Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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One Year, 50 Pop Cultures: #45 – 41

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on January 18, 2010

Over the next few weeks here at IITS (and if we’re not done by February 1st, feel free to cut off our RSS feed in whatever dramatic fashion you see fit), we’ll be counting down the 50 people, places and things that made pop culture a worthwhile place to be in 2009. Feel free to suggest, prognosticate and criticize in the comments section below or on our Twitter page, but fair warning–we still haven’t watched all of Cougar Town yet. Or The Cougar for that matter.

There were a handful of solid country crossover singles in 2009, but none of them were as good–or as considerably surprising–as Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now.” I had heard a Lady Antebellum song or two before this, but nothing could’ve prepared me for the kind of pop songcraft on display in this one–the kind of pensive, nocturnal, grooving pop song that no one has really written since the late 70s (think The Eagles’ “One of These Nights” mixed with England Dan and John Ford Coley’s “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight”–uncoincidentally, two of my favorite hits from that decade). Throw in some gorgeous male/female harmonies (always was a sucker for these), most excellent slide guitar work and a devastating four-note piano hook (simple but emotionally tugging enough that it easily could’ve been a Sigur Ros lick), and you’ve got one of the worthiest top five hits of the ’09 calendar year. Bitch to work out those harmonies, though.

Speaking of surprises in 2009–boy, did this one come out of nowhere. I don’t think I had ever even heard of Party Down while it was on the air, until I was back at my parents’ house for a long weekend and they insisted that there was some new show on STARZ (and if HBO and Showtime represent the Backstreet Boys and N Sync of premium TV, STARZ is probably the 5ive) that I had to check out. Well, listen to your parents, kids, because they were right as rain on this one. Party Down was probably the best new comedy of the season, tapping the supremely natural ensemble energy of I Hate My Shitty Job movies like Waiting and Office Space and getting a dream cast to carry it out.  Adam Scott has the looks and likability to make a starring vehicle like this long overdue, Martin Starr just gets funnier the bitterer his characters get over the years, and as weird as it is to see Dick Casablancas and Vinny Van Lowe in a show not named Veronica Mars, the presence of both is still always most welcome. It’s cool if you missed it the first time around, but if you still don’t get it when your friends are making “Are we having FUN yet??” jokes this time next season, there’s simply no excuse.

Seen nationally as something of a consolation prize when Philadelphia missed out on the Roy Halladay sweepstakes the first time around, most Philly fans were still pretty jazzed to be getting the reigning AL Cy Young winner in a mid-season trade last season. Cliff Lee proved to be even better than advertised, proving virtually unhittable in his first month as a Phillie and then cutting through the playoffs like a buzzsaw, giving up just two runs in his combined three starts in the NLDS and NLCS. But it was his performance in Game One of the World Series that earns his place on the list here, not only stunning the Yankees with his complete-game, one-run, ten-strikeout effort, but also making an amazing play on a ground ball behind his back, and snagging a Johnny Damon pop-up with such unimpressed flair that it basically defined the nature of post-season badassery. (The videos have been removed from YouTube, presumably at the behest of pissed-off Yankees fans). Though it’s hard to complain too much about his departure from Philly this off-season when Halladay finally ended up coming in return, it’s a little sad that us Philly fans had such a short time to appreciate an ace like Lee–and even sadder that I’ll never get to wear the jersey of his I bought to one of his home games. With a performance like he gave in Game One, though, Cliff Lee doesn’t owe us–or any other baseball fans, for that matter–anything else.

I vaguely remembered this feud going on earlier this decade, but with Mariah happily married to the sixteen-year-old from Wild’n Out and Eminem not seeming to care much about anything these days, I figured bygones had long been let as bygones. Wounds were apparently still fresh with Marshall, however, with Em taking shots at her and hubby Nick on the (admittedly somewhat terrible) “Bagpipes From Baghdad.” Mariah shot back with “Obsessed,” a good song which was nonetheless a very strange choice for her new album’s lead single, compounded by her unexpected choice to dress up like a stalker-Slim in the song’s video. Then Eminem, suddenly sounding more focused and legitimately vicious than he had in years, returned fire with “The Warning“–to which neither Mariah or Nick responded, perhaps realizing that they would never relaly be able to win a feud with Marshall without resorting to a level far below either were generally accustomed to. In any event, by the team the dust settled, both artists gave us their best and most compelling efforts in years, so we can only hope that this beef picks up for no particular reason again six years from now.

“Man, we should really go to that one year, just to see what it’s like” is a typical response when discussing the Gathering of the Juggalos, the annual festival put on by Insane Clown Posse and their like-minded, Faygo-guzzling brethren in Cave-In-Rock, Illinois. Of course, such a suggestion is ludicrous–not only is Cave-In-Rock a far and not particularly geographically desirous location for a casual trip, but such an extended period of time spent surrounded by people on such a vastly differing mental wavelength than most of us non-Juggs would undoubtedly be a recipe for disaster. Thankfully, this year they left us a 14-minute infomercial for the festival which (I can only imagine) does a very respectable job of encapsulating the manic and utterly sureral energy of a Gathering, which really, really must be seen to be believed. Apparently, enough internet folks had their minds similarly blown by the spot that SNL deemed it worthy of its own digital short, with Jason Sudekis and Nasim Pedrad starring in the “Kickspit Underground Rock Festival“–which, as friend of the blog Victor Lee points out, still seems somewhat underplayed compared to the real deal. Appropriately enough, ICP found the short to be “hilarious” and “a humongous compliment.” Man, we really should go to that one year. Just to see what it’s like.

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