Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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One Year, 50 Pop Cultures: #25 – 21

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on January 23, 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 last year’s NIT Finals yet.

The MLB All-Star Game this year was OK–a little low in scoring for my liking, certainly, especially considering that the Phillies players involved seemed to keep striking out in big moments. But history will remmeber the game nonetheless for featuring the debut of the year’s single most stupefying add campaign–Taco Bell’s “It’s All About the Roosevelts, Baby!” spot, a horribly misguided and about a decade-too-late-dated hip-hop pastiche in which the participants barely even attempt to actually rap. The most incredible thing about it I remember from the first time watching it was how it just seemed to keep going–it must have only been a minute (still pretty long for a Taco Bell ad), but it felt more like a long-form music video, with each mind-blowingly ridiculous chant of “It’s-ahhll-a-bout tha-ro-sah-velts-bay-bahhh!!!” becoming more and more surreal. Capping the whole thing off, of course, was Joe Buck having to read the catchphrase while doing a Taco Bell billboard after the commrecial’s debut, his voice the pitch-perfect mix of incredulity, condescension, and badly-forced funkiness. We won’t be seeing the likes of “It’s All About the Roosevelts, Baby” again soon. Not until the next notable Taco Bell campaign, anyway.

I already said my peace about this one. Cool song.

Generally, you’d think that when a basketball player has won six NBA titles and five MVPs, starred in countless ego-stroking movies, commercials and video games, and generally ended any discussion about who the best to ever play the game was, he’d finally be able to let some shit slide. I guess you just don’t get to become The Greatest without permanently steeling yourself to any kind of sentimentality, as Michael Jordan set the sports world (well, the internet-based corners) on fire in 2009 by delivering the nastiest, most superficial, and least inspiring Hall of Fame induction speech in recent history. Checking off a grocery list of those who had slighted him over the years–kids in grade school that got more playing time, magazines who didn’t put him on the cover, opposing coaches who stole his hotel roams, waitresses at road diners who brought him Sweet n Low when he asked for sugar, you name it–Michael proceeded to essential lay fire to the culture that had spent the greater part of the last 30 years lionizing him in just about every way humanly possible. When he ended his speech by mentioning the possibility of him making an NBA comeback at the age of 50, it sounded more like a threat than a tantalizing teaser. Say what you will about MJ, but after the Nice-Guy Cavalcade of Jerry Sloan, David Robinson and John Stockton at the ’09 HOF, it was nice to see someone actually bring a little energy to the proceedings–even if it was a nervy and decidedly hostile buzz. And at the very least, it seems unlikely that anyone will ever make a “But Let Me Tell You About the Man…” induction speech for #23.

Sandra Bullock’s extremely unlikely 2009 comeback season started in last year’s Super Bowl, when the preview for The Proposal first started to air. It seemed bizarre to me at the time that Bullock was still being given starring vehicles, given that she hadn’t carried a hit in close to a decade, but with a preview like this, perhaps it should have been obvious that she was about to officially claim the throne as Queen of the Shitty Romantic Comedy. I have never seen a preview as gleefully by-the-numbers as this, with as many hilariously textbook moments, lines and plot contrivances. You probably know them well by now:

  • Bullock and Reynolds accidentally run into each other while in the nude. “Why are you naked??” yelps an incredulous Bullock. “WHY ARE YOU NAKED???” wails a terrified Reynolds.
  • Bullock reacts with shock to the erection of Reynolds while in bed together in the morning. “It’s…the morning” hisses an irritated Reynolds.
  • “Alaska,” answers Reynolds when asked where he and Bullock will be visiting his family. “Aaa-lasssss-ka” reiterates Bullock, learning this information for the first time and realizing what she’s gotten herself into.

And so on and so on. And as if to drive the point home, or just provide some sick sort of punchline, in comes the strains of Katy Perry’s “Hot & Cold,” an unfathomably terrible song that was nonetheless absolutely the only song that could have properly soundtracked such a teaser. Never has a preview made me want to see a romantic comedy more, if only to provide context to the lines my friends and I had been quoting to each other all spring. Somehow, I find it hard to believe the rest of it could have really measured up.

Seems like once every couple of years, this’ll happen. There’ll be some rapper whose name I hear bandied about on occasion  hip-hop ‘heads as some kind of underground sensation, but whom I don’t know a single thing about and couldn’t name a single song by. Then, all of a sudden, he’s on a half-dozen hit singles at once and putting himself in contention for being the biggest rapper in the country. I don’t know exactly how Drake went from 0 to 60 in such an apparently short timespan, but I’m glad that he did, as he ended up being at least partly responsible for a large chunk of the year’s better rap singles. Turning the lights down low for “Best I Ever Had,” fulfilling his own prophecies with “Successful,” making an early claim for Greatest Ever status with “Forever” and laying the entire female population to waste in “Every Girl”–it was overwhelming, but it was all welcome nonetheless. But the thing Drake did that few other breakthrough rappers in recent years had was to quickly establish his versatility–he was as effective singing a chorus hook as he was rapping a verse, thus allowing him to quickly become an omnipresent force on radio by being featurable in either a Ne-Yo or a Lil’ Wayne type guest-capacity. That inside-out game means this could just be the beginning for Drake–by 2011, he might be on every Top 40 single not by Daughtry or Colbie Calliat. Doesn’t seem like the worst thing just yet.

The List So Far (Readable in Chunks of Five Here):

50. Snuggie
49. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
48. Milton Bradley
47. “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss ‘Em Goodbye”
46. The NBA’s “Where Will Amazing Happen This Year?” Campaign
45. “Need You Now”
44. Party Down
43. Cliff Lee
42. Mariah Carey vs. Eminem
41. Gathering of the Juggalos
40. Jay-Z
39. Sporcle
38. Important Things with Demetri Martin
37. Asher Roth
36. The Beatles: Rock Band
35. Michelle Beadle
34. Mall Cops
33. Sons of Anarchy
32. Pitbull
31. Dos Equis’s “The Most Interesting Man in the World” Campaign
30. Joel McHale
29. “She-Wolf”
28. Southland
27. Lil’ Wayne
26. AL Central Play-In Game
25. “It’s All About the Roosevelts, Baby”
24. “Day n Nite”
23. Michael Jordan’s Hall of Fame Speech
22. The Proposal Trailer
21. Drake

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