Between movies, books, music, comics, podcasts, and the ever-growing glut of TV, there’s a ton of pop culture out there.
It can be a lot to keep up with. So we here at Vox Culture — where our current obsessions include Lorde’s new album, one of the best romantic comedies in years, and a new comic about a man who fights bears while shirtless — have a few suggestions for how to make the best use of your pop culture–consuming time.
Here are some items you should really consider adding to your pop culture diet.
Get lost in Lorde’s new album, Melodrama
According to Lorde herself, her long-awaited second album, Melodrama, traces the trajectory of a single night of partying, with all its exhilarating peaks and self-loathing valleys. The result is gorgeous, dark, and twisty (see: “Sober II [Melodrama]”), and simultaneously sweeping and intimate (see: “The Louvre”). Listening to the entire album all the way through — which I highly recommend — feels like spying on Lorde’s most gnarled thoughts, the kind you may have also experienced but never knew quite how to express. Every day I have a new favorite, but recently listening to “Supercut” while walking home after midnight in the summer fog was just about perfect. Put on this album when you’re feeling a little vulnerable, a lot sentimental, and definitely ready to indulge your more wicked impulses. —Caroline Framke
Speaking of Lorde, she briefly ran an Instagram account whose sole purpose was to rate onion rings
Last week, the New Zealand website NewsHub scored a major coup in the celebrity gossip world: It unearthed compelling evidence that pop star Lorde was running a secret Instagram account in which she photographs and rates onion rings.
“Oh, god, it’s me, it’s me, it’s me,” Lorde admitted to Jimmy Fallon. She “naively” didn’t think it would be “a thing,” she says, but look: It’s such a charmingly low-stakes secret that of course it would be a thing. It’s a pop star essentially creating a secret identity — pulling a Hannah Montana, if you will — for the sole purpose of rating second-tier fast food on a five-star system. It’s absurdly endearing.
Lorde has since deactivated the account, but she passed along some of her onion ring knowledge to Fallon. “A batter works better than a crumb,” she said authoritatively — it’s lighter — and to make your onion rings “magical,” you should consider lightly pickling the onions. “It takes on this acidity, and it’s incredible,” she concluded.
Just saying, I would watch a Lorde-hosted food show any day. —Constance Grady
The Big Sick might make you believe in romantic comedies again
The Big Sick, a new romantic comedy based on the real-life courtship of comedian Kumail Nanjiani and writer Emily V. Gordon (the couple co-wrote the film together), does that thing you want romantic comedies to do: It makes you sincerely hope that everybody in it finds some way to be happy by the end.
Nanjiani stars as a version of himself, while Zoe Kazan fills in as his love interest, Emily. The two meet cute, fall for each other quickly, then confront the differences in their backgrounds. She’s running from past failures; his traditional Pakistani immigrant parents want him to agree to an arranged marriage. And just as things are falling apart, Emily gets sick, which brings her parents (the wonderful Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) onto the scene. The issues the would-be couple must navigate are complex and meaningful, but the characters and relationships are beautifully drawn, warm, and funny. (Read our full review.) —Todd VanDerWerff
Shirtless Bear Fighter is a great new comic about a ... shirtless bear fighter
Few things have given me as much pleasure recently as Shirtless Bear Fighter; those things include a fried chicken sandwich, a cheese plate, luckiest loser Alexis Michelle getting roasted on RuPaul’s Drag Race’s season nine reunion episode, and that viral news story about a vegetarian woman from Maine drowning a rabid raccoon with her bare hands. But none of them really top the new comic by writers Jody Leheup and Sebastian Girner, with art from Mike Spicer, Nil Vendrell, and Andrew Robinson. It’s the breezy, ridiculous, entertaining comic that summer needs.
The premise is straightforward: A literal bear uprising is upon us, and only one man — a man who was raised by the uprising bears — can stop them. Fueled by the power of nudity and flapjacks, Shirtless Bear Fighter is the world’s last hope, and his story is one of the most enjoyable comics of the summer. —Alex Abad-Santos
Read GQ’s stellar profile of Mahershala Ali
A truly great celebrity profile — one that digs into both who the person is and why we care about them — is a rare thing, but Carvell Wallace’s debut for GQ, “Mahershala Ali Thinks We Can Still Make This Country Great,” is a beautiful example I’ll be thinking about for a while. It gives you a real, empathetic sense of how Ali, a longtime actor who “broke through” last year with his Academy Award–winning performance in Moonlight, navigates both Hollywood and America as a black Muslim man. But don’t take it from me; take it from Ali and Wallace’s own words, carefully chosen and deeply affecting:
“I think African-Americans have a very convoluted relationship with patriotism,” [Ali] says. “The fact is, we essentially were the abused child. We still love the parent, but you can’t overlook the fact that we have a very convoluted relationship with the parent. I absolutely love this country, but like so many people have some real questions and concerns about how things have gone down over the years and where we’re at. And that’s from a place of love, because I want the country to be what it says it is on paper.”
In the background, Anthony Kiedis is singing California, rest in peace over and over. Ali doesn’t seem to notice.
Check out the New York Times’s Still Processing podcast for smart conversations about pop culture
Every so often, I discover a podcast that makes me want to listen to a dozen episodes as quickly as possible. The latest to achieve this high honor is the New York Times’s Still Processing, hosted by culture writers Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris. The premise is simple: The two writers (and friends) chat about what’s currently on their minds, identify any topics that overlap and/or interest them both, and talk them out.
But Wortham and Morris’s smart and incisive commentary always manages to surprise, whether they’re discussing Get Out or Katy Perry, Beyoncé or James Baldwin. I especially like listening to them when I don’t quite agree (see: their underwhelmed response to Wonder Woman), or when their conversation takes a turn I didn’t see coming (see: their distaste for the new Baywatch movie evolving into a discussion of the beach’s possible healing properties and its fraught history of segregation). —CF
The Beguiled is a gorgeous potboiler of a film
Sofia Coppola’s spin on the 1971 Clint Eastwood vehicle The Beguiled makes a small change to its source material that makes all the difference. Where the earlier film and the novel it was based on both tell their story from the point of view of the film’s sole major male character, Coppola’s version shifts the perspective to the women who first rehabilitate him, then feel threatened by him. The events of the plot are the same; the eyes we see it through are flipped.
The impact is huge. Colin Farrell’s Civil War Union colonel finds himself with a bullet in his leg, at the mercy of the Southern women stranded at a Virginia girls school, led by Nicole Kidman. (Others living in the building include Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning.) The scenario ripples with sex, violence, blood, and the meticulously composed frames Coppola is known for. (Read our full review.) —TV
Read Zadie Smith on Get Out and Dana Schutz’s Open Casket
Any new Zadie Smith essay is an instant must-read, and her latest Harper’s piece, “Getting In and Out,” is certainly no exception. Smith has an uncanny gift for making connections between cultural events and her own experience, whether it’s Facebook or Italian paintings of corpses, and tackling the difficult issues they raise. Here, she draws a dotted line between Jordan Peele’s runaway hit movie Get Out, Dana Schutz’s controversial Whitney Biennial painting Open Casket (which depicted the casket of Emmett Till), and her own questions about being biracial, as well as her children’s experiences. The piece is thought-provoking, posing more questions than answers, and inspired plenty of debate. It’s worth sitting with for a while. —Alissa Wilkinson
After 15 years, Shania Twain is back with a new feel-good track
Shania Twain, the beloved country-pop crossover artist, is finally back after too much time out of the spotlight, and with a brand new song — “Life’s About to Get Good,” the debut single off her first full-length album in 15 years. Twain rose to fame in the ’90s, and her chart toppers were mostly about love (“You’re Still the One”) and female empowerment.
But she’s been under the radar for a while: In 2010, the singer and her husband, producer, and co-writer of 14 years, Robert John “Mutt” Lange, split (after he fell in love with her best friend). Not long afterward, Twain completely lost her voice, which she says was due to Lyme disease. But now, after working to retrain her vocal cords, the queen of country pop is using the get-up-and-go new track to declare that even though life can be about pain and challenges, it’s finally about to get good. The album, Now, will come out on September 29.
Bonus: We’re not the only ones ready for a Twain comeback. Haim expertly covered Twain’s 1999 hit “Man, I Feel Like A Woman!” at a pop-up show last week, and Twain approved. —Bridgett Henwood