Album Reviews, Arts & Entertainment, Film and TV, Internet, Music

The McGill Tribune Presents: THE BEST AND WORST OF 2021

ALBUMS

  1. Red (Taylor’s Version) by Taylor Swift

2012 was a simpler time: As conspiracy-theorists announced the approach of the world’s end, Taylor Swift was easing into pop music with catchy breakup songs. Nine years later, she has re-recorded her chart-topping album Red, adding 10 new songs (from the vault) that blend with the original album’s mix of colorful bops and somber songs. Featuring Phoebe Bridgers, Chris Stapleton, and more, Red (Taylor’s Version) confidentlynavigates toxic relationships, heartbreak, and the joys of getting older. 

  1. An Evening with Silk Sonic by Anderson .Paak, Silk Sonic, and Bruno Mars

An Evening with Silk Sonic is as smooth as liquid gold. Easy to listen to for even the most unfamiliar listener, every second of this 30-minute record is jam-packed with funky guitar glissandos and ever-present R&B vocals. An Evening with Silk Sonic doesn’t hold any grand aspirations. It’s not trying to change music as we know it forever; it’s simply a good time. 

  1. 30 by Adele

November 2021 was the official month for “sad girl autumn,” established in major part by Adele’s new album, 30. The highly anticipated work was the singer’s first release since 2016’s 25—and her signature powerhouse vocals and wistful lyricisms undeniably surpass all expectations. With standout songs like “I Drink Wine” and “Can I Get It,” 30 is an intense emotional collage that bridges themes of heartbreak, motherhood, and reinvention. Whether you’re 30 or 13, the album is an unforgettable insight into Adele’s creative ingenuity.

  1. Solar Power by Lorde

After a four-year hiatus, Lorde’s third studio album does not disappoint. Solar Power combines the artist’s brilliant lyricism with innovative acoustic sounds inspired by early-2000s soft rock. The resulting album is a candid ode to the power of nature, filled with Y2K references that add a slight dose of melancholia. Released in early August of this year, Solar Power was the perfect conclusion to the summer. But its appeal has extended beyond sunny weather, and its joyful beats will definitely be played during the dull winter days to come.

SONGS

  1. “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” by Lil Nas X

Since his debut in the mainstream scene in 2019, the internet can’t get enough of Lil Nas X. The release of “Montero (Call me by your name)” came at the perfect moment: During a time of universal misery amid the COVID-19 pandemic Lil Nas X’s catchy beats were what we didn’t know we needed. The song took the world by storm, becoming certified platinum in the fU.S. just a couple weeks after its release. For the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, the song was like a breath of fresh air—it was truly refreshing to see the rapper embrace his queer identity so authentically and unapologetically.

  1. “Driver’s License” by Olivia Rodrigo

Taking a page out of Taylor Swift’s book, Rodrigo began her career with a song about heartbreak. But what sets “Driver’s License” apart is its brutal honesty. Rodrigo paints a vivid image of how her driver’s license, a sign of flourishing adulthood and widening horizons, became the vehicle for a metaphor about mourning a failed relationship. Rodrigo’s candor is why “Driver’s License” is the hit of the season. Well, that and its killer melody. 

  1. “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)” by Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift’s 10-minute re-recording of a nearly 10-year-old song is a perfect example of her lyrical and musical genius. In this emotional ballad, Swift reflects on her naivety in past relationships, notably alluding to her former relationship with Jake Gyllenhaal. Melodically swelling as she begins to recognize the red flags, “All Too Well” is a cathartic break-up anthem that is the ultimate musical remedy for your toxic breakup blues. 

  1. “Off The Grid” by Kanye West

Kanye West, Playboi Carti, and Fivio Foreign team up for a hard-hitting assertion of pride about how far they’ve come while still giving their thanks to higher powers. Over a drum-heavy drill beat, Carti’s adlibs, Fivio’s verse, and Ye’s chorus collide for one of 2021’s best songs of the year. If Playboi Carti’s Whole Lotta Red/ wasn’t a hard enough collaboration between Playboi Carti and Kanye West, “Off The Grid” fills in for whatever was missing.  

FILMS

  1. Dune
(radio-canada.ca)

This film proved that a runtime of 155 minutes can still feel like a tease. Adapted from Frank Herbert’s iconic novel, Dune was a massive highlight of cinema this year. Dune follows the noble House Atreides as they assume control of the planet Arrakis and its production of spice, a precious resource. While the family deals with threats to their acquired power, teenage heir Paul (Timothee Chalamet) grapples with visions of a complicated future. With powerful performances, gorgeous cinematography, and an intense score, Dune is a must-see for those patient enough to sit through it.

  1. Spencer
(imdb.com)

Christmas with the British royals isn’t all fun hats and extravagant dishes. Directed by Pablo Larraín, Spencer is a fictitious retelling of the tenuous marriage between Diana, Princess of Wales (Kristen Stewart) and the infidelious Charles, Prince of Wales (Jack Farthing). As she navigates intrusive journalists, rude in-laws, and dinner-party politics, Diana struggles to find her footing. Lush scenery and a powerful performance by Stewart make the viewer forget they’re watching a made-up flick about a family of imperialist one-percenters.

  1. The Suicide Squad
(empire.com)

The fact that The Suicide Squad has an actually coherent storyline already places it a cut above its predecessor—but it doesn’t stop there. The newest James Gunn flick has visually-scrumptious special effects, a soundtrack you’ll be humming for days, and an ensemble that would make Tarantino drool. There is the upbeat yet unpredictable Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the brooding Bloodspot (Idris Elba), and John Cena as…well, John Cena. But it’s really King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone) who steals the show.

  1. No Time to Die
(cnn.com)

Daniel Craig is back for his fifth and final performance as James Bond in No Time to Die. The film has all of the exciting explosions and fight scenes that we expect in a 007 film, yet it also manages to tie up the loose ends in Craig’s collection of the Bond franchise. One standout new character is Paloma (Ana de Armas), a girlboss CIA agent who matches Bond in charm and intelligence. And for the first time ever, rejecting this hero’s previous standards of toxic masculinity, James Bond shows emotions and vulnerability.

TV SHOWS

  1. Sex Education
(netflixlife.com)

Not many shows can claim to be as representative and authentic as Netflix’s Sex Education, which has gotten better and better with each passing season. The third season centres on Moordale Secondary School’s new principal and her more conservative approach to education. With the new addition of gendered uniforms and abstinence-heavy sex education classes, Otis (Asa Butterfield) and his friends are faced with new challenges in exploring their sexuality and gender identity. This season does a focussed job exploring the dangers of oppressive mindsets on teenagers without straying from its humorous tone. 

  1. Squid Game
(theeconomist.com)

What is there to say about the biggest show of the year except that it’s utterly enthralling? Squid Game takes place in a world where people in severe debt are invited to participate in deadly children’s games for a chance to win a large fortune—and a second chance at a better life. The heart of the show is its characters, each so compelling yet pitiable, and in some cases detestable; their humanness is why it’s so easy to connect with them.  

  1. WandaVision
(IndieWire.com)

Marvel Studios kicked off its television endeavours on Disney+ with one of its most unique and innovative story arcs. Starring Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany), WandaVision follows the married couple through a progression of sitcom styles and stories as they try to piece together their past, present, and future. With striking new theme songs, cinematography, and costuming in each passing episode, WandaVision is a must-see for Marvel fans. 

  1. The White Lotus
(npr.org)

HBO’s The White Lotus, written and directed by Mike White, is a blueprint of how not to act on vacation. Two entitled families and a hysterical Jennifer Coolidge manage to antagonize every staff member working at the White Lotus, a luxury Hawaiian resort. The staff, in return, have fun taking revenge by stealing the guests’ drugs and sabotaging romantic date nights, creating a satirical comedy meant to make the viewers uncomfortable.

WORST:

  1. Song: “Obsessed” by Addison Rae

The debut single by TikToker and internet personality Addison Rae is just as perplexing and disappointing as her entire career. While Rae most likely intended to release a dance-pop anthem about self-love and empowerment, the actual song sounds vacuous and conceited. Given her rising stardom, it’s okay for Rae to obsess over herself. But don’t expect general audiences to obsess over this painful waste of 134 seconds. 

2. Album: = by Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran’s transformation from soft acoustic country boy to possessive synth-pop star is complete in his newest album, simply titled =. Sheeran’s lack of creativity in sticking to math symbols is emblematic of this creative endeavor in its entirety. As this album is titled after a finalizing symbol, hopefully it is Sheeran’s final album.

3. Film: Space Jam: A New Legacy

(BBC.com)

Playing on nostalgia for an easy cash-grab has been a recurring trend in Hollywood for a few years now. If you grew up in the late ‘90s, you most likely remember the iconic movie Space Jam, in which basketball superstar Michael Jordan befriends beloved Looney Tunes characters. The 2021 sequel, unfortunately, is nothing like the original. It’s not much more than two hours replete with tactless product placements, flat jokes, and unnecessary social media references.

4. TV Show: Pretty Smart

(eonline.com)

Pretty Smart, the latest Netflix sitcom, is about as appealing as the leftover grey slush at the bottom of an Ice Capp. From the title alone, it’s clear that the producers at least have a firm grasp of irony. The series follows Chelsea (Emily Osment), a self-proclaimed brainiac, as she’s forced to live with her sister and her “eccentric” friends. Little to say, the premise is not very inspiring—but don’t worry, nothing else about the show is either. If this gets picked up for a second season, I’m selling all my lively possessions and abandoning human society to live among the Cloudberries.

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