As 2013 ends, here's a final smack to the nonsense we're all sick of—and one last shout-out to some folks who deserved more love.
Outlived her 15 minutes: Miley Cyrus. In the musical sphere, was there anyone in 2013 as deliberately obnoxious as the former Destiny Hope Cyrus, the hippie-named, ex-Disney doyenne whose over-obvious attempts to transition from doe-eyed child star to edgy wild-child grown gal made anyone with even a modicum of taste want to hurl? In her quest to resoundly decimate the last vestiges of Hannah Montana, Miss Miley guested on tracks by Snoop Lion, will.i.am and Lil Twist, bounced her non-existent ass against Robin Thicke’s private parts and ratcheted up the ratchet by utilizing the stale, otherizing tactic of black-women-as-accessories and releasing her “dirty South”-influenced Bangerz LP. Those of us who wish she’d fly away like those butterflies in “Party in the U.S.A.” will be sadly disappointed: She’s hitting the road in 2014, bringing all that pop pap to a stadium near you.
Deserves 15 minutes more: Grace Potter, as seen at Wawa Welcome America. Okay, we’ll take some of the blame for not doing our part to champion this chick’s overall fabulosity in 2013, but: Did you witness bluesy rock songstress Grace Potter’s stunning cover of Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady” at this year’s Welcome America Fourth of July celebration concert? Oh. Em. Gee. With the Roots at her back before a packed Parkway crowd, Sister Grace kicked off her shoes and whatever inhibitions an artist—even one with her amazing vocal skill—must have before diving into those iconic waters, especially before a fickle Philly audience eager to get its party on. Via the Franklin-penned funk standard, Potter put her exquisite soulfulness on full display and wowed the entire crowd, managing to do what few singers of any age or stripe could do: upstage Jill Scott. / SHEENA LESTER
Outlived his 15 minutes in 2013: Un-Superman. This summer saw the release of Man of Steel, a Superman movie that boasted the dubious distinctions of (a) not including the word “Superman” anywhere, and (b) turning the world’s oldest superhero into a neck-snapping killer. The film sparked many discussions about the appropriateness of violence in stories that are theoretically aimed at children—which would have been an interesting and worthwhile conversation to have, if Man of Steel had been anything more than an overhyped, over-expensive, dour, empty spectacle with little to actually say other than the adolescent whine, “Parents don’t know anything, man!”
Deserves 15 more minutes: Antihero. Not long after Man of Steel left theaters, local theater troupe Tribe of Fools premiered their show Antihero at the Philly Fringe Festival. The play is nominally about a man who decided to become a costumed vigilante fighting the Philadelphia Parking Authority—but it’s so much more than that. For starters, it analyzes why archetypes like Batman and Superman are appealing and critiqued comic book culture through a feminist lens. Mostly, though, the play is about the cost of violence. A child’s death by police officers hangs over the show like a ghost, giving even the stunning fight scenes—the cast are all trained in parkour, which meant they soared around the set and over each other—a weighty heft. These combat sequences unfold in the minds of the main characters—and then are powerfully contrasted by the climactic real-world fight scene, where two men hyped up on their own fantasies of themselves duke it out in a pathetic, awkward fashion, with tragic results. Antihero, unlike Man of Steel, has a lot to say about violence—namely, how little it actually solves. / JARED AXELROD
THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
Outlived their 15 minutes in 2013: IBX’s “Live Fearless” billboards. Philadelphians live fearlessly every day, traversing the Schuylkill Expressway during rush hour or actually eating soft pretzels bought off some guy on a street corner in Tacony. That’s why Independence Blue Cross, headquartered right here in the City of Brotherly Love, didn’t so much inspire us as fill us with the urge to throw iceballs at Santa Claus when they coated the town in billboards bearing the abysmally phrased slogan “Live Fearless.” People who speak the English language all winced at the insurance juggernaut’s failure to properly use a damn adverb, instead turning the adjective “fearless” into a new state of mind that apparently transcends the “ly” that ought to be on the end of it. IBX first rolled out “Live Fearless” in July, and by now the ubiquity of those two big, boldfaced, ungrammatical words is just stabbing our souls over and over and over again. We love that Independence Blue Cross brings lots of great jobs to the local economy—but, really, we need “Live Fearless” to go the fuck away.
Deserves 15 more minutes: @phillypolice. From acknowledging jokes from residents by responding with pop culture references to publicly mocking some idiot trying to buy prescription cough syrup illicitly on Twitter, the PPD’s Twitter presence manages to evoke the well-expressed soul of every good cop in the city. With information ranging from the helpful (hey, the PPD is recruiting!) to the heartwarming (aw, they’re giving gifts to needy kids!) to the serious (ugh, some asshole just robbed a store in West Philly), @phillypolice is one of those awesome public relations projects done right. Considering the Obama administration couldn’t even make the Obamacare website work, we’re lucky to have some on-point communicators here at the municipal level. And, speaking of Twitter… / JOSH KRUGER
Outlived its 15 minutes in 2013: #Ask... Twitter allows for a weird sort of democracy: No matter who you are, it is just as easy to send a message to you as to anyone else. This sort of unfiltered interaction took J.P. Morgan by surprise when its invitation for the public to #AskJPM resulted in questions like “As a young sociopath, how can I succeed in finance?” and “When will you all go to jail?” Not long after, R. Kelly’s publicists, having learned nothing from J.P. Morgan’s debacle, put out an #AskRKelly call for questions. As you might imagine, most of the inquiries had nothing to do with the singer’s upcoming album and everything to do with whether Kelly had future plans to abuse any minors.
Deserves 15 more minutes: #GunCrisis. While tweets speaking truth to the powerful and famous are hilarious, it would be unrealistic to think they’re going to change anyone’s behavior (other than don’t use Twitter anymore). The dedicated people behind Philadelphia’s GunCrisis Reporting Project, meanwhile, are trying to use hashtags to change the world. With #GunCrisis, the GCRP seeks to create a central point for reporting gun violence in Philadelphia communities. But that hashtag is just the beginning; the GCRP also hopes to establish context of these crimes, in order to build a bigger picture of precisely how violence affects Phildelphia and how it can be stemmed. Whether corporate media pays attention or not, the democratic accessibility of Twitter allows anyone affected by gun violence to stand up and be counted—just by using a hashtag. / J.A.
Outlived their 15 minutes in 2013: Kim and Kanye. Please, Kim and Kanye: enough already. If you aren’t stunting the general public and the fame-hungry media with some kind of faux event—a wedding, a birth, a sex tape—then you’re doing something else to annoy the shit out of us. Take, for instance, Kanye’s claims about his fiancee’s beauty being her great talent, and about how her enormous social clout outshines Michelle Obama’s. Let’s not even get into leather sweatpants. (Idiots.) Kanye, at least, gave us one of the better records of the year—but as he raps in “Clique”: “My girl a superstar all from a home movie.”
Deserve 15 more minutes: Kerry and Robert. If we absolutely have to see a cultural power couple stunt-riding a motorcycle, we’d rather it not be those “Bound 2” clowns, but someone more authentic—like maybe Philly’s Kerry Boland of The Head and the Hand Press (the awesome indie book publisher) and Robert Berliner of Hoots & Hellmouth (the awesome indie roots band), respectively. As the local craft press’ marketing guru, the only shameless hyping Boland does is of upcoming local literary talents. Meanwhile, Berliner keeps making magic in one of the city’s best Americana groups, manning mandolins, banjos, pianos and organs—not just buying expensive recordings of said instruments and looping them like some recording artists. (Something tells us these two aren’t afraid of retrieving their own damn croissants, either.) / BILL CHENEVERT
Outlived its 15 minutes in 2013: ignorance about blackface. Has there ever been a year in recent memory when blackface made headlines so many times? Philly was first out of the gate on New Year’s Day, when a Mummers parade float themed around “Bringing Back the Minstrel Days” seemed to try dodging the definition of blackface by dressing performers in tan face paint—with exaggerated lips and over-sized white cardboard hands. Yes, let’s have a minstrel show! In 2013! It had been 50 years since the NAACP and the Congress of Racial Equality formally petitioned the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas to ban blackface from the parade; apparently, they should have scheduled a reminder.
Deserves 15 more minutes: the Schomberg Symposium. Just a few weeks later, the local cultural arts center Taller Puertorriqueño hosted their 17th annual Arturo Schomberg Symposium, an event designed to analyze and educate folks in the rich history of Afro-Latin America. This year’s symposium focused on the internalized, institutionalized and nationalized racism and self-hatred found in Puerto Rico; the panel featured academics and comic-book professionals alike who enlightened the audience, engaging in responsible dialogue and suggesting ways to counter media-produced racism. Funny how, with a mere month between them, one organization was light years ahead of the other. / KENNEDY ALLEN
PW's Summer Guide 2014