What's making us happy: A guide to your weekend listening.
This week, we rented potted Christmas trees, witnessed a spectacular meteor shower, and listened to SZA's new album SOS on repeat.
Here's what the NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour crew was paying attention to — and what you should check out this weekend.
Making a Shazam playlist
As the year wraps up, I tend to take stock of my listening habits. We see superlatives everywhere like Spotify Wrapped. But rather than fixating on my Spotify Wrapped, I've been enjoying the app Shazam. I made a playlist of all the songs I "Shazamed" throughout the year. It shows where my musical interests lie. I think it's really fascinating. There are sections where I can tell that I was in Europe because I'm only getting bachata songs and French pop. It's really nice and it helps me — as I have a very music superlative list minded brain — keep track of my listening habits. This is not an ad for Shazam, but I really enjoy using the app and I think it's cool to look back on at the end of the year. — Reanna Cruz
An annual mixtape featuring "Things Fall Apart" by Cristina
'Tis the season for shameless self-promotion. The 17th mind-boggling installment of my annual Holiday mixtape, this year's installment is called The Airborne Yuletide Event, is now posted at chrisklimek.net for your listening pleasure to obfuscate and illuminate your yuletide. The rationale for this: I like Christmas songs that are timeless and classic and just generally good, but I love Christmas songs that were naturally selected for extinction about 5 minutes after they were recorded. One that I found for this year's tape was the 1981 track "Things Fall Apart" by Christina. — Chris Klimek
NPR Best Music of 2022 and "Mon Amour" by Stromae
I'm going to combine music list making and self-promotion by mentioning NPR Music's year-end Best of ... Best Songs of the Year. Best Albums of the Year. Both of those lists dropped this week. They provide such a great opportunity to go back and discover records that you haven't heard. I can pretty much guarantee, no matter how immersed you have been in music in 2022, you're going to hear something that you haven't heard before. It is worth taking some time with those lists to discover new music. List making season is not about arguing about what was best. It's about discovering what we didn't hear.
In the spirit of what may be a discovery for some people, I was just talking to a friend this week who had never heard of the great Belgian singer Stromae. My immediate thought was that they would love Stromae, because everybody would love the Belgian singer Stromae.
He just performed a fantastic Tiny Desk concert. He put out a great record in 2022 called Multitude, which was one of NPR's best 50 albums of 2022. I think it's one of the ten best albums of 2022. This is such a fun time to discover new music. — Stephen Thompson
More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter
by Linda Holmes
Can we talk about a couple things I caught up on this week that I want to encourage you to catch up on as well, if you haven't? Oh, good. I was a little wary of The Banshees of Inisherin, from Martin McDonagh, because I did not like Three Billboards (enough said), but I found it very engaging and curious. The performances from Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Barry Keoghan in particular are top-notch. It reminded me of the very similarly titled McDonagh play I saw on Broadway a few years ago with Daniel Radcliffe, The Cripple of Inishmaan. Good stuff.
I also finally finished FX/Hulu's The Bear, which I had started and liked but somehow never found time to finish. I have some questions about what happens at the end, some big logistical questions (without spoiling, I'll say: how is that a net benefit?), but the performances are superb, and I absolutely loved the delicacy of some of the conversations that take place in the noisiest spaces.
I enjoyed, up to a point, Top Gun: Maverick, as a throwback, as a piece of extravagantly indulgent fan service and as an example of some really exciting flight sequences. I find the idea of it getting a best picture nomination genuinely hilarious given the script (I will no longer be listening to any complaints about the awards that went to Titanic, I'll tell you that much), but for what it is — among other things, a crowd-pleaser that gave a lot of people who missed movie theaters a chance to enjoy them again — I give it all the respect in the world.
NPR's Pilar Galvan adapted the Pop Culture Happy Hour segment "What's Making Us Happy" into a digital page. If you like these suggestions, consider signing up for our newsletter to get recommendations every week. And listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.