One of my all-time favorite activities is making lists. It’s the most relaxing ever.
Sometimes I make lists when I’m bored to pass the time, but mostly I do it to organize the incredible chaos in my mind. Seriously. There is so much crap floating around my mind that, at any given time, I’m thinking about planning my courses for next semester, movies I want to see, food I’m desperately desperate to
shove down my throat eat, places in the world I’d love to visit (even though I can’t afford a day trip into NYC), butterflies (because I’m Mariah Carey), bubbles (because who doesn’t like to blow bubbles?!!?), songs I love, my favorite albums of all time, the sound and origin of the word “kumquat,” why sprinkled sugar cookies are LITERALLY the best kind of cookie ever baked, the fact that I use the word “literally” way too often to make any sort of impact, which celebrity I would allow to break up my relationship ( Darren Criss I WOULD NEVER ALLOW ANYBODY TO COME IN BETWEEN ME AND STEVE. STOP CONFUSING ME, BLAINE ANDERSON!), why kittens are the devil, devil’s food cake, cake, why funfetti cake is the best kind of cake and nobody can tell me otherwise, I want funfetti cake right now — wait, what am I talking about?? — and books I want to read…among random other thoughts, like what heinous clothes that girl over there is wearing, or how that dude needs to shave his unibrow because there is never a reason for a unibrow.
I might have some sort of mental disorder. My OCD and severe anxiety has been discussed and dissected before, but I still think there is room for further analysis. Bottom-line: I think too much. So, to quiet my erratic mind, I make lists.
What better excuse than the end of the year to compile a massive list of my favorite pop culture-related things and blog about it! (I apologize in advance if you don’t care about my weird list-making tendencies, but something brought you here, to my blog, so you might as well read on, right?)
2013 was, in my opinion, a VERY good year for pop culture…
Let’s start off with my favorite songs of the year…
“#Beautiful” – Mariah Carey & Miguel – This song was, for me, the pinnacle of music released in 2013. It was breezy, summery, relaxing, and a sonically different than anything else on the radio at the time of its release. It seemed as if Mariah Carey had finally gotten it right. 2008’s “Touch My Body” was a catchy diddy that went #1, but it seemed that every single song released after was a misstep from a commercial standpoint. Even 2009’s “Obsessed,” which performed well on the Billboard charts, was criticized for not being “Mariah” enough and for “jumping on trends.” Last year’s “Triumphant” was a huge misstep for Mariah, and there were many that doubted Mariah’s ability to return to greatness. Having been a (massively obsessed) fan through the Glitter era, during the oft-misnamed “public breakdown” phase, I knew never count out Mariah Carey. After a brilliant (see: totally awkward series of rambling moments and golden GIF opportunities) stint on American Idol…
…Mariah came out of nowhere with “#Beautiful,” a duet with R&B Sex God Miguel; the melody was, well, #beautiful, and her voice thawed my icy heart just in time for summer. This song is, without a doubt, my favorite song this year and quite possibly one of my all-time favorite songs.
It’s a league of it’s own, and for that reason, it’s ABOVE the list below. Every other song was just a lesser…
The list below was compiled by play counts and by how much I fucking love them:
- “Applause” – Lady GaGa
- “Closer” – Tegan & Sara
- “Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It” – Stars
- “Adorn” – Miguel”
- “Aviation High” – Semi Precious Weapons
- “Young and Beautiful” – Lana del Rey
- “Passenger” – Britney Spears
- “Mirrors” – Justin Timberlake
- “Marlboro Lights” – Natalia Kills
- “Let It Go” – Idina Menzel from Disney’s Frozen
- “Almost Home” – Mariah Carey
- “Do What U Want” – Lady GaGa Featuring R. Kelly
- “Dark Horse” – Katy Perry Featuring Juicy J
- “XO” – Beyoncé
- “The Way” – Ariana Grande
- “The Way We Are” – Aiden
- “Supersoaker” – Kings of Leon
- “Hold On, We’re Going Home” – Drake
- “Your Touch” – Blake Lewis
- “You Know Where to Find Me” – Imogen Heap
- “Beauty Queen” – Foxes
- “Just Another Girl” – The Killers
- “Power Trip” – J.Cole Featuring Miguel
- “Royals” – Lorde
- “Gypsy” – Lady GaGa
The best albums of the year belong to the ladies of pop music. With albums by GaGa, Beyoncé, Natalia Kills, Lorde, Tegan & Sara, Ariana Grande, Britney Spears, and Katy Perry, among others, this year belonged to the girls. There were some albums by male artists that I enjoyed, particularly Part 1 of Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience (Part II sucked) and Drake’s Nothing Was the Same, but it’s rare that I truly love ENTIRE albums — usually I get sucked into a few songs, and the rest never get played, but with all the ladies mentioned above, I wore out their entire albums. Sure, there are weak moments on every artist’s records, but the three below were, for better or worse, the best of the year:
ARTPOP – Lady GaGa
My favorite album released this year was none other than Lady GaGa’s ARTPOP, a lofty, self-aggrandizing effort that attempts to blend art and pop culture in a reverse-Warholian way. She artfully combined the work famed artist Jeff Koons with classic pieces by Botticelli, Andy Warhol, Bernini, and flipped everything upside-down by infiltrating those images with well-known pop culture references in her wardrobes, the music video for “Applause,” and throughout the EDM infused tracks that comprised ARTPOP. From start to finish, the album hits hard; it’s not the bubblegum pop of 2008’s The Fame, or the dark religion-questioning 80s Hair-inspired pop from 2011’s Born This Way, ARTPOP, rather, is a gazing ball into Lady GaGa the artist, the provocateur, and after-effects of fame and fortune and what happens once the public is done questioning and has lost interest. Many criticized GaGa for trying too hard, many have given up on her because, on her path to seem abnormal and crazy, casual fans stopped caring about what she’d do or wear next and migrated to consistently safe harbors like Katy Perry. But if you listen closely, from start to finish, with each track on ARTPOP, GaGa is telling a story, her story. It’s high-concept. It’s hit-or-miss. It’s all a matter of whether you want to take the time to look into GaGa and connect the dots between her music and her image and her as a person, or not.
BEYONCÉ – Beyoncé
It appeared from nowhere smack dab in the middle of December, with zero warning, to top worldwide album charts and slay the game. It’s been written about endlessly in the last three weeks, more so than any other world news topic, and had more word-of-mouth than Santa Claus himself during Christmas week. But it’s all extremely well-deserved. Her self-titled 5th album is brilliant. I used to be a big fan of Beyoncé during the Destiny’s Child days, but I lost interest in her somewhere around her 2nd album; she just wasn’t all that interesting to me. Most of her songs were about cheating men or independent women, and that’s fine, but I didn’t see any growth lyrically or sonically, between her albums, and frankly, there was no personality in her music; I never felt like I knew who Beyoncé was as an artist. I knew who she was as popular cultures answer to a feminist, but I just never felt a connection between her and her music. Until this album. 2011’s 4 was, in my opinion, her best album to date, where I saw bits and pieces of who she was…and then she had to go and drop this album, something that was completely unexpected, artistic, and personal. Listening to this album from start to finish is an experience in getting to know Beyoncé as a person and as a musician. She sings about the pressures of conforming to ideal standards of beauty in pop culture. She becomes intimate in ways only Jay-Z is used to seeing. She stripped away her carefully-crafted alter egos, does away with “perfection” and what is expected of her as a Superstar, and she created a record that will no doubt be her career album. It’s perfectly imperfect.
Trouble – Natalia Kills
There is an ocean of hurt, confusion, and a general trying-to-make-sensedness to Natalia Kills’ exceptional sophomore album. It’s about strained familial relationships, growing up in front of the TV, becoming desensitized, learning that Sex Sells and being absorbed my media culture, instead of finding love and acceptance from family and within oneself; it’s brilliant, it’s hard, it’s exactly why I love pop music. To read my lengthy review of Trouble, go here: My Love For Natalia Kills Is A Goddamn #Problem
Frozen – Walt Disney Animation Studios
Frozen is the 53rd film in Walt Disney’s Animated Classics cannon, and it deserves the title “classic.” It’s a continued “return to form” for the animation studio that defined the medium, redefined it, and made animation what it is today. For a lengthy period of time, between 2002’s Lilo and Stitch and 2010’s Tangled, the studio floundered and lost all of the momentum built up by the 90s renaissance films (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King), but with Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, and Frozen, it seems that the studio that set the standard for animation has made a very prominent comeback. The film is everything you could want from a Disney film: fun, magic, compelling story, flawed, relatable characters, and a Broadway score that could easily transition to the stage. Plus, it’s totally gay (see: Beware the Frozen Heart for more of my thoughts on Frozen and why it was my favorite movie of the year.)
- Saving Mr. Banks
- The Great Gatsby – As far as book-to-film adaptations, Great Gatsby made me remember why I fell in love with this classic when I first read it in High School and why I re-read it every few years.
- American Hustle
- The Butler
- The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
- Iron Man 3
- Man of Steel
- The Heat
- Identity Thief
- Thor: The Dark World
- Monster’s University – I would be remiss to diss Disney-Pixar. Despite it not being the best Pixar film, it reminded me why Monster’s Inc. was such a great film.
Favorite TV Shows
Game of Thrones – I may be late to the party, but Steve and I just got into this show and we’re absolutely obsessed. It’s by far the best show on TV right now; great writing, amazing special effects, talented actors…have I mentioned that I really want to go straight for Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons:
Also, there is such wonderful storytelling in this show that I’m continually impressed with every single episode. So many TV shows get caught up in exposition or experience pacing issues. I never feel that with Game of Thrones.
Also, Robb Stark:
American Horror Story – With the 3rd season, Coven, AHS has proved once again why it’s the leading horror show on TV. It artfully combines folklore with history and truly bone-chilling moments, like the very recent melon baller incident. If you don’t watch the show or haven’t seen the last episode yet, I won’t spoil it for you, or bother turning your stomach. If you’ve never seen a season of American Horror Story, no need to start from the beginning; each season is it’s own separate entity, with different characters (same actors from season-to-season, though, for the most part) and different themes. This year is all about witches and it’s set in New Orleans. It’s wonderfully layered with themes of racism and social hierarchy, so it’s not all about the gore. If you haven’t yet, check it out!
The Walking Dead – One of the best commentaries on the human experience, human conditioning, and a great addition to the debate between Nature versus Nurture. It’s becoming more and more nuanced as each season progresses, and week after week is more exciting to watch. Plus: Zombies.
Glee – 2013 wasn’t the best year for Glee, especially due to the untimely and extremely sad loss of Cory Monteith, but it was a VERY good year if you’re a Darren Criss (Blaine Anderson) fan, as I am. He was shirtless. A lot. And that is why Glee makes my list:
This leads nicely into my next category…
Favorite Fictional Man-Crushes
- Blaine Anderson (Darren Criss), Glee – See above for enough proof
- Robb Stark (Richard Madden), Game of Thrones – Here he is holding a wolf pup:
- Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Game of Thrones – “You know nothing, Jon Snow…”
- Ben, the straight-but-questioning guy from the YA novel Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg
- Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – because who doesn’t love a sensitive boy?
- Captain Hook (Colin O’Donoghue), Once Upon a Time – I’d be a part of his crew…
- Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Thor: The Dark World – BECAUSE #EVERYTHING.
- Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), The Walking Dead – because who doesn’t love a man who’s not afraid to get dirty and kill zombies?
- Clark Kent (Henry Cavil), Man of Steel – because he’s literally made of steel. Get it?
- Aidan Mathis (Barry Sloane), Revenge – because he’s perfect. And Australian. Or something.
I read a lot of books this year, most of them I’ve read before, but the few new ones to add to my list really made an impact on me.
Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg – This is the book, of every single book that has ever existed that I’ve read, that I wish I would have written. It’s become one of my all-time favorite books. EVER. Openly Straight is about Rafe, a typical teenage guy from Boulder, Colorado, who came out in 8th grade to thunderous applause from family, friends, and his community. All he has known were ideas of tolerance and acceptance, and when he came out, his mother became president of PFLAG and EVERYONE knew he was gay. Rafe was tired of only being known as the “gay” kid. He hated the label and
wanted needed to try something new, a new town, a new school, a new Rafe. At the beginning of his junior year, he transferred to an all-boys boarding school in New England and decided that he wouldn’t exactly be straight, but he would evade any and all questions regarding his sexual preference. If anyone asked him about girls or girlfriends, he’d just word it so that he wasn’t exactly lying, but that he wasn’t exactly being truthful, either. So he created a new life for himself. He became one of the jocks, and for the first time, a group of guys saw him as Rafe, and not “the gay guy.” And then he met Ben.
It’s an earnestly beautiful book; it’s one of those rare, truly remarkable books that allows you to see the world through a different lens. It’s an eye-opener. It will allow you to understand the differences between tolerating someone who is gay, what it means to actually “accept” someone who is gay, and how different both of those are from actually celebrating someone who is gay. The discussion about labels and tolerance v.s. acceptance v.s. celebration needs to continue. Openly Straight is a huge part of that discussion, but it isn’t the end. It’s a huge step in the right direction, but it isn’t the only step that those who write YA with LGBT characters will need to take. In that respect, and in so many more, Bill Konigsberg has become my literary hero and I can’t wait to see what he has in store for 2014!
My Life After Now by Jessica Verdi – My Life After Now is told from protagonist Lucy’s perspective. Lucy is the best kind of teenage drama nerd who, at the start of the novel, is prepping for her projected role as Juliet in her high school’s fall production of Romeo and Juliet. This novel is a must-have for anyone who was involved in drama club or participated in school plays and musicals (I totally wasn’t, but my best friends always were. Call me a groupie), or anyone who can appreciate the ART and passion of acting. I mean, each chapter title is a Broadway show tune! I often found myself playing “NAME THAT SONG” while reading. If you’re not into Broadway and acting and drama clubs, don’t worry; that’s not important. I mean, it plays a huge role in the development and progression of Lucy’s character and her friend/relationships, but it’s so well-written that you don’t need to be a drama nerd to absolutely get it. This book is a triumph of modern young adult literature. It’s completely unique and stands out against shelves of books about proms and ex-boyfriends, books that have a high word count, but never really say anything. It’s a “Problem Novel” (I hate that label, but think Laurie Halse Anderson and that’s what this book reminds me of…only with a more authentic voice, and more fun moments that lend itself to a some really great light-hearted moments in an otherwise frightening landscape) that sheds light on a subject usually reserved as a unit for high school health classes. It’s informative, but I neverfelt, not for a moment, that it was preachy. Verdi’s writing style is accessible in all the right ways; it’s never pretentious, it’s not filled with platitudes or cliches. It’s straight-forward. It made me laugh, cry, and filled me with fear in all the right places. I wish I could quote the entire book, especially those moments where her thoughts revolve around HIV; they’re quiet, but speak volumes, and are filled with so much panic that it made me question my own clean Bill of Health.
Best Actor (Gender Neutral)
Jennifer Lawrence – Besides the fact that she’s been in every single worthwhile movie in the last 2-3 years, she’s also positively hilarious, and quite possibly the best, most perfect human being to ever exist. She’s down-to-earth and REAL, and in Hollywood, that’s far beyond perfection: that’s downright non-existent.
Best of BeautifulChaos!
I can’t have a list without including myself on here! So egotistical, eh? What do expect from the self-proclaimed male Mariah Carey?
This list was calculated based on reader statistics and which posts were the most-commented on.
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- Things I Wish I Could Write in a Query Letter
- Why Self-Publishing is Not For Me
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- Beware the Frozen Heart
- Zombies, Vampires, and Katniss Everdeen, Oh My!
- Five Totally Valid Reasons I’m Not Published
- All You Need is Love … and Glee
- The Book I Wish I Had Written: Openly Straight
- A Sorta Fairytale: A Story of Unfulfilled Dreams