2017: the year in pop culture

A month-by-month digest of 2017s most memorable moments, from Trumps not-so-triumphant inauguration to Get Out reviving the horror genre, Love Islands surprise success and beyond


Trumps inauguration

The year began with nobody RSVPing to Donald Trumps inauguration invite. After reaching the end of his Rolodex, he eventually got 3 Doors Down to perform so, crisis over.

Musical chairs … the extensive list of musicians that shirked Trumps big day. Photograph: Guardian Design Team

Meanwhile, in popular culture, 2017 started with a similar sense of ambition and optimism, which soon turned into disappointment.

Going down … the list of the lost: Twin peaks, Blade Runner 2049, the xx, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Mother!.
Photograph: Guardian Design Team


The Oscar blunder fallout

School of card knocks … Warren Beatty announces the wrong winner of the best picture Oscar.

We used to know the drill for awards ceremonies: some off-colour compere banter, winners reeling off their thank-yous, Jennifer Lawrence wearing vintage Dior, Helena Bonham Carter wearing vintage Edward Scissorhands. But all that was swept under the red carpet this year the year that awards lost the plot.

Who can be surprised that it began with Meryl Streep, who has every reason to rebel against acceptance-speech protocol by now? Accepting her 8,000th Golden Globe, she stood up against the yet-to-be-inaugurated Donald Trump and his mocking of disabled reporter Serge Kovaleski, and the audience stood up in approval.

The tone was set. For the rest of awards season, winners looked out of place if they werent making some form of political statement, and in the unfolding Trump era there were plenty of options: the Muslim ban; the border wall; LGBTQ, racial and gender discrimination.

Things turned a different shade of bonkers at the SAG awards, when David Harbours barnstorming speech for Stranger Things (We will shelter freaks and outcasts We will get past the lies. We will hunt monsters!) was undercut by the manic facial contortions of Winona Ryder standing next to him confused, amazed, defiant, suspicious, everything-at-the-same-time. Nobody realised shed stayed in character as Joyce Byers between seasons.

Not even the wizened Adele could stick to the programme. At the Grammys she had her own mini-meltdown, starting her tribute to George Michael off-key (talk about a careless whisper), then stopping the music, apologising for fucking this up, apologising for swearing, then apologising for starting again.

Then the Oscars provided the appropriately disastrous finale, with Warren Beatty handing the biggest award of the night to the wrong movie. It was a plot twist, or rather a plot loss, that no one saw coming least of all Team La La Land, who were still going through their thank-yous as bewildered Team Moonlight took the stage. The painfully prolonged shambles exposed just how bad improvisational skills are in Hollywood. Sticking to the programme has never looked so appealing. SR

The Nightly Show: five reasons ITVs attempt at news satire didnt work

Nice gag … Gordon Ramsay.

1 Chatshows are notorious for squint-inducing sets part lap-dancing nightspot, part suburban soft play. The Nightly Shows was especially weird, however, such as the desk that doubled up as a shelving unit, complete with wilted plant.

2 None of the guest presenters shone, but Gordon Ramsay breathlessly delivering a spit-or-swallow joke to TV chef Gizzi Erskine during a taste test made an entire nation gag.

3 John Bishops terriers wandering aimlessly around a doggie assault course was one of many misfiring sketches, which in this case concluded with said pets looking at their master, as if to say: Fire your agent. Now.

4 Monologues delivered by guest hosts tried to take a swipe at current events but failed. Note to producers: reading Trumps tweets in a funny voice does not make for side-splitting comedy.

5 Joe Pasquale getting his bumcrack waxed via video link surely signalled the death knell for this lamentable endeavour. The welts on his rear end were nothing next to the scars sustained by viewers. Help! My eyes! FS


Get Out: how the films fresh take on horror took over 2017

Get in … Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out. Photograph: Allstar/Blumhouse Productions

With so many film sectors having a terrible year big-budget blockbusters, comedies, sci-fi, reboots, non-reboots horror pretty much saved the box office. How did it do this? By an obscure, mystical process known as making movies that do not suck.

If theres an emblematic horror movie of 2017, it would have to be Get Out. It was accessible and exciting but also fresh and political, giving the good old theyre-all-out-to-get-me scenario a contemporary shot of racial paranoia. In a year that gave us Charlottesville and Colin Kaepernick, it felt right. But despite the Statess widening divisions, audiences had no problem identifying with a black man surrounded by creepy racists. Lets not forget that Get Out only became possible in our current era when an African-American film-maker (Jordan Peele) was at last entrusted with a mainstream horror movie.

It didnt stop there, though. There were quality horrors across the board. We got huge hits such as It (which doubtless benefited from the Stranger Things effect), Split (with its all-star cast of James McAvoy, James McAvoy, James McAvoy and James McAvoy), and Annabelle: Creation (admittedly a textbook franchise horror). In the alternative margins were interesting new directions such as A Ghost Story and It Comes at Night. European cinema gave us the likes of Personal Shopper, Raw and Thelma. The horrors that really bombed were autopilot duds such as Gore Verbinskis A Cure for Wellness, Jigsaw (AKA Saw VIII) and Tom Cruises overblown The Mummy which forgot it was supposed to be a horror movie at all. In other words, movies that sucked.

If 2017 is a horror high point, though, it could well be downhill from here in 2018. As studios sift through the wreckage of their failures, they might start asking why they spent 130m on King Arthur: Legend of the Sword when Get Out made more money (more than 190m worldwide) on a budget of 3.3m. Numbers like that are hard to ignore, but horror has a nasty habit of sequelising and cannibalising its best ideas to death. Next year we could be facing a horror glut. Be afraid. Be very afraid. SR

Galway Girl: deconstructing one of the years most divisive singles

Michael Flatley + tin whistle + Jim Corr + fiddle The Cranberries = Galway Girl by Ed Sheeran.


One Direction: their solo careers assessed

One-upmanship … (from left) Louis Tomlinson: no direction; Zayn Malik: ex-directory; Harry Styles: direct debit; Niall Horan: direct line; Liam Payne: directional derivative. Composite: Guardian Design Team

This month saw the release of Sign of The Times, the debut single from Harry Styles. From Nialls nan-friendly folk, to Liams pop pillaging, heres the direction the lads went in next.

Ed Sheeran, but twangier
Zayn continued his endearing knack for mimicry, swapping the Weeknd of Pillowtalk for the Sia of Dusk Till Dawn (featuring Sia). Also striding through the Stars in Their Eyes dry ice was Harry, who went to LA and came back as a silk-suited hybrid of Mick Jagger and Green Man-era Mark Owen. The genre roulette wheel stopped at Ed Sheeran, but twangier for cosy knitwear fan Niall Horan, whose album Flicker looked like Fucker when written in capitals. Bear Paynes dad Liam, meanwhile, regenerated as Justin Timberlake-lite, while poor Louis failed to be the main act on his own singles.

Unnervingly normal
With Zayns moodiness cemented by fancy covers on fancy style magazines, it was up to everyone else to play repositioning catch-up.
Louis appeared in the Observer and on the Noisey website employing his apparent uselessness as a selling tactic, while Niall was described as unnervingly normal in his Sunday Times Culture feature. For Liam, his shift away from his boyband past involved the cover of the Telegraph magazine and a ludicrous amount of blue steel pouting. The real repositioning prize, however, was saved for Harry, who appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone in an elegantly preposterous profile written by Cameron Crowe.

Unsexy sex romp
Zayn started the year cosying up with girlfriend Gigi Hadids bessie mate (and Harrys ex) Taylor Swift in unsexy sex romp I Dont Wanna Live Forever. Louis sang a couple of words near a mic being held by Bebe Rexha on Back to You, while Liam appeared on a Zedd song and danced weirdly near a non-plussed Quavo on debut solo single, Strip That Down. Niall is friends with everyone, the sweetheart, while Harry got Stevie Nicks the mother lode for any authenticity-seeking serious musician to appear on stage with him in LA.

Styled by Gap
Since his departure, Zayns had a US and UK No 1 album and single, plus two other UK Top 5 hits. Liams Strip That Down was Top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic, Louis had some success at home but made little dent in the US, while Harrys Sign of the Times topped the charts in the UK and his self-titled album did the double (ie it was a US and UK chart-topper, do keep up). But its sweet Niall and his styled by Gap acoustic ditties that could be the real long-term success story; hes had two UK Top 10s, topped the US Adult Top 40 chart in America with the actually very good Slow Hands and only missed out on a UK No 1 album to fellow ex-boybander George Michael. As the saying goes, its always the quiet ones lumbered with braces early on who come good in the end. MC

Nicole Kidman: why the actor had a bonza year

Yes, she Cannes … (from left) The Beguiled; Big Little Lies; Top of the Lake; at the Oscars; The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Composite: Guardian Design Team

If a 50-year-old woman is considered past it in Hollywood, then nobody told Nicole Kidman. She started 2017, the year of her half-century, with her fourth Academy Award nomination for Lion. In the event, she didnt add to her tally (the Oscar went to Viola Davis for Fences), but did win the evenings arguably more important battle of the memes. What was that gif-tastic seal clap all about? An effort to protect expensive rings, on loan from Harry Winston, apparently.

Then onwards to the Cte dAzur in May, where Kidman was dubbed Queen of Cannes before her private jet had even touched down. Her four entries in the festivals official selection would have ensured she stood head and shoulders above other Hollywood A-listers, even if, at 5ft 11in, she didnt also literally tower above most. Both Sofia Coppolas The Beguiled and Yorgos Lanthimoss The Killing of a Sacred Deer paired her winningly with Colin Farrell, with Kidman adding a cool elegance to his unpredictable febrility.

On television, Kidmans performance in Big Little Lies (which she also co-produced) won her an Emmy, praise for revealing the reality of domestic violence and, in co-stars Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Zo Kravitz and Shailene Woodley, a ready-made squad to rival that of fellow willowy blonde, Taylor Swift. But perhaps Jane Campions second series of Top of the Lake offered Kidman her most intriguing role of the year. As she revealed in interviews, playing Julia allowed for some oblique exploration of her own experiences of motherhood, adoption and surrogacy.

Does it add to Kidmans satisfaction that while her career goes from strength to strength, ex-husband Tom Cruise goes from flop to embarrassing flop?
If so, shes far too evolved to let on. EEJ

Pepsi-gate: how the influencers stopped getting likes

Coke bloat … Kendall Jenner brings peace.

Ah, to be an influencer, paid bajillions of dollars to promote everything from makeup to flat tummy teas to an audience of plebs. It all looked so attractive until 2017 came along to destabilise the worlds superstar selfie-takers.

First up, Kendall Jenner the eldest of Kris Jenners non-Kardashian brood who was the star of a tone-deaf Pepsi campaign. In it, Jenner successfully diffuses police-protester relations at a Black Lives Matter-style protest by giving a police officer a fizzy drink. If only it were all that simple, Kendall! She and sister Kylie also launched and then pulled a controversial T-shirt line that featured images of their faces superimposed on to unlicensed photos of the likes of Biggie and Tupac.

Also perfecting her saccharine apologies this year was pal Gigi Hadid, who claimed to have the utmost respect and love for the people of China after a video circulated online of her squinting next to a biscuit shaped like a Buddha in February. Then in July, she and boyfriend Zayn Malik were the subjects of a much-ridiculed Vogue cover that claimed the androgynously dressed pair were gender fluid. Sister Bella Hadid was also ridiculed in October when a video of her chatting about trainers in an approximation of black slang spawned thousands of homeboy memes.

But, above all these examples of questionable influencer behaviour, two stand out. Video-maker PewDiePie lost contracts with YouTube and Disney after posting antisemitic videos, later describing himself as a rookie comedian in something of a non-apology. Elsewhere, Ja Rules Fyre festival promoted by the likes of, yes, you guessed it, Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner tanked when festival-goers arrived at their luxury experience in the Bahamas to find disaster relief tents and cheese sandwiches. While the organisers were hit with legal action, the influencers who hadnt signalled that their social media posts were adverts got out unscathed.

However, with this much controversy, perhaps 2018 will be the year the wheels truly come off their pristine social media vehicles. HJD


From Master of None to Insecure: how dating apps spiced up TVs sex life

Get thumb action … Aziz Ansari in Master of None. Photograph: AP

Following on from the likes of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Broad City, 2017 was the year that TV took a swipe at dating app culture in wry, realistic fashion. The second series of Issa Raes dramedy Insecure opened with one such scene. Fictional Issa is sat with her ex in a restaurant. Except that he isnt there. As the camera pans back from Issa to her date, we see a total stranger. And then another. And then another. Shes on a string of unsuccessful dates, answering the same tired questions from men shes met on Tinder, Hinge and Bumble. Frustrated, she does some trademark rapping in the toilet (My ex wont take me back/ So my broken ass is here, small-talking over apps), before accidentally spilling a drink over one of her suitors.

Elsewhere, Aziz Ansaris Master of None offered the male perspective of the revolving door scenario in the episode titled First Date. Like Issa, Dev (Ansari) is on a series of dates, which over the course of a 30-minute episode are spliced with one another as we confront awkwardness, fleeting connections and even racism, as Dev finds a blackface mammy-style jar one date keeps her condoms in. It also emphasises the gamified nature of apps, with Dev firing off the same witty opener (Im going to Whole Foods, want me to pick you up anything?) to two more matches at the end of the episode.

And so, both shows succeeded in showing the anonymous, restless and often shallow nature of post-Tinder dating, while remaining sympathetic to the people caught in its hold and, maybe, making audiences think twice about their own swiping etiquette. HJD


Oh, Jeremy Corbyn: how woke was pop?

Chants encounter … the crowd at Glastonbury. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Not since the Red Wedge gigs of the 1980s has there been such a boom in political pop, with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Beyonc and Stormzy exploring issues such as structural racism and political corruption. Even Jeremy Corbyn went from embattled leader to Glastonbury Pyramid Stage star, preaching collectivism and progressive taxation between Craig David and Run the Jewels.

The Trump presidency has now intensified an artistic urgency that performers feel compelled to respond to. In fact, artists who didnt have anything to say about the world struggled: Taylor Swift came back with a single that was all about her, and was roundly sniffed at for being too self-involved. Simply commenting on her soured reputation does not a cultural critique make, said USA Today.

This has put some artists in an odd position, those who dont really have anything worthwhile to say or dont want to be so radical that brands or right-wing fans are scared off. The answer? Keep things vague (interestingly, 2017 saw a lot of press releases frame sad songs as challenging the stigma of mental health issues and happy ones as anthems of self-empowerment).

The queen of the vague-pop movement is Katy Perry, who changed her Twitter bio to Artist. Activist. Conscious and returned with lead single Chained to the Rhythm, with its refrain So comfortable, were living in a bubble, bubble/ So comfortable, we cannot see the trouble, trouble. It sounds like it could be against consumerism? But crucially, only if you want it to be.

Pink, a long-term veteran of vague pop, returned with What About Us, a sort of Earth Song of

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Marissa Safont2017: the year in pop culture

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