Pop Literacy

Pop Literacy

Your weekly supply of smart things to say about pop culture.... Show More

Episodes

It was the 1980s, and John DeLorean was livin’ large: a supermodel wife, two children, and a swanky New York City apartment he’d bought from pal Johnny Carson. DeLorean’s lifelong dream was coming true, too, as his passion project, a gulf winged sports car, was about to be released. It was a car that would become one of the most famous autos in pop culture history. But by the time the DeLorean car co-starred alongside Michael J. Fo... Read more

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Summer’s the perfect time to relax with some new tunes in your earbuds … but with so many options, finding stuff you haven’t heard before can feel overwhelming. On this week’s Pop Literacy, we get help from Billboard’s Joe Lynch to give you the best new acts to listen to, the best ways to use Spotify, and the best websites and music writers to follow for new-music tips. Plus: an update from the BTS concert scene!

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This week ABC airs a throwback stunt that thrills us TV history nerds: On Wednesday May 22, star-filled casts will perform old All in the Family and The Jeffersons episodes, live in front of a studio audience. On this week’s Pop Literacy, we break down all the reasons we’re excited: the high-wire act of live TV, the fact that these aren’t just more reboots, and the stellar casts. (Jamie Foxx and Wanda Sykes as George and Weezy! Woo... Read more

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To cord cut or not to cord cut; that is the question. Or rather, one of the many questions that overwhelm TV watchers, as the amount of television programming, and the number of ways to watch it, continue to multiply at a faster and faster pace. Do we replace our cable with a streaming service and a live TV option, plus several other streaming sites? Do we stick with cable and resign ourselves to at least half a dozen streaming sub... Read more

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Between the exhausting news cycle and the endless selection of complicated TV dramas to watch, we can all use a shot of lighter pop culture sometimes. This week, we discuss what we call our “pop culture pacifiers”—the short, sweet online videos, clips, and songs that lift our spirits in the middle of the hardest days—and “palette cleansers”—the rewatches and brain-candy TV and movies that allow us to relax and enjoy ourselves mindl... Read more

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Even some of the most devoted of Marx Brothers fans don’t know about this project: a wild, fantastical movie script that Surrealist artist Salvador Dali wrote for the comedy icons, after forging a fast friendship with the most beloved of the Marxes, Harpo. The movie was called Giraffes on Horseback Salad, and not only was it too over the top to get made, the film script was also lost to history. Until now. Pop culture archaeologist... Read more

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April 15, 2019 48 min

After years of massive popularity around the world, Korean boy band BTS is breaking through to the top of mainstream American culture. They just dropped a new album (Map of the Soul: Persona), which includes the single “Boy with Luv,” featuring Halsey; and they played Saturday Night Live, a first for a Korean act. They also recently surpassed 5 billion streams on Spotify. All of this has many Americans wondering what, exactly, is g... Read more

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April 8, 2019 73 min

Boy bands as we know them have been around since New Edition got together in 1978—and now, they’re bigger than ever, thanks to online fandom. New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys, O-Town, 98 Degrees, and Boyz II Men are among the groups who have recently been on tour or recorded new music. And the boy band legacy is evident in two recent developments: An excellent new YouTube Originals documentary, “The Boy Band Con: The Lou Pear... Read more

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Luke Perry had a solid 30-year acting career, but he became an instant ‘90s icon with one of his first roles: dreamy “bad boy” Dylan McKay on Beverly Hills, 90210. When he died March 4 after a massive stroke at age 52, the outpouring of public grief was overwhelming. He was still young and starring as a dad on the teen drama Riverdale, so it took his untimely death for most of us to calculate how much he had meant to us.  With the ... Read more

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It was the decade of “The Macarena,” the O.J. Simpson trial, the teen pop boom, VHS tapes, and Nintendo. It was also before 9/11 and Columbine, a time when the nation hung on every lurid detail of the president’s sex life and the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan feud. Though 2000s nostalgia is on the way—as we discussed two weeks ago—it’s hard to let go of our nostalgia for what looks like our last relatively innocent decade from here.... Read more

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"Graceland," "America," "You Can Call Me Al," "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard," "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes"—Paul Simon’s list of classic songs is long and literary. So any week is the perfect week for Pop Literacy to celebrate this rare master of songwriting, who completed his final tour in the fall and has an album out, In the Blue Light, filled with reimagined versions of some of his s... Read more

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February 19, 2019 79 min

AOL Instant Messenger, the first iPods, Paris Hilton, emo, Mean Girls, The O.C., low-rise jeans… Now that it’s 2019, it’s time to prepare for a wave of 2000s nostalgia. Pop Literacy host Jennifer Keishin Armstrong is joined by guest co-host Andrea Bartz, author of the forthcoming 2009 nostalgia novel The Lost Night, to discuss what we miss most about the 2000s, from MySpace to the very first memes, The Osbournes to the rise of the ... Read more

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Welcome to our insanely experimental pretend backdoor pilot for It’s It’s Britney Bitch, Bitch!, “a podcast for stans of stans, by stans of stans.” As a follow-up to last week’s chat with T. Kyle and Bradley Stern, the hosts of the It’s Britney, Bitch! podcast for Britney fans, we fall further down the internet fandom rabbit hole with our loving breakdown of their loving breakdowns. Just call us the Seinfeld2000 of Britney fandom. ... Read more

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In the first of an occasional series on fandom, we dive into one of the most loyal, long-running followings in pop music: that of the humble legend Ms. Britney Spears. As an official Britney stan, Pop Literacy cohost Jennifer Keishin Armstrong knows it well, and is here to dissect it with the cohosts of her favorite podcast, It’s Britney, Bitch!, T. Kyle and Bradley Stern. With Kyle and Bradley, we walk you through the incredible ... Read more

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Last week, we talked about this year’s Super Bowl halftime show, and the collective lack of enthusiasm for it. Could this year’s SB commercials and post-game programming save the entertainment aspects of Super Bowl LIII from being a big, dull dud? Well … With 100 million viewers every year, the Super Bowl is the one telecast networks and advertisers can be sure we’ll be watching. Even after the game is over, a big percentage of th... Read more

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Everyone’s talking about who isn’t playing the Super Bowl halftime show this year: Rihanna, Cardi B, and most anyone else who isn’t Maroon 5. Could this be the end of the Super Bowl halftime show as a cultural event? Possibly.  Meanwhile, we look back on the history of the halftime show, from college marching bands to Up With People to Phil Collins in cargo pants to, somehow, because humanity is terrible and grand, Prince. In this ... Read more

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With anti-Semitism on an astonishing rise and the recent mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, it suddenly seems more important than ever that Jews are depicted sympathetically on television. Luckily, Jewish TV writers have been “coming out” as Jewish the last few years with unapologetic depictions on shows such as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Transparent. On this week’s episode, we explore the skittish history of Jews on telev... Read more

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It’s been five years since Jesse Pinkman took off like a bat out of a drug-making hell in the final episode of Breaking Bad. It’s been more than a decade since Tony Soprano may or may not have been whacked by that dude coming out of the Holsten’s bathroom. It was 20 years ago that Jerry, Elaine, Kramer, and George were sentenced to jail time for, well, basically for being jerks, in the Seinfeld series ender. And viewers have been d... Read more

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2018 has brought a few glimmers of hope for disaffected moviegoers sick of superheroes, explosions, and special effects: A Star Is Born, Crazy Rich Asians, Eighth Grade, Boy Erased. But many of us (your hosts included) are much more excited about the seemingly infinite great TV offerings these days than by the prospect of schlepping to the movies to see the latest in high-budget forgettableness. Are we wrong to cross movies off our... Read more

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Orange Is the New Black, The Night Of, Oz, Rectify… they’re the finest examples of what TV has offered viewers in depictions of prison life. Add in classic movies like The Shawshank Redemption, Cool Hand Luke, The Green Mile, and American History X, and there’s no lack of quality storytelling when it comes to Hollywood’s spin on the unique system of rules and roles that make up life inside the penitentiary.  We’re fascinated by the... Read more

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