A Summer of A&E

Courtesy of Zanda
Courtesy of Zanda

As I walked through our empty campus at the tail end of a long, hot summer, I felt a lingering sense of what once was and what would soon be. I also felt short of breath and slightly burnt, but that’s beside my point. Just as the paths snaking through the heart of campus once teemed with movement and music, the summer of 2013 felt like an endless march of huge shows, memorable performances, unexpected surprises and overwhelming virality. Now, as we end our summer and begin a new year in the arts, let’s take a look back at what happened — and celebrate the start of something new.

Music

Despite a weaker lineup than previous years, Lollapalooza saw the Postal Service end their final-ever performance on a high note. Outside Lands rocked the City by the Bay in a three-day extravaganza that hosted Vampire Weekend, the National and the Tallest Man on Earth, along with the illustrious Paul McCartney, whose performance was staggeringly memorable in all of its tear-jerking glory. Speaking of tear-jerking — how about Miley Cyrus and her wildly controversial “Wrecking Ball” music video? (No, not the terrifyingly hilarious Nicolas Cage version.)

The twerkin’ pop star was arguably one of the most heavily discussed topics this summer thanks to her runaway pop hit, “We Can’t Stop,” her disconcerting routine at the VMAs with Robin Thicke and her nude performance in the music video for “Wrecking Ball.” Say what you will about Cyrus, but the star has cemented her position this summer as a standalone artist — and in all honesty, the radio hits from her upcoming album, “Bangerz,” are the stuff from which guilty pleasures are made. On the other hand, despite its lasting spot at the top of every list from Billboard to gym playlists, Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” is one-hit-wonder fodder. It’s also a song about trivializing sexual consent, but, you know, it’s the “Song of Summer,” according to Billboard.

Movies & TV

Somehow, despite totally uprooting the Superman mythos, presenting sub-par acting and prolonging one too many scenes of urban devastation, the lackluster “Man of Steel” made enough money to justify a sequel. Big-budget zombie flick “World War Z” lived up to its high price tag by presenting everything “Man of Steel” wasn’t: an energetic thriller supported by kickass special effects. On the indie scene, director/writer/star Lake Bell’s “In A World” rocked art house screens thanks to its underdog charm and fresh insight into the competitive and misogynistic world of voice acting. “Elysium” (directed by Neill Blomkamp) and “Pacific Rim” (directed by Guillermo del Toro) were science fiction hits with their own shares of controversy; Blomkamp’s dystopian extravaganza faced some logical missteps, and del Toro’s crazy-cool robot epic saw a love-it-or-hate-it split amongst critics and moviegoers.

Onto the small screens. Sure, there were some crazy episodes of “Dexter,” “Suits” and “Teen Wolf,” but the two shows on everyone’s minds and Instant Queues were “Orange is the New Black” and “Breaking Bad.” Piper Kerman’s memoir-turned-Netflix-original became an overnight hit as a masterful fish-out-of-water prison drama. The show was renewed for a second season, which bodes well for future high-quality Netflix original series. As for “Breaking Bad” — what can be said beyond wide eyes and tightly held breaths? The final season of one of the best shows on television is headed for chemically reactive stardom.

Magical Happenings

Author J.K. Rowling — you might have heard of her — received critical acclaim this summer with “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” secretly published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Of course, the book surged to the top of every bestseller list once the author’s true identity was revealed, but one of the biggest bits of news from across the pond is that Rowling is re-entering the Harry Potter universe by writing a mega-movie-extension. The upcoming series (as in, there will be more than one, and that is super exciting) will follow magizoologist Newt Scamander in 1920s New York, which means that audiences will get to experience American magic, and maybe catch some glimpses of a young Albus Dumbledore and other notable characters. Potterheads, rejoice.

So much happened this summer — more than we could hope to remember in print — but as we face the end of one season and the start of another, let’s move forward with open minds, eager ears and wands held high. Here’s to another great year in the arts, Highlanders. Lumos.

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