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

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

Songs Of The Holiday Season

One of my favorite things about December is listing to all of the lovely music. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat. Just hear those sleigh bells ringaling, jing-ting-tingling. O Holy Night.

There are so many songs that define the holiday season for me. There are the songs that I grew up with that remind me of memories of my family and childhood celebrations, like Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”. There are the modern songs that are just as dear to my heart to enjoy during the holidays…like more songs on Amy Grant’s Christmas albums than I can count. Today I wanted to share some of my favorite holiday tunes.

“Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth” by  Bing Crosby and David Bowie

Although there are plenty of versions of this song, there is something fun, retro, and whimsical about the Carpenters version. I can’t help but sing along and wish I was dancing along, wearing white leisure suits with red sequins.

“Last Christmas” by Wham!

I  am aware that you will either love this song or hate this song. I’m in the love category. I love the smooth crooning voice of George Michael, the synthesizers, and the ridiculous lyrics. Don’t hate me because I love cheesy 80’s music.

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings” by Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan

One the most genius collaborations of Canadian music superstars, BNL and Sarah McLachlan recorded this mashup of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “We Three Kings” in 2004. Although I tend to prefer traditional music at Christmas, this is one of my very favorite holiday songs to hear at Christmas.

Now, sometimes it’s hard to decide which version of a song you love more. What do you think? Modern or traditional?

“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” by Judy Garland

“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” by Coldplay

Which Christmas songs do you love?

My Roadtrip Mixtape

2001 scion xb stingray blue

Meet Dharma xB - my ride

I travel more than the average person,and even though I have flight benefits, nothing beats a good roadtrip. Last year I got my car, and I’ve already put 26,000 miles on her in 14 months. Why? Because of all the roadtrips I take! This weekend I took a roadtrip down to St. George, UT for a wedding. See how pretty she looks against the red rocks?

Of course, great music is requisite for any roadtrip. Some of my earliest memories are driving between Portland and Salt Lake City for family roadtrips. I have a diverse liking of many genres of music, and a lot of my tastes began with the music my dad played in the car. Nowadays, I don’t actually record a mixtape on a cassette player, but the idea still sounds better than just punching up an iPod playlist.

Here’s a list of songs that I love to listen to when I’m on the road:

  • Ventura Highway – America
  • Rio – Duran Duran
  • Enjoy The Silence – Depeche Mode
  • Crystal Ball – Keane
  • The Adventure – Angels and Airwaves
  • Chicago – Sufjan Stevens
  • Take On Me – A-ha
  • No Cars Go – Arcade Fire
  • Breakaway – Kelly Clarkson
  • Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You – Frankie Valli
  • Let Go – Frou Frou
  • Time of the Season – The Zombies
  • Such Great Heights – The Postal Service
  • Nothing Left To Lose – Mat Kearney
  • Come Together – The Beatles
  • Why Georgia – John Mayer
  • Even Better Than The Real Thing – U2
  • Where It’s At – Beck
  • Building a Mystery – Sarah McLachlan
  • No Rain – Blind Melon
  • Going The Distance – Cake

I could go on and on, but these are the songs that are in heavy rotation when I’m flying down I-15 at 75 miles per hour. This trip, I was really in a John Mayer mood. His music is one of my guilty pleasures – oh, how I love his voice! He sings in a range that suits my voice so well. When I’m driving alone, I crank up the volume and sing along.

What are your favorite songs to roadtrip to?

Flashback Friday: “Greatest Love of All” by Whitney Houston

whitney houston greatest love of allWhen I think of inspirational songs of the 80’s, I usually think of “Wind Beneath My Wings” and “Eye of the Tiger.” But Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All” is also at the top of the list.

With Whitney’s untimely death last Saturday, I decided to dedicate a Flashback Friday post to the talented songstress. Whitney faced many demons in her life, which I’m not going to commentate, but I do want to talk about my favorite song she sang.

When the song was released in 1986, I was still a bit young to love the song off the radio. But my elementary school music teacher Mr. Phay would teach us contemporary music to sing in class, and learning “The Greatest Love of All” was on of the songs that he taught in class. 20+ years later, I still remember every word.

Everybody’s searching for a hero
People need someone to look up to
I never found anyone who fulfill my needs
A lonely place to be
So I learned to depend on me”

“Greatest Love of All” was written by Michael Masser and Linda Creed, and George Benson actually sang it years before for Muhummad Ali’s biopic “The Greatest.” Whitney released “Greatest Love of All” on her debut album “Whitney Houston.” The single topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for three weeks in 1986, her second-longest stay atop this chart, behind the 1992 monster hit “I Will Always Love You”. It remains her third biggest hit behind “I Will Always Love You” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me). Interestingly, all three songs have reemerged into the Billboard Hot 100 in response to Whitney’s death. It’s possible the her estate may acquire some fund through these music sales to make up for her lack of financial planning before her unexpected death.

I have to admit that my favorite rendition of this song is from the movie “Say Anything.” In the graduation scene, Joe sings an awful rendition of “The Greatest Love of All” (skip to 2:58). The song was in the movie “Coming to America” with a terrible rendition in a Miss Black Awareness Pageant. The song was even used in the show “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” Not only is it a great sounding song, it really is an iconic part of 80’s pop culture.

Were you like me? Did you stand in front of the mirror, with a hairbrush as a microphone, and belt out this anthem of self-esteem and self-love? No matter what they take from me, they can’t take away my dignity….

Flashback Friday: “Losing My Religion” by REM

Sometimes I feel like I’m turning into an old crotchety parent. I’m 31, but I routinely listen to music from the last 5 decades. My daughter Rosie is growing up faster than I can deal with, and recently she told me that she doesn’t always want to listen to my usual radio station.

I stopped breathing for a moment. I thought I was a cool mom listening to cool music.

My parents stopped listening to most of the latest stuff when I was a kid, opting to ignore the pop/punk/new wave of the 80’s and stick with their mellow 70’s singer/songwriters. I love the 70’s singer/songwriters, don’t get me wrong. My parents always seemed to humor me with a few songs from my station before going back to their cassette tapes of James Taylor, America, Carole King, and Crosby Stills Nash and Young. But around the time I was 11, I definitely had acquired my own unique taste in music. It appears that with my daughter, this has come full circle.

Since my musical tastes evolved so much around the time I was Rosie’s age, I decided to share these songs and stories with her. And because I don’t want to forget my early memories of how these songs affected my life, I’ve decided to do a “Flashback” series of posts about music that made a profound impact on me.

After I got past my tweenage obsession with New Kids On The Block, I started to listen to more “alternative pop.” When I couldn’t sleep at night, I’d sneak downstairs to watch videos on VH1 and MTV (back when they focused on music videos, not reality tv.) There were two videos that made lasting impact on me – Tori Amos’ “Silent All These Years” and R.E.M.’s “Losing my Religion.”

R.E.M’s “Out of Time” album was released in 1991, and “Losing My Religion” was their top hit on the album. Previously, most of REM’s radio airplay was done on campus radio stations. “Losing My Religion” launched this alternative rock band into mainstream radio. It was critically acclaimed for their stark and somewhat sacrilegious imagery. However, the phrase “losing my religion” is slang in the southern United States for losing one’s temper or civility. When you get mad, you sometimes lose your religion.

The catchy E minor, A minor, D and G chord structure combined with a folksy mandolin riff and Michael Stipe’s distinct voice became REM’s most popular hit in the US. And it’s my favorite song off of “Out of Time.”

And it’s a song my daughter thinks is pretty cool, even though it came out when I was her age.

Wordless Wednesday: Blue Canary Nightlight

blue canary in the outlet by the light switch

“Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch
Who watches over you
Make a little birdhouse in your soul”
Birdhouse in your SoulThey Might Be Giants

Top 10s of 2010

Top 10 Albums of 2010

1. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

2. Ben Folds – Lonely Avenue

3. Keane – Night Train

4. Florence and The Machine – Lungs

5. Vampire Weekend – Contra

6. Sarah Bareilles – Kaleidoscope Heart

7. Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz

8. OK Go – Of The Blue Colour of the Sky

9. Kings of Leon – Come Around Sundown

10. Maroon 5 – Hands All Over

Top 10 Movies I Saw This Year

1: Love and Other Drugs

2. Toy Story 3

3. The Social Network

4. Tron Legacy

5. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

6. The Black Swan

7. Inception

8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (part 1)

9. Despicable Me

10. Date Night


Most Watched TV Shows of 2010

1. Big Bang Theory

2. How I Met Your Mother

3. 30 Rock

4. Glee

5. Nip/Tuck

6. Californication

7. The IT Crowd

8. Weeds


10. The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret


Favorite 10 Apps/Websites/Social Networks/Games

1. Twitter

2. Facebook

3. Foursquare

4. WordPress

5. Get Glue

6. Tumblr

7. Beatles Rock Band

8. LinkedIn

9. Will It Blend?

10. Smurfs Village



Not-New Bands  that I finally communed with:


2. Incubus

3. Oasis

4. The Eels

5. Linkin Park


Best 2 Books I Read

1. Hotel On The Corner of Bitter and Sweet

2. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society