"Can't Let It Go" Holiday Spectacular 2022 : The NPR Politics Podcast The NPR Politics crew shares the things that they just can't let go of this year, politics and otherwise.

This episode: political correspondent Susan Davis, political reporter Deepa Shivaram, political reporter Ximena Bustillo, national political correspondent Mara Liasson, Weekend Edition host Ayesha Rascoe, voting correspondent Miles Parks, and political reporter Barbara Sprunt.

This episode was produced by Elena Moore and Casey Morell. It was edited by Eric McDaniel. Our executive producer is Muthoni Muturi. Research and fact-checking by Katherine Swartz.

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"Can't Let It Go" Holiday Spectacular 2022

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Hey there. It's the NPR POLITICS PODCAST. I'm Susan Davis. I cover politics.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: I'm Claudia Grisales. I cover Congress.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: And I'm Mara Liasson, national political correspondent.

DAVIS: And as we close out 2022, the podcast team decided there was no better way to end it than an entire episode devoted to the things we just couldn't stop talking about this year, politics or otherwise. Yes, Can't Let It Go is usually how we end the show each week. So this is a very special episode, and we're going to start with the things in politics we couldn't let go of and then move on to the otherwise. And we're going to hear from a lot more of our podcast friends than we normally do, so buckle up. And who better to start us off with what they couldn't let go in politics than Mara Liasson? Mara, what could you not let go of this year?

LIASSON: I couldn't let go of whatever happened to election denialism.

DAVIS: Yeah.

LIASSON: I guess I call this, honey, they shrunk the election denial.


LIASSON: Basically, I don't want to make light of something that is a...

DAVIS: Of course, yeah.

LIASSON: ...Real threat to our democracy because election denial at its heart is refusing to accept the results of any election as legitimate unless you're the winner. So it definitely erodes people's faith in free and fair elections. But what I thought was really interesting this year is a lot of election deniers ran, a lot of them lost. But more important, most of the ones who lost conceded.

DAVIS: Right.

LIASSON: And that is the other key to election denial, which is never concede. That was Donald Trump's playbook. He still hasn't conceded the 2020 elections. He consistently, almost daily, insists that he won them. So that's what was interesting to me. Obviously, in Arizona, Mark Finchem, who ran for secretary of state, Kari Lake, who ran for governor, they still haven't conceded. But my takeaway is that election denial just wasn't what it was cracked up to be.

DAVIS: I also think that, you know, leading up to 2022, it was a nail-biter of an issue, right? We were watching these election...

LIASSON: Oh, very big.

DAVIS: ...Denial candidates, and it could have gone another way. I think that...


DAVIS: ...2022 in some respects was an optimistic election. I think that the country broadly seemed to reject the candidates that ran the hardest on these ideas of antidemocratic election denialism. And there's a good tale in there, right?

LIASSON: Yes, there's some positive news in there, although it also - maybe one of the takeaways is that only Donald Trump with his vast resources and incredibly supportive and large base can pull this kind of thing off.

DAVIS: Sure. It works when Trump does it, but when other people who aren't Trump do it - yeah.

LIASSON: Maybe when Kari Lake and Mark Finchem do it, it's not as potent. And what we don't know is - is there a more polished, competent election denier out there that could actually pull this off?

DAVIS: I also - I think a lot - I mean, now that we're fully on the other side of 2022, I always look at these elections as, like, what was the country trying to tell us with this election on a macro level?


DAVIS: And this is a conversation I've had when I've been talking to Republican and Democratic lawmakers, from campaign strategists. I always just say, what do you think the message of 2022 was? And one of the commonalities that people across the spectrum have said to me is that the country is just hungry for normal...


DAVIS: ...That the more outlandish and the more cartoonish the candidates were - across the political spectrum that there was - there's just not a lot of appetite for that right now, even if you look at the rejection of candidates like Sarah Palin in Alaska - right? - or the challenge that went to Lauren Boebert, a Republican from Colorado. She won, but it was very close. And I've talked to Republican lawmakers. I say, what do you think your new majority, what should it be about? And a lot of them - I mean, we focus a lot on the far right, but a lot of the lawmakers I've talked to are like, the country just wants us to be normal. They want us to do normal things. They want us to advance normal issues and ideas. And I don't know if our politics will allow for that, but I think there's a recognition that there's a - there's an exhaustion in the country of extreme politics in some ways.

LIASSON: Well, surprise, surprise. That was the same message of 2020.

DAVIS: Yeah.

LIASSON: Joe Biden ran on a return to normalcy.

DAVIS: And he won.

LIASSON: And then he won. Now, the interesting thing there is this goes under the category of - will they ever learn? - because now you could argue they've had the same lesson two cycles in a row.

DAVIS: (Laughter).

LIASSON: So do the Republicans understand that or are the dynamics inside their party just so oriented towards the extreme that they can't do anything about it? I mean, we've seen this happen on the other side, too. I mean, Democrats get elected over and over again and claim this time we understand we don't have a mandate to do big, systemic radical change. And then they try to do...

DAVIS: But let's give it a go.

LIASSON: ...Big, systemic radical change, and then they get defeated. And then when they get a comeback, they say the same thing. I've probably done this story a hundred times. I think I could just pull it out of the archive and just run it every time there's a change of power.

DAVIS: Claudia, what could you not let go of this year?

GRISALES: So for me, I - often when we talk about what we can't let go of in these podcasts, it's things that we don't want to let go of. But I do want to let go of my can't let it go (laughter).

DAVIS: What are you ready to let go of, Claudia?

GRISALES: Yeah. So this is the investigation into the January 6 attack on the Capitol. And so backtracking a little bit for me, I was not here on that day. And in some ways, that was painful for me. I was not at my post. And so I thought, why don't - and this is an area I like to cover, national security. It played out right before my eyes, but I was working remotely that day. And so I kind of thought of it as an amends. And so I just went into it 150% to cover it. And it has been quite the challenging year in terms of how this panel has looked into the January 6 attack, how it's investigated, how it's shared its findings with the public. It has not been a very traditional approach from how they speak to the media, how they share their updates to how they held these explosive hearings. And so it's been really interesting. Like, traditionally, on the Hill, we're used to perhaps going to a spokesperson, a communications aide to get updated on the news. Well, it's been different here. We often go through the chairman of the committee. We sit out in the hallways, and we chase him (laughter).

DAVIS: Oh, how I wish people could know what I know, which is the vast lengths you have gone to to find Bennie Thompson...


DAVIS: ...The Democrat from Mississippi who chairs the committee all over the Capitol complex. I mean, the amount of steps...


DAVIS: ...You must have clocked in 2022 just...


DAVIS: ...In searching for the chairman.

GRISALES: I do think that he and the other members made me a healthier reporter because I did walk so much. But this is the kind of lengths that January 6 reporters went to to cover this story. And in the end, it really did fill in a lot of the gaps in terms of what happened, what led up to that day. We saw it play out in front of our own eyes, but we didn't have a full sense of the scale, of the power of misinformation. And so...

DAVIS: It's been a lot.

GRISALES: It's been a lot. And so in the end, what we see now is a much fuller story. And there will be quite a legacy left behind by all of the members who were on this panel. Four of them will not come back. Five will, in different roles, and four will not. Two stepped down, in terms of their decision not to continue in Congress - that's Stephanie Murphy, Democrat from Florida, and Adam Kinzinger, Republican from Illinois. And then we saw two members, Elaine Luria of Virginia and then Republican Liz Cheney of Wyoming, lose their respective races that blocked them from serving again. In Luria's case, that was largely tied to a redistricting effort here in Virginia that shifted her district. Cheney - it was very clear. She really gave up a lot of her political career here in terms of what she devoted to this panel and how she impacted this conversation going forward about former President Trump and his role here...

DAVIS: Yeah.

GRISALES: ...With the January 6 attack.

DAVIS: You know, if you go back to the very beginning, to the to the birth of the committee, in the onset, there was a bunch of Republicans who wanted to actually do it. Initially, there was dozens of Republicans who supported the committee, and politics quickly changed when it became clear that Trump did not want any Republicans to participate on the committee. But I think there are some Republicans who quietly will look back and think that that was a mistake - that choosing to boycott it...


DAVIS: ...Didn't help anything. And then I think that that's also one of these lessons that I think Democrats will take as Republicans take over the majority 'cause they're going to launch all kinds of investigations into things Democrats don't support. But participating in the investigation is really critical in determining the outcome of the investigations.

GRISALES: So, Sue, what can you not let go of?

DAVIS: I mean, it's kind of related, but it's not so much what I can't let go of. It's who I can't let go of. I mean, you - it's Liz Cheney, right?


DAVIS: You know, you referenced her. She's obviously leaving Congress. But just watching the political arc of Liz Cheney's career in public office, from, you know, being this sort of neocon enemy of the left who was seen as a potential future first Republican female speaker just a couple of years ago to becoming persona non grata, kicked out of the Republican Party in her home state of Wyoming, kicked out of party leadership, and a central figure not only in the committee but as a foil to former President Trump and as someone who plans to continue to be a foil, as Trump, you know, intends to run for election again in 2024. Just watching that evolution of her has been fascinating. Mara, I don't think you could compare her to anybody else in modern politics, in terms of...


DAVIS: ...Both her stature and her impact and what she did.

LIASSON: No, I really don't. And, of course, she hasn't written her last chapter yet.

DAVIS: Right.

LIASSON: She might run for president...

DAVIS: Yeah.

LIASSON: ...In the Republican primary just to continue to push her critique and warning about Donald Trump and the danger he poses if he should be back in the Oval Office. I don't - what do you think about that? I don't think she'll ever run as a third-party candidate...


LIASSON: ...'Cause she knows that could elect Donald Trump.

DAVIS: Right. No. And I think part of her thing is that, like she's been defiant about remaining a Republican, that she sees her role as trying to, like, regain control of the Republican Party versus start something new. I don't know how big her audience or her microphone is in the Republican Party. She was pretty resoundingly defeated in a primary. But the sort of one-woman mission that she and barked on has been a fascinating ride. And it's been fascinating to watch.


DAVIS: All right. Mara and Claudia, thank you both.

GRISALES: Thank you.

LIASSON: Thank you.

DAVIS: We're going to take a quick break. And when we get back, more of what we can't let go.


DAVIS: And we're back. And we're joined by Barbara Sprunt and Ximena Bustillo, who both cover politics for us. Hey, ladies.



DAVIS: So, Barbara, what is your otherwise - what can't you let go of?

SPRUNT: OK. My Otherwise Can't Let It Go comes from the summer. And it's not news, as indicated by the otherwise. It is the way that I approached news. I was at the White House, covering an event that President Biden had about abortion access after Roe v. Wade was overturned. And I was supposed to go live on All Things Considered that afternoon, and I hadn't done that before from the White House. And I was a little nervous. And so I was like, OK, it's like 20 minutes before the live hit. The script is done. I'm just going to do a little routine to, you know, get relaxed.

BUSTILLO: Loosen up.

SPRUNT: I mean, this is not about, like, doing shots...


SPRUNT: ...Although that might have helped, too.

BUSTILLO: Might have been a better answer.

SPRUNT: Yeah. You know, and just for those unaware, the booth at the White House is just like a small, little closet.

BUSTILLO: It's tiny.

SPRUNT: It's tiny.

BUSTILLO: One person. Yeah.

SPRUNT: One person - exactly. One person fits in there. It's, like, insulated - right? - for sound. So I shut the door. No one's going to be hearing me. So I played some music. I played some tried and true, like...

DAVIS: What were you playing? This feels like a key question in this tale.

SPRUNT: I was listening to some Tobe Nwigwe, who is a favorite in my house.


SPRUNT: And he has a great Tiny Desk, for those who haven't heard from a couple of years ago. And then I transition to Blackway's "Ready For Anything," because it felt very...

BUSTILLO: Appropriate.

SPRUNT: Very topical.

BUSTILLO: Yeah. Yeah.


BUSTILLO: You're getting hyped, yeah.

SPRUNT: The lyrics are, like, primed for this moment, right? It's like to be like, yeah, I'm ready for anything. I can do this.


BLACKWAY: (Singing) Wake up and be ready to fight, everything, everything. Tell them I'm ready for anything.

BUSTILLO: I would love to prep for all my live hits to this.


BLACKWAY: (Singing) I'm ready for anything.

SPRUNT: I mean, it's fantastic. I highly recommend it. So I'm singing along. And it's loud. And I'm loud. And all of a sudden, I hear a voice say, hey, Barbara, just so you know, we can hear you.


SPRUNT: And I was like - I was frozen.

DAVIS: And then did the Earth open up and swallow you whole at that point?

SPRUNT: I felt like it may well have done that. And I was frozen in place. And I was like, hello? And I'm, like, so sorry. And they were like - it was the engineers from NPR. And I said - they were very kind about it, but they were like, yeah, we can hear all of this. And I said, I'm so sorry. Like, the mic...

DAVIS: You're like, this isn't Barbara. This is...

BUSTILLO: She's not here.

DAVIS: This is Tamara Keith.


SPRUNT: She - so I - and I said, I'm sorry. Like, the mic is off. Like, I made sure that the mic was off before I went down this musical journey.

DAVIS: No, girl. No, girl. You should've called me first.

SPRUNT: They were like, it doesn't matter.

DAVIS: Doesn't matter.

SPRUNT: Even if the mic is off, they can still hear you.

DAVIS: They can connect to you.

SPRUNT: They can.

BUSTILLO: Oh, my God. That is good to know.

SPRUNT: So this is my Can't Let It Go because now any time I'm in front of a mic, on or off, I know that someone can hear me.

BUSTILLO: It's always on.

DAVIS: It's always on. I learned this a couple of years ago on the Hill, not for a similar reason. But another correspondent said to me, you know that they can connect to you even if you don't turn your mic on. Like, they have the technology on their end.

SPRUNT: Which makes sense, you know, yeah.

DAVIS: So, like, there's times when we're having conversations in our booth that we will literally unplug our microphone.

SPRUNT: Yeah, that's the way to do it.

DAVIS: I mean, I support you, like, getting hyped before a hit and playing music and singing. Just unplug your mic.


DAVIS: Or don't, girl, and just lean into it.


SPRUNT: I leaned in already so hard.


SPRUNT: It was just like - but then also, like, what can you do? Like, the moment comes and goes.

DAVIS: You just have to own it.

SPRUNT: And you're just like, yes, Grammy-nominated Barbra Sprunt.


SPRUNT: But yeah.

BUSTILLO: You're like, that's good for you that you can hear me, actually.

SPRUNT: Yeah, I intended that.

DAVIS: Yeah. You're like, yeah, I know. I meant for you to hear me.

SPRUNT: So apologies to our dear friends at engineering.

DAVIS: Oh, I bet they loved it.

SPRUNT: And lesson learned.

DAVIS: Lessons learned. Ximena, what can't you let go of?

BUSTILLO: So I think what I can't let go of - it's kind of otherwise. And it's kind of news. Before I came to NPR, I worked somewhere else, but I still frequented the Hill. And one day, I was walking home. And all of a sudden, I felt a pinch/scratch on my leg. And I was like, what is it? Did a rat just bite me?

SPRUNT: Oh, my God.

DAVIS: Oh, God. Please don't be a rat.

BUSTILLO: Did my ankle just give out because I was wearing heels that day? What is happening? And a fox ran...


DAVIS: Oh, yeah.

BUSTILLO: ...In front of me. And my ankle was bleeding because the fox bit me. And, you know, I'm screaming. There are, like, people kind of scattered because this was, you know, in the spring. So tourists were kind of starting to come back. The weather was getting nice. So - and I don't want people to think that I'm just screaming for no reason. So I'm like yelling, like, the word fox, like, over and over again, like, pointing at it. And then people ran over and chased it away. And eventually, animal control came and got it.

However, this made me go viral because out of stress, I tweeted about it. And it was something - you know, I'm from Idaho, so I go camping. I go hiking. I'm around foxes and coyotes, you know, quite a bit. And that obviously had never happened to me. I'd never had an encounter like that before. So it was something like, you know, when you get bit by a fox, but it's in the middle of D.C., like, it's in the middle of Capitol Hill.

SPRUNT: (Laughter) It doesn't make sense.

BUSTILLO: It doesn't make sense. And this tweet blew up. Somehow, every TV network camera crew found me. I don't know how 'cause I didn't tweet my location, but them journalists know how to do it. They all found me. They were all like, interviewing me as I am getting my ankle cleaned by police. And a very sweet staffer, you know, called Capitol Police for me. Like, she was already on the phone with them when she ran up to me. So bless her because I genuinely didn't know what to do. I was like, do I call 911? Do I just go home and then go to the hospital? Like, I was like, what - and I was like, do foxes carry disease? I was like, I don't know.

SPRUNT: Girl, yes.


DAVIS: I would think one that bites you might, too.


DAVIS: Like, foxes in general might be fine. But any wild animal that bites you - I would be pretty terrified.

BUSTILLO: Yeah, there were definitely a couple of warning signs. One, it shouldn't have really been there. But even if it was, there, it shouldn't have been, like, walking up to people as we later saw in some videos. But that fox bit multiple people. I was the last one 'cause they caught it and euthanized it in order to test it for rabies 'cause you have to test a part of the brain matter. So they have to be euthanized.

SPRUNT: And spoiler alert.

BUSTILLO: It had rabies.

SPRUNT: It had rabies.


DAVIS: So what did you have to do?

BUSTILLO: So I had to go to the hospital.

SPRUNT: Oh, my God.

BUSTILLO: But, I mean, this whole situation went very viral. Like...

SPRUNT: Luckily, you didn't go viral.

DAVIS: Well, the fox on Capitol Hill was, like, the story of the spring. I mean, it was all over the place. It beat a lawmaker. It bit Ami Bera, who's a Democrat from California.

BUSTILLO: Yeah. And it was, like, on "Jimmy Kimmel." Like, there's ambulance footage of me on, like, "Jimmy Kimmel." And I did so many interviews about this. So yeah, I mean, it's definitely - it's a confusing situation. It was all over the place. We went from funny to scary to now it's funny again. I was a fox for Halloween.

SPRUNT: (Laughter).

DAVIS: Well, I hope that your 2023 is better than your 2022 in that, hopefully, you don't get bit by anything next year.


DAVIS: All right. Well, I think we have to leave it there. Thank you both so much.

BUSTILLO: Thank you.

SPRUNT: Thanks.

DAVIS: All right. We're going to take one more break. And when we get back, a special guest appearance.


DAVIS: And we're back with one final round of Can't Let It Go. And we're joined by Miles Parks, who covers voting, and Deepa Shivaram, who covers politics. Hey there.



DAVIS: And also joining us - you may know her from her time as a White House correspondent on the Washington desk or as the current host of Weekend Edition Sunday, maybe just as a superfan of "The Golden Girls" or just that lady who's really afraid of birds. That's right.


DAVIS: Ayesha Rascoe. Welcome back to the pod.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: I can't believe I'm the special guest. I feel so special.

PARKS: (Laughter).

RASCOE: I'm so excited to be here. Like, this is amazing. And I'm glad you guys invited me back.

PARKS: Yeah. Don't tell anybody, Ayesha but you are my favorite person to do Can't Let It Gos with.

SHIVARAM: That's too nice.

RASCOE: Oh, thank you so much. Thank you. I appreciate that.

DAVIS: And so we will give you the honors of going first. Ayesha, what can't you let go of in 2022?

RASCOE: OK, so as you can imagine, my Can't Let It Go is not anything to - related to, like, Congress and then, like, that.

DAVIS: Good.

RASCOE: It is about (laughter) artificial intelligence and just technology gone amok. Is that a word? Amok.

DAVIS: It is now.

RASCOE: (Laughter) Because first of all, everybody knows everything went crazy, like, the last few weeks over this Lensa AI...

PARKS: Yeah.

RASCOE: ...Where they will make these pictures of you with - using artificial intelligence. And, like, I'm - I did it, and I paid the money. I did it. I got the things.

DAVIS: How much was it?

RASCOE: It was like, well, you could do a free - a trial membership. And then each one was, like, either $6 or, like, I think, $7 or $4. I did a whole bunch because - I knew it wasn't right. Like, I knew that, you know, they were going to come out, and they were going to say, oh, the robots trying to take over your life. This is bad.

DAVIS: Or at least your bank account.

RASCOE: You just gave them all your information. Or your bank account. But I was like, I want to know what I look like as a fairy.


DAVIS: So here's my debit card number.

RASCOE: (Laughter). So all the news comes out. And it's like, oh, they're stealing from other artists. This is horrible. This is the worst thing you could ever do. They made people lighter-skinned. They gave all the women big boobs. Like, it was, like, all sorts of (laughter) horrible stuff they did. But I - you know, but - so I can't let that go. And I've been thinking a lot about because we're using AI for everything. And this is an ad, but this is, like, another tech thing gone wrong, which is, like, these virtual reality headsets. And I found out from this - from Weekend Edition. We ain't end up doing a story on it. But from the staff, someone Palmer Luckey, who, like, created the Oculus Rift...

DAVIS: Yeah.

RASCOE: ...Which is, like, what they use for, like, the metaverse. He created this headset that kills the user if they die in the game. Like, the headset has, like...

PARKS: What?

RASCOE: ...Explosives tied to it. I'm serious.

SHIVARAM: The way that my jaw is just on the floor.

RASCOE: It has explosives tied to it. And so, like, the explosives would like, go off and, like, explode your brain if you use it. And he said he made it because he's just been fascinated by this idea of, like, virtual reality, but it kills you.

DAVIS: I'm just picturing Ayesha being like, I had to try it. I had to see if it would kill me.


PARKS: Here she is, speaking to us from the afterlife.

SHIVARAM: I gave them my money.

DAVIS: I had to know.

RASCOE: I guess he's looking at it as an art piece, so it's not available for purchase. And no one has used it that we know of yet.

PARKS: Yeah (laughter).

RASCOE: All of this to say I think we're doing too much with technology. We're taking it too far. And, you know, it's kind of like, you know, when you look at it, like, why did they give humans fire? Why did we get - you know, why did we get the ability to do stuff? Because as soon as we get technology, we do bad stuff with it, right?

PARKS: Right.

RASCOE: Like, we get fire. We start firing on people. (Laughter) So I think we have too much technology and power. So that's what I can't let go of.

PARKS: I can't argue with that.

RASCOE: That's my thoughts. I know - very bright, very bright. (Laughter).

DAVIS: But what - I have two questions. I still want to know how much money you spent on these pictures. But also, what are you going to do with these pictures now? Are they, like, up in your house?

RASCOE: I wanted to print them out. But now it's like, you know, everybody's been so negative about it. (Laughter) So I was - so what I'm going to do is I'm going to wait until everything blows over, and then I'll just kind of bring them out secretly.

DAVIS: Can you at least, like, text me one of them? Because now I'm just curious to see what Ayesha as a fairy looks like.

RASCOE: They look great. No, they look really awesome. Yeah, no, I'll Slack them to you.


DAVIS: Deepa, what can't you let go of?

SHIVARAM: Oh, my gosh. So one of our producers - when they asked me what my Can't Let It Go is of the year, I immediately was like, Hank the Tank. And I don't know if you guys remember this, but there was - this was, like, all the way at the beginning of the year in, like, February. There was this 500-pound - I'm pretty sure - yeah, he was 500 pounds. This black bear in Lake Tahoe who was breaking into people's homes and, like, taking their food. And it was, like, this whole thing. But then it turns out that they realized that, like - they used DNA evidence, these animal, like, control people. And they were like, Hank wasn't working alone. He's been framed for all of these break-ins.


SHIVARAM: And it turns out it was multiple bears.


SHIVARAM: There was, like, a cohort of bears that were breaking into people's homes. But Hank, because he's 500 pounds and a very large bear, was being framed. So I remember, like, on social media there being this, like, justice for Hank movement of sorts, which really cracked me up. But in my research of making sure I had all the details to share with you guys, I, like, googled Hank the Tank yesterday. And some of the headlines - one of them is "Could Hank The Tank Find Love? Wildlife Officials Remain Optimistic."

RASCOE: Why wouldn't he find love?

DAVIS: Bears are way smarter than you give them credit for. They're, like, in your hot tub, swimming in your pool, making grilled cheese sandwiches in your house when you're not there. Like, I don't - I think - I don't think bears get enough credit for how clever they are.

SHIVARAM: No. And he's just a star.

RASCOE: No, no. And poor Hank.

SHIVARAM: He's a star. Yeah.

RASCOE: And so all his friends set him up like that and had him blamed.


RASCOE: They was out to take him out.

DAVIS: He's just the bagman.

RASCOE: Oh, my goodness.

SHIVARAM: Yeah. He was the fall bear.

RASCOE: You can't trust people. He's the fall bear.


DAVIS: Miles, what can't you let go of?

PARKS: My Can't Let It Go this year is music. I always - I feel like at the end of the year, I always kind of go back and think about, like what - when I think back on 2022, what was I listening to? And for me, the artist was Omar Apollo. Have you ever listened to this guy?

RASCOE: I think I interviewed him.

DAVIS: Brag.

PARKS: Did you? Oh, amazing. Oh, I have to go listen to that.

RASCOE: (Laughter).

DAVIS: She's like, oh, we're having brunch on Sunday.

PARKS: See - I was about to say, I feel like, Ayesha, you would love Omar Apollo.

RASCOE: He - I really did like his music.

PARKS: Yeah, he's got this, like, awesome blend of R&B, which - Ayesha, I know you and I have talked about how much we love old school R&B. And then he also blends in a lot of, like, Latin influences. He's the son of Mexican immigrants. He grew up in a conservative town in Indiana as a gay guy. And so there's just so much happening in his music between - like, there's this genre bending happening, but then he also has just the most beautiful voice, I feel, like, one of most beautiful voices in music right now. He played a Tiny Desk this summer that I've probably listened to a hundred times. And his biggest song is called "Evergreen," which I think we have a clip of.


OMAR APOLLO: (Singing) Evergreen. He controls me. Was there something wrong...

PARKS: That song is kind of his biggest song from this year, from his album called "Ivory." And I feel like that song specifically really captures his ability to sing about heartbreak in a way that also kind of breaks your heart every time you hear the song.

SHIVARAM: It's beautiful.

RASCOE: It's really beautiful. And he actually sung some Prince to me during my interview on Weekend Edition Sunday. Y'all should look it up.


DAVIS: All right. That is...

RASCOE: I got to do a little promo.


DAVIS: Well, that is a wrap for today and for the year. Ayesha, thank you so much for coming back on the podcast.

RASCOE: Thank you for having me. Sorry to be a bit of a downer, but, you know, we got to laugh at the apocalypse.

DAVIS: Absolutely. And we'll be back in your feeds in 2023, another year certain to be full of the things we will not be able to let go. Our executive producer is Muthoni Muturi. Our editor is Eric McDaniel. Our producers are Elena Moore and Casey Morell. Thanks to Krishnadev Calamur, Brandon Carter, Lexie Schapitl, Juma Sei and Katherine Swartz. I'm Susan Davis. I cover politics.

SHIVARAM: I'm Deepa Shivaram. I cover politics.

PARKS: And I'm Miles Parks. I cover voting.

DAVIS: And thanks for listening to the NPR POLITICS PODCAST. And Happy New Year.


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