2021 Pop Culture Predictions : Pop Culture Happy Hour To say we could not have predicted the course of 2020 is a ridiculous understatement. But nevertheless, we press on. We'll check in on last year's predictions, while turning our eyes to the future to try and figure out what the next year will bring, even when that seems nearly impossible.
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Our 2021 Pop Culture Predictions

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Our 2021 Pop Culture Predictions

Our 2021 Pop Culture Predictions

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LINDA HOLMES, HOST:

Hi. I'm Linda Holmes. I'm here with Glen Weldon. Hi, Glen.

GLEN WELDON, BYLINE: Hey, Linda.

HOLMES: So, Glen, how many streaming services would you say there are? Do you think there are too few streaming services, too many streaming services or just the right number of streaming services?

WELDON: Oh, it's the Goldilocks. It's just the right amount if you have unlimited spare time.

HOLMES: That's right. And what would you say if I told you that I had a way that you could maximize the value of all those streaming services simultaneously by doing one very, very important thing?

WELDON: I'd say it's too good to be true.

HOLMES: It does sound too good to be true, but it's not because you know what you can do? If you go to donate.npr.org/happy, you can support our work here at POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR, support your local station, support public radio. And we try to help you make the most of every one of those streaming services - your Netflix, your Hulu, your Shudder, your Prime, your Himbo (ph). I made up the last one.

WELDON: (Laughter).

HOLMES: But all of them can be worth more to you when we can help you navigate them again - donate.npr.org/happy.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HOLMES: Every year here at POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR, we make predictions about the coming year, and when the year is over, we revisit them. To say we could not have predicted the course of 2020 is a ridiculous understatement. But nevertheless, we press on.

STEPHEN THOMPSON, HOST:

We also turn our eyes to the future and try to figure out what the next year will bring, even when that seems nearly impossible. I'm Stephen Thompson.

HOLMES: And I'm Linda Holmes. It's predictions time once again on POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR, so don't go away.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HOLMES: Welcome back. You just met NPR Music's Stephen Thompson. Also with us is Glen Weldon of the NPR Arts desk. Hi, Glen.

WELDON: Hey, Linda.

HOLMES: And joining our annual tradition for the very first time - no pressure - is our newest co-host, Aisha Harris. Welcome, Aisha.

AISHA HARRIS, BYLINE: Hello. Is this my hazing ritual...

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS: ...For the...

WELDON: Totally.

HOLMES: This is one of the moments when we test ourselves against ourselves. So the first thing that we are going to do is go to Glen. Glen is going to listen to his previous prediction. (Laughter) I can't imagine why it wouldn't be accurate. But let's just listen to what Glen thought 2020 would bring.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

WELDON: The streaming wars will get their first major casualty.

HOLMES: I actually thought about making this my prediction. I didn't do it.

WELDON: Some big streaming service is going to go under - not like Acorn TV, not BritBox, but one of the biggies. The last time one folded was FilmStruck back in 2018. And the reason I think this is going to happen again is because the cause of that was just the way that Warner's media restructured. So, like, everything kind of went higgledy-piggledy on them. It wasn't a fault of theirs. There was nothing wrong with their plan. It's just that other things impinged.

HOLMES: Yeah.

WELDON: We are living in a ceaseless churn of mergers and acquisitions and restructurings, and this is just going to keep happening. So all of these streaming services are going to keep running into that. And at some point this year, a big one's going to go down.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WELDON: Quibi.

HOLMES: You know, Glen, as I listen back to that prediction, I think to myself, essentially, 2020 played out for streaming services about the way we all thought it would, right?

WELDON: Well, my mistake was I had to be bold. I had to be dramatic. I had to say a major streaming service. And there were no real major casualties 'cause Quibi doesn't count.

(LAUGHTER)

WELDON: Quibi didn't count. Quibi didn't exist when I made that proposal.

HOLMES: No, but I think given the amount of hype that went into it, I think you can get partial credit for Quibi.

THOMPSON: Yeah.

WELDON: OK. Well, let's put it at a B.

Now, a minor service, like DC Universe, got kind of folded into HBO Max. But seeing what happened, my mind has changed about this because I think the streaming landscape is now a lot less volatile than it was a year ago. I mean, some of that is the fact that Warner's decision to throw their entire slate of new movies to HBO Max in 2021 kind of bolstered it.

So I'm no longer convinced that the streaming landscape is a zero-sum game because what have we seen? As the streaming options keep exponentially multiplying, I've been surprised about how our culture's collective reaction is just like, OK. It's like this collective shrug. It just keeps expanding. And I can remember a time when I was like, wait, wait; Netflix and Amazon? And now it's like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Apple, Disney, HBO Max, Peacock. And those are all the major ones, and there's a lot more besides those. Now, all those that I mentioned are investing in original programming, which is probably going to bolster them a little bit, give them some ballast.

But I think, you know, the era of consolidation hasn't changed. But I think the real existential threat to any given streaming service is not that it's going to faceplant like Quibi did, but it's going to get mergered out of existence like DC Universe did. So I would give myself a B-minus here.

HARRIS: That was millions of dollars in Quibi. I don't know. I feel like you should give yourself a B.

HOLMES: Yeah, I think I would give you a B for Quibi. I'd give you a B for Qui-B (ph).

WELDON: Yeah.

HOLMES: Yeah. All right, Glen, so having given yourself a B, what is your prediction for 2021?

WELDON: OK, mine is kind of related, and it is strangely, off-brandedly hopeful. I predict that by this time next year, the experience of moviegoing will return to the state it was in before the pandemic. Now, don't get me wrong. It's still going to be, you know, problematic. It's still going to be precarious. But - and it's not going to look the same because a lot of the chains and the individual theaters aren't around anymore. So the names will be different. But I firmly believe that our human need for familiarity and consistency and community is going to assert itself so strongly that it's going to put the lie to all those, you know, this is the end of the cineplex forever articles. And I don't know. I just believe in us as a people.

And you'll know if I'm right. You'll know the first time you go back to a movie theater and you don't think about it. It's not going to happen in the spring. It's not going to happen in the summer. It's not going to happen in the fall. I predict that by this time next year, it will happen. You'll find yourself not thinking about it because we got to - we got ourselves a collective glimpse of what the future of home theater looks like, and it sucks. Now, granted, it's not really a one-to-one comparison because the home experience we're having now is - there's no alternative to it. It's, like, all we got. I think moviegoing is going to go back to what it was before.

HARRIS: I hope you're right.

THOMPSON: Yeah.

HOLMES: Will it count as you being right if I'm at the movies, but I'm in a spacesuit?

(LAUGHTER)

WELDON: I'd give myself a B-minus.

HOLMES: A B-minus if I'm in a spacesuit.

THOMPSON: If I'm at the theater, but I'm having a panic attack, does that count?

(LAUGHTER)

HOLMES: No, no. He says you won't think about it.

WELDON: Yeah.

THOMPSON: All right, all right.

WELDON: The first time you don't think about it, I think, is going to be this time next year.

THOMPSON: All right.

HOLMES: All right. I think that's fair. That is optimistic. I appreciate you being optimistic.

Stephen Thompson, I want to hear your prediction for...

THOMPSON: Oh, actually, we do not have to hear my prediction for this year.

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPSON: I absolutely crushed it, A-plus. So let me go ahead and predict...

HOLMES: No, we got to hear last year's, buddy.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

THOMPSON: "Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood," I think, will win best picture. It is a love letter to old Hollywood.

WELDON: Yup.

THOMPSON: What could be a bigger slice of Oscars catnip? For album of the year, I'm going to say Billie Eilish over Lizzo. Afterward, they team up and do a remix together because that's how things go. And for Super Bowl, I'm going to say Ravens over Seahawks.

As for my other prediction, I predict - I keep going hopeful with these, and maybe that says something about my personality that I keep being hopeful and wrong, but I predict a certain amount of knocking down of barriers to women in music, particularly in the fields of country music and hip-hop. Country radio is famously dominated by what's known as bro-country, a bunch of dudes with one syllable in their first and last name singing about tight-fitting clothing, and that you have all these amazing women in country who have a hard time getting played on the radio. I think some of that will ease up in 2020. My metric is an album of the year nomination for the singer Ashley McBryde, who I've celebrated on this show before. She has a new album coming out next year. I predict it will be nominated for album of the year in the Grammys. And I'm going to go ahead. For hip-hop, I'm going to say an album of the year nomination for Megan Thee Stallion.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WELDON: OK.

HOLMES: So, Stephen Thompson, how did it go?

THOMPSON: All right, this is a very, very mixed bag. "Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood" did not win best picture. "Parasite" did.

WELDON: Yay.

THOMPSON: Yay. Billie Eilish did win album of the year. She did not record a remix with Lizzo. I love how I made an accurate prediction and then undercut it with something that didn't happen.

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPSON: Ravens over Seahawks completely didn't happen. It was Chiefs over Niners.

The knocking down of barriers - I actually think I'm in the ballpark on this. Ashley McBryde was nominated for best country album. Trying to predict what was nominated for album of the year in this particular year's Grammys was a crapshoot if I had tried to do it 24 hours before they announced them. Megan Thee Stallion's album didn't come out in time to be eligible for album of the year, but she was nominated for four Grammys, including best new artist and record of the year. That was pretty on point.

So C-plus?

HOLMES: Yeah, you did OK.

WELDON: That's a solid B.

THOMPSON: That Super Bowl prediction was pretty heinous (laughter).

HOLMES: Yeah. You did OK, though. OK.

WELDON: Yeah.

HOLMES: I don't think you can feel too bad about that. What is your prediction for 2021? What do you have?

THOMPSON: Well, I think in the big picture, it's really hard to predict anything beyond more limbo. I'm not as optimistic as Glen about a return to any kind of normalcy. I kind of predict that we're going to record our predictions show from our respective closets and apartments kind of the way we did this year.

I will - I'll go through my Oscars, Grammys and Super Bowl picks. I'm going to say "Mank" for best picture on the exact same principle that I picked "Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood"...

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPSON: ...Which is that Hollywood loves a movie that celebrates the way Hollywood used to be. It's probably going to be something I have not even heard of because of the way that that whole schedule is shaking out. I'm going to say "Folklore" by Taylor Swift will win album of the year. I feel like that's kind of a shoo-in. I'm going to say Chiefs over Packers for Super Bowl, thus destroying my friendship with Mike Katzif.

HOLMES: Oh.

WELDON: Oh.

HOLMES: Buddy.

THOMPSON: Musically speaking, I think when we're talking about the Grammys for 2022, we're going to be talking about Adele and Kendrick Lamar. But I also predict a massive and colossal and much deserved breakthrough for Tierra Whack. I think Tierra Whack is going to put out a record in 2021 that will absolutely blow our minds, if the current singles are any indication. I think she is in for just a gigantic stardom wave that I'm very, very excited about.

But beyond that, I see a lot of inaction (laughter) in 2021. I see - I imagine a lot of talk about some sort of entertainment industry bailout to save theaters and venues, and I just see it not happening. I just see inaction.

WELDON: Well, this is good. This sets us up in opposition.

THOMPSON: Yeah.

WELDON: One of us will be right. One of us will be wrong. I like when it's clean like that and there's no wiggle room.

THOMPSON: I'm usually the optimist. I do not feel optimistic.

HOLMES: Interesting, interesting, interesting. Well...

THOMPSON: I'm very optimistic about Tierra Whack, though, who is awesome.

HOLMES: Yeah. It's safe to say none of us know, but Tierra Whack is awesome.

All right, Aisha, you do not have to listen to any predictions from last year. You get off very easy...

HARRIS: Yes.

HOLMES: ...With the beginning part of this episode.

(LAUGHTER)

HOLMES: And I would point out we all also made some pandemic predictions that we are not revisiting yet, so we've all still got some more in the can...

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS: This is true.

HOLMES: ...That we're going to have to see whether they come to fruition. But if we ask you just to look ahead to 2021, what kind of prediction would you have?

HARRIS: Well, first, a - not a prediction that Rihanna is not going to release a new album this year.

THOMPSON: Wow.

HARRIS: I'm saying this in the hopes that it actually comes true...

HOLMES: Yeah, I know that. I know that.

HARRIS: ...That she actually does release one. But my real prediction is that we will see an unprecedented number of women nominated for best director this year at the Oscars. Now, that is a very low bar because in no year have more than one woman been nominated in that category, and there's only been five women total who have been nominated, and Kathryn Bigelow remains the only one who has won for "The Hurt Locker," so very low bar.

But because of the pandemic and the way things have shaken out in terms of what's been released, what still needs to be released, there's a lot of chatter about the possibility of Chloe Zhao, who directed "Nomadland," which I've seen and which I think is a fantastic movie, and I can't wait for more people to see it and for us to be able to talk about it, hopefully. And then also, Regina King has - is getting a lot of buzz for "One Night In Miami." So I think that, you know, if we have two of them nominated, that's already...

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS: ...A big year for diversity.

(LAUGHTER)

HOLMES: Yeah.

HARRIS: Now, whether either of them will win, who knows? But I'm very curious to see the way the Oscars - we're still three-ish years away from when the Academy actually enforces its new inclusion rules about diversity and eligibility for films that want to be nominated for best picture.

HOLMES: Right.

HARRIS: So, you know, it's going to be a slow train going. But it does seem like because of pandemic, in this weird way, that we might see a little bit more diversity that we wouldn't have otherwise. It is sad that it took a pandemic for this to maybe happen, but I will be happy if it does happen. So that is my cautiously optimistic prediction for 2021.

HOLMES: Yeah. And I would add on, if they - provided that the dates line up for eligibility-wise, I think also Emerald Fennell, who made "Promising Young Woman" with Carey Mulligan - I think that's a spectacular movie that I think they are trying to do an Oscar nominating run. I think that is the kind of movie where it might be too weird, but it also might be the kind of thing that will get so much attention and so much respect and admiration. I can see that happening, too...

HARRIS: Yeah.

HOLMES: ...Even though, you know, she's not a super well-known director. It's - it absolutely blew me out of my shoes, that movie. And I cannot wait to talk about it. And I think that's one that could definitely happen.

WELDON: And while we're at it, Kelly Reichardt for "First Cow."

HOLMES: Yup, absolutely.

All right, so...

(LAUGHTER)

HOLMES: The time has come for me to revisit my prediction from 2020. As I recall, it was pretty compact. It was pretty simple, straightforward. Let's hear it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

HOLMES: Three words - Baby Yoda movie.

(OOHING)

HOLMES: An announcement or some kind of rumor or announcement of a Baby Yoda movie. If you have been watching "The Mandalorian" on Disney+, or even if you haven't, you have probably seen the little thing that is not a baby Yoda.

WELDON: It's not a Yoda, yeah.

HOLMES: It's a thing that looks like Yoda, but it's small. But it drinks tea, so it's not a baby. It walks around and drinks tea.

WELDON: Resolved - Baby Yoda is not a baby, nor Yoda. Discuss.

(LAUGHTER)

HOLMES: Issue No. 1. Now, it's possible that Baby Yoda will burn very bright and then be forgotten. But that doesn't happen in "Star Wars," really. People still care about Boba Fett, man.

WELDON: Sure.

THOMPSON: Still see those porg dolls everywhere.

HOLMES: And that's - those have both been quite a while. Just right now, there are little porg things that you can buy that are to put on the top of a pie.

KAT CHOW: (Laughter).

HOLMES: That's a true fact. Baby Yoda movie - now, it might be a Disney+-only movie.

WELDON: OK.

HOLMES: That counts.

WELDON: Caveat - good.

CHOW: That's fair. That's fair.

THOMPSON: This is going to be like "Olaf's Big Adventure" (ph).

WELDON: Oh, no.

(LAUGHTER)

HOLMES: It does not have to be a theatrical release in the "Star Wars" - either thing or the big thing (ph). You know what I'm talking about. But it can be - streaming still counts. So Baby Yoda movie.

WELDON: Baby Yoda movie.

CHOW: All right. That's fair.

HOLMES: Mark it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HOLMES: It's impressive that I didn't get all the way down to, like, it might be a four-minute short...

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS: On Quibi.

(LAUGHTER)

HOLMES: ...Shrinking that prediction. Like, it might be an interstitial between commercials on the Oscars.

(LAUGHTER)

WELDON: Yeah. So while the movie didn't happen, there are two very resonant sort of half-predictions in there. One is streaming counts, which it kind of does in 2020, and two, that people still care about Boba Fett. That also has a certain power this year.

HOLMES: Yeah. I mean, I think, look; I think people still care about Baby Yoda.

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

HOLMES: I don't think Baby Yoda was forgotten. When the new season of "The Mandalorian" came out, there was a lot of discussion 'cause they finally told you what Baby Yoda's name was. People were very invested in Baby Yoda's name. Maybe what I should've said instead of Baby Yoda movie was Baby Yoda name.

(LAUGHTER)

HOLMES: But that's not what I said. I said Baby Yoda movie. And I get an F - an F-minus 'cause absolutely no version of that happened - not even close.

THOMPSON: I think you were ahead of your time. I think this will eventually happen. I also predict that in our show next year, one of us will say what Linda just said, and I quote, "I think, look."

(LAUGHTER)

WELDON: Linda, what about Baby Yoda spinoff? Would that count?

HOLMES: Like spinoff series?

WELDON: Yes.

HOLMES: In a way, that's even more than movie 'cause movie is, like, a one-off - 'cause what I was really envisioning was like a Disney+-only one-off movie. In some ways, a spinoff would be my prediction outdoing itself, my prediction overperforming, as it were...

HARRIS: OK.

HOLMES: ...And thus, still being wrong.

HARRIS: Maybe there'll be a Baby Yoda holiday special in the future.

HOLMES: Well, that's really where I went wrong. I did. You know, they went instead with "The Lego Star Wars..."

THOMPSON: Yeah.

HOLMES: "...Holiday Special." Who could have predicted that?

So my prediction for 2021 - I thought long and hard and decided that I would make a prediction similar to that one, pretty easy to nail down whether it happens or it doesn't happen. I think you are going to see at least one more prestige documentary miniseries about a cult. I think they cannot help themselves because of the success and buzziness of "The Vow" and the other NXIVM stuff. Plus, there's one coming out right now about Heaven's Gate. The thing is there are plenty of cults, unfortunately, and it's the kind of thing you can put together. Depending on how good you want it to be, you can put it together relatively quickly. And I suspect there are ones that are in the works right now being pitched right now and potentially even assembled right now. So I think in 2021, you will see at least one more prestige-y cult documentary series.

I like these ones where I'm going to completely succeed or completely fail - no in between.

WELDON: Yup.

HOLMES: So that is my prediction for 2021. I think we can say we've all learned a lot from looking back at our predictions...

(LAUGHTER)

HOLMES: ...For 2020. That brings us to the end of our show. We want to hear your predictions for 2021. Find us at facebook.com/pchh and on Twitter - @pchh. Thanks so much to all of you guys for being here. This is so much fun.

HARRIS: Thank you.

WELDON: Thank you.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

HOLMES: And, of course, thank you for listening to POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR. If you'd like to support the work that we do at POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR and NPR, donate to your local member station at donate.npr.org/happy. Again, that's donate.npr.org/happy. We will see you all tomorrow for the follow-up, our annual resolutions episode.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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