Best Musical Artists of the 2010s

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CREDIT: YouTube Screenshots

One more list! One more list!

My Best of the 2010s list-making journey has finally come to a close! (Or has it? … For now, it has at least. The future will come as it may, and it may just surprise you, and me.) All this week, I’ve been posting my rankings of a few categories that I was inspired to put together after submitting them to a Best of the 2010s polls that I’m participating in with some of my fellow cultural aficionados. To wrap it all up, I guide you along to the realm of music and lyrics, as I present the Best Musical Artists of the 2010s.

My criteria was similar to that of my choices for Best Film Directors. I considered a combination of how much I enjoyed their musical output as well as how much – and how well – they influenced the industry at large.


Best Albums of the 2010s

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One of the big themes about entertainment in the past decade is the incomprehensible explosion of available content in every medium. While this may be a recent development in cinema and television, it’s been the case for music for centuries, or even millennia. Since humans have been banging on rocks and clapping their hands, really. Of course, it was a little more recent than that when recorded music became readily available.

This is all to say, I of course haven’t listened to every album of the past ten years that made its way onto SoundCloud or Spotify, or even all the Billboard chart-toppers. But I did listen to enough of them to be able to assemble a vibrant and varied soundtrack of my life in the 2010s. Here are the musical collections of the era that I just haven’t been able to stop pushing play on.

[4/2/20 2:00 PM UPDATE: This post originally mistakenly included Justice’s , which came out in 2007.]


Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 10/25/19

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CREDIT: Netflix

Every week, I list all the upcoming (or recently released) movies, TV shows, albums, podcasts, etc. that I believe are worth checking out.

Countdown (Theatrically Nationwide) – Gotta have some new horror every Halloween.
Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound (Limited Theatrically) – A documentary I enjoyed very much when I saw it at Tribeca.

The David S. Pumpkins Halloween Special – A holiday tradition!
BoJack Horseman Season 6 Part 1 (October 25 on Netflix)
Silicon Valley Season 6 Premiere (October 27 on HBO)

-Grace Potter, Daylight
-Kanye West, Jesus is King – This was supposed to come out a month ago. Who can say for sure?!

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 9/27/19

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Every week, I list all the upcoming (or recently released) movies, TV shows, albums, podcasts, etc. that I believe are worth checking out.

The Death of Dick Long (Limited Theatrically)

American Housewife Season 4 Premiere (September 27 on ABC)
Fresh Off the Boat Season 6 Premiere (September 27 on ABC)
Saturday Night Live Season 45 (September 28 on NBC) – With host Woodrow Harrelson and musical guest Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell.
The Simpsons Season 31 Premiere (September 29 on FOX)
Bless the Harts Series Premiere (September 29 on FOX) – Featuring the voices of Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Jillian Bell, and Ike Barinholtz!
Bob’s Burgers Season 10 Premiere (September 29 on FOX)
Family Guy Season 18 Premiere (September 29 on FOX)

-Kanye West, Jesus Is King
-Tegan and Sara, Hey, I’m Just Like You

SNL Review September 29, 2018: Adam Driver/Kanye West

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CREDIT: Rosalind O’Connor/NBC

This post was originally published on News Cult in September 2018.

Love It

Kyle’s New Look – Considering who was in the building, it looked like we were about to get a sequel to the landmark Kyle vs. Kanye as the latest short from Mr. Mooney began. But while the behind-the-scenes saga takes a different route this time, it is no less welcome. In an episode all about Pete Davidson’s summer, the high point comes via Kyle’s copycat tactic. Wendy Williams as his choice of celebrity boo is inspired, and small details like the way Heidi Gardner eats a banana fill in the scenery nicely. But I am left to wonder how this sketch might have been different if original musical guest choice Ariana Grande had been around to provide her reaction.

Domenico’s Coffee – Burger King disguising its cup of joe as the upscale “Domenico’s” to fool unsuspecting customers obviously calls to mind the classic Colombian coffee crystals filmed piece in which Chris Farley completely loses his mind. But this time around it’s a somewhat different tack, instead targeting faux-upscale coffee snob arrogance. It’s right up Cecily Strong’s grotesque character alley, and Adam Driver’s intensity matches up quite well. Their threats once they realize the ruse are awfully silly, but also scary in their sincerity.

In an Update dominated up top by the Kavanaugh hearings, Michael and Colin are more straightforward than they have ever been, and we are the better for it…Kate McKinnon’s Ruth Bader Ginsburg is enough to brighten up any day.

Keep It

Kavanaugh Senate Hearing – The typical SNL cold open tackles the major political news of the week, which can grow tiresome, so I always enjoy when the show switches up the routine. But there was no avoiding the major development this time, but luckily (for comedy’s sake), the alarming Brett Kavanaugh hearings allow for a somewhat different cast of characters than the usual recent political insanity we’ve had to endure. It doesn’t necessarily make for a great sketch, but it’s a decent one, and I’ll take the “Lindsey Graham auditioning for regional production of The Crucible” joke to the bank.

Adam Driver’s Monologue is a small idea about small talk, but Driver is amusing when he’s angry. And also Pete Davidson had an interesting summer…The “adults don’t know how to play video games” shtick is as old as video games, but at least the Fortnite sketch adds some backstory involving a real dad/stepdad rivalry…I would guess Rad Times at Frat U was inspired by Brett Kavanaugh’s schooltime secrets, although the focus is a bit wayward. But it still works as a solid takedown of blowout party movies…Leslie Jones’ “impression” of Serena Williams is actually sort of impressive in a verbatim sort of way, and Colin’s insistence that it won’t work actually fits as a dramatic counterpoint…I hope that Pete Davidson talked to his fiancee before he discussed how his summer was (he probably did)…Once we meet old school oil baron Abraham H. Parnassus, the Career Day sketch hits exactly the beats we expect, but it’s committed character work from Driver…The League of the South Meeting‘s premise that Vermont is some kind of white people paradise is kind of clever, but I’m most amused by the ruling that they CAN pick black players for their fantasy football teams.

Leave It

No Leave It sketches in a solid premiere episode.

Adam Driver

On a scale of “omnipresent host” to “host getting lost in the background,” Adam Driver is not really either extreme. He has some lead characters, and he wholly commits in a way that justifies his booking despite not being an obvious choice for a season premiere. But it kind of feels like the actual host of this episode was Pete Davidson’s birthday.

Kanye West

On a scale of Kanye the Visionary to Kanye the Inexplicable, we definitely leaned toward the latter this episode. Seriously, does anyone understand why he and Lil Pump chose to dress as Perrier and Fiji, respectively? Although, hey, I can’t say I wasn’t amused. But besides the wacky artistic choices, there’s also the MAGA of it all, which I don’t think there will ever be a satisfying answer for, so we might as well seek serenity for something that’s beyond our control.

Letter Grades:

Kavanaugh Senate Hearing – B-

Adam Driver’s Monologue – B-

Fortnite – B-

Kyle’s New Look – B+

Domenico’s Coffee (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – A-

Rad Times at Frat U – B

Kanye West ft. Lil Pump performs “I Love It” – B

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B+
Ruth Bader Ginsburg – B
Leslie Jones as “Serena Williams” – B-
Pete Davidson – B-

Career Day – B-

Kanye West ft. Teyana Taylor performs “We Got Love” – B

League of the South Meeting – B-

Kanye West ft. Kid Cudi and 070 Shake performs “Ghost Town” – ???

Best Songs of 2016

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All songs on this list were released as singles in 2016, or 2015 but didn’t make an impact until 2016.

1. Kiiara – “Gold” – An ingenious production trick wins the top spot. The best music in the world rewires your brain.
2. Beyoncé ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Freedom” – Beyoncé BUSTS out every emotion of the year.
3. Phantogram – “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” – I can feel myself dissolving in the despair.
4. Lady GaGa – “Perfect Illusion” – GaGa’s crying out in beautiful pain.
5. Kanye West – “Fade” – From another dimension.
6. Rag‘n’Bone Man – “Human” – The blues are alive and kicking.
7. Sia – “The Greatest” – Sia’s career is the soundtrack for perseverance.
8. Alessia Cara – “Scars to Your Beautiful” – What could have been an anodyne message piece instead infuses an influx of attitude.
9. Flume ft. Tove Lo – “Say It” – An airy, effervescent blast from 2016’s top DJ.
10. Childish Gambino – “Me and Your Mama” – Where did this burst of neo-P-Funk come from?!
11. Rae Sremmurd ft. Gucci Mane – “Black Beatles” – This sounds like nostalgia and the future.
12. Glass Animals – “Life Itself” – Alternative quirk’s top spot of the year.
13. Bishop Briggs – “River” – I need at least one lady rocker belting it out like this per annum.
14. Beyoncé – “Formation” – The production is so much more adventurous and more mature from Queen Bey than ever before.
15. BANKS – “Gemini Feed” – Icy and boopy, with attitude to spare.
16. Leonard Cohen – “You Want It Darker” – I’m vociferously nodding along to every declaration Mr. Cohen makes.
17. Kaleo – “Way Down We Go” – That title is sort of like musical onomatopoeia.
18. Highly Suspect – “My Name is Human” – These guys from Cape Cod ought to be rocking stadiums to their core.
19. Beck – “Wow” – Beck’s gonna keep uncovering these strange corners in the aural landscape.
20. Kongos – “Take It From Me” – These South African rockers are totally in control.
21. Tove Lo – “Cool Girl” – Tove keeps freaking up the airwaves.
22. A Tribe Called Quest – “We the People” – A necessary anthem.
23. Sia ft. Sean Paul – “Cheap Thrills” – Bounce along when you’re looking for fun.
24. Ariana Grande – “Into You” – Features the year’s most killer opening line
25. Rihanna ft. Drake – “Work” – One of those great songs that defy natural analysis.

SNL Recap February 13, 2016: Melissa McCarthy/Kanye West

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SNL: Kanye West, Melissa McCarthy, Taran Killam (CREDIT: YouTube Screenshot)

This review was originally posted on Starpulse in February 2016.

Melissa McCarthy is one of the most reliable “SNL” hosts of this decade. She always brings her A-game, making herself right at home at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. She has her critics who call her out for playing the same character over and over: brash, over-the-top, and painfully awkward. That can be a problem with a film career (though she usually brings more depth than her critics give her credit for), but in sketch comedy, it can easily be a winning formula. Frequent musical guest Kanye West is also reliable, but his is a reliable unreliability, in which the stage design and sound style will never be the same twice.

I Can’t Make You Love Me – Instead of the umpteenth debate sketch, the leadoff political sketch finds its angle via the electorate. Its take on what appeals to voters about Bernie over Hillary is a little shallow, but that is a small blemish, as that patter is just setup for the main thrust of the sketch: Hillary’s take on Bonnie Raitt. This is Kate McKinnon pulling off the same note of desperation she’s been hitting, but this time she is really complicating the question of whether or not Mrs. Clinton is cool. She tries so hard, which is cool because of the commitment but not cool because of the strain. There is some reference to how support of Hillary or lack thereof affects feminism, but this sketch is more astute about the much less complicated issue of whether or not Hillary is cooler than the drab, depressing Jeb Bush. B


SNL Season Finale Recap May 18, 2013: Ben Affleck/Kanye West

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Cold Opening – Politics Nation
As far as I know, Al Sharpton has had only one recent major verbal gaffe, but that one gaffe has been enough to inspire a steady stream of malapropisms from Kenan Thompson’s Al Sharpton.  That graph (or “grapha”) was ridiculous, but it was also kind of meaningful.  Also, that Tea Party fellow deserved to be called out that way – the Founding Fathers don’t need people to dress up like them to honor them. B

Ben Affleck’s Monologue
The five-timers bit was essentially clever, but rather disappointing (for Ben’s sake).  Ben and Jen really seem to love each other. B-

HBO First Look: Bengo F#*@ Yourself
“Pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd” – this is all so silly. B


SNL Recap October 2, 2010: Bryan Cranston/Kanye West

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Live from New York, it’s 93-year old sex machine Ernest Borgnine!

Cold Opening – Rahm Emanuel Hands the Chief of Staff Reins to Peter Rouse
Andy’s Rahm Emanuel impression is fun enough, but this was o better than your standard crazy/scary person act. Bobby had little to as Peter Rouse. B-

Bryan Cranston’s Monologue
The premise of the back-up singers getting Cranston’s name wrong was a good idea, but they didn’t stick with it long enough.  That is a premise that can take you far, but for some inexplicable reason, they got his name right by the end of it. B