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Music Culture cheat sheet: Megan Thee Stallion, Emo Batman, and more

Mar. 18, 2022
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Watch: The Batman (dir. Matt Reeves)

Centuries of progress and innovation have finally brought us the pinnacle of modern art: emo Batman. He’s a recluse who wears all black, complete with Persol sunglasses and Doc Martens. He journals. He hates the sun and chronically has dark, messy eye makeup. He probably listens to Mitski. A true hero of the people, if I may say so myself.

Believe your OOMFs when they say The Batman is sexy as hell and, frankly, one of the most well-made superhero movies in recent memory. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has monopolized the genre only to slaughter it so distinctively that it’s now a recognizable style of its own—I like to call it the theme-park genre, as borrowed from Martin ScorseseThe Batman revitalizes it by being beautifully crafted, self-contained, and moody; everything the poorly-lit, well-oiled MCU machine still struggles to achieve. 

I’m not saying it’s perfect—the bar is so low, after all—but I sincerely welcome actors not playing themselves in superhero movies, and a plot driven by an actual story rather than an empty adherence to the three-act structure. A Batman rendition is finally reckoning with the fact that there wouldn’t be a need for Bruce Wayne’s vigilantism had his family just redistributed their wealth. Paul Dano’s Riddler is made contemporary (and therefore much more terrifying) through allusions to the Zodiac Killer and 4chan. 

Most importantly, every single person in this movie is super hot. Robert Pattinson and Zoë Kravitz, obviously, and those of us with superior judgment have always appreciated Dano. But soft-spoken Andy Serkis? Colin Farrell in prosthetics? There must be something in the Gotham water. Even the tease of Barry Keoghan as Joker was a pleasant surprise: I’m exhausted with the character, but I’ve also spent the last six years single-handedly paying for Keoghan’s rent by streaming all his obscure indies pre-Eternals. The Joker is my friend!

The Batman is playing in theaters.

Listen: “Sweetest Pie” by Megan Thee Stallion and Dua Lipa

“Sweetest Pie” is a win for everyone who thought the Twitter-viral, fan-made Dua x Megan “Levitating” was real, only to be confronted with the ugly truth that it was DaBaby who had a verse all along. 

In fact, Megan Thee Stallion was aware that fans were making mash-ups of her and Dua’s songs, which pushed them to collaborate for real. “I was like, 'Dua, I really want us to do a song but I got to find the right beat. It has to be perfect.' So I didn’t just send her any track, I waited until I had the perfect one,” she told Apple Music.

The waiting definitely paid off: this lead single from the rapper’s forthcoming second studio album is bright, playful, and dripping with chemistry. It’s very rare for pairings to fit together so organically—the original “Levitating” remix with DaBaby comes to mind as an example of the contrary. I can go ultra-cerebral and discuss in length why this is pure, unadulterated earworm, or I can admit that I actually don’t want to; I’d rather just listen to it again. I’ve played it on loop and the hook feels new every time.

Watch the music video for “Sweetest Pie” by Megan Thee Stallion and Dua Lipa here.

Watch: Fresh (dir. Mimi Cave)

I’m breaking my silence: my indifference to the MCU can never overshadow the pure adoration for Sebastian Stan that I’ve cultivated over the course of my adolescence. I watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier annually, fully convinced every time that I can fix Bucky Barnes. 

This same impulse ran through my body thirty minutes into Fresh, Stan’s latest project co-starring Normal People’s Daisy Edgar-Jones. The festival favorite, which initially seems like your run-of-the-mill dreamy rom-com, turns homicidal by this point, and yet: I can fix him!

Edgar-Jones’s Noa is tired of incompetent and/or entitled and/or misogynistic men on dating apps, so when she has a meet-cute with Stan’s Steve, we get the sense that it’s too good to be true. Still, like Noa, we believe. And, like Noa, this proves to be to our detriment.

This satirical manifesto on the barbarism of modern dating has been hailed as a powerful entry into the feminist revenge canon; IndieWire even compared it to Promising Young Woman and the viral short story “Cat Person.” While I don’t think Fresh’s politics is as muddled or myopic as these examples, it’s still very heavy-handed, and absurdly white. When the Black best friend had no semblance of character besides saying, “Get that D, boo!” repeatedly, all my hope for this alleged feminist revenge canon went out the window. (Perhaps I’m in no position to police what qualifies into this canon, especially since I spent most of this review talking about the leading man.)

Still, Fresh satisfyingly got a lot of things right. The genre switch-up is so chilling even when you know it’s coming. Stan, as always, is perfect beyond words (I’m very biased). Edgar-Jones, fresh from the Sally Rooney School of Failed Relationships and Intense Emotions, makes for a multilayered, charming protagonist that’s part-final girl, part-hero of the story.

This black comedy is most enjoyable when you go in blind so I’m not going to spoil anything else, but know that if the events of the movie happened to me, do NOT prosecute Sebastian Stan! He caught me slipping. That is on me.

Fresh is streaming on Hulu.