Biggest pop culture phenomena of 2023 – Lowell Sun

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David Matthews | (TNS) New York Daily News

With yet another year in the pop culture history books, let’s look back on the wild ride that was 2023 — a year in which not one, but two of the biggest stars in the world somehow outdid themselves, film and TV production came to an abrupt stop, and a ridiculous celebrity court case captivated the nation.

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift put her stamp on 2023 numerous times, having the type of year seldom experienced even entertainment icons. First, her blockbuster Eras Tour conquered the United States and the world at large, before her ensuing concert film took over the box office. (Even Beyoncé went to the premiere.)

Within that, she somehow found the time to rerelease two more albums (“Speak Now” and “1989”) as part of her ongoing efforts to regain control of her catalog. Oh, and she started dating some football player. It truly was “2023 (Taylor’s Version).”


Speaking of star-studded tours, Beyoncé had one as well with her Renaissance World Tour, which naturally had a buzzed-about, money-making concert film of its own. (Even Taylor Swift went.) Of course, that was after Bey already won another four Grammys and became the ceremony’s most decorated artist in history earlier in the year.

An attendee points at her Barbenheimer shirt outside the convention center during San Diego Comic-Con International in San Diego, California, on July 20, 2023. (Photo by Chris Delmas / AFP) (Photo by CHRIS DELMAS/AFP via Getty Images)


After multiple starts and stops due to pandemic-related restrictions, Hollywood was finally back in full force in 2023, thanks in large part to “Barbenheimer” — the stroke of luck that saw Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” and Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” both become box office juggernauts despite being released on the same day. The movies are set to keep duking it out into the 2024 awards season.


Comedian Druski (real name Drew Desbordes) has been a mainstay in hip-hop culture for the past few years, but 2023 saw him fully spill over into the mainstream on the heels of ubiquitous Google Pixel commercials featuring NBA stars, the remake of comedy classic “House Party,” and — what do you know — a massive tour.

Grimace Milkshake

To celebrate the 52nd birthday of everyone’s favorite purple fast-food monster, McDonald’s unleashed a namesake shake that quickly took over TikTok. The result was a spooky, hilarious and often gross meme that was no match for the company’s own attempt at ominous weirdness involving the furry Grimace.

Nepo babies

After decades of sneakily following their parents into the entertainment industry, the jig was finally up in 2023 as nepo babies were revealed to be who they really are: the famous children of famous people. Some highlights included OG nepo baby Jamie Lee Curtis taking home the best supporting actress Oscar for “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” Zoë Kravitz getting engaged to Channing Tatum and Wyatt Russell starring in Apple TV’s “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters” with father Kurt.

A new Beatles song

While many people were questioning the use of artificial intelligence in general, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr (and a team of engineers) were able to use machine learning to turn an old John Lennon demo into a brand-spankin’-new song from those mop-topped fellas from Liverpool. Even more impressive than the Fab, uh, Two’s technical acumen? The song, titled “Now and Then,” is actually pretty good.

WGA and SAG strikes

The strikes by the Writers Guild of America and the SAG-AFTRA union completely upended production on television and film, wiped out the fall TV season, shuffled the release dates of countless movies and ended with both unions claiming huge contractual wins —and the studios promising to raise prices on subscription services. While the clever signs from the picket lines were a lot of fun, the real highlight of the strikes became how they’re set to reverberate through Hollywood for years to come.

Streaming companies removing titles

One of those effects of the strikes? Streaming companies began mercilessly shedding titles from their servers in order to get a break in taxes. Max was widely seen as the most egregious, as it scraped fully completed, multimillion-dollar movies such as “Coyote vs Acme” and several series shuttled off to other platforms.

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow On Trial For Ski Accident
PARK CITY UTAH MARCH 29 Actor Gwyneth Paltrow enters court during her civil trial over a collision with another skier on March 29 2023 in Park City Utah Retired optometrist Terry Sanderson is suing Paltrow for $300000 claiming she recklessly crashed into him during a run at Deer Valley Resort in Park City Utah in 2016 Paltrow has countersued for $1 claiming Sanderson was uphill of her and crashed into her back Photo by Rick Bowmer PoolGetty Images

Gwyneth Paltrow’s ski crash trial

The facts of the Oscar-winning actress’ civil trial involved a collision between two skiers at an upscale Utah resort in 2016, but the vibes turned it into arguably the year’s most-talked-about court case. Those vibes included Paltrow’s rotating pairs of glasses of different sizes, her “stealth-wealth” styling choices, and Paltrow chillingly whispering “I wish you well” to accuser Terry Sanderson immediately after winning the trial. The spectacle is now being turned into a musical.

Celebrity divorces and breakups

The nationwide divorce rate has slipped in recent years, but unfortunately, several celebrity couples called it a day on matrimony or otherwise ended relationships in 2023. To name several: Sofia Vergara and Joe ManganielloHugh Jackman and Deborra-lee JackmanSophie Turner and Joe JonasBritney Spears and Sam AsghariAriana Grande and Dalton Gomez; and Kim Zolciak and Kroy Biermann (or did they?).


Speaking of Britney, she was one of several celebs to drop a bombshell, tea-spilling memoir this year. “The Woman in Me” shared a lot of eyebrow-raising deets about Spears’ nearly three decades in the spotlight, while “Love, Pamela” gave Pamela Anderson a chance to offer a more nuanced look at her life than ever before. Jada Pinkett Smith dished and dished and dished some more in “Worthy,” while in “Spare,” Prince Harry managed to widen the already “full-scale rupture” between the U.K.’s royal family.

Apple Music Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show
GLENDALE ARIZONA FEBRUARY 12 Rihanna performs onstage during the Apple Music Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show at State Farm Stadium on February 12 2023 in Glendale Arizona Photo by Carmen MandatoGetty Images

Bold fashions

This year’s edition of the Met Gala offered no shortage of surprises, including a cockroach on the red carpet. But as always, the looks sported by attendees gave onlookers plenty to talk about (David Byrne bringing his bike, Jared Leto’s giant cat costume, and Doja Cat made up like an actual cat).

However, Rihanna flaunting her baby bump (h/t A$AP Rocky) in a red jumpsuit during a rollicking Super Bowl halftime show absolutely took the cake.

‘Succession’ ending after three years of profanity and corporate intrigue

Didn’t actually see this one. Hope to get around to it next year.

©2023 New York Daily News. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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