2015 Year in Review With My Favorite Moments

Source: Vanity Fair

The "Best Of "lists started a month ago. Best of TV, Best of Books, Best of Music, Best of.....

I wouldn't dare make one. My opinions do not have to necessarily constitute your best, because it's obvious that my favorites are all my favorites because of the odd and funny way my mind works. Also, there's so much that is produced in one year, that not even a Skills End of Year Recap can highlight them all, and I definitely can't consume them all. Still on my to do list: Making of a Murderer, Dope, Chi-Raq, Hamilton the Muscial, Creed...  But as a pat on the shoulder I have actually watched The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Master of None, and Empire, which are all featured in the image before. I will probably never watch Mr. Robot. Peak TV. It's a problem.

I'll be honest and just call these moments my favorites of pop culture (news moments didn't really make the list: Bree, Dolezal, etc.). They are all over the place and not ranked. There are tons of click throughs, because that's how I roll.  If it's something you're interested in, click.

1. The End of Mad Men
Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm notorious for not watching the last episode of a show I dedicated years to watching. See: Chuck, Ugly Betty, Revenge...(okay so I gave up on Revenge early). So, it was with trepidation that I approached the final half season of Mad Men.  It did not disappoint. The best part of it all was the debut of Sesame Street in one of the episodes. Single and wealthy mom Joan let Sesame Street babysit her child and it was all the praise the show needed as it made it's switch from serving minority and economically disadvantaged children to reminding those without HBO subscriptions that they would be second place. Okay, it wasn't Sesame Street's fault. Funding public TV is hard. And yes, that was all packed away in one little scene from Mad Men. You were too busy paying attention to Coca Cola advertisements.

2. Eat. Pray. Thug.
"and then the towers fell in front of my eyes." 
Post 9/11 Rap at its best. It's so hard to explain this album's significance to those who don't connect. In the dichotomous split that looks at hip hop between racial prisms of black vs white,  Heems just jumped in with a "So NY: sensibility. The visual moments were movie scenes at best, and he addressed real politics in so many realms from health to terrorism to gentrification. 

3. Kendrick Lamar's Imagery 
Why wait to the last minute to put out a best of list? Because then you get to include 11th hour pop culture offerings. I'm not in love with all of conscious hip hop's imagery.  In my world, women have guns too. However Mr. Lamar's work is just so perfectly timed to be poignant or annoying. 


I don't care who braids his hair. He's just the perfect amount of provocative to get conversations started amongst the mainstream. And the conversation has to reach the mainstream for eventual change to ever occur.  So for that, videos like the one above dropped on New Year's Eve's Eve or the cover for To Pimp a Butterfly will stand out in my mind for 2015. And also, because if I think of Kendrick this year, I start singing "I love myself."  Who doesn't get a burst of hype and self esteem from that.

4. Don Lemon, All the Time. 
The news is a television show, or might as well be. A good amount of people irked me beyond belief with their grandstanding after #PrayforParis took off.  We don't consume news, rather as Jeff Yang pointed out,  we get the media we deserve. And that's no truer than with Don Lemon. I don't turn to him for news coverage ever. I learned my lesson when Whitney Houston died. However, if you ever need to chuckle while shaking your head at some tomfoolery, he is Mr. Perfect. 

5. The Kehinde Wiley Exhibition at The Brooklyn Museum
I am assuming Basquiat was probably a bigger show for the museum, but I do not care. This piece which mixed theology and joy for me definitely made me joyous. Off with their heads!!!  
Not to mention, he had amazing busts and that dope braid sculpture (see link in Kendrick Lamar section). Plus there was the homage to Michael Jackson. It was art that referenced so much, but was easily accessible.  Joy. 

6. Hank Willis Thomas
Staying in the vein of art, there was also an amazing show, Un-Branded: A Century of White Women, which felt like the greatest advertising trivia night ever. Yeah, at it's base it spoke to portrayals of white women, and thus to how everyone else gets bothered, but it also was phenomenal to see all of our pop culture through advertisements. Plus, as I referenced at the time, I was really feeling like Katherine from The Taming of the Shrew. Too many Petruchios in my life. Y'all can stay in 2015. 

7. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. 
It's a miracle!  No online streaming comedy should be this perfect. Ever. If I was ranking this list,  Season 1 of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt would probably be #1. One reviewer described it as a sitcom for adults who grew up on Disney Channel shows, and that is precisely the hole the show fills. The actors are great, and you know you have seen them in better. They'll either reach amazing heights later, or become a laughing stock. These are the future Shia LaBeoufs, Raven Symones, Justin Timberlakes, and Hillary Duffs of the  world. The one great thing: they're already adults so you don't have to see them through the awkward phase. You have got them at greatness with Moesha references to boot. Even the sideline characters bring amazing levity to the show. Keeping in trend with 2015, they also offer one- off comments on current social issues that if you're paying attention will give you some pause.  And if nothing else, there's Titus. 

8. What Happened, Miss Simone?
Okay, so everyone else ventured outdoors to go see the music documentary for Amy Winehouse.  Well some of us got access to a Netflix account and went to town! 

The Nina Simone documentary was released for such a time as this.  Ain't it just hard to live? Conversation after conversation in contemporary media focused on how artists could blend their social consciousness with their work. There's finger pointing and accusations of who sells out, who does not stand up, and who does not care. Ebony even made a dope magazine cover featuring current celebrities who do the work. What this documentary showcased is what the work can do to you.  This is where pop culture speaks to your mental health people. And on that note, I leave you with a piece from Chaedria LaBouvier.  Take care of yourselves.

9. Inside Out.
This cartoon left me with all of the feelings. It was remarkable to watch how much we need sadness in order to experience joy.  Mindy Kaling voicing disgust was also amazing, and award-worth in my book. I can't vouch for all the science in the film, but I can understand all the feelings.

Also, I didn't get the allusions to The Wizard of Oz, but thanks friends for pointing that out. That also made, The Wiz even better.

10. Drake and Adele.

Their end of year big hits were basically the same emotions expressed in different ways. But they carried me throughout the year. Drake, with his constant release of music always gave me something to bop to. Always. Let "Jumpman" come on when I'm out for a run and you'll see the energy infusion happen. Because even when I'm laughing at Drake, he is still producing greatness. And then the Adele anticipation just kept building. The perfect summation of both of these was Erykah Badu's mixtape. "Hello Hello? Hey, Hello Hello? "

11. Hamilton
Drake and Future may have been exclaiming "What a Time to Be Alive," but the Schuyler sisters were encouraging us to "Look around. Look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now."

Remember when I wrote that Kimmy Schmidt would be number 1 if this was ranked (it was only a few paragraphs ago)? I lied. Hamilton would be number 1. I played this album so much it started giving me agita. How did Alexander Hamilton work so much? Why was he always writing? Why don't I write as much as Hamilton? Is it because I wasn't born "a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman? " Lin Manuel Miranda tormented me with the release of the music to his Broadway musical. As a history geek, I was already psyched enough about the idea of a play centering around one of the less-favored founding fathers, but actually hearing the hip-hop based recording brought the story to life in a whole new way.

And it's even beginning to make people think differently about the way history is taught and the issues with representation in theater. This is indeed the same year where we were up in arms over a white Martin Luther King and a black Hermione (Harry Potter), with good reason for the former and surprising backlash for the latter.
We won't even talk about the day I went into the theater to pick up a gift and heard 5 minutes of the show.  I considered crying tears of joy, but relaxed, related, and released to soak up all I could for the 5 minutes.

12. DJ Khaled
It would the last month of the year, and an email from a friend that showed me just how much I needed Khaled in my life. So, as the year closes, and we move on to another one, I hope you realize Khaled's Keys to  Success.  They don't want you to win, but I have faith.

Bless up.

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