It is once again time to take a look back at the pop culture that I found to be most memorable in the past year. As a reminder, this is not a best of list. It’s things that I enjoyed the most or were most meaningful to me even if they are not necessarily what I would consider the best. Also, it includes the things that I consumed during 2022 even if they didn’t come out this year.
Movie I Saw in a Theater
I finally returned to an actual movie theater to watch a movie for the first time since the pandemic started. My movie going is still way down from the before times, but I have two whole movies to choose from in this category. Although I did enjoy Spoiler Alert, Top Gun: Maverick is the clear winner here. I had been looking forward to this movie since before the pandemic, and it was the first movie that I even considered going to a theater to see. That alone makes it memorable. I also really did love it even though the story itself is pretty lame and the characters are not really developed at all. The nostalgia and the effects made up for all that and made it a super fun movie to watch and one I definitely felt needed to be seen on the big screen.
Movie I Watched at Home
I wasn’t sure what movie I was going to include in this category this year. I watched a number of movies at home, but none of them were really standing out for me. Luckily Glass Onion came along right at the end of the year to slot into this category. I very much enjoyed Knives Out, so was excited to see this sequel. It was also a lot of fun. I think it would have been slightly better to have watched it with an audience in a theater, but I still liked it a lot.
I read a lot of middling books this year, but I rated two fiction books 5 stars on Goodreads. The first was Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan. I loved this book and could not put it down. The whole thing was great, but it also had one of the most jaw dropping moments I can ever recall reading in a book that just added to its greatness for me. The second book was Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. It was one of the last books I read this year. I’ve had a galley copy of it forever and finally decided to read it when I saw this book popping up on all the best of 2022 lists. I’m so glad I did. This was another book I did not want to put down. I loved these characters and the world that was created for them. It’s the book I want to tell everyone to read this year.
Unlike last year where I shared like 10 super depressing books in this category, I have two non-depressing books to share here this year. Back in February I read Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights. This book of essays is what inspired my weekly delights posts, so it was certainly influential in my life. The second book was An Immense World by Ed Yong. He explores the world of animal senses. It’s entirely fascinating.
As always I watched a lot of TV in 2022. Two of my favorite shows of the year were returning shows that were both produced by Mindy Kaling, Never Have I Ever and Sex Lives of College Girls. I love both of these shows that are smart, funny, romantic, and not afraid to let their characters get messy and get called out on it. I’m happy I’ll have more of both in 2023. I also loved From Cradle to the Stage, which is a documentary series with Dave Grohl and his mother talking with the mothers of other musical artists about their lives and careers. A must watch for music lovers. The show Maid was also a real stand out for me this year. It’s extremely realistic, which made it one of the most stressful shows I have ever watched.
It took me awhile to come up with something for this category. For awhile I was going to go with the episode of the Umbrella Academy that features the Footloose dance off, but that was more of a favorite moment because I don’t really remember anything else from that episode. I feel like part of the problem is that aside from procedurals, which I don’t watch, television is not very episodic anymore. It’s made to be one long story broken into chunks, which makes each individual episode harder to remember apart from the whole. So it makes sense that the episode I finally settled on was from a reality show, which is also a genre that is still episodic. I eventually remembered season 5, episode 8 of The Great Pottery Throw Down. I don’t know why this particular group of contestants stick in my mind, but they do. Once I watch a competition show the contestants pretty much leave my mind as soon as the season is over. Like every time they bring people back for the holiday episodes of Great British Bake Off I’m like who was this person again? On this particular episode the potters had to make a sculpture that represented themselves. Christine, who was one of my favorite contestants of the season, who had recovered from breast cancer made a sculpture that represented that and it was extremely meaningful and had all the people on the show and me in tears.
Second Nature by Lucius
This album is largely about the divorce of Jess Wolfe from the band’s drummer Dan Molad. It’s the perfect blend of super upbeat songs with depressing lyrics like “Dance Around It” and heartbreaking ballads like “The Man I’ll Never Find”.
Farm to Table by Bartees Strange
This album was released to huge critical acclaim, so I was convinced that it would show up on all the best of lists at the end of the year. Then it didn’t, and I was shocked. It did top WXPN’s best of list, and I saw it one or two other places, but largely it was absent. It’s making mine though. After a couple singles from his first album and this one that didn’t immediately draw me in, I almost missed it, but the song “Mulholland Drive” made me give Bartees Strange and this album a second look, and I’m very glad I did.
Take It Like a Man by Amanda Shires
This album was the opposite of Farm to Table in that I din’t expect to see it on any best of lists and yet it showed up in a number of places. I don’t dispute it. It’s definitely Amanda Shires’ best album so far in my opinion.
PRESENT TENSE by Yumi Zouma
This is a weird album for me in that I sort of forget about it. If I hadn’t bought it on vinyl it probably would have fallen off my radar pretty quickly. I couldn’t even name you a specific song off of it, and yet every time I put it on I’m like this album is amazing and feels like it was made just for me. I don’t know how to reconcile those two things, but it certainly makes the album memorable in some way to me.
It’s a little weird that two of my favorite songs of the year are by Beyonce and Taylor Swift given that I generally don’t care for either of them. But I cannot deny how catchy “Anti-Hero” is. I will probably hate it in another month after it’s been played to death and I get tired of hearing people say “It’s Me. Hi. I’m the Problem. It’s Me.”, but for now I still think it’s a fun meme and kudos to Taylor for coming up with really one of the most memeable lyrics of all time. Beyonce’s “Break My Soul” came out at the perfect time. It felt like the summer anthem we all needed.
I would be remiss to not mention Kate Bush’s “Running Up that Hill”. I have always loved that song, so I was extremely delighted to see it have such a moment in 2022. It’s rare for a song that old to reenter the zeitgeist to that extent. I still love it just as much as I always did even after hearing it eleventy billion times this year.
I also adored the song “You’re Not Alone” by Allison Russell and Brandi Carlile. I loved the original version of the song, but I like that it got a little more recognition and another trip around the sun in 2022 with this remake adding in Brandi. I was very happy to hear it every time it came on the radio.
I also adore the song “Lonely Nights” by Cecilia Castleman. It’s like the perfect chill vibe song that feels like it was made in a bottle just for me.
2022 was the year I finally really went back to concerts. Not fully, but enough to feel almost normal. I didn’t hesitate to go to outdoor shows other than a couple times I didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize vacations. I was still more reluctant to go to indoor concerts and sat out a lot of those, but I did even venture out to a couple of shows inside. I have so many wonderful concerts from this year, it’s almost like I could name them all. It was just so wonderful to be able to enjoy live music again. Aside from being a wonderful show Allison Russell with Keyshona opening at the Barns at Wolf Trap was the most memorable because it was my first indoor concert. Brandi Carlile with the Indigo Girls and Allison Russell at Merriweather was just pure joy and felt like a mini Lilith Fair. Mary Chapin Carpenter and Emmylou Harris at Wolf Trap was just the perfect chill summer outdoor concert. Tears for Fears was wonderful. I got to hear “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, which is one of my all time favorite songs live for the first time, and I will never forget their interaction with the 12 year old girl in the front row who will probably never experience the thrill of that concert for the rest of her life. The Killers at Capitol One Arena was my first big indoor concert and the first with literally no COVID precautions in place, so it was a big deal that I stepped out of my comfort zone and went. It was one of those shows that remind you what his so special about live music with the crowd just completely in sync singing and dancing. I had the perfect vantage point to look out over the sea of people in the arena and it was a joy to behold.
I do like that to some degree online concerts have continued with bands often streaming the final show of a tour since they know it won’t eat into their in person ticket sales. I still watched a few of those this year. I loved watching Brandi Carlile at the Gorge with Lucius and Sarah McLachlan. Honestly Sarah McLachlan was my favorite part of that show. It reminded me how much I loved her music once upon a time and made me want to see her in concert again.
Broadway Theatre Production
I finally made it back to Broadway in 2022! I saw four shows total over two different trips. I saw Company, Music Man, Take Me Out, and A Strange Loop. Company was definitely the stand out for me. This revival in which the roles are gender switched was the first show I ever considered flying to London to see, since it opened in the West End first and it was unclear if it would move to Broadway. Thankfully it did and came back after COVID. I thought the staging was great, the gender flipping is really the only way this show works in 2022, and it meant I finally got to see Patti Lupone perform live.
Baltimore Theatre Production
I also saw some theatre in Baltimore this year as well. We did skip most of the shows we had season tickets for at the Hippodrome only seeing Pretty Woman and Hamilton out of the 7 shows in our package. We’ve also gone to a couple shows in the new season, but Tina! and Jagged Little Pill were nothing to speak of. My friend and I have not renewed our season tickets at Center Stage since the pandemic, but I did see a couple of shows there. I finally saw Our Town for the first time ever. My favorite of the shows was Ain’t No Mo’, which interestingly had a production happening in Baltimore at the same time a production of it was opening on Broadway.
Make Me Smart
I choose what podcasts go into this category by where they fall in my listening order when new episodes are available. Make Me Smart is still the reigning champ. I wasn’t sure how this year was going to be since Molly Wood, one of the original co-hosts left at the end of the last year. I still miss her energy and the specific rapport she had with Kai Rysdaal the other co-host. However, I really do like Kimberly Adamas as the new co-host. She brings a different sensibility to the show, but I really appreciate the smart questions she asks and how she will often pause to take a step back and remind Kai and herself to put things in context for the listeners who may not be as steeped in the topic they’re discussing as they are as journalists covering it.
I am also still loving the Drama Queens podcasts, which is the One Tree Hill rewatch podcast hosted by the shows three fmale leads. It’s perfect because it drops on Monday mornings, which is the morning when I don’t have a new episode of Make Me Smart to listen to.
How We Survive
How We Survive is another podcast put out by Marketplace and American Public Media, like Make Me Smart is. It’s hosted by Marketplace reporter Amy Scott. It was a podcast started by Molly Wood before she left Marketplace. I thought it might just die with her when she left, but it continued this year with Amy Scott at the helm. This season was a fascinating look at housing and climate change in Miami. Who knew listening to episodes about insurance could be so interesting (they’re not all about insurance).
The Evolving Faith Podcast
A great podcast for people trying to hold onto their faith when there doesn’t seem to be a reason to.
My favorite podcast episode of the year by far was the Switched on Pop episode in which they discuss The Killers. It’s hilarious and I could not stop thinking about it the whole time I was The Killers concert, especially whenever they sang one of the songs discussed in the episode.