2016 Pop Culture Year in Review

2016 pop culture picks
If I’m completely honest, 2016 was the year of Hamilton for me. I loved the experiences I had with other music, theater, and film, but all things Lin-Manuel Miranda were highlighted my year. I’d like to note that I’m not just bandwagoning, because I wrote about Hamilton in my 2015 Pop Culture Year in Review post, and was preaching the gospel of Ham long before most people had heard of it.

But this post isn’t supposed to just be about my #1 love of the year, it’s about all the things that kept me entertained in 2016. So here goes!

Favorite New Albums of 2016:
Hamilton Mixtape
Ben Folds and yMusic – So There
Fitz and the Tantrums – Fitz and the Tantrums
Lindsey Stirling – Brave Enough
Ingrid Michaelson – It Doesn’t Have to Make Sense
Dotan – 7 Layers
Regina Spektor – Remember Us to Life
Tom Chaplin – The Wave

Favorite Movies Seen in 2016:
La La Land
Rogue One
Southside with You
Star Trek Beyond
Bad Moms

Favorite TV Shows of 2016:
Modern Family
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
House of Cards
How to Get Away with Murder
Silicon Valley

Favorite Podcasts of 2016:
The Hamilcast
The Room Where It’s Happening
Gilmore Guys
Reply All
How I Built This
The Sporkful
Stuff Mom Never Told You
Planet Money
Death, Sex and Money

Concerts and Live Performances Attended in 2016:
Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theater, London
Guys and Dolls at the Phoenix Theater, London
In the Heights at King’s Cross Theater, London
Matilda at Fisher Theater
Muse at Joe Louis Arena
Ben Folds feat. yMusic at The Fillmore Detroit
Anything Goes at Royal Oak High School
Annie at Warren Civic Theater
Honk! at Stagecrafters

Favorite YouTube Videos Released in 2015:
Michelle Obama Carpool Karaoke
“Can’t Stop the Feeling” – Justin Timberlake
Adele Carpool Karaoke
Wait for It” – Musicality (Hamilton Cover)
Homeward Bound” – BYU Vocal Point ft. All-American Boys Chorus
History Has Its Eyes On You/Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)” – Hamilton Cast at the 70th Annual Tony Awards
Thought Bubbles” – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
It Was a Sh*t Show” – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
The Math of Love Triangles” – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Love Kernels” – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Previous Years:

Pop Culture Year in Review 2015

2015 pop culture year in review
Honestly, if I could only choose one pop culture phenomenon to highlight from the year 2015, it would be Hamilton. How could you not love a historically-accurate hip-hop musical about the young, scrappy, and hungry life of United States founding father, and architect of the U.S treasury, Alexander Hamilton?

2015 pop cultureCabinet battles, duels, love triangles, betrayal, and the catchiest tunes this side of 42nd street. Seriously, it is so good. I have listened to the soundtrack more in the last month than any other album in years. If you haven’t listened to it yet, it’s my greatest suggestion that you download it, memorize it, love it, pin Hamilton photos on Pinterest, watch #Ham4Ham videos on YouTube, and make up silly Hamilton memes with me.

But in the spirit of tradition, this post highlights my favorite movies, music, videos, performances, and podcasts of 2015 in my annual pop culture year in review.

Favorite New Albums of 2015:
Muse – Drones
Elle King – Love Stuff
Imagine Dragons – Smoke + Mirrors
Deathcab for Cutie – Kintsugi
Brandon Flowers – The Desired Effect
Hamilton – Original Cast Recording

Favorite Movies Seen in 2015:
The Martian
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Inside Out
Love & Mercy
The Danish Girl
The Intern

Favorite TV Shows of 2015:
The Good Wife
Modern Family
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
The Big Bang Theory
Masters of Sex
House of Cards
Mad Men

Favorite Podcasts of 2015:
Death, Sex and Money
Gilmore Guys
Reply All
Surprisingly Awesome
Mystery Show
Planet Money

Concerts and Live Performances Attended in 2015:
Newsies at Detroit Opera House
Paul McCartney at Joe Louis Arena
City and Colour at The Fillmore Detroit
Crazy for You at Royal Oak High School
Bye Bye Birdie at Warren Civic Theater

Favorite YouTube Videos Released in 2015:
Love Has No Labels | Diversity & Inclusion | Ad Council
Baby’s First Bacon
Star Wars Cast Sings “Stayin’ Alive”
#Ham4Ham Jimmy Fallon “You’ll Be Back”
Mean Tweets – President Obama Edition
Wheel of Freestyle with Lin-Manuel Miranda
Lip Sync Battle with Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart and Jimmy Fallon

Previous Years:

2014 Pop Culture Year in Review

pop culture year in review

2014 was a fantastic year for entertainment! I laughed, I cried, I cringed in disbelief, and I tweeted out commentary as I indulged in these movies, concerts, and shows. This was an interesting year for me, because for the first time in over a decade, blogging wasn’t one of my primary sources of entertainment. I attended fewer blogging events and conferences, and spent more time with my family. And surprisingly, I haven’t missed blogging as much as I expected. I haven’t written a post since May, but to follow up with tradition, I had to make a post for all the things that kept me entertained this year.

2014 pop culture picksFavorite New Albums of 2014:
Ingrid Michaelson – Lights Out
Into the Woods Movie Soundtrack
Neon Trees – Pop Psychology
Coldplay – Ghost Stories
The Fault in our Stars Soundtrack
Jason Mraz – Yes!
Weird Al Yankovic – Mandatory Fun
Imogen Heap – Sparks
Maroon Five – V
U2 – Songs of Innocence
OK Go – Hungry Ghosts

Favorite TV Shows of 2014:
New Girl
Mad Men
Masters of Sex
The Mindy Project
Orange is the New Black
House of Cards
Pretty Little Liars
Switched at Birth
Gilmore Girls (full Netflix rewatch with Rosie – TV highlight of the year)

Favorite Podcasts of 2014
Gilmore Guys
Planet Money
Mormon Stories
The Cultural Hall

Favorite Movies Seen in 2014:
The Lego Movie
Into the Woods
Guardians of the Galaxy
Dumb and Dumber To

Concerts and Performances Attended:
Ingrid Michaelson, Royal Oak Music Theater
Barenaked Ladies, Caesars Windsor
Turandot, Detroit Opera House
The Piano Guys, Fox Theater Detroit
Pearl Jam, Joe Louis Arena Detroit

Favorite YouTube Videos:
Carl Poppa – Bad Lip Reading
Shake it Off – 1988 Aerobic Championship – Taylor Swift
Celebrities Read Mean Tweets – Jimmy Fallon
Flirting Academy – Studio C
Gilmore Girls Season 1 – Pop Culture Reference Supercut – Gilmore Guys
Wheel of Musical Impressions with Adam Levine – Jimmy Kimmel

Wordless Wednesday: Ingrid Michaelson Tonight

2013 Pop Culture Year in Review

2013 pop culture year in review
Music, movies, television, live performances, and more. 2013 was a great year for culture in many genres, which made this raving pop culture junkie a happy girl. What were my favorite pop culture experiences of 2013*? Here’s my recap.

Favorite Television Shows of 2013
Breaking Bad (I still can’t believe it’s over)
New Girl
The Mindy Project
Orange is the New Black
House of Cards
Arrested Development

Favorite Concerts of 2013
Muse – Rose Garden, Portland, OR
Muse – Energy Solutions Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
Tegan and Sara with Walk Off the Earth – The Fillmore, Detroit, MI
Empire of the Sun – Twilight Concert Series, Salt Lake City, UT
Keane – Live from Berlin (it was a concert movie, but it was amazing)

Favorite Albums of 2013
Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob
Imagine Dragons – Night Visions
Keane – Best of Keane
Arcade Fire – Reflektor
Phoenix – Bankrupt!
Lorde – Pure Heroine
Lana Del Rey – Born to Die
John Mayer – Paradise Valley
Frozen Soundtrack
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Pearl Jam – Lightning Bolt

Favorite Movies of 2013
Secret Life of Walter Mitty
The Great Gatsby
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
Ender’s Game
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Monsters University
Man of Steel
Oz the Great and Powerful

Favorite Songs of 2013
Imagine Dragons – Demons
Sara Bareilles – Brave
City and Colour – Thirst
The Killers – Miss Atomic Bomb
The Neighbourhood – Sweater Weather
M83 (featuring Susanne Sundfor) – Oblivion
Lorde – Royals
Lana Del Rey – Summertime Sadness
Daft Punk – Get Lucky
Biffy Clyro – Biblical
The 1975 – Chocolate
OneRepublic – Counting Stars
Barenaked Ladies – Odds Are
Bastille – Pompeii

Favorite Performances/Exhibits of 2013
Florencia en el Amazonas – Utah Opera
Watch Me Move – Detroit Institute of Arts
The Heidelberg Project – Detroit
The Fargo Tourist Bureau – Fargo, ND
Chris & Kevin’s Batman Wedding – Dana Point, CA

Favorite YouTube Videos of 2013

Hashtag – Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake
Walk Off The Earth – Red Hands
Tegan and Sara – Closer
Ylvis – The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)
Prancercise: A Fitness Workout
The Ragtime Gals – “SexyBack” and “I Wanna Sex You Up”
Christmas Jammies

*note: Some songs, albums, and movies were released in 2012, but they were heavily enjoyed in 2013

Flashback Friday: “Flood” by They Might Be Giants

they might be giants flood albumLast week, Rosie and I roadtripped down to California. As is a necessity with any long car ride, you have to have a great roadtrip playlist. Since I updated my iPhone to iOS7, the shuffle function is wonky when I connect it to my car’s stereo system. Songs were playing by artist in clusters, and “Particle Man” came on. And “Whistling in the Dark.” And “Minimum Wage.” And “Istanbul – Not Constantinople.”

Even though I got my tonsils removed two weeks prior, it is practically impossible for me to listen to TMBG without singing along. So on this trip, I croaked a little and mostly danced on my seat. I looked across the car to my 13 year old daughter, who knew every word to the songs. She reminded me so much of myself at her age when I started listening to TMBG.

My first introduction to They Might Be Giants was in the fall of 1992. I was in a church production of “Hello Dolly” with my mom. Most of the rehearsals, my mom and I rode together. But when it was just the teens rehearsing, I usually got a ride with my neighbor Danny. I thought Danny was soooo cool. He was cute and mysterious and wore Converse All-Stars and t-shirts for bands I’d never heard of. My favorite part of these car rides was listening to these bands that I never heard of, or never played on the top 40 radio station.

One night we were coming home from rehearsal, and he turned on TMBG’s “Apollo 18” album. From the moment that “the statue got me high,” I was immediately in love. I wanted to listen to the whole album that night, and he let me borrow it. I asked Danny which other albums the band had released, and he said “You have to get Flood.” So I walked to Fred Meyer the next day and bought both albums.

They Might Be Giants 1990It’s crazy to think that it was over twenty years ago from that experience, because TMBG had already been around for a decade. John Flansburgh and John Linnell formed TMBG in 1982. Flansburgh (guitar, black plastic glasses) and Linnell (accordion, keyboards) met as teenagers in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and began writing songs together in high school. They attended different colleges, then later moved into the same apartment building in Brooklyn after college.

The first time that they performed, they went by the name El Grupo De Rock and Roll, and most of the audience members spoke Spanish. They quickly ditched that band name, and switched to a name  based on a passage of the book Don Quixote. Quixote thinks that the windmills look like evil giants. A friend’s ventriloquism act went by the name for a while, and Flansburgh and Linnell adopted it when they were looking for a band name.

After a bike accident that kept John F from performing, and John L’s apartment was burgled, they took a hiatus from performing. They began recording their songs onto an answering machine, and advertised “Dial-a-Song” in the Village Voice newspaper. People called in to listen to their songs, and it eventually led to a record deal. Flood is TMBG’s third studio album, preceded by the self-titled album “They Might Be Giants” in 1986 and “Lincoln” in 1988. Although the mixing process was analog, Flood was the first TMBG album to be digitally recorded.

The track list for Flood is as follows:
they might be giants dial a song

  • Theme from Flood
  • Birdhouse in Your Soul
  • Lucky Ball and Chain
  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
  • Dead
  • Your Racist Friend
  • Particle Man
  • Twisting
  • We Want a Rock
  • Someone Keeps Moving My Chair
  • Hearing Aid
  • Minimum Wage
  • Letterbox
  • Whistling in the Dark
  • Hot Cha
  • Women & Men
  • Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love
  • They Might Be Giants
  • Road Movie to Berlin

Flood debuted on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart the week of February 10, 1990, spent 22 weeks on the chart, and peaked at #75. In the UK, the album peaked at #14 and was on the charts for 12 weeks. Flood is TMBG’s most popular and best-selling album, yet when it was released, Rolling Stone only gave the album “2 out of 5 stars.” On the album’s 20th anniversary, Flansburgh and Linnell’s greatest album was again featured in Rolling Stone. It’s a pretty fun recap.

Istanbul they might be giants

“There’s only one thing that I know how to do well
And I’ve often been told that you only can do
What you know how to do well
And that’s be you
Be what you’re like
Be like yourself
And so I’m having a wonderful time
But I’d rather be whistling in the dark
Whistling in the dark
Whistling in the dark”

When I moved to Utah in 1993, one of the first friends I made was Emily. We met in science class and started about the things we liked. While most if our music tastes didn’t mesh, we both loved and bonded over show tunes and TMBG. In fact, in 9th grade geography class, we did a combined project making up an imaginary land based completely upon They Might Be Giants. We were geeky, TMBG is geeky, and we didn’t care. A few years ago, Emily gave me a blue canary nightlight.

Although TMBG has released many albums since the early 90’s, none of them hold the same appeal for me as Flood. It’s juvenile enough to be appealing for kids, but clever and catchy for adults to love.

What is your favorite TMBG song? Do you have memories you love of listening to Flood? Can you listen to “Minimum Wage” without pretending to crack a whip?

Flashback Friday: “Right Here, Right Now” by Jesus Jones

right here right now jesus jonesEarlier this month, my daughter and I were talking about historical events I clearly remember from my childhood. We talked about the Challenger disaster, the student massacre in Tiananmen Square, Magic Johnson and the publicization of HIV and AIDS, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Because my brother’s family lives in Germany, we talked a lot about the fall of communism, the end of the Cold War, and the reunification of Germany.

We talked about how significant events in history spark trends in pop culture. I told her that there were quite a few songs and albums that were inspired by the fall of this period of time, especially “Wind Of Change” by the Scorpions, U2’s “Achtung Baby” album, and “Right Here, Right Now” by Jesus Jones.

jesus jones doubtJesus Jones is a British alternative dance band that formed in 1988. Mike Edwards, Iain Baker, and Jerry DeBorg decided to leave a band they were currently part of and form their own group.

They came up with the band name Jesus Jones on a beach in Spain, realizing that they were three “Joneses” sitting on a beach in Spain surrounded by people called Jesus. They released their second album “Doubt,” in which “Right Here, Right Now” was their most popular hit.

I saw the decade in, when it seemed
The world could change at the blink of an eye
And if anything
Then there’s your sign… of the times
I was alive and I waited, waited
I was alive and I waited for this
Right here, right now”

jesus jones doubt goldThe “Right Here, Right Now” single was released in September 1990, and was a #1 song on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart, also reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1991. It peaked at number 31 on the UK Singles Chart. Jesus Jones’ song  “Real Real Real” also got significant airplay worldwide in 1991. The album “Doubt” quickly hit Gold status in the UK, and gained Gold status in the US once “Right Here Right Now” hit #1 in the US. In late 1991, at the MTV Awards, they won the award for Best New Video.

right here right now jesus jones

Since the early 90’s, “Right Here, Right Now” has been used in commercials for TechTV and KMart, and was part of two different Canadian political campaigns. Alvin and the Chipmunks released a cover version of the song for a 2007 video game.

“Right here, right now
There is no other place I want to be
Right here, right now
Watching the world wake up from history”

Want to download the song and relive the “world wake up from history”? Click the link below.

Flashback Friday: “Unbelievable” by EMF

emf unbelievable schubert dip There are some songs that come onto the radio and I can’t help but groove in my seat (or do a little dance if I’m driving) and sing along. From the first “Ohhhhh!” and rhythmic cowbell thunking, I know it’s time to groove. One of the biggest hits of 1990/1991, and still gets me pumped up to this day, is “Unbelievable” by EMF.

EMF is a 1990’s alternative Britpop band who formed in Gloucestershire, UK. EMF’s catchy indie dance music was released on 3 studio albums, “Schubert Dip”, “Stigma”, and “Cha Cha Cha.” The band consists of James Atkins (vocals, guitars), Ian Dench (keyboards, guitars), Derry Brownson (keyboards/samples), Mark Decloedt (drums) and Zac Foley (bass).

EMF was signed by EMI/Parlophone after just 4 performances together, without producing a demo tape, and were known for their baggy shorts, sideways baseball caps, and lively techno/rock music. Ian Dench was the band’s primary songwriter, but the entire band was credited on the track for “Unbelievable”.

emf band


One thing I love about the song is that it’s a quintessential early nineties hit, but it still feels very contemporary. It has a cool techno groove that is mainstream enough to appeal to the masses. It rocks out without being too heavy, it’s peppy enough to get people of all ages dancing. The song was a regular recording on my homemade mixtapes (recorded off the radio, of course).

“The things you say
Your purple prose just gives you away
The things you say
You’re unbelievable! Ohhhhh!!!”

There are a few songs that pump me up every time I listen to them: “Going the Distance” by Cake, “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” by The Police, “Gonna Make You Sweat” by C&C Music Factory, “Jump” by Kris Kross, and “To The Extreme” by Vanilla Ice. “Unbelievable” is also on this list for me. Whenever I add them a workout playlist, these songs can make me work out just a little harder. I’ve listened to it enough in my adulthood that my daughter has taken a liking to it, and she grooves out to it just as much as I do. I just hope she doesn’t notice the profanity in the song that I thought was just mumbling.

emf unbelievable singleCurious about what EMF means? There are a few theories. 1) The B-side of the “Unbelievable” single is a track titled “EMF.” The song includes the refrain: “E! Ecstasy! M! Motherf***er, motherf***er! F! From us to you…” 2) EMF is believed to be an abbreviation of “Epsom Mad Funkers”, the name of the fan club of the band New Order. It is also the name of EMF’s greatest hits album. 3) The song, “Head the Ball”, featured the repeating lines “Electromotive Force.” Take your pick, pop culture junkies!

Fun facts about the song: It was the 1000th #1 hit in Billboard’s chart history. It was ranked #31 on VH1’s 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders in 2002, and #98 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of the 90s in 2007. It has been covered my many different artists, including Shakira, Tom Jones, Weird Al Yankovic, and Alvin and the Chipmunks. It’s also been in a number of movies: “Space Jam,” “Coyote Ugly,” “The Taking of Beverly Hills,” “Hoodwinked.” and a variety of television commercials.

Does “Unbelievable” get you dancing too? Click below to download and download the song to relive the memories.

Like this post? Check out other posts about early 90’s music in my Flashback Friday series.


Wordless Wednesday: Drink Coca-Cola

drink coca-cola doc pemberton world of coke

Flashback Friday: “Jump” by Kris Kross

totally krossed out kris krossThe Mac Daddy and the Daddy Mac.

Chris Kelly and Chris Smith were the ultimate trendsetters for the tween crowd in the early 90’s. Discovered in an Atlanta mall in 1990, the signed a recording deal with Ruffhouse Records and released their album “Totally Krossed Out” in 1992. “Jump” was their first, and biggest, hit song. The Mac Daddy and the Daddy Mac’s signature fashion statement was wearing their clothes backwards. How could you not want to try it yourself?

“Jump” was the fastest selling single in America since The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” in 1983. “Jump” jumped to #1 and stayed on top of the Billboard Hot 100 for 8 weeks. Kris Kross’ immediate popularity earned them a spot as opening act for Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” tour.

How high? Real high
Cause I’m just so fly
A young loveable, hugable type of guy
And everything is to the back with a little slack
Cause inside out, it’s wiggida wiggida wiggida wack”

I was hooked on the song as soon as I heard it on Z100 in Portland. I listened intently to the radio so I could record the song onto a cassette tap and replay it like crazy. I loved the beat, I memorized the lyrics, and I loved that these boys were SO cool…and they were my same age! I wanted to be cool too…so I tried to wear my clothes backwards. I put on my stonewashed jeans and Portland Trailblazers button-down jersey on backwards…and it looked terrible. A girl with sprouting curves should NOT try to wear clothing backwards. As much as I wanted to follow a trend, I just couldn’t get the nerve to leave the house like that. But wow…I thought the boys at my school with backwards clothes were so stylin.

kris kross jump video

kris kross jump jumpIt’s a little bit strange to me…because I’ve been planning to publish this blog post all week. “Jump” has been on my list of songs to write about for Flashback Friday for a while. So when I heard the news on Friday that Chris Kelly had died, it felt like such an odd coincidence. “Jump” was a song that really takes me back to a fun time in my life, and I can’t say how many times I’ve listened to the song and jumped along.

So here’s to you, Chris Kelly. Thanks for the fun you gave my early teens with a thumping beat and fun rap to spout out with the song came on.

Ain’t nuthin’ sucker about Kris Kross we all that
So when they ask, “Do they rock?” say “Believe that!”