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Commencement 2019: Four Years in Review

| Friday, May 17, 2019

Diane Park | The Observer

After a few good weeks cruising along the “Old Town Road,” it’s time to take a turn down memory lane. Return to late summer 2015, when the class of 2019 first arrived on campus. Some of these newcomers found themselves tangled in a sprawling web of uncertainties, living out Courtney Barnett’s anxious anthem: “Nobody really cares if you don’t go to the party.” Others used the new spaces and faces as an opportunity to flex their memetic capabilities — namely, a questionable rendition of Drake’s notorious “Hotline Bling” choreography — in front of newfound acquaintances. For all, the start of the collegiate experience was an invitation to put high school’s ecstatic peaks and “Bad Blood” behind them and push forward into the unknown.

Now — four years, one divisive election, one #MeToo movement and over 400 million “Mo Bamba” streams later — the class of 2019 has dealt with uncertainty’s extremes. Veterans of an era in which politics and pop culture share a stage, this year’s graduates will leave campus with heads — and AirPods — held high, having crawled through the chaos, the struggles, the “Spring Snow” of the past four years and emerged in one piece.




Summer 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.

Aug. 28, 2015 – “Depression Cherry”

The first installment of Beach House’s prolific autumn (before their October surprise, “Thank Your Lucky Stars”), “Depression Cherry” supplies a shadowy counterpoint to the summer sun. Considered by many to be the group’s finest record to date, Beach House’s fifth studio LP sees them blossom into maturity.

Nov. 6, 2015 – “Art Angels”

Long before Elon Musk, Canadian electro-pop luminary Claire Boucher (aka Grimes) put out “Art Angels” — the definitive record of her career. Her inimitable vision blew up traditional notions of bubblegum pop with an acid-house EMP on a record both addicting (even after the 30th listen) and challenging.

Dec. 18, 2015 – “The Force Awakens”

In the last days of 2015, J.J. Abrams gifted fanboys and fangirls all over the world 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 spent 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” delivers 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 its 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 television 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 guerrilla 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.

March 30, 2018 – “Golden Hour”

Leaving the strict country music space — populated with its delusional cowboys — Kacey Musgraves goes the way of the “Space Cowboy,” a path that drops the traditional parameters of genre and replaces them with the infectious pop melodies and pulsing disco beats of a woman free to roam the cosmos as she pleases.

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 – “Dirty Computer”

Janelle Monae’s cutting lyricism, unparalleled melodic sensibility and razor-sharp production confidently voice a version of black femininity for a world on a fast track to fully automated luxury communism. “Dirty Computer” bursts out of the margins, asserting its unapologetically human aspirations against a code-centric cultural artifice.

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 a confusing 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?

Aug. 15, 2018 – “Crazy Rich Asians”

Jon M. Chu’s romantic comedy digs into issues of inter-family cultural rifts with the palatable tools of a familiar formula. The first of its kind to feature a predominantly Asian and Asian American cast, “Crazy Rich Asians” refuses temptations of the archetype, instead opting for a multi-dimensional cast of characters.

Fall 2018 – “Mo Bamba” vs. “Sicko Mode”

“Alexa! Play ’Mo Bamba.‘”

“No Alexa! Play ’Sicko Mode!‘”

“Alexa stop! Play Mo Bamba!”

“Grrr. Alexa!”

Oct. 5, 2018 – ”A Star is Born“ 

“A Star is Born” — the fourth time around — raises questions. Can this movie actually work in 2018? Will the story’s age show? Can Lady Gaga act? Can Bradley Cooper sing? Gaga’s caterwaul, mid-“Shallow,” drowns these questions in a sea of beautiful noise, muffling Cooper’s voice cracks and filling plot divots with her saccharine melodies. Yes, the film may be “Shallow” at points, but it’s worth watching.




Spring 2019 – Leggings: The Meme

When inflammatory Letters to the Editor destroy the floodgates, memes stream into the collective consciousness from all angles, sweeping up the tri-campus community in a referential whirlpool surrounding a popular piece of apparel and a certain angry mother.

April 2019 to May 2019 – “Game of Thrones” Season 8

The final season of television’s biggest show tyrannizes the Sunday night Twitter feeds. No fan-favorite can escape the writers’ wrath, and no viewer can hide from rogue spoilers as they materialize in cyberspace without warning, ready to assassinate everyone’s enjoyment Arya-style.

Dec. 3, 2018 (Released), Spring 2019 (Goes Viral) – “Old Town Road”

Lil Nas X makes huge strides for the yee-haw Agenda, resurrects Billy Ray Cyrus and coins the term “Country Trap” with his viral sensation “Old Town Road” — a track tailored to a meme-oriented and mash-obsessed listener base. Despite pushback from the Billboard Hot Country charts, the general populace welcomes “Old Town Road”’s strange novelty with open arms and loose feet.

April 15, 2019 – Notre-Dame Cathedral Fire

The Parisian symbol of art and culture goes up in flames. The world mourns its loss.

April 26, 2019 – “Avengers: Endgame”

The final installment of Marvel Studios’ gargantuan cinematic project delivers a satisfying conclusion to the 22 films that, beginning with 2008’s “Iron Man,” reimagined the superhero for the 21st century. Please snap.

May 3, 2019 — “Father of the Bride”

Six years after “Modern Vampires of the City,” Vampire Weekend returns (minus Rostam). Unlike the localized collegiate (“Vampire Weekend”), east-coastal (“Contra”) and urbanite (“Modern Vampires of the City”) personalities of their previous efforts, “Father of the Bride” assumes a global scope, connecting a deeply intimate exploration of familial love to an overarching, exceedingly positive vision of world peace.

May 19, 2019 – Commencement

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