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Hot List 2018

Hollywood’s young risk-takers, Robyn’s big comeback, hip-hop’s laid-back new star and more

hot list anna jacoby smith samuel l jackson zoe kravitz

Images used in photo composite: Shanna Fisher for Rolling Stone, Jessica Kourkounis/Universal Pictures, Zooey Grossman for Rolling Stone; Brad Ogbonna/The New York Times/Redux

In our annual Hot List, we tour the most exciting corners of pop culture, where the weirdest and freshest ideas are coming from. We check out the voices that are giving us reason to get excited about the future – the musicians, the filmmakers, the activists. And Zoe Kravitz — who stars in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the Harry Potter spinoff set to premiere November 16th — appears on the November cover to kick it off. “There’s this Kravitz family thing where people think we’re really cool and serious, which always makes me laugh — because we’re some of the goofiest people in the world,” she tells Rolling Stone. For more of what’s shaping our culture, check it out below.

phony ppl hot list

Christaan Felber for Rolling Stone

Hot Soul Power: Phony PPL

“I was in trouble,” singer-rapper Elbee Thrie says, recalling the day that his band — the Brooklyn progressive-R&B quintet Phony Ppl — was born in 2008. It was Thrie’s 16th birthday, and he was grounded, stuck at home. So Thrie invited over some teenage friends from his Crown Heights neighborhood — all musicians.

“I knew something was gonna be good about that day,” insists the singer, whose real name is Robert Booker. “I called my friends to come over, and we started playing. It wasn’t even a matter of ‘Oh, what are we going to do? What is this supposed to sound like?’ We ended up recording our first song, made it up right there.”

Read the rest of David Fricke’s profile of Phony Ppl.

Courtesy of Willie Mae Rock Camp For Girls

Courtesy of Willie Mae Rock Camp For Girls

Hot New Rock Stars: Rock Camp Graduates

If you build it, they will, apparently, rock. Even as guitar-based rock faded in the mainstream, an educational infrastructure teaching kids how to play it has flourished over the course of this century. Options range from the for-profit School of Rock chain (which existed prior to the Jack Black-helmed movie) to dozens of rock summer camps across the country, a lot of them aimed at girls. It probably shouldn’t be surprising that all that schooling has begun producing actual rock stars: Two of 2018’s hottest indie acts, Soccer Mommy and Snail Mail, are rock-camp veterans. Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan, 19, started out at a now-defunct rock camp at age seven, becoming wildly competitive with “boys who wrote me off because I was a girl.”

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Rivers Cuomo of Weezer performs at Shoreline Amphitheatre on August 7, 2018 in Mountain View, California.

Rivers Cuomo of Weezer performs at Shoreline Amphitheatre on August 7, 2018 in Mountain View, California.

Miikka Skaffari/Getty Images

Hot ’90s-Rock Strategy: Extreme Fan Service

Every night on tour this summer, Weezer re-created their 1994 “Buddy Holly” video in loving detail, from the Happy Days set to Rivers Cuomo’s cardigan and tie. They’re just the latest Gen X band to double down on giving nostalgic fans what they want. Green Day seem to be plotting a Dookie 25th-anniversary tour; even Smashing Pumpkins finally brought back James Iha and stopped playing post-2000 songs. Why flog a new album when you can bask in all that applause? —Andy Greene

Christone Kingfish Ingram performs on stage at The Chicago Blues Festival, 2018.

Christone Kingfish Ingram performs on stage at The Chicago Blues Festival, 2018.

James Fraher/Redferns

Hot Bluesman: Kingfish

Blues prodigy Christone “Kingfish” Ingram is 19 and grew up in Clarksdale, Mississippi, 10 minutes away from the crossroads where Robert Johnson supposedly did some business with Beelzebub. Ingram swears he hasn’t done the same  (“Nah, I didn’t do any of that”) but he’s one of the only young people he knows of in 21st-century Clarksdale with any interest in the city’s musical legacy: “The only people who care are pretty much the elderly people,” Ingram says. “I do think I have an old soul, that I’ve been here before.”

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john mayer hot list

Illustration by Lars Leetaru

Hot Godfather: John Mayer

When Ed Sheeran was recording “How Would You Feel (Paean),” a ballad on his multiplatinum 2017 album, ÷, he knew something was missing. “I did a really terrible guitar solo, and I was like, ‘I bet John Mayer could do this better,’ ” Sheeran said. “So I e-mailed him, and he did it a lot better.”

Mayer has become a mentor and key influence on a new generation of pop crooners in recent years, including Shawn Mendes (who asked Mayer to produce and play on his song “Like to Be You” and calls him “the best guitar player in the world” and “the god of music”) and English newcomer James Bay, both of whom are clearly influenced by Mayer’s bluesy guitar playing, sensitive singer-songwriter balladry and pop savvy.

This sort of comeback didn’t seem likely a decade ago. Back then, Mayer’s hits had dried up and he’d torpedoed his career with a series of offensive interviews. (Plus, he couldn’t tour because of vocal-cord issues.) He responded by recording several contrite, soul-searching albums, and in 2015, he stepped into Jerry Garcia’s shoes in Dead and Company, winning over skeptical Deadheads. Younger acts, meanwhile, had slowly begun embracing his influence around the time he played on Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange in 2012 — but the real turning point has come in the past year, as Sheeran, Mendes and other Top 40 stars have championed him. “I didn’t see it coming,” Mayer recently told Rolling Stone. “I looked up to Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan. So there’s a contract to make the new guys feel accepted.” —Patrick Doyle

cynthia erivo hot list

John Russo

Hot Big-Screen Breakout: Cynthia Erivo

Cynthia Erivo doesn’t have time for self-doubt or fretful navel-gazing. Neither does Belle, the hairdresser-turned-getaway-driver Erivo plays in Steve McQueen’s rollicking new heist film, Widows. A single mom who runs on instinct and street smarts, Belle is all fight, no flight. That is by design.

“I wanted to make sure you didn’t see her as weak,” says Erivo, a compact five-foot-tall dynamo whose Instagrammed workouts could put an Olympic gymnast to shame. “Belle could run and hide, but that’s not what she does. That’s not what I do.” That ferocity is a quality McQueen noted instantly when he met Erivo backstage at The Color Purple, for which she won a 2016 Tony Award. (She also has a Grammy and an Emmy, putting her one statuette away from an EGOT.) He cast her on the spot. “There is nothing she can’t do,” says McQueen, who calls Erivo the next Barbra Streisand.

A graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Erivo, 31, has trained for this moment. Still, that it would arrive in a deluge of high-profile roles — she starred opposite Jeff Bridges in October’s Bad Times at the El Royale, wrapped the sci-fi drama Needle in a Timestack and is currently filming a Harriet Tubman biopic — was a shock even to her. It’s a scenario that could easily spur a hint of impostor syndrome, but Erivo is too focused, or simply too busy, to wrestle with insecurity. “If I wasn’t supposed to be here, I wouldn’t be,” she says. “I’m supposed to be here. So let’s do the work and keep going.” —Maria Fontoura

Toto, early 1980s

Toto, early 1980s

Chris Walter/WireImage

Hot ‘Don’t Stop Believin’: Toto’s ‘Africa’

Nothing sums up 2018 like the fact that Toto’s “Africa” has become our unofficial anthem. It’s a song that’s ridiculous by definition — an Eighties ode to Africa by a bunch of L.A. rock dudes who’d never set foot in the place. But something about this song speaks to our moment. It’s the new “Don’t Stop Believin’” — a mega-cheese classic of Eighties sentiment that’s gotten bizarrely popular in recent years, beloved by hipsters and moms and tone-deaf karaoke singers screaming “I bless the rains down in Africa!” Love it or hate it, you’ve probably heard it today. You’ll hear it tomorrow. This damn song follows you everywhere, like the sound of wild dogs crying out in the night.

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valee chicago hot list

Lyndon French for Rolling Stone

Hot Rapper: Valee

Valee — the Chicago rapper who became a star this year after signing with Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music — isn’t the most popular newcomer in hip-hop. (That’s likely Juice WRLD, his Chicago compatriot and sudden Top 10 hitmaker.) Valee’s style, though, is the year’s most influential by far. Peers, rivals and listeners have all responded to his strangely soothing style of rapping — his verses sound quiet on the surface, but they conceal complex flows and consistently surprising wordplay. “Some people say on Twitter that I’m whispering,” he says. “I’m just laid-back and not too loud, and kind of shy.”

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Jessica Kourkounis/Universal Pictures

Hot Superhero/Villain comeback: Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson

M. Night Shyamalan totally M. Night Shyamalan’d Samuel L. Jackson with the ending of his 2016 comeback hit, Split. Shyamalan told Jackson he needed to set up a screening to see the film, adding, “Call me when it’s over.” Split’s final moments offer one of Shyamalan’s best twists ever (spoiler alert!), when Bruce Willis pops up as his proto-superhero character from 2000’s Unbreakable, thus revealing that Split’s multiple-personality monster ( James McAvoy) exists in the same universe as that movie — which, of course, also starred Jackson as Elijah Price, a.k.a. the brittle-boned, big-brained villain, Mr. Glass. Jackson has known since 2000 that Shyamalan intended Unbreakable as the first film in a trilogy, but had no idea that Split was the secret second entry — or that Shyamalan was finally planning to make the third part, Glass, due in theaters January 18th. “He made me wait long enough!” says Jackson, who was always fond of the character. “It’s not something people usually allow me to do. People don’t hire me to be quiet, so that was a great thing.” Meanwhile, the famously intense Shyamalan has mellowed, according to Jackson. “He used to literally tell us, ‘No, don’t blink!’”  —Brian Hiatt

wyatt russell hot list

Cole Barash for Rolling Stone

Hot Actor: Wyatt Russell

Take one look at Wyatt Russell — shaggy blond hair, SoCal hipster beard — and you can see why folks consider him a stoner heartthrob. “What I want to do,” the 32-year-old actor says, “is find roles with the same magic you feel when you’re high. It’s there even when you’re not stoned.” It’s why the Hollywood royalty — he’s the son of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell — has such an affinity for Dud, his amiable ex-surfer who joins a secret society on AMC’s dramedy Lodge 49 (and who doesn’t toke up, “though you’d think that he did”). Having originally blown off acting for playing pro hockey in Europe until getting sidelined by an injury, Russell eventually realized that “I didn’t have to be Jeff Spicoli or the Dude. I could do my own thing.” Now he can be the leading man on a quirky TV show one minute and do a soldiers-vs.-Nazizombies blockbuster like this fall’s Overlord the next. “It’s a popcorn-and-soda movie that gets pretty twisted,” Russell giddily says about the secretive J.J. Abrams-produced horror movie. “Like, very fucked up. —David Fear

Femi Kuti in concert at The New Africa Shrine.

Africa Shrine in Lagos, Nigeria.

Jacob Silberberg/PANOS/Redux

Hot Future of Pop: Lagos, Nigeria

When music producer Mr. Eazi was growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, in the early 2000s, his friends played 50 Cent and Sisqó at parties. These days, the jams he hears coming out of the clubs in Lagos are mostly homegrown. “People are shooting, like, four videos a day,” he says. “There are more radio stations. It’s a great time.” Eazi is part of a wave of Nigerian artists that includes singer-songwriter Wizkid (who collaborated on Drake’s 2016 global smash “One Dance”) and magnetic performer Davido (whose “Fall” has 88 million YouTube views); they’ve created a sound that fuses local styles like Afrobeat and highlife with hiphop and dancehall. And the world is taking notice: Regional-music revenues will grow from $56 million in 2015 to $88 million next year, and the local live-music scene is exploding. “Africa is the future,” says WurlD, who signed with the newly opened Universal Music Nigeria. “It’s growing really fast.” —Steve Knopper

Oct 21 2009- Daniel Dale for logo or staffheadshot (Photo by David Cooper/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

David Cooper/Toronto Star/Getty Images

Hot News Source: Daniel Dale’s Twitter

Politics Twitter long ago devolved into the Landfill for Bad Takes. But in 2018, the trash-fire fumes have been particularly hard to escape. Cutting sensibly through the morass is mild-mannered Canadian newspaper reporter Daniel Dale (@ddale8), presently the D.C. correspondent for the Toronto Star. Rather than hurl invective at the ever-changing Twitter heap, Dale taps out transcriptions of Donald Trump’s daily absurdity. He allows the president’s words to exist wholly on their own without commentary or judgment. And when not speedily relaying the news of the day, Dale fact-checks the president’s lies in real time, speaking truth to power with nothing but his thumbs. Dale was well-prepared for America’s WWE-style politics: He previously covered the rise and fall of former crack-smoking Toronto Mayor Rob Ford before heading south to Swampy D.C. for the Trump Show. —John Hendrickson

the beths hot list

Mason Fairey

Hot Band: The Beths

When Elizabeth Stokes was growing up in Auckland, New Zealand, the first band she played in was a folk duo called Teacups. “The first song I wrote was a wizard rock song about Harry Potter,” she recalls, “with predictions about what would happen in the last book.” But Stokes’ tea-folk/wizard-rock days are long behind her. Now, she just plays rock-rock, fronting the year’s best breakout indie band, the Beths.

“We were like, ‘Let’s make a loud guitar project, where we play fast guitar songs,’ ” she says. “ ‘Only bangers.’ ” The band’s excellent debut, Future Me Hates Me, is full of her crisp, confessional songs, recalling Nineties heroes like Weezer and the Breeders, as well as the Beatles, especially in their euphoric group vocals.

All four members of the Beths studied jazz in college (Stokes’ last job was teaching trumpet to kids), and they’ve found the choice to rock out uniquely liberating. “You can’t take yourself too seriously when you’re playing rock music,” says guitarist Jonathan Pearce, who is Stokes’ boyfriend. “Occasionally, one of Liz’s songs will be about me,” he adds. “And it feels pretty great.” —Jon Dolan

universal groove hot list

Courtesy of Mr. Eazi; Ivar Wigan; Eduardo Bravin

Hot Beat: The Universal Groove

Africa, the Caribbean and the U.S. have been carrying on a musical conversation for ages: 1980s Miami bass music, for instance, helped spark the explosion of Atlanta trap and Brazilian baile funk in the early 2000s. But lately, thanks to cheap recording technology and the global reach of YouTube, those feedback loops are happening at warp speed. Baile funk is now converging with South African house and the lithe Nigerian style Afrobeats, while dancehall and reggaeton have moved back into sync with each other, as heard on hits by Jamaica’s Popcaan, Colombia’s Karol G and more.

“The music spreads really fast,” says João Brasil, a Brazilian rapper and producer. “It’s much bigger than 10 years ago.” With styles bolstering one another and blurring together, it’s an exciting moment for listeners around the world, even if rigid U.S. industry conventions mean that you won’t hear much of it on the radio. “The biggest shift that’s happening now,” says Lisbon-based DJ Branko, “is that what for years was the dominant American pop-music style suddenly is not that cool anymore.” —Elias Leight

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LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 8: Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION episode, "The Hunted." Season 3, episode 11.  Original air date, January 8, 1990.  (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

CBS/Getty Images

Hot Starfleet Commander: Picard

We know barely anything about the next Star Trek series, except that it stars Patrick Stewart, going back into interstellar duty as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard. And that’s enough. The question of who’s the greatest Enterprise commander has divided geeks forever, but it’s got real cultural resonance these days because Picard is the leader we need right now. Cerebral. Unflappable. Rational. With an eye on the Prime Directive and a steady hand on the wheel. In other words, he’s everything our current commander in chief isn’t. His greatest Federation rival, Sixties hambone William Shatner’s James T. Kirk, has a lot of pluses — his intensity, his courage, his loyalty, his Tribble tolerance. But he’s also a total loose cannon. Picard is the captain you can trust. He keeps a cool head, even when he’s sipping his tea (Earl Grey, hot). Now more than ever: Make it so. —Rob Sheffield

anna jacoby heron

Shanna Fisher for Rolling Stone

Hot Scene-Stealer: Anna Jacoby-Heron

As Sean Penn’s wayward teenage daughter in The First, the new Hulu series about a team of astronauts trying to visit Mars, Anna Jacoby-Heron has a knack for fucking up onscreen. Whether spiraling into artistic mania or shooting up at a backyard party, she’s utter calamity couched in calm. “I would leave the really heavy scenes so nervous and unsure of how I came off, because I didn’t really remember what I was thinking or how I was feeling,” she says now. “I’d kind of just black out.”

Growing up in Silver Lake, Jacoby-Heron was by her own admission a “crazy kid” who had a “pretty tumultuous relationship” with her single mom. (“I was very not into authority,” she says.) Her years at the L.A. County High School for the Arts were less about class and “a lot about, like, going to views. We used to hike up hills that overlooked the city, and we’d just chill and smoke a joint.”

She found the script for The First “fucking incredible” — and relatable “in terms of dealing with a father who’s absent.” But the audition process was “the longest I’ve ever had.” When she finally found out she’d gotten the role — following “a very chill conversation” with Penn over breakfast in Beverly Hills — Jacoby-Heron was celebrating her birthday in Palm Springs with two friends. “To be honest, I was a little drunk,” she says with a laugh. “The next morning, we got a note slipped under our door from our neighbors, and they were like, ‘Hey! Heard the commotion. Congrats on your new job!’ ” —Alex Morris

Emma Stone and Yorgos Lanthimos hot list

Emma Stone and Yorgos Lanthimos

Atsushi Nishijima/Fox Searchlight

Hot Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Say you wanted to make a prestige film about political power plays in Queen Anne’s court. Who would you hire to direct it? Most people wouldn’t answer, “The guy who made a movie about lovelorn folks turning into lobsters” — but thanks to Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite has become one of this fall’s most buzzed-about movies. Set in the 18th Century and starring Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz and Broadchurch’s Olivia Colman, it’s full of backstabbing royalty, bizarre love triangles and a duck race filmed in slow motion. And it’s about to turn this 45-year-old Greek filmmaker into the most out-there auteur to go from art house to A list since David Lynch. “I wanted to make something that was not just another period drama, to combine history with modern elements,” he says.

Lanthimos is known for his 2009 breakthrough family drama, Dogtooth — and for pushing Colin Farrell (The Lobster) and Nicole Kidman (The Killing of a Sacred Deer) to uncharted WTF territory. Along the way, he earned a reputation and some famous fans, including Stone (“I thought he was going to be a psychopath,” she admitted).

Given free rein to reinterpret the true story of love and war, Lanthimos was quick to hoist his freak flag. He cites a dance sequence, set at a costume ball, in which Weisz and Joe Alwyn break into moves that seem to combine Russian folk music and hip-hop. Lanthimos’ warped take on the period-piece drama has already sparked a lot of Oscar talk. “I’ve developed a taste of my own,” he says, chuckling. “And maybe it is weird. But I think people secretly want weird.” —David Fear

Daphne Rubin-Vega and Bobby Cannavale record "The Horror of Dolores Roach" podcast.

Daphne Rubin-Vega and Bobby Cannavale record "The Horror of Dolores Roach" podcast.

Gimlet Media

Hot Throwback: Podcast Radio Plays

Sure, podcasts might have existed before 2014’s Serial, but did anyone really care? In the past four years, they’ve gone from niche medium to ubiquitous news source. But lately, some podcasters have started moving away from the traditional formats — news, commentary, history, documentary — and into something entirely new: scripted fiction. Shows like Sandra, Homecoming, Bubble and, most recently, The Horror of Dolores Roach have created immersive experiences — all accessible by earbud. “We can take risks where you can’t in television or film, just because of the nature of how things exist in audio,” says Mimi O’Donnell, head of scripted content at Gimlet media, which produces a slew of the new kind of content. “We’ve been looking for stories that aren’t existing anywhere else.” —Elisabeth Garber-Paul

August 31, 2018 - Stanford, California, United States - Stanford Cardinal band leader in Space Force uniform during an NCAA football game against the San Diego State Aztecs in Stanford, Calif. on Friday, August 31, 2017. Stanford defeated San Diego State 31-10. (Spencer Allen/Image of Sport) (Credit Image: © Spencer Allen/Image of Sports/Newscom via ZUMA Press)

Spencer Allen/Image of Sport) (Credit Image: © Spencer Allen/Image of Sports/Newscom/ZUMA

Hot Fake NASA: Space Force

Space Force began as a joke. “I was not really serious,” President Trump said. “Then I said, ‘What a great idea.’ ” After Trump announced it in front of the National Space Council, Vice President Mike Pence laid out a detailed plan, calling for “an elite group of joint war-fighters specializing in the domain of space.” He estimated a 2020 liftoff. Cartoonish logo prototypes circulated. “Space Force all the way!” Trump tweeted.

Though Space Force may sound like the ramblings of a giant toddler, Earth’s orbit does have the potential to become a dangerous theater for war — China and Russia have been maneuvering beyond the atmosphere, where satellites control everything from surveillance to bank transactions.
Yet despite the White House’s rhetoric, establishing a Space Force would amount to little more than a bureau-cratic reorganization. As retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly tweeted, “The Air Force does this already. What’s next, we move submarines to the 7th branch and call it the ‘under-the-sea force?’ ” —Ryan Bort

WILKES BARRE, PA - AUGUST 02: David Reinert holds up a large "Q" sign while waiting in line to see President Donald J. Trump at his rally on August 2, 2018 at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. "Q" represents QAnon, a conspiracy theory group that has been seen at recent rallies. (Photo by Rick Loomis/Getty Images)

A Make America Great Again rally In Pennsylvania in August 2018.

Rick Loomis/Getty Images

Hot Crackpots: QAnon

Were it a government plot — a dazzling scheme to keep the public stupid — QAnon would be a great achievement in the otherwise relatively undistinguished history of the CIA. Alas, it is not. Like most things these days, if it seems like 4D chess, it’s probably just stupid.

So it is with Q, the anonymous executive-branch staffer who is said to be leaking “breadcrumbs” across the bowels of the Internet, illuminating a vast subterranean effort to expose Donald Trump’s enemies for everything from pedophilia to killing Princess Diana to causing Hurricane Katrina. It’s a thrilling fantasy that takes the rightist paranoia of The Turner Diaries and mixes it with the gore of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Killer and the doomsday religiosity of Heaven’s Gate.

Read more of Matt Taibbi on QAnon here.

 

justin bieber jonah hill dirtbag chic hotlist

John Sheene/ACE Pictures/REX Shutterstock, Gotham/GC Images/Getty Images

Hot Look: Sleaze It Up With Dirtbag Chic

In 2018, stoner culture is huge, glamour feels dull, and it seems everyone just wants to be comfortable. The result? Stars looking like grimy skater dropouts. “It’s like a pared-down version of normcore,” says Kat Typaldos, a New York stylist who’s worked with Future and Sky Ferreira. “It does reflect a bigger picture — they’re rejecting formality. I can’t imagine this lasting longer than a year.” Here are four celebs who’ve given their own spins on Dirtbag Chic. —Jerry Portwood

Jonah Hill
The actor and Mid90s director often rocked tie-dyed shirts this summer. “We associate tie-dye with Deadheads and Phish fans,” says Typaldos. “But you put a weird chunky sneaker, and it doesn’t confine you to a certain movement. Maybe it’s the Internet — subcultures are being brought to the forefront.”

Pete Davidson
The SNL star proves an iconic skater tee always works when worn with confidence. “I don’t even see it as being sleazy,” Typaldos says. “I think it’s a sexiness, an ‘I don’t give a fuck-ness.’ Trends are an acceptance and a rejection of what people think is cool. And this feels like the Nineties are still going strong. It’s going back to a level of irony.”

Cara Delevingne
Off the runway, the queer icon challenges traditionally feminine fashion. “Cara started her career as a model, and she took on diverse aesthetic personas,” Typaldos points out. “It’s interesting how she’s translated her ‘off-duty’ look. We are in an anarchistic place creatively, but things are curated even within this structure.”

Justin Bieber
He’s shed his pretty-boy days with items like slouchy sweats and roached-out sneakers. Says Typaldos, “Even if it looks like anti-fashion, it’s still fashion. It reminds me of Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

 

 

Post Malone and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith perform onstage during the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on August 20, 2018 in New York City.

Post Malone and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith perform onstage during the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on August 20, 2018 in New York City.

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Hot Mess: Award Shows

It’s a great American tradition: the Hollywood award show. Until lately, it seemed like an indestructible cultural institution — every year, the red carpets get rolled out, the stars stumble into the flashbulbs, reveal who they’re wearing, statues get handed out, tears get shed, champagne gets spilled, hilariously pompous speeches get made. Some of us love show-biz award ceremonies, even the most pointless and ridiculous ones. So what went wrong? It’s a TV ritual that has reached a crisis point, in terms of ratings and relevance — which is why the Oscars almost added a Best Popular Film category. So it’s time to rescue this lovable lunatic of a tradition.

Read Rob Sheffield’s full advice to save awards shows here.

Terence Nance at the Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn, New York, July 23, 2018.

Terence Nance at the Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn, New York, July 23, 2018.

Brad Ogbonna/The New York Times/

Hot Late-Night Game-Changer: Terence Nance

The Random Acts of Flyness creator wants to expand your mind with his fantastic, unclassifiable HBO late-night series. At points it resembles sketch comedy: One episode includes Nance rocking a Steve Jobs-style turtleneck as he debuts an app made for the procurement of reparations payments, called Bitch Better Have My Money. But Nance, 36, acknowledges that such moments of “traditional satire” are “essentially bait” to lead viewers to more challenging fare: dips into poignant surrealism (a sustained group hug among young black men); separate montages of footage featuring black street dancers and black victims of police brutality; and candid documentary material (interviews with trans people of color). “It’s gonna get uncomfortable,” Nance says of the show, which was picked up for a second season just after its August debut. “That’s the goal: It guides you on a consciousness shift.” —Jonah Weiner

Read more about the show here.

 

 

hot list robyn

Heji Shin

Hot Comeback: Robyn

Hits like ‘Dancing on My Own’ made her one of the most influential pop artists of the 2010s, but she had to recalibrate her own heart before she could return.

“Sometimes it’s necessary to not function,” says Robyn in the most functional, Scandinavian way possible: quiet and measured and with the soothing tone of some sort of woodland creature emerging after a long, restorative sleep from a cave of mystical wonders. In fact, it’s been four years since Robyn stopped touring for her beloved 2010 Body Talk trilogy, four long years in which her legend has lived on, out of step with her actual self. “When I was challenged before, I would go into this mode where I was pushing through the challenges and getting off on that liberated feeling of being able to explore desperation and passion and frustration and all that.” In recent years, she says, “I was getting bored of that. I was looking for some deeper understanding of myself.”

Read Alex Morris’ profile of Robyn.

HOT BOOM: Documentaries

Photo-illustration by Max-o-matic

Hot Boom: Documentaries

In hard times, we’re told, people don’t go to movies and TV for reality — they go to escape it. That may explain the rise of the Marvel, DC and Stars Wars empires, but now that the real world is dominated by a reality-TV supervillain who spouts move lies than Emperor Palpatine, a rebel alliance of nonfiction is rising up, pulling the once-dusty genre of documentaries off the PBS sidelines and thrusting it front and center. “I suspect it’s because we all need a little fucking context,’ says veteran documentary producer Marilyn ness of the genre’s explosive growth. “People are craving clarity.”

 

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 28:  (AUSTRALIA OUT) Portrait of American singer-songwriter H.E.R. photographed at the QT Hotel in Sydney on Monday 28th May 2018. H.E.R's real name is Gabriella 'Gabi' Wilson. (Photo by James Brickwood/SMH/Fairfax Media via Getty Images)

James Brickwood/Getty Images

Hot Streaming Sound: Quiet Storm

The R&B singer H.E.R. has never cracked the Top 25 on Billboard‘s Hot Hip-Hop/R&B Songs chart. But when she releases her debut album this fall, she can rest assured that plenty of listeners will be interested: She has already amassed more than a billion streams across various digital platforms.

H.E.R.’s music is leisurely and soft, two qualities that have been out of fashion in mainstream R&B for around 15 years. Her tracks blend easily into each other, and, more importantly, into down-tempo R&B playlists on both Spotify — where you’ll find her on “Chilled R&B,” “All the Feels” and “Love, Sex & Water,” each of which includes more than a million followers — and Apple Music.

Read more.

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