clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

9 essential pieces of pop culture to catch up on this weekend

The ever-growing glut of great new TV, movies, books, music, comics, and podcasts can be a lot to keep up with. So we here at Vox Culture — where our current obsessions include Taylor Swift’s surprisingly unfortunate (but still catchy!) new single, an intriguing new Robert Pattinson movie, and the first album in eight years from the seminal emo band Brand New — have a few suggestions for how to make the best use of your pop culture–consuming time.

Here are nine items you should really consider adding to your pop culture queue.

Listen: the Girlboss podcast returns with Roxane Gay

In its first season, Sophia Amoruso’s Girlboss Radio made a name for itself by combining blunt humor with interviews Amoruso conducted with professional women, from government policy advisers to internet mavens to chief executives. This week, the series returns with an intimate, wide-ranging interview with writer Roxane Gay, who discusses everything from fatphobia to learning to take risks. It’s a surprisingly soothing hour of podcasting, and a great return for a podcast that’s always challenged the idea of what “success” looks like for women in business. —Aja Romano

Watch/Listen: the latest developments in Katy Perry and Taylor Swift’s long-running feud

Neither Katy Perry’s celebrity-studded new video for “Swish Swish” nor Taylor Swift’s new single “Look What You Made Me Do” is very good. But they both sure are something. Released this week within hours of one another, each leaves much to be desired. Yet they’re still worth checking out, if only to witness each singer’s evolving sense of self: Perry seems to waver over whether she’s an empowered, independent woman or a plucky underdog, while Swift is stepping into the role of a put-upon victim who can’t take it anymore. —Jen Trolio

Read: Stay With Me is a heartbreaking stunner

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo Knopf

The debut novel Stay With Me, by Ayobami Adebayo, is the story of a marriage on a slow-motion crash course. Yejide told Akin when the couple first got married that she wasn’t interested in polygamy. Akin, smitten, agreed — he didn’t see why he would ever need another wife. But after years go by and Yejide fails to get pregnant, Akin, under increasing pressure from his mother, takes another wife.

Yejide is heartbroken, but she’s sure she knows how to fix things. All she needs to do is get pregnant before the new wife does and she’ll be fine. And so with increasing intensity, she devotes herself to the question of how to get pregnant, unaware that her quest will have catastrophic consequences. —Constance Grady

Watch: Robert Pattinson tears up the screen in Good Time

Josh and Benny Safdie, who are brothers, lit up the crowds at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival with their action-crime thriller Good Time, which stars the kinetic and continually evolving Robert Pattinson as a somewhat hapless crook outrunning the law one night in Queens. It’s an arthouse film that feels like it’s been chain smoking and rolling around in the mud for a while; it’s occasionally brutal at times, with a gritty, neon-lit look isn’t for everyone. But it’s fast-paced and startling, and Pattinson’s performance alone is worth a look. —Alissa Wilkinson

Read: Tumble & Blue is a joyous Southern gothic romp of a novel

Tumble and Blue by Cassie Beasley Dial

Blue Montgomery has a problem. He belongs to a family where everyone has a fate: sometimes good (Blue’s father wins at everything he tries!) and sometimes bad (his grandmother’s husbands all die). Blue himself has a pretty unpleasant one, especially when you’re a 12-year-old boy: He loses at everything he tries.

Luckily for Blue, his new neighbor, the irrepressible Tumble Wilson, is eager to help. Tumble is determined to be a hero. She has practically every page of How to Hero Every Day memorized, and she never goes anywhere without her backpack full of hero-ing supplies. Tumble is certain she can fix Blue’s problem. They just have to convince a magic talking alligator to help. What could go wrong?

The resulting Tumble & Blue is a delightful middle-grade adventure novel, in a Southern gothic landscape teeming with wonder. —CG

Watch: Patti Cake$ puts a fun new spin on a familiar underdog story

Music video director Geremy Jasper’s feature debut Patti Cake$ splits the difference between two tried-and-true storytelling formats: the coming-of-age tale and the underdog fame narrative. As such, there’s little about the film that will surprise anyone who’s familiar with those types of stories (read: everyone). But Patti Cake$’ well-realized setting — a pocket of New Jersey defined by its boarded-up strip malls and pervasive apathy — and a stellar central performance give it a charm all its own.

Danielle Macdonald commands the screen as Patricia Dombrowski, a.k.a. Killa P, a broke, shy aspiring rapper who, with the unwavering support of her best friend and biggest fan Hareesh (Siddharth Dhananjay), struggles to find an outlet for her talent in the face of a community and genre that has little use for someone of her gender, race, and size. Patti Cake$ may be familiar in its broad strokes, but, like its main character, it sets itself apart with a unique point of view and loads of charisma. —Genevieve Koski

Listen: Brand New’s Science Fiction is a stunning coda to the band’s catalog

After a nearly eight-year gap, one of modern emo’s seminal bands has returned with a sledgehammer of a record. Science Fiction is not only a stunning album, filled with haunting lyrics and melodies on tracks like “Same Logic/Teeth” and “No Control” — it’s also a road map for how a band whose calling card is naked emotion can age and evolve without losing their raw-nerve connection to their most ardent fans. But Brand New are still planning to disband in 2018, an oft-discussed fact that makes Science Fiction even more of a heartbreaker. Instead of simply fading away, they’ve produced a dignified ending to their story that will likely send fans new and old tumbling through their discography with a fresh appreciation for how they’ve grown and developed while staying true to their roots. —Grant Rindner

Read: The Immortal Iron Fists imagines what kind of father Danny Rand would be


There is no character in the Marvel universe who needs a good story as much as Iron Fist, a.k.a. Danny Rand. Critics hated the Iron Fist Netflix series, and though the character recently enjoyed a fresh start in Netflix’s The Defenders, the series overall didn’t generate the same kind of buzz that Marvel’s other shows for the streaming service usually do.

Enter Kaare Kyle Andrews and Afu Chan with their adorable comic series Immortal Iron Fists, a story about Rand taking in a young warrior named Pei. Pei is a teenage girl who bears the mark of the Iron Fist, and the two work together to fight dragon demons and navigate the horrors of high school — though at this point, it’s unclear which of those two challenges is more terrifying. —Alex Abad-Santos

Listen: Khalid’s album American Teen is wall-to-wall jams

I missed Khalid’s debut album when it was released in March, and I have regrets. American Teen is gorgeous, smooth, and self-aware — which is even more impressive when you consider that Khalid is, in fact, a true American teen at 19 years old. His voice loops through swooping synths and sharp beats, soaring on “Hopeless” and “Location,” languid and gravelly on tracks like “Angels” and “Young, Dumb, and Broke.” I wish I’d discovered it sooner for summer, but I have a feeling the album — and especially its hopeful song “Winter” — will transition beautifully into fall nonetheless. —Caroline Framke