy thriller, involving Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Vladimir Putin, Jane Fonda, Patti Smith, the birth of the internet, Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream,” global terrorism, Tron, and “post-truth” politics. I remain shook. —HA
In another life, D.R.A.M. lives on Sesame Street and smokes weed with Big Bird. In this life, he is a perpetually gleeful purveyor of a singular form of happy, infectious R&B that, upon closer listening, reveals serious musical knowledge and a love of experimentation. His excellent debut album, Big Baby D.R.A.M., features a duet with Erykah Badu about wi-fi and artfully mixes neo-soul, house and trap with a big heaping of D.R.A.M.-ness. It’s a fantastic record and makes me want to give this man a hug even more. —JH
“Devil / Back Around” — Dessert
Dessert are this mysterious (jk we know them) band from LA who turned some heads with the stunning and frightening video for their tracks “Devil” and “Back Around.” Directed by Alex Lill, the video follows legendary — and late — sumo wrestler Emmanuel “Manny” Yarbrough through a bunch of scenes in LA, including a hot air balloon. He then spends the second half of the video pulling a bloody rope out of his body. Gnarly. The trio’s debut EP, Songs For Children, is dense and alluring, and the physical version comes in a very cute and expensive bunny candle. —JH
Are you dead? These are Kendrick’s B sides? J.Cole, you wish! (I know…low hanging fruit but I couldn’t help saying something sideways about Cole in this Big List of Shit). Also, shouts to Swizz Beat’s five-year old son, “Young Egypt,” who produced track 7! —BH
Jeremih Does Not Like PARTYNEXTDOOR, Nor Does He Understand the Geography of Europe
Try and forget all the geography you’ve ever been taught. To Jeremih, “Europe” is not only meant for those bound to the European Union [ and the U.K. 🙁 ] , but for all. Why can’t Lebanon be in Europe? And while we’re on the subject, why not The Crib (which I happen to know is a beautiful, three bedroom in Chicago)? These are the questions Jeremih raises on his latest Late Night project, Late Nights: Europe.
For Not Mad, pretty much everything Jeremih says and does is damn near close to perfect—so you can only imagine our delight when he got on stage during set on tour with PARTYNEXTDOOR (who we’re not necessarily mad at) and accused him “and his crew” of being “some bitch ass niggas,” ending the rant with the life changing mic drop, “tell me what I said now?” Since, Jeremih was kicked off the tour, leaving me and Jackson desperately attempting to integrate this phrase into our day-to-day life. —RVN
I mean WHAT! What am I supposed to do with this?? —RVN
No, not all the jokes hit, but Deadpool was a risky and dark comedy/superhero film for Marvel that, for the most part, paid off. Ryan Reynolds gamely steps up to the plate and his sheer exuberance and authenticity outshine the generic plotting and inconsequential side characters. The film’s box office cume, in spite of the R-rating, will have positive effects on the industry as studios plan on taking more chances with upcoming blockbusters. Let’s see how Logan does in March. —GF
The Colour in Anything — James Blake
James Blake has forever been lightyears ahead of the competition, so it was nice to hear him on his third album, The Colour in Anything, taking a moment to look inwards more than ever, in the midst of the usual cacophony of sonic experimentation. Self-produced and written outside of some help from Rick Rubin, Justin Version and Frank Ocean, the album centers on lost love and is utterly crushing: songs like “Love Me in Whatever Way” and “Choose Me” trace the waning moments of a relationship, while tracks like “My Willing Heart,” co-written by Ocean, feature some of the best songwriting of Blake’s career: “The first time your name was used / it was beauty and I knew / Sat in a violet room with some people I saw through / Gathered ’round the television’s fire / Waiting for the people I admired.” The Colour in Anything might turn off a few Blake purists, but it is undeniably profound, heart-wrenching, and, like any Blake project, wholly enigmatic. —JH
When I listened to her past few releases, I really tried to love Angel Olsen. I mean, she has a lot going for her: an ear-grabbing, yelpy, emotional voice; folksy leanings; and a knack for writing simple, engaging lyrics. But for whatever reason, her previous releases struck me as the preludes to something bigger. My Woman is exactly that bigger project, and it’s better than I ever could have hoped. Olsen’s performances are infectious, and her songs are just really fucking good. —ES
Jennifer Lewis Doesn’t Want Nobody Fucking With Her in These Streets
Jennifer Lewis is a legendary actress known for roles in Sister Act, What’s Love Got to Do With It and, recently, Black-ish. She also does not want ANYBODY fucking with her in these streets, and her rousing and inspirational musical clapback on said subject (featuring Brandy) was my motivational anthem walking to work every morning. —JH
Directed by John Carney, the creator of innocuous music films like Once and Begin Again, comes . . . another innocuous music film that is the warmest, most joyful movie of the year. Boy meets girl, boy forms band to impress girl. This simple yet high-concept premise is accompanied by surprisingly assured kid-actor performances and a killer original soundtrack with songs inspired by Duran Duran, The Cure, and Hall & Oates. —GF
“Down in the DM”
Aside from being what is quite possibly the best song about social media ever written (#Rules), the must-watch music video features YG, CeeLo Green, Rae Sremmurd and DJ Khaled. Just kidding! We don’t care about DJ Khaled—he was damn near close to ruining the video—but the rest of the gang does just what we need them to. —RVN
Ears — Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
I sent a text the other day that read: “Ears is the best ambient album of all time.” I stand by that for now. —HA
Kate McKinnon Singing Hallelujah as Hillary on Saturday Night Live
Trump was a media creation, and there’s a lot of media. But if there is one outlet in particular who gets extra credit for creating Cheeto Jesus, it’s NBC. By giving DJT his own show, The Apprentice, in the early 2000’s, NBC presented every American household with the backwards idea that Donald Trump was the pinnacle of the American Dream: A self-made billionaire who doesn’t want to fuck his daughter.
NBC continued to celebrate Trump as recently as November 2015 when he played guest-host to their crown jewel, Saturday Night Live. Back then it was still funny, as the show winked to the liberal coasts that Mango Mussolini could be leader of the free world. Fast-forward to SNL’s return in the fall of 2016; the network sobered up, just as its viewers reached for the bottle. They tapped Alec Baldwin to portray a sniffling buffoon who used his mouth to spew bigly lies, hate speech, and practice blowing O’s. Alongside Baldwin, Kate McKinnon played Hillary Clinton as calculated, cunning, and intelligent—or as we used to call it, someone who should be president. We laughed. It was a nervous laugh, but it wasn’t tears. Because we thought she was gonna win, the candidates thought she was gonna win, and Chris Christie even flew to India in the witness protection program to graze as a sacred cow because he thought she was gonna win.
But then she didn’t. And he did. And SNL still had a show to put on. All eyes were fixed on how they would make light of the unexpected result. It was their coldest of opens. McKinnon as HRC played the piano and sang “Hallelujah” in a moving tribute to Leonard Cohen (my personal hero) who died, with our republic, earlier that week.
This was NBC’s restrained concession that now was the time for any remaining laughter to give way to tears. The shell-shocked network and nation watched as Kate, channeling Hillary, sang:
I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah