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.

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Jeff’s Wacky SNL at Home Review: Brad Pitt/Miley Cyrus

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CREDIT: NBC/YouTube Screenshot

The SNL at Home experiment continues onward! For #2, we don’t have a host or musical guest this time, at least none officially announced during the opening montage. Although, Brad Pitt and Miley Cyrus essentially fulfill the same duties that Tom Hanks and Chris Martin did last time. I’d like to say for the official record books that they were in fact the host and MG, but I generally go by what Darrell Hammond (previously Don Pardo) says. (Though, for what it’s worth, Season 45’s Wikipedia page currently does list them as the host and MG.)

In a similar state of confusion, I went to bed on Saturday night planning on making scrambled eggs in the morning, but when I woke up, I was more in the mood for cereal, but when I made it to the kitchen, I was back to being in the mood for eggs. So, the rumors are true, I did cook some eggs and toast. It was the right call.

(One quick note so that we’re all on the same page: for as long as new episodes remain at home, I’ll aim to make my grades for the sketches wackier than usual.)

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Best Songs of the 2010s

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CREDIT: YouTube Screenshots

Of all the pieces of art and entertainment that I’m ranking for the decade, songs are probably the most personal. Yet somehow I feel compelled to consider how they affected the world at large moreso than all the other categories. The tunes that I value the most aren’t just the ones that make my own heart sing but also the ones that draw all of us closer together. So as I assembled this list, I asked myself both, “What has made me dance these past 10 years?” and “How would I like to dance with everyone else?” Here’s what that playlist looks like.
(I aimed to stick only to songs that were released as singles, as opening this to deep album cuts would’ve made things so overheated.)

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Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 5/31/19

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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.

Movies
Ma (Theatrically Nationwide)
Rocketman (Theatrically Nationwide) – One of the best music biopics in quite some time!

TV
Miranda Sings Live…Your Welcome (June 4 on Netflix)
Black Mirror Season 5 (June 5 on Netflix) – Miley finally joins the Mirror-verse!
grown-ish Season 2 Midseason Premiere (June 5 on Freeform)
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 Premiere (June 5 on Hulu)

SNL Review December 15, 2018: Matt Damon/Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus

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CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

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

Love It

Michael and Colin Swap Jokes – Anchorpersons Che and Jost started out this Update at their standard level, maybe a little better than usual, but they make their way to the top spot thanks to their wondrous finale, in which they recite jokes written by the other that they have not seen until this very moment. They brilliantly play off the personas that they have constructed to rag on each other: Che the Total Freak and Jost the Bland White Bread Racist. If “Uppity Bus Passenger Day” did not already exist to be reclaimed, then Michael Che needed to create it to force Colin Jost to say it.

You know something? The world could use more people who care as much as Matt Damon and Leslie Jones’ characters in the neighbor Christmas dinner sketch care about Weezer.

Keep It

It’s a Wonderful Trump – I thought today was finally going to be the day that I put my foot down and said “Enough’s enough” to a Trump-y cold open. But then there comes an inversion of It’s a Wonderful Life, and I have to admit that it is actually a good premise. The show’s insight into Trump is still not particularly insightful, but there is some amusement to be had here, and Robert De Niro’s cameo isn’t his normal complete disaster. While political SNL is in many ways a lost cause in this era, a few decent ideas do peek through here and there occasionally.

Matt Damon’s Monologue is a sweet paean to letting your kids stay up late enough to watch SNL live for the first time…The Westminster Daddy Show looks like it is a fan of daddies, but then it oddly mostly throws shade at them. Luckily it ends with the triumphant Broadcast Daddy joyously taking Best in Show…The Christmas Ornaments sketch presents a memorable microcosmic dystopia of personal and cultural detritus…The Jingle Bells performance at the Carnegie Lounge is a fair enough offbeat showcase for Cecily Strong…The Where’s Wes? gag would probably hit harder if it had a more interminable setup…Matt Damon’s appearance as Angel‘s boxer boyfriend is all well and good, but I’m mostly here for her Madea impression…The Cop Christmas at Frankie’s Ale House has plenty of welcome bonhomie amidst the ribbing and dark backstories…Happy Christmas, Britain! is a delightfully spot-on seasonal treat about how the current prime minister is being gifted with feces, but then due to bad time management, it gets cut off halfway through.

Leave It

Oscar Host AuditionsSNL has an addiction to behind-the-scenes impression showcase sketches, and understandably so, because the granddaddy of them all, the Star Wars 20th Anniversary auditions, are a stone cold classic. But since then, they have fallen into a trap of diminishing returns. This edition mixes things up a bit by transferring the setup from BTS of a movie to the search for a new awards show emcee. Alas, it does not breathe much fresh air the proceedings. The impressions are all decent, but none are transcendent, and the whole affair does not offer much insight into the Oscars. Although Aidy’s take on Hannah Gadsby does demonstrate that the actual Gadsby would be an ingenious actual choice.

Best Christmas Ever is both too tame and too over-the-top with its peaceful/hectic juxtaposition.

Matt Damon

On a scale of Christmastime hosts, Matt Damon sure is willing and able to jump right into the holiday spirit. And he absolutely had to be, as it appeared like a greater number of sketches than usual for the Christmas episode were seasonally themed. It’s a little hard to believe that it’s taken 16 years for Damon to have his second hosting stint. He really feels like he’s part of the extended SNL family.

Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus

On a scale of SNL musical team-ups, I’m afraid that Mark and Miley are somewhere in the middle. “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart” is perfectly agreeable, and their version of “(Happy Xmas) War Is Over” hits the spot about as well as it can, but I don’t feel any of it sticking with me. On the other hand, Miley’s unzipped jacket is certainly striking and I do appreciate the lyrics flashing on the back screen. Anyway, I guess that is to say, this combo is only disappointing if you’re holding them to a very high standard.

Letter Grades:

It’s a Wonderful Trump – B-

Matt Damon’s Monologue – B

Westminster Daddy Show – B

Best Christmas Ever – C-

Christmas Ornaments – B

Oscar Host Auditions – C

Jingle Bells – B-

Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus perform “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart” – B

Weekend Update
The Jokes (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – B+
Where’s Wes? – C+
Angel – B

Weezer Argument – B+

Cop Christmas – B

Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus and Sean Lennon perform “(Happy XMas) War Is Over)” – B-

Happy Christmas, Britain – B

Best Songs of 2017

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CREDIT: ToveLoVEVO

It’s early March, so it must be time for me to post my list of the best singles of the past year!

1. Tove Lo – “Disco Tits” – A woman doesn’t have to be modest to earn respect, and don’t Tove Lo know it.
2. Kesha – “Praying” – The gospel-tinged anthem we all need right now.
3. Lorde – “Green Light” – If you’re looking for euphoria, Lorde has you covered.
4. Jain – “Makeba” – This guaranteed toe-tapper/hip-spinner was technically released in 2016, but while it may have taken off in Jain’s native France that year, it didn’t really hit in the U.S. until that Levi’s commercial debuted in late 2017.
5. Marian Hill – “Down” – A deceptively simple piano-driven trip-hop jam from this Philadelphia duo.
6. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Cut to the Feeling” – We all need to just follow the Tao of Carly.
7. St. Vincent – “Los Ageless” – St. Vincent is still the master of combining genuine chops with super scuzzy distortion.
8. Beck – “Up All Night” – Put this track on if your house party’s tunes are bringing everyone down.
9. Miley Cyrus – “Younger Now” – Is this what agelessness feels like?
10. Dua Lipa – “New Rules” – Dua Lipa’s anthem attempt = anthem success!
11. Miguel – “Told You So” – If there is one singer above all others belting out tunes right now about whom I would say, “You’ve got to listen to what they’re saying,” it’s gotta be Miguel.
12. Alice Merton – “No Roots” – There may be no roots to Alice Merton’s disposition, but there plenty of roots, powerful ones at that, to her musical influences.
13. Camila Cabello ft. Young Thug – “Havana” – This song makes me sweaty. But it’s the sweat of passion, so I don’t feel gross.
14. Zedd and Alessia Cara – “Stay” – Zedd is the kind of DJ so skilled at bottling up those moments you don’t want to let slip away.
15. Calvin Harris ft. Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry, and Big Sean – “Feels” – Just some tropical vibes to get you by.
16. Portugal. The Man – “Feel It Still” – The sort of generational rock song with lyrics that might mean something profound or nothing at all.
17. Katy Perry ft. Ziggy Marley – “Chained to the Rhythm” – Direct, but also pointed and bopping.
18. The Killers – “The Man” – One thing we can count in this life is songs entitled “The Man” being silly but also kind of anthemic.

SNL Review November 4, 2017: Larry David/Miley Cyrus

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CREDIT: Kailey Fellows/NBC

My letter grades for each sketch and segment is below. My in-depth review is on NewsCult: http://newscult.com/snl-love-itkeep-itleave-larry-davidmiley-cyrus/

Paul Manafort – B

Larry David’s Monologue – B

The Price is Right Celebrity Edition – B-

White House Press Conference – C+

Ad Council Awards – B+

The Baby Step – C+

Miley Cyrus performs “Bad Mood” – B

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B
Eric and Donald Trump, Jr. – B
Angel, Every Boxer’s Girlfriend From Every Boxing Movie Ever – B+
Leslie Jones – B-

Fresh Takes – B

New Wife – B+

Miley Cyrus performs “I Would Die for You” – B-

Beers (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – A

SNL Recap October 3, 2015: Miley Cyrus

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My full review of this episode can be found on Starpulse: http://www.starpulse.com/news/index.php/2015/10/04/saturday-night-live-season-41-premiere

A Message from Donald and Melania Trump – C

Miley Cyrus’ Monologue – B+

Abilify – B

Homecoming Dance – B-

Hillary and Val – B+

Miley Cyrus – “Karen Don’t Be Sad” – B+

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B
Pope Francis – B
Pete Davidson – B
Leslie Jones – B

The Millenials – C-

Katz’s Delicatessen – B+

The Squad – B-

Miley Cyrus – “The Twinkle Song” – B

American Voices – B-

Kyle Miley Wedding (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – A-

Miley Cyrus: A Flashpoint of the Social Discourse

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This essay was originally written as my final paper for my Discourse Analysis class, taught by Theresa Cowan, in Fall 2014 at The New School.

Despite the dichotomy typical of the Western worldview, there is more than one stereotypical positive feminine role allowed within a patriarchal system. Alas, there is not necessarily a whole lot of variation among these roles. I have already discussed the Cool Girl and the constrictions enforced by that stereotype, and how damaging it can be even when those limitations are followed. Now I will be considering a relative of the Cool Girl – the Good Girl – and what tenor the discourse takes on when that role is transgressed. Specifically, I will consider this topic in light of pop star Miley Cyrus’ performance of “We Can’t Stop” and “Blurred Lines” at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.

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