There were a lot of lessons learned this year from pop culture. Let’s take a look at some of the bigger takeaways.
Inclusion mattered — In film and television, we always hear about the waves of diversity that are coming, but it always seemed to hit big one year then revert back to films aimed at white people with mostly white casts. But come this February, that change hit big with “Black Panther” and never let up. “Crazy Rich Asians” proved an all-Asian cast could be a giant hit. Five black directors, including “Panther’s” Ryan Coogler and “Wrinkle In Time’s” Ava DuVerney, had films that grossed more than $100 million. “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse” proved Miles Morales, the alternate, black version of Spider-Man, could sell big. People who are deaf or hard of hearing were given the spotlight with “A Quiet Place.” To quote Twitter, many people were seen this year and that mattered.
In pop music, language doesn’t matter — Spotify broke the concept of pop music in America by opening it up to the world. Songs like Cardi B’s “I Like It” featured verses in Spanish by artists including Bad Bunny and J Balvin, and DJ Snake’s “Taki Taki” featured a chorus and verses in Spanish by singer/rapper Ozuna (who is also 2018’s most-viewed artist in the world on YouTube). Bad Bunny even had Drake, the biggest artist in America, rapping in Spanish on his song “Mia.” Compared to past years and decades where foreign-language hits were mostly novelty songs like “Macarena” and “Gangnam Style,” artists speaking in their native tongue are being taken seriously by mainstream outlets. Their presence will likely get even bigger in the years to come.
Rock music’s voice couldn’t be smaller — Rock music in 2018 belonged to Imagine Dragons. They were one of the only bands in the genre to have multiple hits, sometimes occupying the entire top four spots on Billboard’s Hot Rock chart. Most of those songs, like “Natural” and “Thunder,” had way more in common with pop tunes than rock. The other standouts: The 1975 (who are more pop focused), Greta Van Fleet (aka Led Zeppelin Jr.), lovelytheband (aka MGMT Jr.) and Weezer, whose comeback rested mainly on a straightforward ’80s cover and an “SNL” skit. This is not to say there aren’t a ton of awesome, wonderful rock songs and albums, but speaking solely about mainstream rock, it’s been in a rut for the past decade and this was an all-time low.
Streaming rules all — As we move forward, there will be no corner of pop culture that either Netflix, Hulu or Amazon won’t conquer. In addition to its established footing with TV dramas, Netflix also wedged its way into TV food shows with “Nailed It!,” “Ugly Delicious” and “The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell.” Its prestige movie slate grew stronger with “Roma,” “Bird Box” and “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.” Hulu continues to prop network TV up while strengthening its offerings with big docs like “Minding The Gap” and indie movies like “Sorry To Bother You.”
—Andrew Gaug | St. Joe Live