The Most Memorable Pop Culture Moments of 2013

| December 11, 2013
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We made it through another lap around the sun! What better way to celebrate than to look back on the pop culture moments that stuck in our minds, made us laugh, and made us want to be better? The KQED Pop gang shares their favorites, from a five-year-old superhero and a sixteen-year-old anti-pop pop singer to interpretive dancing and a demented Forever 21 fantasy.

Batkid Saves the Day!

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Photo: Ramin Talaie/Getty Images

One of the year’s best pop culture moments happened right here in our own backyard. Last month, San Francisco transformed itself into Gotham City so Miles, a five-year-old boy in remission from leukemia, could live his dream of being “Batkid” for a day. That Friday, the team from the “Make a Wish” Foundation staged a runaway cable car on Russian Hill so Batkid (and his adult Batman sidekick) could rescue a damsel in distress, a bank robbery in the Financial District at the hands of the Riddler (foiled!), and a kidnapping of the Giants’ mascot Lou Seal in Union Square (ending with Batkid’s apprehension of the Penguin at AT&T Park). Batkid finished the day at City Hall where the mayor presented him with the key to the city. Crowds greeted Batkid at every location; it was hard to find a San Franciscan that wasn’t cheering him on. The San Francisco Chronicle even printed a special “Gotham City Chronicle” to commemorate the occasion. As eyes and media around the world turned our way, this blogger was reminded of everything that is good about our fair city: the readiness for adventure, the willingness to dress up and pretend, and our ability as citizens to recognize a true hero when we see one. –Tony Bravo

The Most Anti-Pop Pop Song Goes Number One (And Stays There For A While)

Lorde’s “Royals” wasn’t a surprise when it became number one and stayed there for nine weeks because it came from a 16-year-old girl from New Zealand, but because it undermined everything else that was on the pop charts, especially all the other divas out there like Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga, who had excellent but ultimately not as smart singles. Lorde continues her anti-pop reign by putting out the most anti-video video for “Tennis Court,” humbly shocking in interviews when she speaks her mind about other pop stars, and revealing that she’s a huge book nerd. She literally breaks down the similarities between writing short fiction and writing a song. It’s the first time that adults can listen to a teenager’s pop record and not feel even a little embarrassed that they understand exactly where she’s coming from. –Alex Vikmanis

HBO Cancels Enlightened

Fate is inevitable. When the titan network made the announcement that Enlightened got the axe, no one was surprised. Still, like Laura Dern’s superb character Amy Jellicoe, we held tight to our hope. The slanted tone, the unlikeable hero, and the existential inquiries were unlike anything else on television and made each viewing experience unique and thoughtful. But because of the show’s low numbers, HBO made the “very difficult decision” to cancel. To this day, I wonder how Amy Jellicoe would have taken the news. She might have stormed into HBO headquarters on the verge of a second breakdown and demanded the suits reconsider their decision, flipping tables and smashing mugs. Or she might have taken it all in stride, sought solace in her crystals, and kept on. While the former might have made for better television and perhaps higher numbers, I like to think she chose the latter, forward-bound, on her unending search to fill her heart and become an agent of change. –David Aloi

Daft Punk Cancels Appearance on Colbert Report with 24 Hours Notice

As part of his big summer concert series, StePhest Colbchella, late night newsman Stephen Colbert booked French pop group Daft Punk on his show, The Colbert Report, in early August. Approximately 24 hours before the show was set to tape, Colbert got word that Daft Punk would not be appearing on his show, due to a supposed exclusivity contract with MTV. Undeterred, an understandably miffed Colbert went full steam ahead with the broadcast because, as he explained, his sponsor Hyundai had already paid for the performance. Colbert rolled up his sleeves and smacked both Daft Punk and MTV’s network president, Van Toffler, with hilarious insults. Then, being a man of his word, he delivered Daft Punk’s summer hit “Get Lucky” — only rather than live, it was an awesome collaborative music video featuring: the Radio City Rockettes, Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and the cast of Breaking Bad, to name a few. In the end, it was reported that the video hadn’t been made on the fly, but was previously recorded for another use and then used as the perfect solution to this rotten predicament. That doesn’t ruin it for me at all. Planned or not, the video (and that entire episode) was one hell of a nice save and a brilliant moment in 2013 pop culture. –Natalie Grace Sweet

Prince Rama Premieres 17 Minutes of a Demented Fantasy Titled Never Forever

The year 2013 held many things near and dear to my heart, but if I have to give a shout-out to just one pop cultural artifact from this strange and lovely year, I choose Prince Rama’s short film, Never Forever. The enigmatic sisters of the band (who cite “French dudes” Derrida and Baudrillard as influences, along with Cindy Sherman, and yoga) have the incantatory, psychedelic, faux-shaman thing down to an art. They fully inhabit their hypnotic weirdness: making concept albums about the apocalypse, Instagramming their raccoon attack in Central Park, and writing recipe columns with a demented hipster commitment to mis-capitalizing. With performances at the Whitney and the MoMa Dome, as well as an advice column for MTV, Prince Rama are performance artists and rock stars, and probably some things in between too, embodying an irreverent and savvy approach to identity and creation which I find incredibly refreshing.     

I was lucky enough to see them perform at The Chapel this fall when they were on tour with the premiere of Never Forever. The film is 17 minutes of a freaking awesome, scary, fantasy hodgepodge of images I wish I’d dreamed myself. The band describes inspiration for the film as follows: “Forever 21. Ryan Trecartin. Thriller. Extreme sports. Kenneth Anger. Alejandro Jodorowsky. Liquid Sky. Zombie Aesthetics. The Apple. The Big Apple. Matthew Barney. Monster Energy. Fun Fun. Stonehenge. Kate Bush. Lao Tsu. Muscle Milk. Nietzsche. Hooters. Billboard Hot 100. Charles Manson. The Unarians. Abercrombie and Fitch. Holograms. Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. Meshes of the Afternoon. Donna Summer.” And that sounds about right.

After Never Forever screened, Prince Rama came out and put on one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen.  It was a smoky, neon tour de force that ended with them leaping off the stage, clearing a dance circle and proceeding to do a brilliant extended dance routine with aerobic lunges and ballet kicks. At one point, they were dancing with an older woman in the crowd, who I am 99% sure was their mom, and at another point, they crowd surfed with a bad ass level of gusto I haven’t seen since high school. It was all incredibly charismatic and riveting. They often made creepy, extended eye contact with audience members, including myself, which made me feel somehow part of a ritual, instead of just an audience member at a concert. I felt like I indeed existed in some other reality, part Forever 21, part Meshes of the Afternoon, and I liked it. –Laura Schadler

Taylor Swift Wins Every Awards Show With Her Interpretive Dancing

2013 was chock full of memorable moments. There was the time I saw Blackfish and considered quitting my life to get a job at Sea World and release Tilikum and the other captive whales while no one was looking. Or less depressingly, when I overlooked that hashtag and listened to Mariah’s “#Beautiful” for hours. Or every time Jennifer Lawrence did anything at all (her casual anecdote about pooping her pants is a favorite). But nothing brought me greater joy this year than not watching every award show and waiting for the animated gifs of Taylor Swift bopping in the audience to show up on Tumblr. In case you didn’t know, Slaylor Giftfromgod is renowned at awards shows, not only for her OMG I won?!? incredulity, but also for interpretive dancing her way through every performance she’s not actually in. Whether she intends to or not, all the attention diverts away from the performer to her story-telling arm movements and the embarrassment of her neighbors. It’s joie de vivre at its best (and nerdiest), and a good reminder to dance (or just live your life) like you just don’t care. –Emmanuel Hapsis

Taylor, help us groove our way into 2014!

Photo: Awkward Taylor Swift Dancing, via Tumblr

Photo: Awkward Taylor Swift Dancing, via Tumblr

Photo: Awkward Taylor Swift Dancing, via Tumblr

Photo: Awkward Taylor Swift Dancing, via Tumblr

Photo: Awkward Taylor Swift Dancing, via Tumblr

Photo: Awkward Taylor Swift Dancing, via Tumblr

Photo: Awkward Taylor Swift Dancing, via Tumblr

Photo: Awkward Taylor Swift Dancing, via Tumblr

Photo: Awkward Taylor Swift Dancing, via Tumblr

Photo: Awkward Taylor Swift Dancing, via Tumblr

Photo: Alan Hanson, via Tumblr

Photo: Alan Hanson, via Tumblr

Photo: Awkward Taylor Swift Dancing, via Tumblr

Photo: Awkward Taylor Swift Dancing, via Tumblr

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About the Author ()

KQED Pop is a daily blog edited by Emmanuel Hapsis that critically examines the social and cultural impact of music, movies, television, advertisements, fashion, the internet and all the other collective experiences that make us laugh, cringe and cry. We focus on local, national and international experiences with a Bay Area lens. We don’t do reviews.

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