2013. It all started with a kiss.
Scandals, both real and made up
What will I remember most from January? Pop culture was temporarily hijacked by liars. Lance Armstrong finally came clean after years of cheating, lying and more lying. And just as Oprah was boxing out the competition and getting the American public ready for the big interview, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o came and stole the thunder. His dead girlfriend never existed, “Catfishing” became something people talked about, and then eventually everybody moved on. (But not before taking to Facebook and Twitter to blast out Te’o-related one-liners ad nauseum. Maybe January was the month everybody became Jay Leno?)
Then came another shocking scandal — at least that’s what the TV told me — and the debate raged on whether or not Beyonce was actually singing at President Barack Obama‘s inauguration. Much like the Te’o saga, we never really found out the answer. And much like the Armstrong story, at this point, nobody even cares.
But seriously, remember this? C’mon, man.
Here’s a look at what caught my attention in 2013′s first month.
Colin Kaepernick runs wild
The final chapter to Colin Kaepernick’s season will be written come Super Bowl Sunday, but even a loss to the Ravens on the biggest stage won’t tarnish what the first-year starter did in the 49ers run through the playoffs. The only downer in this story is that Kaepernick, who spent a part of his youth in Wisconsin, had to shred the Green Bay Packers on his way to postseason glory. His eruption in the divisional round against Green Bay in mid-January was one of the all-time great playoff performances (including the most rushing yards ever by a quarterback in a playoff game) and has made head coach Jim Harbaugh look like an absolute genius for going with Kaepernick’s “hot hand” over the consistent, if sometimes snoozy Alex Smith. It may not be 4th and 26, but #Kaepernicking is a wound to Packers fans that may take some time to heal.
The Joy Formidable’s “Wolf’s Law” arrived
There’s always a bit of a hangover effect after spending all of December and early January coming up with year-end lists of favorite songs, albums, movies and TV. After hearing nothing but the best of the best, it’s hard to adjust to a new year without wondering “Where’s all the good stuff?” The good stuff took a few weeks, but it has come. The first album to really blow my hair back in 2013 is the Joy Formidable’s “Wolf’s Law,” which dropped Jan. 22. The band put out one of my favorite records in 2011, “The Big Roar,” and that roar has only gotten bigger with their second effort. It’s as massive sounding as anything likely to come out in the year ahead. Here’s the discs second track, “Cholla.”
I’m not sure how this happened, but somehow in a society where everybody posts, tweets and Instagrams their every living thought and experience, a rock and roll legend managed to record an entire album without anybody knowing. On Jan. 8, David Bowie’s 66th birthday, news broke that Bowie’s first studio album in a decade, “The Next Day,” was coming in March. We also got the first taste, in the satisfyingly creep and bizarre video for the enchanting “Where Are We Now?” Along with that exciting development came some less-fun news: It sounds like Bowie has little to no intention of performing live in the future.
Amy Poehler and Tina Fey spiced up award season
For pop culture consumers, award season can be an exciting time. Suddenly there are a slew of films you just have to see and, on Monday mornings, co-workers generally have a little bit more to talk about. (“Did you see so-and-so’s dress last night? Not a good look.”) But once you’ve seen one stretch of awards shows — the Globes and the SAG Awards, soon to be followed by the Grammys and the Oscars — you’ve kind of seen ‘em all. Luckily, this year’s Golden Globes featured a surge of fresh energy in the form of co-hosts Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. I can’t say I was around for all of Billy Crystal’s three dozen Oscars hosting stints, but I’ve seen my fair share over the last decade or so, and this was perhaps the best. And really, most of the gig is just the opening monologue anyway, and not surprisingly, Poehler and Fey nailed it. Oscars host Seth MacFarlane has a tough act to follow.
The Strokes returned (again)
The Strokes reunited in 2011 after a few years off and gave the world “Angles,” a solid album that most music fans immediately passed over because it wasn’t “Is This (Still) It.” It seems that because of the hype that met the band back in the early ’00s, every release thereafter has been met with unrealistic expectations, and nothing has changed with the release of the first song from their upcoming still-untitled album, “One Way Trigger.” I’ll admit it: Upon first heading to thestrokes.com and playing the song, I thought I was being tricked. Part of that can be thanks to singer Julian Casablancas initially tweeting that the new song could be heard at strokes.com (instead of thestrokes.com) which is a site related to the stoppage of blood flow to the brain, as opposed to his New York-based rock and roll band. But after listening in (and clicking replay again and again) the peppy number began to grow on me. If Casablancas wants to break out the falsetto, I’m OK with it. I’ll wait until the full album arrives before I make any further judgments.
With the Super Bowl, the Grammys and the Oscars all set for February, the month ahead should be a doozy in terms of pop culture. And what are the odds we get out of all three of those massive events without at least two or three “shocking” scandals — especially the Super Bowl. It seems to happen every year, whether it’s stirred up on social media (or just the regular media) because it’s something to talk about or not. Brace yourselves.
–Shane Nyman, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @shanenyman