While life has continued to provide highs and lows for us all, art has proven to be a remedy and an escape. Because of this, we decided to ask our Arts and Entertainment staff to tell us what art aided them throughout 2021, from addicting video games to exhilarating performances.
1. ‘Charli’ by Charli XCX (2019)
I spent this summer bussing tables at an Italian restaurant. The pay was inadequate, the hours were long and my coworkers were insufferable. By the time the guests were gone and it was time to close the store, I was chomping at the bit to dance away my woes with Charli XCX. On “Charli,” songs swell to immense climaxes, only to then be stripped back to their bare minimum. Her implementation of masterful songwriting (“Official”), electrifying guest appearances (“Shake It”) and glitchy, chrome-coated production (“Click”) all coalesce into a project which casts a vision for pop’s future that we can only be so lucky to one day inhabit.
2. ‘Pokémon Showdown’
It’s so easy to open a new tab in the middle of a Zoom session. While it isn’t my favorite thing to admit, I often found myself logging on to this fan-made battle simulator whenever virtual meetings started to run long. Boasting a litany of game formats and unique rulesets tailored for competitive Pokémon fanatics, “Pokémon Showdown” was my much needed oasis in the draining virtual landscape of 2021.
3. ‘Hedda Gabler’ by Henrik Ibsen (1890)
The first time I read Henrik Ibsen’s classic tragedy for my “History of Drama II” class, I hated it. When I read it again a few weeks later in my “Reading for Performance” class, I still hated it. It wasn’t until months later during our return to campus that I recognized the genius of this piece. Reuniting with classmates I hadn’t seen in a year and a half had me feeling as though I needed to meet their expectations and remain the person that I had been when we were sent home in March 2020. “Hedda Gabler” captures our tendency to both satiate and rebel against the expectations of others with stunning precision and (although I know Ibsen needs no favors from me) has become a play that holds a special place in my heart.
4. Run the Jewels at Shaky Knees
My chest has never rattled like it did when Run the Jewels took the stage at Shaky Knees Music Festival and launched into their galaxy-shaking banger “yankee and the brave (ep. 4).” What’s a year or two off my life if I got to see Killer Mike roar through his first headlining show in Atlanta this side of the pandemic?
5. ‘Room on Fire’ by the Strokes (2003)
Giving this a spot on my list feels like a cop-out seeing as it was also one of my most played albums of 2020, but this year, “Room on Fire” seemed determined to continue soundtracking my life. I floated in the Atlantic Ocean while humming “The End Has No End.” I sang “Automatic Stop” with a friend after he learned it on guitar. On sleepless nights, I lay in bed and let the hypnotic march of “Under Control” wash over me, and God only knows how many renditions I did of “Reptilia” at Atlanta’s own Happy Karaoke.
6. Ed Sheeran’s ‘Bad Habits’ music video
On June 24, I awoke to a text from my roommate which simply read “Ed Sheeran just got yassified.” The video for “Bad Habits” is a trainwreck of hilarious proportions. It features Sheeran dressed as a glittery vampire, a terribly animated CGI crowd and a glorious ten-second shot of Sheeran squirting ketchup into an oyster pail. The whole affair is so funny you almost forgive the guy for how shamelessly he’s ripping off the Weeknd.
7. Emory’s return to live theater
While Emory’s theater community admirably found countless ways to virtually perform throughout the spring semester, there’s no denying how gratifying the return to in-person theater in fall 2021 was. Despite having to perform in masks or outside to mitigate the spread of disease, the simple act of live theater was a sorely needed breath of fresh air. Oftentimes I found myself more moved by the support students showed one another than I was by the pieces themselves. Whether it was a musical that took months of rehearsal or a minimally practiced staged reading, students came out in spades to show love to their peers, constantly reminding me of live theater’s necessity.
8. ‘Repertoire’ by James Acaster (2018)
James Acaster’s four part stand-up special beautifully blurs the lines between reality and fiction through fabricated tales of crime and punishment which allow glimmers of truth to peek through. Perhaps a story about entering the witness protection program becomes a confession of feeling as though life has passed you by. Maybe a tall tale about serving on a jury brings forward meditations on the frustrating nature of religion. “Repertoire” sees Acaster taking the idea that honesty can hide in absurdity and pushing it to the absolute limit, solidifying himself as one of the most forward-thinking comics working today.
9. Atrioc’s YouTube and Twitch channels
You’d be hard-pressed to find a night I didn’t doze off to one of Atrioc’s YouTube videos or Twitch VODs. 2021 saw the streamer, lovingly referred to by viewers as “Glizzy Hands,” set multiple world records for his speedruns of the “Hitman” video game franchise, teach a marketing class in his “Marketing Monday” segment and sacrifice everything to win a Wikipedia race. Regardless of what Atrioc might be doing, I could always count on his videos to bring a cheerful end to my day.
10. ‘This Is Happening’ by LCD Soundsystem (2010)
Ultimately, 2021 was the year we all began to crawl out of isolation and attempted to reintegrate with one another. Crawling out behind us came anxiety, heartache, cynicism, loneliness and the growing pains of a year spent in stasis. 2021 was a year filled with pity parties, and no band knows like LCD Soundsystem that the best pity party is a dance party. I’d end this with something about dancing ourselves clean, but as James Murphy once said, “We both know that’s an awful line.”
Gentry’s article is part of a year in review series by A&E writers. Read the rest here.