The year is more than halfway over, and with fall coming soon, I looked back at the best pop culture and entertainmwent offerings of the year so far, including Hollywood blockbusters, upbeat summer pop hits and moody rap songs.
Lizzo - Lizzo started the year by releasing song of the year contender “Juice” only four days into January to promote her third studio album “Cuz I Love You,” which was released April 19. Critically acclaimed, the album put the artist on the map as confident, body positive and everything one wants out of a pop singer. She also headlined Indianapolis and Sacramento pride festivals on June 8 and 9 and played the flute on stage at the 2019 BET Awards while performing her hit song “Truth Hurts.”
Billie Eilish - Eilish’s debut studio album, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?,” debuted at the top of Billboard’s Hot 200 list and was number one in Canada and the United Kingdom. The album featured four US Billboard Top 40 singles including “Bad Guy,” "When the Party's Over" and "Bury a Friend.” She also recently went on tour with rapper Denzel Curry.
Lil Nas X - Although “Old Town Road” was technically independently released December 3, 2018, it began charting on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 2019 and has been atop the list for the last 14 straight weeks. He has remixed the song with artists including Billy Ray Cyrus and Diplo and has gained a large following on social media. Lil Nas X also released his debut EP, titled “7” on June 21 to decent critical reception.
Megan Thee Stallion - If you have seen the “hot girl summer” memes that have been all over Twitter recently, you have Megan Thee Stallion to blame. After becoming the first female to sign with 300 Entertainment in November 2018, the rapper released her debut mixtape “Fever” on May 17, introducing her alter-ego “Hot Girl Meg.” It was also recently announced she made XXL Magazine’s 12th annual Freshman Class.
YBN Cordae - After coming onto the scene with the release of its debut “YBN: The Mixtape” in September 2018, rap group YBN has taken the internet by storm. However, one member of the trio, YBN Cordae, stands out as easily the best rapper. He has only dropped three singles so far in 2019, but “Have Mercy” and his Chance the Rapper collaboration “Bad Idea” shine bright. Along with Megan Thee Stallion, Cordae was also recently selected to XXL Magazine’s 12th Freshman Class. His debut album, “Lost Boy,” is set to release July 26.
“Father of the Bride” - Vampire Weekend: On a podcast with Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig, legendary pop singer Elton John recently said “Father of the Bride,” released May 3, is his favorite album of the year. After a six year hiatus from releasing new music, Vampire Weekend crafted the perfect summer album. With amazing features from Steve Lacy and Danielle Haim and pulling inspiration from Paul Simon, George Harrison and Jimmy Buffet, the band was able to put together an upbeat, happy EP with introspective lyrics.
“IGOR” - Tyler, the Creator: Tyler the Creator dropped the best album of his career, “IGOR,” on May 17 and debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, his first US number-one album. Produced, written and arranged all by Tyler himself, the album was a genre-bending thrillride that took listeners through one of his failed relationships and the emotions that came with it.
“Homecoming: The Live Album” - Beyoncé: Everything about this release was amazing. “Homecoming: The Live Album,” released April 17, was unexpected but of high quality, just like many of Beyoncé’s previous releases. The energy of the crowd and drumline is electric. Beyoncé’s new takes on her old tracks are original and producer Tay Keith has one of the most unexpected beats of his career on “Before I Let Go.”
“Pony” - Orville Peck: Peck, an anonymous country singer in a Lone Ranger mask, performs Americana at its finest on his debut album. “Pony” is nostalgic while also being cutting edge, and Peck’s smooth voice is mysterious and beautiful. His verses are reminiscent of Roy Orbison, and his lyrics and songwriting are self-reflective and political without becoming too preachy or overbearing.
“Revenge of the Dreamers III” - Dreamville and J. Cole: Artists signed to J. Cole’s successful Dreamville label teamed up on this project, released July 5, to bring back everything that makes rap groups great. The wordplay, the chemistry, the flows, the back-and-forth, everything works here. JID and the duo Earthgang, all Atlanta rappers signed to Dreamville, are standouts on the album with their biting, conscious lyrics and high-pitched, fast-paced flows.
“Us” - Jordan Peele: I was initially disappointed by “Us.” I thought it was confusing and that the script wasn’t as tight as Peele’s debut movie “Get Out.” However, on a second viewing, I realized why I felt this way. I was comparing the movie to “Get Out,” rather than appreciating it for what it is: a sharp, well-crafted horror story with memorable scenes, funny dialogue and beautiful cinematography.
“High Life” - Claire Denis: “High Life,” a science fiction thriller in which Robert Pattinson plays a man with a daughter as the two are hurtling toward a black hole for the sake of science, is bone-chilling and thought provoking. At times existential and at others horrific, the movie is almost perfect. Pattinson’s performance and Denis’ direction give “High Life” a spot in an upcoming science fiction thriller genre resurgence.
“Long Shot” - Jonathan Levine: This unusual pairing between comedic actor Seth Rogen and the Academy Award-winning Charlize Theron in a romantic comedy was either going to work or flop, and it did not disappoint. The chemistry between Theron, who plays the Secretary of State, and Rogen, her speechwriter, is witty and electric, and the jokes are genuinely hilarious.
HBO - “Barry”: “Saturday Night Live” alum Bill Hader’s passion project “Barry” was the big surprise of last year. The dark comedy about Hader’s character Barry, a hitman that wants to become an actor, had hilarious writing, intense pacing and great action. In its second season in 2019, “Barry” upped the stakes and put a larger focus on the thrills and drama established in its debut season.
Look Forward To
YBN Cordae - “Lost Boy”: The 21-year-old rapper’s debut album is scheduled to release July 26.
Chance the Rapper - Untitled Album: The Chicago rapper’s second commercially released album will be dropping sometime in July, Chance tweeted.
J.J. Abrams - “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”: The final episode of the newest Star Wars trilogy directed by J.J. Abrams will come out Dec. 20.
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