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The Hot List 2017: The People and Trends We’re Talking About the Most

From Cardi B to future A-list actors to the thinkers and creators who could save the world, here’s who and what made Rolling Stone’s annual list

The Hot List 2017: The People and Trends We're Talking About the Most

Welcome to our annual Hot List – our tour of 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. If anyone sums up the state of hotness in 2017, it’s our cover heroine Cardi B – as the great woman herself would say in “Bodak Yellow,” only the real can relate.

But Cardi is our Hot Issue cover girl because she’s a lot more than just the year’s most thrilling pop rebel. She’s a philosopher who understands that in a year like 2017, a year jam-packed with dread and terror and minute-by-minute insanity, a year that keeps bombarding you with reasons to give up and hide away and tune out, realness is resistance. The stars of our Hot Issue tap into that realness – it’s there in the beats of Latin trap, it’s there in the hard-ass comedy of Tiffany Haddish, it’s there in the deceptively smooth Swedish grooves of Northern Electronics. It means young musicians like Lukas Nelson or Portugal. The Man looking for innovative ways to build on the past. It means hearing new resonance in elder voices from back in the day, whether that means Michael McDonald or Freddie Mercury or the indestructible Britney Spears. In 2017, hotness is not just a matter of how you sound or how you move or what you build. It’s about how you envision the future. And as Cardi would say, it means walking boldly into that future, even if that means walking in bloody shoes. Walk on. 

Rolling Stone Hot Issue List 2017 Read

Hot Resurrection: Freddie Mercury

A biopic based on the epic life and over-the-top persona of Freddie Mercury has always seemed like a no-brainer. The only issue was finding an actor charismatic enough to fill the Queen singer’s tank top. But if the bootlegged footage of Bohemian Rhapsody (out next year) is any indication, that problem has been solved in the form of Mr. Robot star Rami Malek. “When we filmed the Live Aid scene, people who were [at the 1985 performance] got chills,” says director Bryan Singer, who worked on the project for 14 years before finding a plausible Mercury. “He’s really re-creating those legendary moments.” D.F.

Rolling Stone Hot Issue List 2017 Read

Courtesy of Mad Magazine

Hot Pivot: ‘Mad’ Magazine

Maybe it was when they made Trump the leader of rap group Republican Enemy (It Takes a Moron With Billions…). Or when they cast Reince Priebus as a Wookie-deporting villain in a Star Wars parody. But operating under the cover of barf jokes, Mad has become America’s best political satire magazine, featuring Trump on six of its last nine covers – seven if you count the poop emoji. J.L.

Rolling Stone Hot Issue List 2017 Read

Harmony Gerber/Getty

Hot Playlist Strategy: Activism

Call it the Woke Playlist: On September 5th, as 
the Trump administra
tion moved to end DACA, Spotify pushed out its No Moment for Silence playlist, with music and messages of support for Dreamers from Khalid, Demi Lovato, Camila Cabello and more. July’s I’m With the Banned playlist paired U.S. stars with artists from countries targeted by the travel ban, like Pusha T and Syrian MC Moh Flow. Expect more playlists like these. “With this administration,” says Jackie Jantos, Spotify’s vice president of creative and brand strategy, “we won’t run out of opportunities.”
 J.L.

Rolling Stone Hot Issue List 2017 Read

Sacha Lecca for Rolling Stone

Hot Band: Sheer Mag

Tina Halladay – powerhouse singer for the Philadelphia band Sheer Mag – recently received an awesome tribute. “My friend sent me a neon poster-board collage that a little girl made of me at Girls Rock Camp in Austin,” Halladay says. “I’m fuckin’ tearing up talking about it.” It’s no surprise that Sheer Mag can inspire such devotion in young fans; the band’s self-released debut, Need to Feel Your Love, is one of 2017’s best records, mixing steely protest jams and lovesick yearning (what Halladay calls “the intertwining of things that make you feel hopeless and things that give you hope”) into songs that combine punk spirit and Seventies hard-rock riffage.

The band began in late 2013, four roommates bashing
out music on an 8-track machine. From the beginning, they’ve infused their
retro sound with lyrics that take on sexism, gentrification and other forms of
oppression. “Rock & roll has always been a white boy’s game,”
says Halladay, who has a silhouette of Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott tattooed on her
thigh. “But when I look out at a bunch of white dudes screaming our lyrics
back at me, I hope it’s slowly chipping away at that toxic masculinity.” J.P.

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Rolling Stone Hot Issue List 2017 Read

Larry Hammerness/ZUMA

Hot Nostalgia: The Early 2000s

You know things are bad when people are looking back fondly on the era of Paris Hilton. But longing for the early Bush years is everywhere right now – in fashion, music, TV and even politics. Here’s the evidence:

Teenage Wasteland
The post-9/11 era was a heyday for the escapism of teen soaps like Gossip Girl. Now, Riverdale, 13 Reasons Why and other shows are bringing that high school drama back – and adding dark new plot twists.

George W. Bush: Not So Bad?
The post-Trump descent into hell is forcing us to give Dubya a second look. Bush had liberals cheering after a recent speech in which he called bigotry a form of anti-American “blasphemy.” Not bad for a war criminal.

The Post-Punk Revival Revival
Great early-’00s postpunk bands like Interpol and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are doing reunion tours, LCD Soundsystem put out one of 2017’s best LPs, and, like clockwork, word has it the Strokes are back in the studio.

The Golden Age of Tabloid Trash
Podcasts like Who? Weekly and the blog PopCultureDiedin2009 look back at a time when it was harder for famous people to control their images and Lindsay Lohan calling Paris Hilton a “cunt” was headline news.

Xtina Aguilera: Fashion Goddess
The crop tops, chokers and glitter Britney Spears
and Christina Aguilera loved are now favored by Kendall Jenner  and Gigi Hadid. Even trucker hats are making a comeback. God help us. B.S.

Rolling Stone Hot Issue List 2017 Read

Geesus Reyes/Hear This Music

Hot Sound: Latin Trap

In 2015, Jorge Fonseca, an A&R man for Sony Music Latin, went to Puerto Rico in search of new sounds. “When you go to the island, the streets speak to you,” he says. On this particular visit, he noticed something different blaring from passing vehicles: “I started hearing more trap.” More specifically, he was hearing Latin trap, which blends smooth Latin American crooning and touches of reggaeton with the sound of traditional trap, whose roots lie in the hyperactive high-hats, 808 bass and gritty lyrics of Nineties Southern hip-hop. Latin trap got a coming-out party on the compilation Trap Capos: Season 1, which topped Billboard’s Latin Rhythm Albums chart in 2016, and singles by artists like Puerto Rican rapper-singer Bad Bunny and Colombian vocalist Karol G have amassed streaming numbers in the hundreds of millions. That online success has allowed the
genre to circumvent gatekeepers like mainstream radio, which has shown little
interest. Fonseca, who is currently assembling Trap Capos: Season 2, hopes
Latin trap can have its mainstream moment. But he’s not sure it matters. “A
hit,” he says, “can come from anywhere.” E.L.

Rolling Stone Hot Issue List 2017 Read

Hot Candidate: Randy ‘Iron Stache’ Bryce

If Randy Bryce didn’t
exist, Democratic consultants would have to invent him. The Wisconsin
ironworker – who’s also an Army vet and a proud owner of a handlebar mustache –
launched a bid to unseat House Speaker Paul Ryan last summer in a viral ad that
touched a nerve with liberals hungry for a working-class hero after Trump’s
victory last year. Bryce has since netted more than $1 million in
contributions. “Trump won this district, but not by much,” he says,
pointing to the shuttered GM plant in Ryan’s own hometown as evidence of his
opponent’s out-of-touch-ness. “It perfectly illustrates how people feel.” M.B.

Rolling Stone Hot Issue List 2017 Read

Vincent Tullo/The New York Times/Redux

Hot Directors: Safdie Brothers

Josh and Benny Safdie had spent a decade making small-budget films with nonprofessional casts when they received an e-mail from Robert Pattinson in 2015. He had seen a still from Heaven Knows What, their low-fi drama about young junkies in New York, and wanted to work on whatever they did next. “We were weirded the fuck out,” says Benny, 31. Why, they wondered, was the ex-Twilight star cold-calling them? But when they met with Pattinson in Los Angeles, they quickly hit it off. Benny recalls, “Rob’s like, ‘I want to disappear. I want to just put everything out there.'”

The result, Good Time, a crime thriller in
which Pattinson plays a bank robber who has to spring his brother (played by
Benny) from jail or die trying, was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes. It’s
a change for the brothers, whose previous efforts favored shambling stories of
people stuck in ruts over forward momentum and gunfights. “I wanted to do
a genre movie,” says Josh, 33, “but one that still felt like the
off-the-cuff things we do.” The Safdies, who grew up in New York before
attending Boston University, have set their next film in their hometown’s
Diamond District. Jonah Hill will star, with Martin Scorsese
executive-producing. “We got financing before we got the star this time,”
Josh says. “We finally got to the point where someone is willing to
believe in our vision.” D.F.

Rolling Stone Hot Issue List 2017 Read

Marvel

Hot Anticipation: Black Panther

“Don’t freeze,” a member of an African special forces unit advises her king, T’Challa, as he prepares to leap from a speeding jet
 into battle. With regal calm, he replies, “I never freeze.” (You can’t freeze if you’re subzero-cool.) He dons a black mask and drops from the sky as a car explodes beneath him. Screen time: 10 seconds. Time spent waiting to see that moment become a reality? A generation.

Much
as this year belonged to Wonder Woman, next spring should belong to T’Challa.
When Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther opens, a superhero (played by Chadwick
Boseman) with unapologetic black swagger will finally have the cultural
spotlight, 50 years after the character debuted in a Marvel comic. “I feel
 an
incredible opportunity, and a responsibility,” says Coogler. That feeling
is familiar to Coogler, who directed 2015’s Rocky spinoff, Creed,
which also remade expectations in a genre dominated by white-male archetypes. “The
question I’m trying to answer is, ‘What does it truly mean to be African?’?”
Coogler says. “The Marvel Universe has set itself in the real world 
as
much as possible. What does it mean for T’Challa to move as a black man in a
movie reality that tries to be a real world?” T.J.

Illustration by Sacha Lecca

Hot Relic: Pre-Trump Conspiracy Theories

Remember conspiracy theories? You know, the sinister secrets our government used to hide from us, back when we believed our government would bother to hide things? It already seems strange to recall the old-school conspiracy culture 
from the days before Trump. Chemtrails or FEMA camps
 or the Loch Ness Monster 
seem downright quaint compared to what this administration does in plain sight.
 Comeygate? There’s no secret tape. There’s Trump on network TV telling Lester Holt
 he fired the head of the FBI 
because of his Russia investigation. This White House gang makes vintage conspiracy theories look like basketball stats from the 1950s, when the NBA was full of slow white guys, or baseball records before the steroid era. People used to worry whether the moon landings were faked, just as they used to wonder if anyone would ever break Roger Maris’ home-run record. People were easier to impress back then.

These days, real life is a conspiracy theory. People used to get bent out of shape about rumors that Obama’s paperwork was out of order with regard to his birth certificate. But the loudest and angriest birther of them all is now the president – and when it comes to paperwork, he won’t even release his tax returns. This White House’s public shenanigans are so much crazier than anything people used to whisper about in hushed tones. Remember the shadowy plots of yesteryear? Did the CIA kill Bob Marley? Did the FBI kill Martin Luther King? Did the CIA, the FBI, the Cubans, the Bush family, the Secret Service, the New Orleans Mob, the Chicago Mob, the Rosicrucians and the 1962 Mets kill JFK? Does the Illuminati have a New World Order headquarters beneath the Denver airport? Is Paul dead? Is Tupac alive? Is Stevie Wonder blind or just faking it?

There
used to be an element of fun in conspiracy hunting – a frisson of “The
Truth Is Out There” bravado. Now the average citizen has enough trouble
just trying to keep track of all the White House crimes we already know about,
the ones nobody attempts to deny. That’s the root of conspiracy nostalgia: We
used to believe the powers that be took us seriously enough to hide nefarious
secrets. We Americans flattered ourselves that we were worth lying to. We were
wrong about that. R.S.

Rolling Stone Hot Issue List 2017 Read

Mark Peterson/Redux

Hot Anti-Bannon: Sleeping Giants

When Donald Trump named Steve Bannon his chief
strategist last November, the backlash was immediate, overwhelming and – since
the position didn’t require Senate confirmation – totally useless. But a mysterious
organization soon materialized on Twitter offering some hope: a way to take on Breitbart News, the right-wing site Bannon led. Sleeping Giants‘ instructions
were simple: “1) look on Breitbart & take a screenshot of an ad; 2)
tweet it to the advertiser with a polite note; 3) tag @slpng_giants.”
Confronted publicly, those companies had to admit their brands were subsidizing
stories about the evils of feminism and the glorious heritage of the
Confederate flag. Sleeping Giants conceals its operators’ identities, though it
admits some have day jobs in marketing. Thanks to the company’s campaign, 3,318
advertisers have blacklisted Breitbart, and revenue per click has plummeted by
half. “We don’t think bigotry should be profitable,” says a
spokesman. T.S.

Hot Healer: The Iceman

Henny Boogert

Hot Healer: The Iceman

Wim Hof has claimed 26 world records for his various feats, including the Guinness World Record for longest ice bath (1 hour, 52 minutes and 42 seconds), enabling him to rightfully be called “the Iceman.” Celebrities have helped take him and his far-out, revolutionary, health-restoring way of deep breathing, known as the Wim Hof Method (WHM), to the next level. He claims hold the secret to curing MS, arthritis, diabetes, fear, depression, anxiety, pain, PTSD, bipolar disorder, cancer, you name it, and nobody seems to care. But that’s not enough for him. He wants more. He wants to change the world. E.H.

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Hot Digital Shaman: Wavepaths App

Illustration by Goñi Montes

Hot Digital Shaman: Wavepaths App

Last year, Brian Eno was working on computer-generated music – what he calls “self-evolving compositions” – when he was approached by Mendel Kaelen, a neuroscientist and LSD researcher. Kaelen suggested a novel use for Eno’s tech: an app to help guide people through therapeutic psychedelic trips. The result is Wavepaths (still in development), which auto-generates soothing, individualized soundtracks for LSD-aided therapy. (Eno, a self-described acid “non-experimenter,” made sure the music would also be satisfying if you weren’t high.) “Generative music doesn’t try to grab your attention,” says Eno. “The surprises are in what happens to the listener.” Z.C.

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Rolling Stone Hot Issue List 2017 Read

George Nebieridze

Hot Scandinavian Scene: Northern Electronics

Stockholm label Northern Electronics has developed a windfall of intriguing, moody and harsh electronic music: industrial dance (Varg), dubby bass (CA2+), snow-crunched ambient (Isorinne), deep techno (Acronym, Korridor) and noise (Vit Fana). “We don’t consider all these different parts. It’s the same vibe,” says Anthony Linnell, who runs the label along with Jonas Rönnberg, the man behind Varg. “It’s kind of boring here,” says Rönnberg, adding that Stockholm’s long, dark winters and short, bright summers drive creativity. “I tried to make an R&B album,” he recalls. “It doesn’t sound like one at all. It’s the same with Northern Electronics. No matter what you try to do, it’s more of a mindset than actual genres.” C.R.W.

Rolling Stone Hot Issue List 2017 Read

Illustration by John Ritter

Hot TV Revival: Literally Everything

Today’s rerun is the reboot. With 500-plus
original scripted series scattered across a chaotic landscape of channels and
streaming services, television producers have learned the wrong lessons from
the film industry and are running for the safety of established franchises. New
versions of old shows either on-air or in development include Will &
Grace, American Idol, S.W.A.T., Dynasty, Miami Vice, TRL, MacGyver, The
Munsters, Full House, Star Trek, Duck Tales, Charmed, Queer Eye for the
Straight Guy, The Jetsons, The Gong Show, Love Connection
and Fear
Factor
. Sure, Twin Peaks was bracingly weird, and no, a new Sabrina
the Teenage Witch
set in the next town over from Riverdale isn’t exactly
going to hurt anyone. But at some point, we have to ask: What groundbreaking
original work might we be missing out on because a generation’s best
storytellers are essentially becoming cover bands? Not all nostalgia is
harmless, as the phrase “Make America Great Again” demonstrates.
Sometimes, to make room for something better, you’ve got to throw out the
trash. L.H.

Robert Beatty

Hot Album Artist: Robert Beatty

People like to tell Robert Beatty that his cover art
for Tame Impala’s Currents reminds them of specific experiences – usually involving DMT. “It’s weird,” says the in-demand Kentucky-based graphic designer. “I love psychedelic art, but I’ve never taken psychedelic drugs.” His digitally airbrushed style, inspired by experimental animation and advertising’s neon-cool absorption of psychedelia in the Seventies, is making album art epic again. Kesha recruited him to give Rainbow its otherworldly look. “I was trying not to make it too Boston or ELO,” he says. “But it’s kinda hard to put a spaceship on a record cover and not have it reference that.” C.R.W.

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