This column always aims to be as varied and far-reaching as possible, but this week could be a new peak. Put it this way: if you’re looking for a pop culture round-up that includes both Oscar Wilde and the Kardashian family, you’ve hit the jackpot.
1. WHAT TO WATCH IF ARYA STARK IS YOUR GAME OF THRONES FAVE
Premiering Friday (January 27), this Netflix film is an adaptation of a popular sci-fi novel by British author Kevin Brooks. X-Men: First Class actor Bill Milner stars as a teenager who develops superpowers after an accident in which fragments of his smart phone get embedded in his head. Yes, the premise sounds a bit silly, but with the excellent Maisie Williams (a.k.a. Game of Thrones‘ Arya Stark) co-starring as his best friend/love interest, iBoy surely deserves the benefit of the doubt.
2. WHICH ALBUM TO TRY IF YOU LIKE R&B SINGERS WHO KEEP IT REAL
Kehlani Parrish competed on America’s Got Talent in 2011, but she’s since established herself as a credible R&B talent. Dropping Friday, this debut album lives up to its many-sided title. The 21-year-old from Oakland, CA, comes off sweet on the sublime ballad “Advice” and sexy on the harder-edged “Do U Dirty.” Meanwhile, the mantra-like “CRZY” shows off her savage side as an empowered Kehlani sings: “Live for the challenge, only make me stronger.” Overall, a fresh and infectious debut.
3. WHAT TO WATCH IF YOU PREFER R&B MUSIC FROM BACK IN THE DAY
BET is being ambitious with this three-part miniseries about ’80s boyband New Edition. The two-hour episodes air on successive evenings this week, from Tuesday (January 24) through Thursday (January 26). A cast of rising stars, including Empire‘s Bryshere Y. Gray, portray the Boston combo, who rose from humble beginnings to score big hits with “Candy Girl” and “Cool It Now” before imploding in 1990. Real-life band member Bobby Brown has already given The New Edition Story his seal of approval, saying it brought back memories that made him cry.
4.WHICH INSTAGRAM TO FOLLOW IF YOU FANCY KEEPING UP WITH ANOTHER KARDASHIAN… SORT OF
This column has recommended some unusual Instagrams in the past. Remember Taste of Streep and Madonna Mashups? But this one could be the most surreal yet. Kirby Jenner claims in his bio to be an “amateur model,” “lover of all things,” and “fraternal twin of Kendall Jenner.” But he’s not actually related to the famous family. This is a parody account showing a random chap with a moustache Photoshopped into pictures with the reality star-turned-runway model. Despite this, “Kirby Jenner” has attracted half a million followers and even bagged himself a prestigious blue tick from Instagram. Don’t question it, just enjoy it.
5. WHAT TO PLAY REALLY, REALLY LOUD NEXT TIME YOU’RE FEELING STRESSED
Rock fans rejoiced a couple of years ago when this late-‘90s band regrouped for a comeback record and tour. Recorded at a gig in Paris in March 2015, this live album has been a long time coming, but it’s worth the wait. The Olympia trio (whose line-up includes Portlandia’s Carrie Brownstein) sound slick and sinewy as they rip into a career-spanning set-list. It’s not just a cracking live document; it’s also a fine introduction to a vital band.
6. WHAT TO WATCH WHETHER YOU’RE AN ARCHIE COMICS FAN OR NOT
Don’t be fooled by The CW’s new teen drama premiering Thursday. Though it’s named after the fictional town where the Archie Comics gang live and features familiar characters like Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouce) and Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes), this is no cozy comic book adaptation. Instead, it’s being billed as a “subversive take” which explores “the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome façade.” The series is built around a murder mystery, but steel yourself for sexual intrigue, social oneupmanship and sharp put-downs too. Prepare yourself for some more ’90s nostalgia with 90210 heartthrob Luke Perry starring as Fred Andrews, Archie’s (K.J. Apa) father.
7. WHAT TO ADD TO YOUR BEST NEW TUNES PLAYLIST
Having helped to craft hits for Justin Bieber (“Sorry”), Selena Gomez (“Hands to Myself”) and Nick Jonas (“Close”), Julia Michaels has established herself as one of our best young songwriters. Now the talented 23-year-old is launching her own recording career. This debut single showcases her gift for creating catchy but distinctive pop music, as she sings about a complicated romantic relationship over slinky strings and finger-click beats. It’s a very promising start.
8. WHAT TO WATCH FOR AN INSIGHT INTO THE INTERNET’S “CREEPYPASTA” PHENOMENON
Premiering Monday (January 23) on HBO, this grimly fascinating documentary explores 2014’s infamous “Slender Man stabbing” in suburban Milwaukee. In an apparent attempt to please a fictional internet monster (or so-called ”creepypasta”) called Slender Man, two 12-year-old girls attacked another girl of the same age with a knife and were charged with attempted murder. Oscar-nominated director Irene Taylor Brodsky never sensationalizes this terrifying story; instead, she deftly assembles a restrained and revealing account of what actually happened.
9. WHICH TWITTER ACCOUNT TO FOLLOW IF YOUR FEED’S LOOKING KIND OF BLEAK RIGHT NOW
A century after his death, Irish playwright Oscar Wilde (The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Importance of Being Earnest) is recognized as one of history’s greatest wits. This account spreads his pithy humor to the internet generation by tweeting out peak Wilde on the daily. “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance,” is one of his classic zingers. So is: “My own business always bores me to death, I prefer other people’s.” If your Twitter timeline ever gets clogged with humblebrags and sketchy celebrity news, @wit_of-wilde is the perfect antidote.
10. WHAT TO WATCH IF YOU’RE STILL REALLY ENJOYING THE “MCCONAISSANCE”
By ditching hollow rom-com roles for meatier dramatic parts, Matthew McConaughey has pulled off a brilliant reinvention that’s been dubbed the “McConnaissance.” In this spirited film from Syriana director Stephen Gaghan, he rocks an unflattering combover hairdo to play a struggling businessman convinced he can make his fortune by digging for gold in Borneo. Gold doesn’t glitter like the actor’s recent career peaks Dallas Buyers Club and Magic Mike, but McConaughey’s performance is pretty close to 24-karat.
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