Pop Wrap Up • Jan 2019

See my favorite new album, song, and TV show – all fresh picks from January 2019.

Album: Maggie Rogers, Heard It In A Past Life • 2019/01/18

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I’ll admit I was late to the Maggie Rogers party. She became somewhat of a sensation after a video of musical genius, Pharrell, telling Rogers that her music “can’t be compared to anything else” went viral in 2016. He is right. I came across her music in time for her major-label debut, Heard It In A Past Life, and I can’t say I have heard much like it in the past (pun intended). The album is folk at its roots. Acoustic instruments as a base? Check. Deeply personal, storytelling lyrics? Check. Phrasing that fits 50 words into 5 seconds? Check. But Rogers also flirts with dance and R&B music and that is what makes this album interesting. Whereas artists sometimes come across as disingenuous or trend hoppers when they step out of their wheelhouse, Rogers’ experimentation works incredibly well. The rich bass fills in space and makes the songs swell with more emotion than they already had lyrically.

Many of the songs are your typical love songs and are quite the mood. Tenderness, tension, terror, trepidation – all the themes are there. But the most interesting current throughout the album and the one that gives the album its name is this past self/new self narrative. Halfway through the album, on the track “Past Life”, Rogers talks about a past life coming out of her and seeing it stare back at her. On the album closer, “Back In My Body”, she talks about it coming back down on her. My takeaway is that she is going through growing pains. She is acknowledging the pain of her past experiences, but rather than being defined by the confusion she has sought understanding and has learned from her mistakes. Girl same. I feel you and I stan. 

Also, as a water sign (Cancer), I think I’m honestly super drawn to this album because she references water on like 75% of the tracks.

Favorite Tracks:

#2: Overnight 

#3: The Knife

#7: Say It

#10: Retrograde

PS: Full disclosure, I actually do remember seeing Rogers in this very awkward October 2018 SNL ad where Pete Davidson proposes to her. Yikes.

Song: Lizzo, “Juice” • 2019/01/04

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Bookmark me: this will be the song of the summer. It is that H.O.T. If it is not song of the summer then America ain’t got the juice and would we even be surprised? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. “Juice” is the kind of song that puts strut and swag in your step. Sonically, it is a bouncy disco/funk throwback that will have everyone from 7 to 70 “getting loose” on the dance floor. Vocally, Lizzo commands the track with explosive adlibs and growls. Lyrically, it is about feeling like a badass in whatever body you are in. The message and retro sound remind of “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor, but “Juice” is eons better and doesn’t have the skinny shaming hang-ups. If you wanna feel hot 24/7, add this to your playlist and play it on repeat as I have.

Bonus: The very 80s music video (leg warmers, Old Spice, infomercials) which includes a nod to Cardi B’s ASMR video.

Favorite Lyric: “I be drippin so much sauce gotta be lookin like RAGU”

TV Show: Sex Education • 2019/01/11

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Today’s kids have it really good. Where was this show when I was an awkward, shy, and closeted 16-year-old? Already picked up for a second season, this show does everything right. First, I gotta commend the casting. Tons of shows cast diverse actors, but then make the characters’ identities their core plotline. You know what I mean? The gay character’s story is about coming out. The Latino character’s story is about their undocumented family. The Black character’s story is about racism. While those kinds of narratives are important, it is actually quite harmful when shows rely on those tropes and don’t give characters fully fleshed out lives.

Now, because this is a teen show, the season does start off with certain personality archetypes (jock, nerd, goth, pretty).  I don’t think that is necessarily bad because it provides a basic blueprint for us to familiarize ourselves with the characters. When you are in high school you do box yourself into certain personality types (I was the SJW theatre kid) and the show stays true to that. But the show quickly does away with the blueprint once we are comfortable with characters. In eight episodes, the characters develop tremendously and we learn a lot about what is behind all of them. They are a lot more similar than they know. In part, they are all sexually frustrated and confused.

This is where the show shines. Sex is talked about candidly and openly – both the good and the ugly. The show addresses, very naturally,  all the fears and questions around sex we still have. Given the show’s popularity this can help destigmatize certain topics. I already talk about this kind of stuff with my closest friends (and with my mom – I know). But in general, there is a weird taboo around sex to the point that much of the U.S. sex ed curriculum is built on the absurdity of abstinence and conservatism. Only in a European show like Sex Education can an entire high school student body normalize just about everything.

Where other shows that tackle sex are preachy and ignore personal choice, Sex Education provides characters with agency and does not cast judgment. It is safe to say that at 16, at my age of 21, and even in Otis’ mom’s more senior age we make messy romantic and sexual choices. The show acknowledges that in a very human way. Were characters crucified for their choices the show would be boring, outdated, and push back progress made in destigmatizing sex.  

Finally, the show really balances its funny, happy, and sad moments. The funny moments of the show are hilarious af. Go follow “no context sed education” on Twitter right now. Even without seeing the show this account will make you laugh cause that is how ridiculous, yet universally relatable the dialogue is. Without giving too much away, there is also so much the show tackled in terms of family, gender, and sexuality that simultaneously made my heart smile and my eyes cry.

See a budding gay romance which I copped from episode 1 and which I absolutely stan. See tons of women solidarity and #pussypower. See several drag moments that would have RuPaul shouting “shantay you stay”. See ~real~ complicated parent-child relationships which ~finally~ move beyond simple rebellion and teen angst. See mental health addressed as something even those who appear “fine” and “on top of it” struggle with. The show is so unbelievably nuanced and inclusive that we will all learn a thing or two from viewing it. Can Sex Education just replace the U.S. sex ed curriculum, please?

Stay tuned for my February pop wrap up!

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