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The 15 Pop Cultural Moments That Defined 2021 A lot of things happened in 2021 and Alarcon is just the writer to nitpick about all of it.

The 15 Pop Cultural Moments That Defined 2021

A lot of things happened in 2021 and Alarcon is just the writer to nitpick about all of it.

by Alarcon, Founder / Managing Editor
first published: December, 2021

approximate reading time: minutes

Nobody asked for it, and they didn't need the money to do it, but the Friends cast reunite and it's as awkward and embarrassing as every other event hosted by James Corden.

Lots of things happened in 2021 – some good, some bad. Alarcon cherry picked the year-defining moments that shaped what OUTSIDELEFT employees could be heard chatting about around the office kitchenette while they should’ve been churning out copy. And with that, here’s to a more productive 2022. Onward!

Exile in Windsor Castle
January 8
After their spring wedding in 2018, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry decide they’ve had enough, pack the Movevan, and leave Windsor Castle, along with all of its plush trappings, forever. Harry cites England’s “toxic press” for destroying his mental health, but in an interview with Oprah three months later, he reveals that racism within the Royal Family is another factor. (The Champ and I hashed out the subtleties and details of “Megxit” here.) Prince Andrew’s ties to Jeffrey Epstein later this year ensure that the Royals' steady decline will continue, now at a breakneck speed.

MTV’s ‘Real World: New York’ Reunion
March 4
The seven kids from the inaugural season of MTV’s Real World reunite for the first time in nearly 30 years. They’ve all aged well, especially Eric Nies who now is some sort of mystic shaman with washboard abs and the laissez-a-faire attitude of someone who mainlines ayahuasca every morning. The reunion’s best bits come from Heather B. chastising MTV producers for leaving footage of her father on the cutting room floor, and the justification of Kevin for everything seemingly controversial he said in 1992. Forced nostalgia fails miserably throughout 2021, but this reunion rises above the genre’s current din.

Beeple's $69M NFT Sale
March 11
The artworld shifts gears when a digital artist who goes by the name Beeple sold an NFT entitled Everydays: The First 5000 Days for $69 million at Christie’s auction house. The first-of-its-kind sale makes Beeple among the top three most valuable living artists in the world. The winner of the auction now “owns” the digital file and bragging rights, but what’s to brag about? As Brian Eno would say later in the year on the subject of the current digital art craze, “NFTs seem to me just a way for artists to get a little piece of the action from global capitalism, our own cute little version of financialization. How sweet – now artists can become little capitalist assholes as well.”

Lil Nas X's 'Satan Shoes' Drop
March 28
Lil Nas X debuts his limited-run line of Satan Shoes in which he injects a drop of his blood in the air-bubbled midsole of a pair of repurposed Nikes, selling them for $1,018. Nike then immediately sues and declares they have no connection to Lil Nas or his demonic trainers. As mediocre as his music is, he gets credit for a savvy marketing instinct. Between this stunt, his music videos, and his comments about his sexulity, he’s done what every wildly successful pop musician before him has done: create complete chaos for the conservative, religious right. If you can get that group screaming at each other in the conservative 24-hour media newscycle for a couple of weeks, you’re guaranteed platinum across the board.

Bennifer 2.0
May 13

Shallow? Maybe, but it’s been interesting to observe these two meet, break up, and get back together again in the span of two decades. The years flew by! As difficult as these two seem, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez remind me of those couples who dated and broke up in high school, experienced one or more horrible marriages as adults which ended in divorce, and reunited with each other on Facebook, only to marry each other out of fear of dying alone. It’s a tale as old as time and I’m here for it.

Chai Release the Recording of the Year
May 21
Amidst a sea of pretentious songs and albums about reflection, isolation, and whatever other grey, joyless emotions the pandemic spurred, Japan’s Chai release the album of the year. Wink is jam-packed with an irresistible collage of smart Beastie Boy beats (“End”), Cibo Matto-like slow jams (“Donuts Mind if I Do”), and a sense of optimism and joy that was rarely, if ever heard in 2021.

The One About the Friends Who Needed Ego-Stroking
May 27
Nobody asked for it, and they didn’t need the money to do it, but the Friends cast reunite on HBO anyway, and it’s as awkward and embarrassing as every other event hosted by James Corden. Matthew Perry seems to be under some sort of permanent pharmaceutical daze, and Jennifer Aniston spins a yarn about ‘mutually crushing’ on the po-faced David Schwimmer during filming. Aniston’s story sounds made up and no one believes her claim considering the men with defined jawlines she dated later. The entire reunion feels pre-scripted, filled with cringe-inducing moments – it’s very safe to say that this will be the last time we ever see these seven people assembled in front of a camera again.

Richard Branson Wins?
July 11
The winner of the Billionaire Space Race Dick-Swinging Contest® goes to Richard Branson, the wealthy British business magnate who’s the first non-astronaut to launch himself into outer space. Jeff Bezos reaches space nine days later, while Elon Musk talks about space flight so much, it’s possible that he’s gone to space too, but no one pays attention to his wild claims anymore so I can neither confirm nor muster interest in him to Google it. The central takeaway to all if this is that Earth’s wheels are falling off, and every narcissist with F-U money is looking for the next planet to destroy.

Woodstock 99 doc
July 23, 2021
One of the four best music documentaries of the year, right up there with Peter Jackson’s Get Back, Todd Haynes’ Velvet Underground film, and Questlove’s Summer of Soul. I even wrote a fantastic feature about it, explaining how Woodstock ‘99 single handedly murdered the androngyous rock and roll star. As heinous as this festival was, Woodstock 99 is a phenomenal 110-minute film when viewed less as a Behind The Music special and more as a social and cultural documentary.

It’s a Wrap for the Arc de Triomphe
September 18
Christo, the artist who installed umbrellas across the desolate hills of central California in the ‘90s and draped orange bed sheets about Central Park in the early ‘00s, dies in 2020. Before his demise, he shares a vision with his team: Christo wants to wrap the Arc de Triomphe with more bedsheets. The French oblige him and his team proceed to cover the Arc in silver bed sheets. It’s a self-indulgent, meaningless gesture, but what great pop art isn’t? Is Christo an artistic charlatan, even in death? Spanish Pantalones answered that question years ago in one of OUTSIDELEFT’s most controversial articles to date.

ABBA Proves Once and For All That You Can’t Go Home Again
September 21
After decades of vague threats of a possible reunion, ABBA record and release a new album after a 40-year hiatus. Is it worth the wait? Not really, you’ve heard these songs before when they recorded them decades ago. Voyage sounds incredibly familiar and derivative of their old material, but nostalgia is a big driving force in the age of coping during the pandemic. As for that reunion, as I mentioned in my full review earlier in the year, the roles of ABBA will be played by holograms. It all proves you really can’t go home again.

The Return of the Sopranos
The Sopranos returns in the form of The Many Saints Of Newark. Lots of fans moan about the fact that the film isn’t able to stand on its own; too many inside jokes and forced situational storylines as I pointed out in my full review published earlier in the year. Ideally, Saints is a limited series on HBO so Chase can dig into his characters a bit more. Instead, starved, slightly disgruntled fans settle for this two-hour sampler which never quite scrapes the surface of the Sopranos universe.

Rust Shooting
October 21
Alec Baldwin fires a live and loaded revolver at the director of photography Halyna Hutchins on the set of his low-budget western in New Mexico. Hutchins dies from a chest wound an hour later. The next day, it’s discovered that the person in charge of handing the firearms on movie sets forgot about the live round in Baldwin’s weapon. Months later, Baldwin will tell George Stephanopoulos that he didn’t pull the trigger of the weapon that killed Hutchins, although he admits to pulling its hammer and let it snap back… which… is… an alternative way of firing a revolver. (Does he not understand how these types of handguns function?) Baldwin’s lawyer must weep every time the actor talks to the press these days.

Britney Spears Regains Rights To Ruin Her Life As She Sees Fit
November 12
With a groundswell of momentum that begins when the New York Times’ documentary Framing Britney Spears is released in February, Spears eventually hires the right lawyer who frees her from her father’s clutches after living under his thumb for 13 years. No word on what her plans are now that she’s unshackled, but the outlook doesn’t look good. That hunky new boyfriend of hers surely has designs on her finery, and all those troubling Instagram videos are sure to wind up as exhibits in her next court case. That said, she has her freedom and everyone deserves the right to destroy their own life as they see fit. How will Spears spend 2022? The best case scenario is that she hires a competent manager, buys some good songs, and produces an adult comeback album. What will probably happen is she’ll continue to use Instagram as her main platform of communication and just upload videos of herself, manically chattering to the camera as she tugs on the belt loops of her denim cut-offs.

All 7.8 Hours of The Beatles’ Get Back
November 25
You don’t have to like The Beatles to appreciate Get Back, but it helps when you’re several hours in and McCartney indulges Lennon by allowing Yoko to lay down a screamo track while everyone’s on the clock. It’s wasteful moments like this when you begin to debate whether director Peter Jackson’s is an auteur or a sadist. Still, the documentary is a raw look at how fragile the band was by the end – McCartney acquiesces to Lennon’s every nauseating whim and the band suffers for it. Get Back also illustrates how essential a good manager is to a successful band; once Brian Epstein died, so did the Beatles’ group dynamic. Still, it’s magical to see a weary McCartney will “Get Back” out of his bass guitar.

Photo: Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Founder / Managing Editor

Alarcon co-founded outsideleft with lamontpaul (the Tony Wilson to his Rob Gretton) in 2004. His work for OL has attracted the attention of hundreds of thousands of readers, oh and probably the FBI, too.

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