Welcome to Part 2 of SlackPost’s People Who Won 2013. If you missed Part 1, presenting some 2013 losers as well as winners #50-26, you can find it here. Now it’s time for the Top 25.
25) KEEGAN-MICHAEL KEY AND JORDAN PEELE
Avinash: They’re better actors than most sketch comedians, and being best friends seems to give them great chemistry. The duo has so much fun being silly, even their weaker material’s enjoyable. Key & Peele has become a Comedy Central mainstay, and it’s the closest the network’s come to recapturing the magic of Chappelle’s Show.
24) DAVID ORTIZ
Ike: Led the Red Sox to the World Series title, coming up huge throughout the postseason and helping Boston bounce back from the marathon tragedy. And let’s not forget his epic pregame speech at the first game at Fenway after the bombings. Related: for this performance, Boston sports fans won sports fandom in 2013, as upsetting as that is to say. (For the record, thanks to their Game 6 walkout, Miami Heat fans lost.) But yeah, AMERICA.
23) KEVIN HART
Avinash: Comedy special in theaters, stellar NBA All-Star Weekend showing, and costarring in Rocky Balboa vs. Jake La Motta.
Ike: He’s also coming out with a movie with Ice Cube, and along with this clip, their promotion for it has involved a ridiculous segment on Conan. To add more fuel to the fire, he stars on the sneaky-funny Real Husbands of Hollywood and even did a cypher with the fellas for the BET Hip Hop Awards. And quick shout-out to the Inside the NBA crew too: Sir Charles recently referred to Elroy Jetson as “Leroy Jetson.” It was wonderful.
22) BATKID AND THE ENTIRE CITY OF SAN FRANCISCO
Ike: So many feelings.
21) GERMAN SOCCER
Ike: For being the best in the world. The current season aside, all you really need to know is that Bayern beat Barca 7-0 in the Champions League last year to set up an all-German final against Dortmund, who had just conquered the mighty Madrid.
20) ANYONE WITH PEYTON MANNING ON THEIR FANTASY TEAM
Avinash: No explanation necessary.
Joel: I came so close to beating an entire team with just Peyton in Week 1.
19) IMAGINE DRAGONS
Joel: They took over the music world somehow.
Avinash: Are they the new Nickelback??
Joel: Did you know that “How You Remind Me” was the most played radio song of the 2000s? “Radioactive” seems well on its way to that status, since just over 100% of the times I turn on the radio I hear that song. However, I don’t think Imagine Dragons has the giant balls nor the tiny brains that made Nickelback both very huge and very hated. Hopefully this band just fades away when EDM-infused pop rock dies this year. That’s going to happen, right? Right?! Please?!?!
18) MACKLEMORE & RYAN LEWIS
Joel: “Thrift Shop” was #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 of the year. “Can’t Hold Us” was #5, and “Same Love” is also on there somewhere. The album came out in November of 2012. These guys surprised everyone out of the gate, and then surprised them even more by keeping it up the whole damn year.
Ike: They went from the dudes whose song was used in that incredible anti-NBA lockout video someone made back in 2011 to the dudes whose songs were catchy and cool and then totally irrevocably overplayed.
Joel: Somewhat relative tangent: saying “I was into _____ before it was cool” is likely to get you (scornfully) labelled a “hipster,” but it’s not always a boast so much as a clarification. Sometimes you happen across something small that later grows big, and it didn’t happen because you strive to be on the cutting edge when it’s still dull; it was just weird dumb luck.
For example, once upon a time I saved a lot of money that I wanted to turn into a set of Bose noise-cancelling headphones for recording and producing music. Best Buy had just gotten a shipment of brand new Beats by Dre headphones, which I had never seen and never heard of. After testing both headphones vigorously, I decided the Beats sounded better and I bought them. A year later, the headphones become ubiquitous, and suddenly, a pair of Beats on a white guy immediately signified “rich, douchey cultural appropriation” to a lot of people. That just sucks, because I never would have bought them if I’d known. Since I did buy them, now I have to clarify that I had a pair before it was cool, because I’d rather be labelled a potential hipster than a potential symbol of white privilege.
All that is to say, I grew up in the Greater Seattle area, someone gave me The VS EP and The Language of My World in 2009, and I wrote about The Heist in February, but if I tell you, “OMG Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are so dope, right???” you might assume I just jumped on the white guy novelty rap bandwagon after the 891st time I heard “Thrift Shop” in a car. Ergo, I must inform you: I was into Macklemore before it was cool. Sorry I’m not sorry.
Avinash: Also, “Macklemore Hair” is now a thing.
17) WENDY DAVIS
Ike: Held an 11-hour filibuster to block the passage of new, very uncool abortion legislation in Texas. Even better, she did her thing on the eve of my birthday! I will now always remember you, Wendy. By the way, she is now preparing to run for governor.
16) LEBRON JAMES
Ike: So he won the NBA in 2013, which everyone is happily accepting like it was a walk in the park even though he was 28 seconds away from LOSING 2013 in a BIG, BIG, BIG way. If the Heat had lost to the Spurs (and they should have), can you imagine how totally different every single conversation about LBJ would be today? Last summer would have been like 2010 all over again.
15) THE AMERICAN POPULATION’S FAITH IN ITS GOVERNMENT
Ike: Just kidding.
Avinash: Our black president’s approval rating dropped, and the online roll-out of Obamacare felt like a practical joke. The Supreme Court struck down part of the Voting Rights Act, essentially making it easier for districts to keep minorities from voting. The Duck Dynasty guy got to be homophobic and racist and still keep his show. And in Florida, shooting unarmed black kids wasn’t a crime. Good things all around for the American bigot’s agenda.
14) THE (SLOW) PATH TO MARRIAGE EQUALITY
Ike: Bigots and Obama haters aside, on June 26, the Supreme Court declared Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional. Section 3 had held that federal interpretation of “marriage” and “spouse” could only apply to heterosexual unions. A step in the right direction.
13) ONE DIRECTION
Avinash: As much as it pains me to mention, they are the first band in 60 years to debut at #1 in the US with their first three albums.
Joel: I don’t know if you knew, but you’re beautiful.
12) BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH
Avinash: Played the huge roles of Khan Noonien Singh, Julian Assange, and Smaug (plus the Necromancer). He also carries the title of Thinking Woman’s Crumpet.
Joel: I don’t know that I’ve ever been more excited for ANYTHING than I am for the new season of Sherlock. If you are someone who doesn’t understand the “Cumberbitch” movement, promptly go Netflix him having way too much fun as the greatest genius-dickhead-British-person-detective of all time.
Ike: This dude had to be the hardest-working actor in Hollywood last year; he was in everything. We almost forgot to mention his roles in likely Oscar darlings August: Osage County and 12 Years a Slave, as well as the voice work he provided in an episode of The Simpsons. To top it all off, he even loved the otter meme someone made of him, and was clearly beloved by his Star Trek castmates.
11) BEY AND JAY
Joel: Jay-Z’s album was very so-so, and everyone realized he maybe should have actually retired after The Black Album. Beyonce’s main function was to just be an icon, until she came in like a wrecking ball and swooped the spotlight from Miley at the very end of the year. (See what I did there? Did you see?!) Anyway, 1 for 2 in my book.
Ike: I thought some of Jay’s new songs were decent, but I particularly despised “Holy Grail” and began avoiding business establishments that played it regularly. Meanwhile, Beyonce set the Internet on fire last month by randomly releasing her unannounced new “visual” album. So while she wasn’t killing it all year, she definitely won December.
Avinash: Her Super Bowl halftime show, while not officially responsible for the power outage, did kick ass as far as halftime shows go.
Ike: Unashamed to admit that I rewatched it after the game ended. Anyway, I like Bey enough, but I’m not an enormous fan like seemingly everyone else is. And I am frankly surprised by how dirty some of her (new) songs are, yet people (moms) deify her like she’s the pure, saintly goddess of pop. Strange. Also, if anyone’s interested, please check out the latest (and potentially last) DivaRank piece from Jay Kang, an absolutely scathing/hilarious/incredible takedown of both Beyonce and the current state of female singing. All hail Etta James.
10) KANYE AND KIM
Joel: Kim got pregnant, took a lot of beef for getting large (which is foolish), and then named a baby after a cardinal direction. Kanye put out an awesome and super-original album. Like Bey and Jay, 1 for 2 in my book.
Ike: Agreed. In 2013, Americans’ around-the-clock interest in Kim continued to confuse and irritate me. She is undeserving of any attention whatsoever, so no, in spite of her famous fiancé, her baby, her millions, and her ever-expanding empire built on the grainy camcorder footage of the noted cinematographer known as Ray J, she did no winning in my eyes. America’s constant fascination with Kanye, however, was warranted because 1) he is a legitimate celebrity with at least one actual talent, 2) he released a new album, and 3) he may have lost his mind in public. Even if you disregard his musical output entirely, Kanye’s 2013 was a huge deal from a pop cultural standpoint. Anything he said or did was crazy and had to be talked about. Eventually, the conversations we had weren’t even about the looney statements he’d made; instead, they centered on the question, “Hey, so do you think he’s actually crazy or do you think he’s kinda sorta trolling America by pretending to be crazy?” I don’t have an answer, and ultimately I don’t care what it is, but the fact that many of us asked that question this year means that yes, for better or worse, Kanye did a lot of winning in 2013.
Avinash: Is he crazy because people follow everything he does, or do people follow everything he does because he’s crazy?
9) KENDRICK LAMAR
Ike: Album came out in late 2012, but whatever?
Joel: Absolutely. Between the “Control” verse, the BET cypher, and how big the album got… this dude OWNED hip hop in 2013. Which is saying something, considering Jay-Z and Kanye came out with albums whose very names demanded to be perceived as landmarks, Drake and J. Cole put out awesome records, and the amazing Action Bronson became a human being people are aware of. Kendrick tops all of those, and it’s not close.
8) DAFT PUNK
Ike: Released one of the most hyped albums in history. Teamed up with Pharrell and Nile Rodgers on the song of the year to lead and/or capitalize on the re-emergence of disco as a “cool” genre.
Avinash: I’m not sure schmucks dancing to this in clubs and bars had any notion that they were validating disco, just like no one recognizes that most mainstream music has devolved into variations on house.
7) PHARRELL WILLIAMS
Ike: He gets the nod over Mike WiLL Made It as the producer of the year, literally thanks to just three songs: “Blurred Lines,” “Happy,” and “Get Lucky.” That last one he didn’t even help produce; he just sang on it. But “Blurred Lines” and “Get Lucky” were the biggest songs of the year. “Happy,” meanwhile, had been out since Despicable Me 2 was released in July (the song appears on the soundtrack), but strangely no one noticed it until its joyous, downright marvelous 24-hour video came out in November and Pharrell won music videos forever.
6) MILEY CYRUS
Avinash: She might not have earned much respect, but she became a bonafide American obsession. No Disney Channel star has ever been this big a celebrity. And CNN has never before been so interested in an individual’s nether regions.
Ike: In 2013, she was to “twerking” what Roy Hibbert was to “verticality.” Except Hibbert’s actually good at the thing he made famous.
5) JENNIFER LAWRENCE
Ike: She ended the year as the undisputed Queen of Hollywood. Not sure who the King is (probably Cumberbatch, honestly), but whoever it is, she tops him as well. Entire BuzzFeed lists were devoted to her for good reason: she served as the face of Dior, killed it in any and all interviews, generally came off as funny, humble, and normal (a total rarity among actors, and trust me, I watch a ton of late-night interviews), starred in both critical and commercial successes, beat Meryl, geeked out like a Lebowski superfan when she ran into Jeff Bridges, won the Best Actress Oscar, fell down on her way up to the stage and still managed to keep her shit together, then got hit on by Jack Nicholson backstage. All good things.
Avinash: She somehow gets roles that are way too old and mature for her cherubic face.
4) EVERYONE INVOLVED IN BREAKING BAD
Joel: Also, everyone who watched Breaking Bad.
Avinash: Just ask Anthony Hopkins.
3) THE NEW POPE
Joel: This one cares about poor people. Nice!
Ike: I’m a fan. He’s completely simplified the rhetoric surrounding everything related to the Church from bullshit doctrine to logic and common sense — put shortly, be good. Check this out for the uplifting details.
Avinash: Was named Time’s Person of the Year too!
2) GTA V
Ike: Put it this way — I hadn’t regularly played video games aside from the occasional FIFA outing since something like 2008. When this came out, my social life evaporated for three solid weeks and I found myself daydreaming about stealing cars when crossing the street.
Avinash: I’m not ashamed to say that I lived in Los Santos for most of September. Who needs the real world when Rockstar’s is so much more fun? And in all seriousness, GTA V isn’t just a wildly-successful video game. It had the biggest launch of any piece of entertainment EVER, breaking multiple Guinness World Records.
Ike: If you didn’t click those links and are still scoffing at this high ranking, thinking that gaming is still just a niche for socially awkward nerds and violence-adoring bros, know this: GTA V made $816 million in ONE DAY. We have now emphatically entered an era in which video games can be much more bankable than Hollywood movies.
Ike: We were tempted to simply give the #1 spot to George R. R. Martin, whose 2013 arguably outdid his 2011 and 2012 thanks to the mass pop-culture hysteria that the Game of Thrones Season 3 episode “The Rains of Castamere” caused. But that wouldn’t fully capture what we’re trying to get at here. Mainstream America has long been capitalizing on people’s always late realization that nerdy things are latently fucking awesome. Martin and his book series are merely the latest major discoveries. This trend has been going strong for about 15 years now, starting with the terrible Star Wars prequels, which introduced the sci-fi franchise to a new generation, and especially with Peter Jackson’s LOTR trilogy, which brought the adored (by nerds) fantasy novels to the silver screen in spectacular, nerdgasm-inducing fashion. The latter is particularly indicative of the trend we’re talking about, because the novel was first published in 1954; nerds were obsessed with it for decades before anyone else realized it was cool. It wasn’t all that long ago that sword-and-sandal fantasies, as well as comic books and graphic novels, were considered uncool.
But with increasing frequency, everything remotely nerdy has been getting remade or redone as an expensive and glossy 21st-century TV or movie production. In the last two years alone, we’ve seen the releases of two The Hobbit movies, Ender’s Game, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Avengers, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-Man, Man of Steel, Arrow, Kick-Ass 2, Oldboy, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Dredd, John Carter, R.I.P.D. (yes, it’s based on a comic), Red 2 (ditto), and 2 Guns (double ditto). Meanwhile, The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, one based on a comic and the other on Martin’s fantasy novels, remained enormous successes in 2013. So besides the upcoming Star Wars reboot, which makes sense given that it’s already the least nerdy and most mainstream sci-fi franchise there is, what else is left? How about a Dune reboot?
Anyway, look again at that very long list of productions from the last two years. There’s a bunch of blockbusters and a bunch of duds that wanted to be blockbusters. Mainstream entertainment is out of ideas.
Avinash: They just pull from old projects with small, eccentric followings, then super-size them for mass appeal. America has grabbed the nerd theme and run with it, and is now hitting full sprint Usain Bolt-style.
The nerd won 2013, not because America’s getting any nerdier, but because the media’s busy cashing in on the nerd aesthetic. (This show even aired 12 months ago). Nerdiness is now sold as hip, watering it down so that it’s recognizable as nerdy but also acceptable to the mainstream.
Talking about Game of Thrones is cool (social media turned into a massive support group for shocked viewers after “The Red Wedding”), but when you talk about A Song of Ice and Fire and start mentioning obscure characters by name, house, and whose bannermen they are, you start scaring the normal people.
Still, the nerds finally won. Maybe not the way they would have wanted to, but everyone pays attention to them now (if only for potential jackpot ideas). I mean, this guy is a bonafide celebrity.
People are now less afraid to embrace their inner nerd. “Nerd” isn’t even much of an insult anymore. When you say, “I’m such a nerd,” you’re basically saying, “Yeah, I know all about this slightly alternative thing that makes me kind of quirky, and you probably think that’s pretty cool.”