The highlights of U.S. Arts & Culture in 2011

BY DI STAFF | DECEMBER 15, 2011 7:20 AM

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Top-five albums of 2011

Watch the Throne, Jay-Z and Kanye West

This dynamic-duo released the collaborative studio album Watch the Throne in August. The album has the soul of Kanye and the swagger of Jay-Z. The longtime friends and artists show that they are at the top of their game and are not afraid to say it. The single "Ni**as in Paris" gave us the famous line "that sh*t cray" which partygoers all around campus have coined as a go-to line. Fame, fortune, power, and political, and economic themes weave through the album.

— by Carly Hurwitz

It Culls You, Envy Corps

The Envy Corps, an indie-rock band from Des Moines, released one of the best albums of the year. It Culls You features a slightly harder and crunchier sound when compared with the more candy-coated indie-pop-rock songs from the band's first album, Dwell. The band has been compared with Radiohead and Modest Mouse, both great compliments, in my opinion.

— by Jordan Montgomery

21, Adele

Adele's heartbreak may have been the best thing that could have happened for her career. 21 is the perfect thing to listen to if you're going through a breakup or just hating on the male population. Consider having a Kleenex around for the more heart-wrenching ballads.

— by Samantha Gentry

El Camino, Black Keys

Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have a new album that grooves just as hard as other recent projects by the Black Keys, including Brothers and Attack & Release. The Black Keys is surging onto the mainstream music scene, to my dismay. Numerous Grammy nominations in the past year and more features on TV ads than I can count contribute to its popularity. The attention is undoubtedly well-deserved, and hits such as "Lonely Boy" don't seem to be going off the radar anytime soon. As long as these two don't cave and lessen the grit from their guitar and drum sound, the growing fanbase will remain a positive for the group.

— Hannah Kramer

Ceremonials, Florence and the Machine

The lady with the flaming locks, ethereal voice, and penchant for items vintage released her second studio album on Nov. 1. Fans of Florence Welch adore her for her booming, haunting voice and her signature style. Florence and the Machine's website says Welch writes her best songs when she's drunk or has a hangover. Drink on, Florence, drink on.

— By Julia Jessen

Pop-culture moments

Kim Kardashian's dream wedding and divorce

Anything featuring the Kardashian clan is like a car accident — you can't help but watch. Kim Kardashian's wedding and subsequent divorce was yet another of these phenomena.

The black-and-white affair was broadcast on E! and drew 10.5 million viewers making it the most-viewed event on that network ever. Hollywood's most dashing reality-TV star, Kim Kardashian, got engaged to NBA player Kris Humphries in May, married in August, and divorced in November — 72 days later. She said it was all for love. The media called it a publicity stunt. Kardashian filed for divorce in October for "irreconcilable differences" and Humphries was supposedly shocked to hear the news.

— by Carly Hurwitz

Royal wedding

Of all the pop-culture events that media outlets pretended were hard news, the royal wedding took the cake. Of course, we must thank the royal wedding for, aside from introducing us to Pippa, such inspiring holiday must-haves as the 250-piece Will and Kate jigsaw puzzle, collectable royal-wedding souvenir slip-on shoes, and GE's royal-wedding special-edition refrigerator.

— by Jordan Montgomery

Amy Winehouse's death

Well, we tried to make her go to rehab, but that wasn't enough. Amy Winehouse's death in July may not have been as shocking as most untimely deaths, given her track record, but that didn't lessen the grief that many fans and fellow musicians felt for the loss.

According to the toxicology report on WInehouse's death, there were no illegal substances involved with the death, although alcohol was present.

A heartfelt tribute given at the MTV Video Music Awards and the success of her newest album, Lioness: Hidden Treasures, demonstrate the effect that the artist had on the music industry.

— Hannah Kramer

Beyoncé/Jay-Z Baby

Beyoncé unbuttoned her sparkling jacket, turned to the side, and displayed her baby bump for the VMA audience and the world to see, while Jay-Z smiled proudly, and Kanye congratulated him and jumped around. The famously very private couple's baby news was a cause for celebration for countless Bey and Jay fans. Will the baby be a girl, as Kelly Rowland seemed to let slip, or was that just a cleverly orchestrated ruse? Time will tell.

— by Julia Jessen


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

I cried not once, not twice, but each of three times that I saw the film in theaters. For most of us in the 18-25 age group Harry, Ron, and Hermione are friends we grew up with. We started reading the books, then watched the movies in elementary school, and as each one came out, Harry was older, and so were we. Remember how, even though you knew it was a fictional story, you were still a bit disappointed when you turned 11 and no owls beckoning you to Hogwarts arrived at your door? Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 was a bittersweet yet deeply satisfying conclusion to the beloved series.

— Julia Jessen


Between violent food poisoning, hideous dresses, and a bachelorette party in Las Vegas that never actually happens, this movie promises one laugh after another.

Annie (Kristen Wiig) is a 30-something single woman living in Milwaukee whose bakery, Cake Baby, went down the drain along with her relationship and all of her money, leaving her in a mid-life slump. Childhood friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) gets engaged and naturally asks Wiig to be her maid of honor.

Bridesmaids perfectly exaggerates each event and activity that bridesmaids endure in a hilarious way.

— by Carly Hurwitz

Lincoln Lawyer

Matthew McConaughey escapes his typical romantic comedy beefcake role to do some real acting in this courtroom thriller. The film features familiar faces and a twisting plot as McConaughy's character tries to put a rich, murdering D-bag behind bars.

— by Jordan Montgomery

Super 8

In this sci-fi thriller written and directed by J.J. Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg, a group of kids catch a train crash on video that was said to be caused by something un-human. The movie makes you question if there really is extraterrestrial life somewhere in the universe. Look out ET, there's a new alien in town.

— by Samantha Gentry

YouTube videos

"Kids Halloween Candy"

The video first appeared on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" as his challenge to parents to see how their kids would react if they found out all of their Halloween candy was gone. Some cried hysterically, others punched walls, a girl called her dad ugly, and no one could forget the little boy who said, "You sneaky Mom," when he found out she ate his peanut-butter cups.

— Samantha Gentry

"Lily's Disneyland Surprise"

Lily opens a birthday gift filled with Disney-theme clothes, snacks, and movies. After she takes each item out carefully, she looks at them and giggles with excitement, exclaiming "How did you know I wanted this?"

When the backpack is empty, her mother asks her where she would like to go with all of her new stuff, and Lily replies, "Disneyland." Luckily for Lily, that is exactly where she is going. The waterfall of joyful tears that follow make this video a heart-warming hit.

— by Carly Hurwitz

"Sophia Grace and Rosie perform 'Superbass' "

Just another video of little kids in tutus covering pop music and sounding cute. No, this is different. Sophia Grace Brownlee, 8, not only knows all of the words to Nicki Minaj's hit "Superbass," but the girl has a killer set of pipes. The video of Sophia and her "hype girl" Rosie, 5, went viral and now has over 25 million views. The two, from the United Kingdom, have made cameos on the "Ellen Show" and the American Music Awards since the Minaj cover.

— Hannah Kramer

"Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, Two"

"Guess why I smile a lot. Uhh, 'cause it's worth it," Marcel the Shell said at the end of his second YouTube video. Marcel is partially a shell, but he also has shoes, and a face, and a lot of other great qualities as well. Voiced by "Saturday Night Live" alum Jenny Slate, the beloved mollusk's second video has more than 3 million YouTube views, and he has a new children's book. Marcel is regarded by many to be the cutest shell on YouTube and possibly in the world.

— by Julia Jessen

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