Commencement 2018: Four Years in Review
Mike Donovan | Wednesday, May 16, 2018
If the class of 2018 can get Kanye’s “woopty scoop poops” out of their heads long enough, they might be able to recall the late summer day in 2014 when they arrived at Our Lady’s University — some humming along to Pharrell’s infectious earworm “Happy” and others still raving about Mac Demarco’s bid to become the viceroy of sadbois on “Salad Days.”
Little did those young Domers know of pop culture’s paradigm shift to come — a transition that, in the carnage of the most divisive election in modern American history, would turn America’s eyes toward the people it had been marginalizing since its inception. The last four years, without a doubt, have been a period of tremendous consequence. Pop culture, following the chaotic path of social discourse and politics, has laid the consequence bare.
Summer 2014 – The Ice Bucket Challenge
Pete Frates, a former Boston College baseball player and victim of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), lifts social media above the meme to raise awareness for his deadly disease one icy bucket at a time. The campaign raises over $115 million and reinvigorates research pertaining to the once forgotten disease.
Oct. 14, 2014 – “1989”
Taylor Swift eschews her tenuous claim on the title of “country singer” to become the biggest pop star on the planet. ”1989,” the album responsible for the change, dominates the charts. Meanwhile, its figurehead conquers the internet (and polarizes the critical community) with her #Squad.
Dec. 2014 – Late night hop scotch
Stephen Colbert leaves his post at the “Colbert Report” after nine years to fill David Lettermen’s cavernous hole on the “Late Show.” Likewise, Craig Ferguson’s reign as the ”Late Late Show’s” cult hero ends after 10 years, with a jubilant and musically-inclined James Corden stepping into his spotlight.
Feb. 17, 2015 – “Hamilton”
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip hop sensibilities miraculously resurrect both musicals and history from their seemingly-permanent residencies in the annals of nerddom. His opus relates the biography of American history’s most intriguing character, Alexander Hamilton, in a voice and cadence compelling enough to accomplish a task that teachers and professors have been struggling with for decades — making the past exciting.
March 15, 2015 – “To Pimp a Butterfly”
Three years after his groundbreaking conceptual work on “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City,” Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” elevates the rapper from the status of fiery young talent to a tenured position as the best West Coast rapper since Tupac. Thanks to Lamar’s lyrical prowess, intersectional arrangements and lucid vision, TPAB broadcasts an undiluted image of contemporary black experience.
Mar. 20, 2015 – “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit”
Courtney Barnett becomes the standard bearer for a thrilling new movement in indie rock, centered around superb songwriting and spearheaded by women and people of color. Her debut album’s intricately-constructed rawness leads many to question whether or not anybody “really cares if [they] go to the party,” the answer to which, Barnett informs us, is a resounding no.
July 31, 2015 – Drake’s memehood
“Hotline Bling,” the lead single off Drake’s album “Views” cements the Canadian rapper’s legacy as a human meme. His dancing on the single’s accompanying video transcends awkward, hypnotizing viewers like some sort of twisted beatific vision.
Dec. 31, 2015 – “The Force Awakens”
On the very last day of 2015, J.J. Abrams gifted fanboys and fangirls the world over with a refreshingly woke depiction of the Force. Abrams and his characters — Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) revamp the legendary saga with elements (diverse representation, strong dialogue, thematic and emotional depth) not seen in previous Star Wars films.
Jan. 8 to Jan. 10, 2016 – David Bowie releases “Blackstar” and dies
The aesthetic chameleon and creative tour de force lets out his final physical and creative breath. After an 18-month bout with liver cancer, the musical demi-god spends his last moment in unexplored territory. His deathbed album “Blackstar’s” avant-garde and jazz inflections frame its creator’s life, not as a series of artistic feats, but as a continuous creative existence.
Feb. 14, 2016 – “The Life of Pablo”
Kanye West, the object of Scene’s obsession, drops his seventh studio album. At first nobody hears the TIDAL exclusive release, mainly because nobody has TIDAL. On April Fools day of the same year, West updates the album for release on various streaming sources, so all can indulge in his musical genius / hedonism / narcissism / unequivocal musical genius / instability / genius.
April 13, 2016 – “Lemonade”
Beyoncé releases her sixth studio album — a 12-track multimedia statement of black womanhood. It is, to nobody’s surprise, perfect.
Jan. to Dec. 2016 – Indie Rock Heroism
Frankie Cosmos’ “Next Thing,” Car Seat Headrest’s “Teens of Denial,” Mitski’s “Puberty 2,” Pinegrove’s “Cardinal,” Angel Olsen’s “My Woman,” Whitney’s “Light Upon the Lake,” (*breath), Florist’s “The Birds Outside Sang,” Parquet Courts “Human Performance” and a lot more. Needless to say, 2016 introduced sad young people everywhere to a budding pantheon of indie rock heroes — many of which are now pillars of the genre.
Aug. 20, 2016 – “Blonde”
At the peak of 2016’s glorious musical explosion, Frank Ocean’s “Blonde” deliver’s 17 songs so painfully beautiful, they could imbue a robot with actual human emotions. Always conscious of genre but never restrained by it, Ocean’s tracks pave an inroad to the lover’s unwieldy insecurities and makes peace with them.
Oct. 21, 2016 – “Moonlight”
Barry Jenkins devotes his directorial debut to Chiron’s bildungsroman, illuminating the darkness and beauty of a black man’s Miami experience with delicacy and grace. The popularity of the phrase, “Have you seen ’Moonlight’ yet?” skyrockets.
Jan. 27, 2017 – “Culture”
The best things come in threes. Quavo, Offset and Takeoff of Migos know this well. The number three, embodied in the musical triplet, gives “Culture” its teeth. With every ba-da-da / ba-da-da / ba-da-da, Migos indoctrinate their listeners into the mindset of a cultural revolution.
Feb. 24, 2017 – “Get Out”
Jordan Peele’s directorial debut dares the Academy to take genre films seriously with its brilliant fusion of horror, comedy and social awareness.
Feb. 27, 2017 – An envelope fiasco at The Oscars
The envelope proves to be a far more complicated device than previously anticipated. Some poor soul’s inability to use it properly dupes the world, for just a moment, into thinking that “La La Land” — a dreary musical about zany white people who play jazz music — received Best Picture over Barry Jenkins’ incisive opus “Moonlight.”
April 14, 2017 – “DAMN.”
Kendrick Lamar returns with the highly-anticipated “DAMN.” The album draws faith, fame, fear and systemic racism into its broad lens. The album emanates kingship and preaches humility, all the while managing to suspend the inherent contradiction in a self-aware solution. Critics and fans, again, reach the heretical consensus that Kendrick is a god among men.
Spring 2017 – Notre Lame Memes for Straight Edge Teens
The student body’s official meme page breaks 4,000 members (mostly normies). The new membership demonstrates an inability to distinguish between “is a meme” and “not a meme,” often gravitating towards the latter.
Fall 2017 – Male consequence and the #MeToo movement
The fall of Harvey Weinstein in October sets off a domino effect, uncovering decades of abuse in the entertainment industry. The ensuing #MeToo movement offers survivors a platform on which to expose the wrongdoings of seminal entertainers (Louis C.K. and Kevin Spacey), cult heroes (Evan Stevens Hall and Jesse Lacey) and politicians (Al Franken and Roy Moore) and initiate a change in the industry culture.
Nov. 3, 2017 – “Lady Bird”
Greta Gerwig directs Catholic school angst. There may not be a film more suited to the Notre Dame student’s unique sensibilities.
Jan. to Dec. 2017 – Comedy off the beat
Deeming traditional comedic avenues stale, 2017 televisions repurposes its medium in less than orthodox regions. “The Good Place” finds a riotous sweet spot in the cracks of serious moral philosophy; “Nathan for You’s” fourth season continues to uncover the hilarity of American business’s tragic condition with increasing ambitions; “Rick and Morty” fills its nihilistic, selfish and dysfunctional quantum travelers with a warm, gooey and relatable center; and “Bojack Horseman” paints the distraught image of existential despair on the face of an acerbic horse. All contribute to the era of “peak television.”
Jan. to Dec. 2017 – Girls who rock
Rock isn’t dead. It’s just not “for the boys” anymore. Sheer Mag’s stadium rock raging on “Need to Feel Your Love,” Priests’ punk ponderings on “Nothing Feels Natural,” Alvvays’ surrealist dream-swings on “Antisocialites,” Vagabon’s electric intimacy on “Infinite Worlds,” Waxahatchee’s anthemic accents on “Out in the Storm” and Charly Bliss’s candy-coated chaos on “Guppy” drive this point home.
Spring 2018 – A music scene appears at Notre Dame
For the first time in far too long, student musicians proliferate and collaborate on Notre Dame’s campus. In a series of house shows and guerilla performances, these musicians (epitomized by talents like Ninjoi, Felix Rabito and LadiBree) and their supporters strive to make Notre Dame cool.
Spring 2018 – Fortnite
100 enter. One leaves. Beware of the storm. Have at it.
Feb. 16, 2018 – “Black Panther”
Ryan Coogler teams up with Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa), Michael B. Jordan (Erik Killmonger) and Lupita N’yongo (Nakia) to bring an unapologetically black depiction of heroism to the big screen. The resulting film exceeds everyone’s already-lofty expectations.
April 6, 2018 – “Invasion of Privacy”
Cardi B’s music has one volume (loud) and one direction (in your face). Consequently, “Invasion of Privacy” comes off as both loud and in your face. Her empowered speech shakes the listener into a frenzy until he or she starts buzzing on her wavelength, and it does so without shying away from any of the glitz, glam or grit associated with the hip hop lifestyle.
April 27, 2018 – “Lift Yourself”
“Poopy-di scoop / Scoop-diddy-woop / Whoop-di-scoop-di-poop / Poop-di-scoopty,” Kanye preaches. “We are both dragon energy,” Kanye tweets of Trump. Scene needs some time to process this, reflect a bit. It’s aconfusing time for all of us.
May 5, 2018 – “This is America”
Childish Gambino condenses black culture’s domination of the mainstream and several years’ worth of turmoil into four minutes and four seconds to pose the question: Does black entertainment empower the black community, or does it simply distract consumers from the violence and racism persisting in the background?
May 20, 2018 – Commencement