Three years ago I came to this blog to fret about the Grammys. It was late January in 2020 and I did not know that there would soon be more pressing matters than puzzling performance choices to worry about. By March 14th 2021, the date of the next Grammy Awards Ceremony, we had spent a full year wandering through the murky anxious haze of a global pandemic, and the partial solution of vaccines were only in their infant stages of being rolled out. But in a plot twist that seemed even less likely to my pre-pandemic self than an entire NBA playoffs taking place inside a Walt Disney World bubble— the Grammys had somehow fixed themselves?Continue reading “My 2023 Grammy Wishlist”
I Can’t Wait To See You Again: Eight Things From 2008 That Are Due For a Comeback
When it comes to nostalgia, there doesn’t seem to be a true consensus about what schedule it operates on exactly. The New Yorker has argued for a “40 year Golden Rule”, while Entertainment Weekly takes the more immediate view that the itch to look backwards sets in somewhere around the 12 or 15 year mark. The entire internet is proliferated with retrospectives celebrating pop cultural anniversaries of almost every numeration— even years with no rounded numbers. If a natural law of nostalgia exists, it seems we have not yet found it.Continue reading “I Can’t Wait To See You Again: Eight Things From 2008 That Are Due For a Comeback”
The GOAT Farm Class of 2018
The thing about inventing an imaginary honor society that doles out imaginary annual awards is that you can’t just in media res things and hope that the imaginary audience is following along. There’s got to be a preamble. A clarification of the rules. An explication of the acronyms. An attempt to impose some sense upon all of the nonsense.
So in case you haven’t read The GOAT Farm’s Inaugural Post/Ceremony— and also in case you did read it, two years ago, and somehow didn’t memorize its vagaries— The GOAT Farm is a pop culture hall of fame with a pastoral aesthetic. Inductees must patiently endure a five year waiting period between when they were first experienced and when they are GOAT-eligible, which is why all of today’s honorees are from 2018. The only judge is me.Continue reading “The GOAT Farm Class of 2018”
My 2023 Anticipation Guide
I’ve always conceived of January as the summit of a metaphorical ski hill— the place from which you can survey all that lies before you, the majesty and the moguls, before your momentum starts carrying you inexorably down, towards, and through it. You can’t know the details of what you’re about to encounter, but the broader shapes are clear enough to get excited about.Continue reading “My 2023 Anticipation Guide”
2022 Anticipation Index
January is traditionally the time for high hopes and grand plans and lofty ambitions. The time to be briefly convinced that all of the empty days unfurled before you hold nothing but promise, to most fully perceive the potential in this latest quirk of the Earth’s axial tilt. But the concept of anticipation hovers a little awkwardly around the edges of this particular New Year. It is, after all, somewhat complicated to feel true excitement for things that are question marks.Continue reading “2022 Anticipation Index”
Dear Santa: My 2021 Pop Culture Christmas Wish List
I’ve always been split on the concept of composing a wish list for Christmas.
On the one hand there’s no arguing against the ruthless efficiency of the practice; the guarantee against Christmas morning hopes being dashed through the snow. For the gift-giver, having a list to adhere to eliminates all kinds of stressful second guessing and streamlines the shopping process— in that sense, writing out a list of presents one yearns to receive could almost be viewed as an act of Christmas charity.
But something about the exercise has always struck me as vaguely mercenary, something that too starkly reveals the commercialized and capitalist bones of what is supposed to be a warmhearted exchange of goodwill. Sure, your expectations are met, but there is something lost in having set expectations at all, in reducing your loved ones to the role of glorified Amazon delivery worker.
As a child, I negotiated this paradox by rarely asking my parents for anything specific— trusting instead that my strong personal branding would guide them in the right direction, namely towards books and Barbies— but always helpfully itemizing things for Santa, who, I reasoned, had the added burden of a billion or so extra children to keep track of. I did always add the incredibly Canadian caveat that I would be happy with whatever Santa chose to bring me if, for any reason, he was unable to fulfill my wishes, which I hope my mother appreciated while committing her recidivist acts of mail fraud.Continue reading “Dear Santa: My 2021 Pop Culture Christmas Wish List”
Dust Off Your Highest Hopes: Revisiting RED (Taylor’s Version)
When Red was originally released in 2012, it represented a tale of two Taylors. A crossroads moment in her career in which there seemed to be two clearly divergent routes her music might take. There was the one that wound through Laurel Canyon, blazed by the likes of Joni Mitchell and Carole King, that would have seen her become the Poet Laureate of hyper-articulate girls who feel too much (glimpsed in songs like Treacherous, Holy Ground, or State of Grace); or the more straightforward path which ended in uncontested global domination (foreshadowed by all tracks produced by Max Martin).
If you’ve paid attention to music at all over the past decade, you know which option she chose, and though it was not the one endorsed by Robert Frost, eventually Taylor’s three album journey through pop megastardom looped all the way back around, and she was able to wander down the alternative songwriter path after all with last year’s releases of folklore and evermore. Perhaps a singular career like Taylor’s was never going to be plotted out in neat lines, perhaps it would always need to involve detours and scenic routes and doubling back from dead ends. That might be exactly why retracing every step with her now as she endeavors to reclaim control over her old music is so much fun.Continue reading “Dust Off Your Highest Hopes: Revisiting RED (Taylor’s Version)”
Everything I Almost Wrote
What is the customary greeting you might expect from someone who has recently crawled out from under a rock? Or from someone who has washed ashore after many months of being adrift at sea? Or from someone who has finally awakened after a decade long slumber?
Whatever the appropriate words are (Hello again? Guess who? Well well well, I bet you thought you’d seen the last of me?) please consider them said, and please consider this post to be my bid for re-admittance amongst polite blogging society.
Because it has been, as they say, a minute. Here’s what nobody tells you when you start writing a personal blog: it is unbelievably easy to stop. Without an editor to be accountable to, without the pressures of deadlines or outside expectations, it is the simplest thing in the world to just … put off writing one of these old things until another day. And then another day. And another one, and so on, until you’ve accidentally taken a ~four month sabbatical and can’t figure out a discreet way to come back.
I suppose a good start would be to slip into using an active first person voice, instead of the cowardly and stylistically questionable blend of third and second that I’ve been employing thus far. I stopped writing for this blog, I ghosted this space like it was a Tinder match who repeatedly demonstrated an inability to distinguish between there/they’re/their. I have returned to it, bearing a humble handful of half-formed ideas with the vain hope that clearing my emotional and literal drafts will allow me to start this whole blogging enterprise anew.Continue reading “Everything I Almost Wrote”
The Ten Best Pop Culture Moments of 2021 (A Midterm Report Card) 10-6
I’ll admit that I’m a little nervous about posting this one. Not because my summary of pop culture as it has unfolded in 2021 thus far promises to be shocking or even mildly controversial– I have zero fears that I’ll get cancelled over benignly declaring that Movies Are Good. No, my trepidation can be better traced back to what happened last year.
Less than 365 days ago, a much younger Ainsley– an Ainsley with considerably less trauma-induced wisdom but significantly better posture– attempted to write up the 2020 edition of this list. It wasn’t a terrible list. I stand by my exaltations when it comes to The Last Dance, and the fourth season of Insecure, and the albums released by Fiona Apple, Phoebe Bridgers, and Waxahatchee. Was it a blatant circumvention of the rules to include the 2019 film Little Women? Probably. Do I expect that many were baffled by my esteem for Sam Hunt’s Southside, an album that peaked at 5 on the Billboard 200 and barely made an impact with its true singles? It would be more baffling if they weren’t, to be honest. But overall, at the time I thought it was a valiant-enough, comprehensive-enough effort to account for what was great about a year that gave me very little to relish in.
Four days later, Taylor Swift released folklore.Continue reading “The Ten Best Pop Culture Moments of 2021 (A Midterm Report Card) 10-6”
song of the summer 2021: June’s state of the race
I’m not proud, but I have made it my habit to care deeply about things that don’t matter. Award shows, and professional sports, and the athletes who play said professional sports, and made-up turns of phrase designed just to irritate. Basically anything with stakes that are demonstrably, laughably low, but that somehow still manages to make my heart rate spike up and my fingers start flying furiously over a keyboard in an attempt to bully others into sharing my opinion. I promise I care about important things– like, say, climate change– too. I do. But putting that particular panic attack into words just doesn’t come as naturally as finding yet another useless perspective upon which I might stake my whole identity.
Perhaps nothing encapsulates this phenomenon better than my profound investment in the race to determine The Song of the Summer. Is this an important question? No. Is it a noble cause? Also no. Is it just a marketing gimmick ginned up by Billboard and the major record companies to boost their own sales? Chances are good. But despite knowing all of this, I have maintained a personal tradition of closely tracking each summer’s contenders, along with the overall state of the race, and bestowing the results with a significance that is frankly disproportionate and undue.
Often, The Song of the Summer is a song that I don’t even like all that much, chosen from amongst a group of songs that likewise would not top any kind of list if I was in charge. But my personal tastes are beside the point. To me, the quest to determine what wins the title is less about music than it is anthropology. Ubiquitous, popular things are always more interesting for what they say about the society that consumes them than for what they say about themselves, and the history of summer songs has plenty to tell us.Continue reading “song of the summer 2021: June’s state of the race”