Best entertainment of 2016

Best Entertainment COLORMaddie Wilson | Student Life

2016 was an interesting year. Here at Cadenza, we like to think it was because of all of the stellar entertainment. That’s why we took nominations from our staff and readers for the best entertainment picks of 2016. After much deliberation, we present the best to you.

Theater

“Hamilton”

A record setting 16 Tony nominations (with 11 wins, including Best Musical), a 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album and a 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama: “Hamilton” couldn’t have earned its spot here any more thoroughly if it tried. The show about the life of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton—with music, lyrics and book by Lin-Manuel Miranda—has been sold out for months, with peak ticket prices surpassing $1,000 this past summer. For those committed to getting tickets, it became common practice to enter the lottery, which provides a small handful of lucky people with $10 front row seats, every single day.—Erica Sloan

“Fun Home”

“Fun Home,” a musical adapted by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori from Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir, has been recognized as the first mainstream musical about a young lesbian. Although it won the Tony Award in 2015 for Best Musical, “Fun Home” recently emerged into a nationwide phenomenon, with a national tour that started this past October. The show takes on a nonlinear timeline, exploring both Alison’s early childhood, in which she struggles to meet her father Bruce’s demanding standards and her first year in college, in which she discovers her identity as a lesbian and begins a fulfilling relationship with a woman named Joan. It is only when Alison writes a letter home from college to come out to her parents that she learns her father has been having relationships with men and boys during his marriage to her mother. It’s the ability of “Fun Home” to tackle such a serious subject matter as a piece of musical theater that has brought it continual praise. —Erica Sloan

“Eclipsed”

“Eclipsed” tackles the plight of a group of women in Liberia’s second civil war in 2003. They fall prey to a heartless commanding officer of the rebel Liberian army and are trapped in a one-room shack, forced to have sex with him. When a 15-year-old orphan called only “the Girl,” played by Oscar-winning star of “12 Twelve Years a Slave” Lupita Nyong’o, arrives at the shack, the three wives try to hide her, but the commanding officer forces himself on her, as well. The Girl is faced with a decision that will determine the rest of her life: remain within the relative protection of the abusive officer, join the rebel army as a soldier or work to end the civil war as a member of the Peace Women of Liberia—and threaten her life and identity in the process. The ways in which all five women in the play shape their own destinies push back against their political powerlessness in the face of such devastating conflict. Although “Eclipsed” played its final Broadway show in June, it was both the only new play by a woman on Broadway this season and for which it deserves recognition, a daring piece on an incredibly difficult subject matter. —Erica Sloan

Movies

“Zootopia”

Disney’s first animated film of 2016 was a surprise hit, ultimately becoming the second highest grossing original movie of all time. “Zootopia” follows Judy (Ginnifer Goodwin), who becomes the first bunny cop but faces discrimination in the police force. When predators in the city start returning to a state of savagery, Judy and a con artist fox step in to solve the case. Underneath the cute jokes and delightful animation, the film is about prejudice, racism and segregation. The entire city—and even Judy herself—battles the prejudice between predator and prey in order to save the day and find reconciliation.—Katarina Schultz

“Arrival”

Another box office surprise, “Arrival” brought a deeply thoughtful and emotionally charged science fiction story to screens just after Election Day. The film follows Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a linguist who is recruited to communicate with the aliens who have just landed around the world. The more Louise understands them, the more her world begins to change. “Arrival” is both a study in the life of an individual and also a reflection on the human race. One of the many questions the film leaves you with is this: “If you could see your whole life laid out in front of you, would you change things?” It’s a question that will haunt you for weeks after you dry your eyes and leave the theater.—Katarina Schultz

“Moonlight”

“Moonlight” is a truly stunning study of a man growing up black and queer in Miami. It follows Chirone (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes) over three points in his life, as he struggles with his own identity in the context of existing national systems of oppression. The film does not sugarcoat life, nor does it attempt to make a grand societal argument, but it presents a single, individual reality as it is, with hauntingly beautiful imagery and incredible performances by all three Chirones. “Moonlight” must become required watching not only for film students but for everyone.—Katarina Schultz

TV

“Stranger Things”

It almost feels like “Stranger Things” was the climactic peak to a nostalgic wave that has come to define our generation of Polaroids and vinyls. After all, the hit Netflix series became popular for its Spielbergian world that draws from ‘80s sci-fi films. It’s hard not to draw comparisons to “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial,” but part of the greatness is that “Stranger Things” stands on its own as a purely fun watch. The characters are memorable, genuine and exceptional, while the plot is accessible enough even to the uninitiated in the genre. The show transcended critical acclaim to become a pop culture phenomenon that dominated conversations—and even defined Halloween costume trends. With a second season coming, “Stranger Things” is sure to maintain its already iconic status. —Alberto De La Rosa

“Atlanta”

With “Atlanta,” Donald Glover set out to make “a Twin Peaks for rappers,” and he was successful by most, if not all, accounts. The show follows an aspiring rapper, his best friend and his cousin—who is played by Glover. Characters dodge in and out of storylines, as the show jumps around Atlanta by way of traveling to nightclubs, carryouts and celebrity basketball games. Likely the most engaging aspect of the show is its dynamic nature; it experiments with storytelling by setting one episode in a single talk show room, only to follow the characters throughout the city in the next. —Ayanna Harrison

“BoJack Horseman”

The third season of “BoJack Horseman” has received some much deserved critical acclaim, as it delved deeper into the public’s obsession with celebrity and its effects on those who get placed on the pedestal of fame. A Netflix original, the season engages with the notion that, as audiences assume relationship to celebrities, invest in them and purport to know them, those celebrities may struggle to know themselves. The animation and comedy of “Bojack Horseman” allow audiences to interact with more serious subject matter, without feeling the emotional drain that may result from observing these subjects in other forms, and its third season attests to its continued relevance. —Ayanna Harrison

Pop Culture

Baldwin as Trump

Thanks to the results of the election, the American people can be certain that they will be tuning in to see Donald Trump (aka Alec Baldwin) each time they watch “Saturday Night Live” for the next four years. Offering a comical criticism of our president-elect, Baldwin really makes the role his own, while presenting the president-elect as a disinterested world leader, more engaged within the world of social media tweeting frenzies and dedicated to the building of a “swamp,” as he has promised throughout his campaign. Though the humor behind these jokes is not seen unanimously among the American people, it is hard to deny the talent Baldwin brings to the table in his impersonation and the importance of political engagement that even such comical displays have encouraged throughout this year. —Greer Russell

Biden memes

After the election, preemptive nostalgia for the Barack Obama administration appeared in full force. And none of these tributes were quite as hilarious, or touching, as Joe Biden memes. While these artful testimonials to the Obama/Biden bromance have always been popular, the true phenomenon began when the internet decided Uncle Joe would booby trap the White House, change the Oval Office Wi-Fi password and generally make life miserable for President-Elect Trump. Our only political pleasure in the dark days following Nov. 8, Biden Memes remind us that some politicians are still jolly this holiday season. —Kendall Carroll

Kim Kardashian vs. Taylor Swift

Kanye West and Taylor Swift have a very long history. Their on-again, off-again feud began with the famous, “Imma let you finish…” speech at the Video Music Awards in 2009. Since then, they have apologized, taken back their apologies, made up, became friends and more—all until the release of West’s latest album, “The Life of Pablo.” On the track “Famous,” Kanye raps, “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/Why? I made that b—- famous.” Apparently, Swift is not happy about Kanye’s lyrics. The plot thickened when reality star and West’s wife Kim Kardashian claimed to have a video as proof of a phone call between Kanye and Swift where Kanye explained the song to Swift, and she gave him permission to use the line. Of course, when Kanye released the music video for “Famous,” it featured a naked wax statue of Swift next to a naked wax sculpture of him. After some outrage by Swift’s supporters, Kardashian released the video of the conversation over Snapchat, and in that video, Swift does seem to give her permission to Kanye to release the song. Swift responded by claiming to not have known that he planned on calling her ‘that b—-,’ but how much she really knew about the song is unknown. So is Swift justly outraged about a slight from Kanye, or is she just taking an opportunity to increase her fame and reputation? That’s the question of 2016. —Josh Zucker

Albums

“Untitled Unmastered”

Released in early March, Kendrick Lamar’s “Untitled Unmastered” went to the top of the U.S. Billboard 200 with only eight tracks in a surprise drop after LeBron James requested the hinted-at tracks. Taken from the recording sessions of his 2015 album “To Pimp a Butterfly,” Lamar’s newest album experimented with jazz, soul and funk fusions that set the music apart from other music this year. The lyrics openly dealt with issues of race, identity and vulnerability, with the political and psychological undertones making the demos important milestones in the 2016 musical landscape.  —Kendall Carroll

“Wild World”

Bastille’s second studio album exploded onto the scene in early fall, sampling their earlier pop success with new mixes of indie, hip-hop and rhythm and blues. Some songs even mixed in quotes from cult ‘70s and ‘80s sci-fi films, managing to throw in the odd cultural reference without even halting the flow of the song. While some (“Good Grief,” “The Currents”) still have the same dance floor choruses that made Bastille popular with “Pompeii” three years ago, others, like “Two Evils,” strip the music down to a more intimate setting. All in all, if you didn’t sing along to “Every minute of every hour!” at some point this semester, it’s your loss. —Kendall Carroll

“Wildflower”

A unique musical experience, the Avalanches’ newest album was the ambient sounds on an extended drug trip summer road trip. Distinctly psychedelic in nature and eerily mixing in under tracks of old rock hits from the ‘60s. (Listen to “The Noisy Eater” to hear a children’s chorus gleefully sing the Beatles’ “Come Together” between extensive raps about cereal). “Wildflower” defied expectations by delivering surprisingly good euphony underneath all the crazy. Hundreds of musical fragments manage to come together to form something surprisingly uplifting and beautiful. In a year without much cause for celebration, this album of innocent grooviness will bring a smile to your face. —Kendall Carroll

Songs

“Work from Home”

“Work from Home,” by the all-women rhythm and blues/pop group Fifth Harmony and featuring Ty Dolla Sign, is one of the most popular songs from this year. Featuring a catchy beat and simple lyrics, this song will stick in your head for the whole day. The lyrics center around one partner begging the other to stay home and spend the day making love. “Work from Home” is an anthem about freedom and shrugging off responsibilities for a day, in order to have a day of relaxing…and other stuff. —Josh Zucker

“Augustine”

“Augustine,” by Dev Hynes or Blood Orange, is one of the most layered songs of 2016. The song, in multiple parts, references St. Augustine of Hippo and his writings and goes on to view those writings and his views on Christianity through a queer and a black perspective. The line, “See, Augustine/Late have I loved and chose to see/Skin on his skin/A warmth that I can feel with him,” references Augustine’s writings and connects them to the idea of warmth/ An inner warmth supposedly coming from faith can also be provided from love, through nonstraight sexualities. The song also references Trayvon Martin and shows a sense of helplessness in reacting to his death. The end of the song references Nonetetha Nkwenkwe, a South African prophet and leader, which further connects the song to faith. The whole song is deeply moving and an extremely personal piece, when viewed from the perspective of Hynes himself. —Josh Zucker

“You & I”

You & I, by the Nashville, Tenn.-based alternative band Colony House, is a prereleased single from the upcoming album, “Only the Lonely.” “You & I” is about trying to make it through a rough patch in a relationship. It features an extremely catchy chorus that will unconsciously make your toe tap, especially during the refrain, “Maybe the world isn’t crazy/Maybe it’s you and I.” And though these days it seems like the world certainly is crazy, the sentiment of the song remains beautiful and relevant. —Josh Zucker

Music Videos

“Sleep on the Floor”

Perhaps one of the most beautifully tragic music videos the Lumineers have released to date, “Sleep on the the Floor” incorporates inspiring landscapes and a nostalgic love story of a man and woman embarking on a cross-country road trip. Illustrating what might be the vision behind many people’s dreams, the Lumineers build their audience up only to end this graphic daydream with a jolting return to the real world, dark and often pessimistic. Though a more recent release, the whirlwind of emotion this video provides its audience places it in the top three music videos of 2016. —Greer Russell

“Lemonade”

This iconic, hour-long video captures the best of the queen. Offering dramatic visuals and a diverse array of contemporary themes, Beyonce Knowles, and several directors, successfully created a work likely capable of standing alone without the music it means to promote. Beyonce emphasizes themes of substantial cultural significance, such as African-American identity and Christian faith; yet she simultaneously commiserates with personal tribulations of marriage and the often-difficult demonstration of forgiveness. Taking us through multiple dramatically charged scenes, Beyonce does not disappoint with the video’s stunning visuals and music. —Greer Russell

“Cranes in the Sky”

Solange Knowles wows the crowd with this visual masterpiece, using symbolism and thematic contrasts to detail the truths in her song “Cranes in the Sky.” Singing along with several other African-American women in a variety of vast and awe-inspiring natural landscapes, Solange emphasizes the idea that women of color are caught in a struggle for power and freedom that one cannot simply run from or “drink away.” This video’s sensational artistry in color and positioning powerfully arranges these women among wide, striking landscapes to contrast their emotional and physical enchainment by feelings of isolation. Acknowledging contentions over race and gender in our world beyond the screen, Solange deserves a spot among 2016’s best. —Greer Russell

WASH. U. ON CAMPUS

Theater

“Thinking It”

Thinking It (PAD)Courtesy of the Performing Arts Department

A play that explores the extent to which our own realities are determined by the content of our thoughts and the feelings of our hearts, this fall’s Performing Arts Department production, “Thinking It,” was written by Washington University’s own Playwright-in-Residence Carter Lewis. At the start of the story, 19-year-olds Connie, played by sophomore Carly Rosenbaum, and Nick, played by senior Zack Schultz, emerge from comas with the nagging feeling that something big happened while they weren’t conscious—and with an inexplicable connection to each other. As both characters try to think back on what happened in the liminal space between life and death, the drama unfolds in a story about love and personal identity. An intimate piece of original theater, which enjoyed a packed house on multiple nights of its run last month, “Thinking It” has undoubtedly earned its spot among this year’s best. —Erica Sloan

Presidential debate

debate_huberStephen Huber | Student Life

While a presidential debate might normally feel like a stretch for the theater category, this particular year’s cast of candidates and Wash. U.’s own response to its selection as host most definitely qualify as theatrical. In the weeks leading up to the debate, the Wash. U. public affairs team and WashU Votes hosted a series of small events, including photo booths, free mini apple pies, free blue- and red-frosted cupcakes and tabling to help with voter registration. It was a concerted effort to rally students, faculty and staff for the event, which received its own hype from the lottery process that granted a select 432 students a (literally) golden ticket. The day itself was likened to a state school’s college game day. And this is all in light of the candidates’ own theatrical performance, complete with jibes at each other’s personalities, families and even locker room tendencies, leading one debate attendee to ask each candidate if he or she could just say one kind thing about the other. We’d be remiss not to include in this year’s best of theater lineup the exciting debut performance of Trump and Clinton on our very own campus. —Erica Sloan

“Heathers: The Musical”

HeathersAnnika Andersson | Student Life

This rock musical, with music, lyrics and book by Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy, is a comedy about high school drama based on the 1988 film, “Heathers” and described as “hilarious, heartfelt and homicidal.” In the musical, 17-year-old Veronica gets the chance to join the coolest clique at Westerburg High School, the Heathers, when she uses her forgery talents to get the three beautiful Heathers—yearbook chair Heather Duke, head cheerleader Heather McNamara and queen bee Heather Chandler—out of detention. When Veronica falls for the sexy new kid Jason “J.D.” Dean, she’s forced to come to the realization that she traded her friends for popularity. Factor in the cruel teasing, unrelenting jealousy and sloppy drunkenness of high school girls, and things get dicey. Cast N’ Crew’s version makes it on to this year’s best of theater list, not only for its incredibly talented cast, but for the sheer fact that “Heathers” is the largest show the group has ever done, involving over 50 students. Tickets were also sold out in just one day. Set, lights, sound and costumes for the show, which was performed in the Village Black Box last month, were all created by Cast N’ Crew as well. —Erica Sloan

Festivals

WUStock

borns 2 - holly ravazzoloHolly Ravazzolo | Student Life

The first thing I remembered about this year’s WUStock was the insatiable, gusty winds that threatened to be the protagonist of the day. Luckily, that role went to BORNS, who dazzled everyone with an energizing set of his popular hits, including the contagious anthem “Electric Love.” The atmosphere of the day’s festivities was laid-back, warm and relaxing in a way that perhaps WILD wasn’t last semester. It was a welcome change of pace, a formula that should be repeated more often over bigger, more elaborate shows. —Alberto De La Rosa

African Film Festival

African Film Fest (Wilmetta Toliver-Diallo)Courtesy of Wilmetta Toliver-Diallo

The same as every year, the African Film Festival offered attendees a splendid array of short and feature-length films that cover different genres of African cinema. For many, it was their first time being exposed to the diversity of films that the continent has to offer. Films such as “Ayanda” and “L’Oeil du Cyclone” are reasons enough for the festival to deserve a spot in our best of 2016 list. If that’s not enough, the festival is in its 11th year, proving its important place in the Wash. U. community. —Alberto De La Rosa

Jun Bae

jun bae - Jonathan YueJonathan Yue | Student Life

Mere months after his graduation from Wash. U. this past spring, Jun Bae had already directed a feature-length documentary that was selected for the St. Louis Film Festival. Titled “Bob’s Tour: Understanding What We See,” the film takes on a big task: to educate viewers about the historical segregation of St. Louis and the dying communities throughout the city as a result of eminent domain. Bae does it with grace and the necessary emotion required to tell such a delicate narrative. “Bob’s Tour” will undoubtedly become a must-watch for those seeking to understand the St. Louis divides. And Jun Bae is poised to become a powerhouse storyteller, whether through films or other media. —Alberto De La Rosa

Culture

Carnaval

Belly dancers have fun during Carnaval 2016: Origines.Holly Ravazzolo | Student Life

This year’s Carnaval tackled a controversial historical event in Latin America: Argentina’s Dirty War. Yet the show managed to tell a more personal story that resonated with many, even with those who did not know about the Dirty War. In addition, the lineup of musical numbers was, as per usual, dazzling and contagious, while still adding a more contemporary touch to its choreography and song choices. —Alberto De La Rosa

B.J. Novak

Comedian B.J. Novak performs to a nearly-full Graham ChapelHolly Ravazzolo | Student Life

The headliner of spring’s Social Programming Board Comedy Show, B.J. Novak was a refreshing break from the usual stand-up routine that we come to expect from the comedians who visit Graham Chapel. Instead, Novak answered questions from the audience, read some of the anecdotes from his outstanding book “One More Time” and even brought out a hand puppet. It was dynamic, offbeat and funny at the same time. Admittedly, the “white male comedian” trend that the Comedy Show continues to follow is tiring. Nonetheless, B.J. Novak was an astute choice. —Alberto De La Rosa

Black Anthology

BlackAnthologyClaire Komyati | Student Life

The title and subject of the defiantly political political Black Anthology show this year was “woke.” Beyond spotlighting the importance of being cognizant about racial issues in today’s Black America, the show also educated the audience about how to be part of a conversation that directly affects the lives of the black community. Despite a heavy subject, the show blended humor and love in its skit, along with mesmerizing, choreographed dance numbers that added an artistic layer to the show’s overall narrative. The relevance of the story and the influential role of such a space at an oftentimes apolitical campus like Wash. U. makes Black Anthology not just one of the best, but one of the most necessary events of 2016. —Alberto De La Rosa

Music

DJ Alter

dj alter 1 - holly ravazzoloHolly Ravazzolo | Student Life

A sophomore in the Olin Business School and a professional DJ, Zach Alter encapsulates the word “well-rounded.” Bringing his artistic love of the DJ lifestyle in combination with a professional business edge, Alter has worked together with professor Glenn MacDonald to create a brand-new minor in the Business of Entertainment. His performances as opener for the SPB CHERUB Spring Concert, and at this past spring’s WUStock, in addition to his work with the Olin Business School, most certainly lands him a spot among Wash. U.’s 2016 top student artists. —Greer Russell

Pep Band

pep bandStephen Huber | Student Life

Only formed last year by freshmen students, the Wash. U. pep band graduated to playing on national television this semester. That’s right, our band kids played the CNN theme in Brookings Quadrangle to mark the beginning of coverage for the second presidential debate. You may remember that the political spectacle received quite a bit of fanfare on its own, but nothing gets Wash. U. students riled up for game day like the pep band, and there was never a game day quite like the debate. —Kendall Carroll

Sensasians

sensasians courtesy of stacey harimotoCourtesy of Stacey Harimoto

Singing their hearts out on the stage over this past semester, the Sensasians have paved their way back to the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella stage this upcoming year. This is a strong trend demonstrating their success grabbing audiences’ attention on and off the Wash. U. campus with their eclectic music, varying between English and Asian languages. 2016 was a big year for them as well, as they made it to the ICCA semifinals and continued building upon their achievements from the past few years. —Greer Russell