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.