What's making us happy: A guide to your weekend reading, listening and viewing
Here's what the NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour crew was paying attention to — and what you should check out this weekend.
I actually had a piece on All Things Considered about it this week, which you should check out. Shameless plug. Thistlefoot is the debut novel from author GennaRose Nethercott (great name), and it's a really interesting reimagining of the Baba Yaga myth.
If you don't know who Baba Yaga is, she's a figure in Slavic and Eastern European folklore. She's this supernatural crone who might return a lost item to you. Or she might curse you forever. Oh, and she lives in a house that stands and walks on chicken legs.
Nethercott reimagines Baba Yaga as a Jewish woman living in an Eastern European shtetl in 1919, a time of civil war and pogroms. The book goes back and forth between her life, what happened to her during this time, and also two of her descendants who inherit this sentient house and also the memories that haunt it.
I really loved this book. It's heavy, but it's not dour, and it's just a lovely exploration of the ways that folklore helps us understand, remember, and process real life horrors in a fantastical, and frankly, beautiful way. — Mallory Yu
"Blessed" by GloRilla
A hip-hop artist from Memphis named GloRilla blew up on TikTok a couple of months back for a song called "F.N.F." Everybody thought she would be a one hit TikTok wonder, but she has turned around and produced two back-to-back singles called "Blessed" and "Tomorrow" that are really getting the hip-hop community riled up and excited for her.
And I'm particularly excited about her because I saw a football team, Jackson State, play her song "Blessed," and they got absolutely turned up. It was a really beautiful moment to see a woman be celebrated in a space like this, to see a group of young Black men just going all the way up for a song made by a woman.
Typically in these locker room environments, you'll hear the likes of Future or Drake, but you hear GloRilla blasting out of the speakers here, and they're giving their lives. I was like, "This is the future." We're going to see more hip-hop women start to be played in these cultural spaces that are typically not inviting to them.
So yeah, shout out to GloRilla. I'm very excited to see her rise. — Kiana Fitzgerald
Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers movie
This is a piece of nostalgia mining that you can stream on Disney Plus that keys into some pop cultural artifacts from the late 80s and early 90s that I did not experience or enjoy. I am talking about the movie Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers, which came out this past May to, I think, very little fanfare.
The movie a reimagining of the 1989 animated TV series Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers. It's a kind of Who Framed Roger Rabbit-style mix of live action and animation that picks up these characters where they might have been 30 years later, voiced by Andy Samberg and John Mulaney.
It is full of layered meta jokes that key into references and visual gags from the original series and also intellectual property from the entire history of animation. I wasn't a Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers guy at all, so a lot of the references flew right past me.
But the joke density in this movie is very, very high. The more keyed in you are to this property and a zillion other pop culture properties, the more you're going to enjoy this movie. You'll know right away if it's for you, and it was very much for me. — Stephen Thompson
More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter
by Glen Weldon
You can come to know a Broadway show so well that your brain starts to treat it as musical wallpaper. Lovely, yes. Beautiful, sure. Profound, you betcha. But familiar. There's a comfort in that familiarity, but there's also, well: Familiarity. I haven't had a chance to see the latest Broadway revival of Into the Woods, a show I know in my bones, but they've released the cast album, and hoo boy. It's like being reunited with a childhood crush who's turned out damn fine.
Yes, we all love Abbott Elementary and sure, we all love Janelle James' Ava, the school's hilariously unprincipled principal. But if you haven't caught her standup, you need to get yourself to her Netflix special - The Standups, Season 3, Episode 4, tout suite. A lot of comics are out here talking about how they spent lockdown, which only makes sense – who can't relate? But James' take is the sharpest, freshest and funniest I've seen.
I listen to lots of podcasts about The Rings of Power and House of the Dragon, so you'd think I'd be all set on nerdy breakdowns of popular fantasy franchises. But I've recently discovered Rings & Realms, a weekly YouTube series in which scholars Corey Olsen and Maggie Parke unpack each episode of Rings of Power with real insight and deep lore.
NPR's Maison Tran adapted the Pop Culture Happy Hour segment "What's Making Us Happy" into a digital page. If you like these suggestions, consider signing up for our newsletter to get recommendations every week. And listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
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