The 2022 pop culture moments we couldn’t forget if we tried

Dec 29, 2022, 12:48 PM
The most memorable moments of pop culture in 2022 were good, the bad and cringe-y. (CNN)...
The most memorable moments of pop culture in 2022 were good, the bad and cringe-y. (CNN)

(CNN) — We’re at the end of 2022, folks, and what a year it’s been.

From Bad Bunny’s world domination to that shocking moment at the Oscars; the chaotic “Don’t Worry Darling” press tour to the ascension of modern muse Julia Fox; Beyoncé going disco and “Abbott Elementary” winning our hearts — we’ve fit a lot of pop culture in 52 weeks.

Maybe you forgot about Elmo’s beef with Rocco or the Try Guys’ break-up, but we certainly didn’t. Revisit with us the most memorable moments of pop culture in 2022 — the good, the bad and the cringe-y.

Bad Bunny dominated

“Un Verano Sin Ti” has charted since its May release and it’s full of both bangers and songs to play while you’re recovering from headbanging. Bad Bunny has been the world’s most-streamed artist on Spotify for three years in a row. Not to mention, Benito es que lindo.

Beyoncé partied like it’s 1977

This year, Queen B …

  • broke the record of most Grammy nominations earned by a woman!
  • finally released a pure dance album with “Renaissance,” her best work in years!
  • cemented her status as a bonafide gay icon! Welcome!

Taylor Swift broke records (and hearts)

Now in her “Midnights” era, Swift’s new album of late-night musings was one of the best-selling albums of the year. Our sincere apologies to our Swiftie readers who couldn’t score tickets to her upcoming tour, but maybe you can join the brewing class-action lawsuit against Ticketmaster for making that process so difficult?

Julia Fox ascended to infamy

She was Josh Safdie’s muse in “Uncuh Jahms.” Now she regularly makes news for wearing jeans as a crop top, doing her own dramatic black eyeshadow or posting very frank TikToks about her short-lived relationship with Kanye West. A celeb this candid only comes around once in a generation — let’s cherish her.

TV had fantasy fever

With new additions to the canons of “Game of Thrones,” “Star Wars,” “Lord of the Rings” and Anne Rice’s “Interview with the Vampire,” viewers went gaga for genre TV this year. There were hits. There were misses. There were projects so controversial among fans that the critical consensus is still unknown. But most of all, there were dragons, elves, vampires and jaded former Jedi.

The Targaryens returned to TV this fall with “House of the Dragon,” a prequel to HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones.” (Ollie Upton/HBO via CNN)

‘Don’t Worry Darling’ drama delighted

Didn’t see the movie; didn’t need to. The behind-the-scenes drama fed us for months — Olivia Wilde falling for Harry Styles onset and maybe falling out with one “Miss Flo,” Chris Pine dissociating at the Venice premiere, SPITGATE! — and eclipsed the film itself.

The cast of “Don’t Worry Darling,” including Florence Pugh (second from left) and Harry Styles (second from right), turned heads at the Venice Film Festival. (Stephane Cardinale/Corbis/Getty Images via CNN)

AI art became ubiquitous

All-powerful AI tool Dall-E turned word salad into art, giving us the power to create such important images as “a bottle of ranch dressing testifying in court” or “emo sausage roll sat at a bus stop in the rain, waiting for a bus that might never arrive.” Meanwhile, Lensa gave us weirdly sexy celestial profile pics — which some digital artists said ripped off their work. Maybe we should leave art to the humans.

‘Corn Kid’ popped

America has a new favorite kid: His name is Tariq, he’s seven and he popped into our hearts earlier this year when he professed his effervescent love for corn on the digital series “Recess Therapy.” He loves corn so much that he was tapped by Green Giant to help hand out thousands of cans of his favorite food ahead of Thanksgiving. We can’t imagine a more beautiful thing!

Twitter almost collapsed

Remember that one night in November when we all thought Twitter was dying, and then it miraculously remained online anyway? The drawn-out demise of Twitter feels a bit like that one scene in “Titanic” — we’re all on the deck, furiously playing the violin as we go down with the ship. Some of us have used Twitter for over a decade — we’ve grown up with it! — and are not yet ready to abandon its memes.

‘Funny Girl’ had a casting fiasco

The abrupt replacement of Beanie Feldstein with Lea Michele in Broadway’s “Funny Girl” revival turned us all into musical theater insiders. Everything about it was controversial — Feldstein didn’t have the voice for the iconic role of Fanny Brice, but Michele has been accused of abusive treatment toward her co-stars. The only true winner here is the OG Fanny herself, Barbra Streisand.

Elmo beefed with Rocco

Can you believe our obsession with Elmo’s one-sided feud with Rocco the rock originated THIS YEAR? The hostility between a lovable toddler Muppet and an inanimate stone reached the adult masses at the beginning of the year and delighted us, maybe even more than it delighted “Sesame Street’s” child viewers.

Wordle had us addicted

First this simple yet inventive word game was free. Then the New York Times bought it. It’s still free — for now. Enjoy while you can. At least the days of people sharing their scores daily are over.

‘Abbott Elementary’ warmed our hearts

We got two seasons of this delightful ABC primetime hit in one year! How lucky are we? Quinta Brunson, star and creator of the school-set mockumentary, infuses every bit of her heart and wit into this network gem. Seeing Brunson and Sheryl Lee Ralph, who plays veteran teacher Barbara, accept Emmys for their work was sweet and much-deserved.

The Try Guys tried us

Did everyone seriously know who the Try Guys were before one of their members publicly committed adultery and the remaining Guys condemned him in a very heated video? This YouTube drama broke through in a major way — we covered it; “SNL” even parodied it. All this and we still haven’t seen the Try Guys try anything except our patience.

Pictured are the Try Guys, a group of YouTubers, when they were still a quartet. (Noam Galai/Getty Images via CNN)

Kanye continues to alienate

We wish we could forget. Kanye West made several antisemitic comments this year, adding to inflammatory statements he has made in the past. He lost several massive deals because of his remarks (most notably, the Adidas-Yeezy partnership is no more), which have become the last straw for many fans.

The Oscars slap stunned

Watching this live was BIZARRE. We thought it was scripted until it was very clearly not. The fact that it dominated the news for so long was depressing but maybe a sign that awards shows actually do matter!

Steve Lacy soared

All it took was TikTok to launch our beloved Steve Lacy into the stratosphere. His hit “Bad Habit” took off on the app and propelled him to a Grammy nomination for record of the year. We’re rooting for you, Steve!

Blockbuster films returned

Take it from Nicole Kidman and her sparkly pantsuit in that AMC ad — we go to the movies for magic. This year saw some big blockbusters, from Tom Cruise’s military celebration “Top Gun: Maverick” to Austin Butler oveshadowing Tom Hanks in “Elvis.” Dinosaurs roamed the Earth, Black Panther prowled, Batman brooded, Minions … did their thing, too.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” was a hit with audiences, even without the late Chadwick Boseman. (Marvel Studios via CNN)

Men played soccer

Maybe you don’t care about soccer, er, fútbol. Or maybe you do! Either way, every four years when the World Cup rolls around, millions of us become bonafide experts — gathering to watch men with thighs the size of our heads run around and chase a little ball. We love it! Go team!

Keke Palmer became a superstar

Hollywood gods, thank you for Keke Palmer, who has been famous for LITERAL decades (“Akeelah and the Bee,” a classic) but has only recently reached the highest highs of Hollywood. There’s nothing she hasn’t done: talk show host, show lead, singer, meme. But with her role in “Nope,” one of the biggest movies of the year, she has firmly put the A-List crown atop her perfectly laid weave. And she’s ending her year with a jawdropping pregnancy reveal on “SNL.” She can’t lose!

Keke Palmer ended her whirlwind year with a heartwarming pregnancy reveal on “SNL.” (Will Heath/NBC/Getty Images via CNN)

Drake disappointed

Oh, Drake. Your music once soundtracked our wildest nights and riskiest texts. But now, on your latest album with 21 Savage, you claim (unprovoked!) that our queen Megan Thee Stallion lied about getting shot? No more aux privileges for you.

BeReal became a thing

With Instagram transitioning from social media app to virtual shopping mall, how else are we supposed to see what our friends are really up to? Enter BeReal, the new social media app that took over 2022. If you’re not on it, your friend’s friend of a friend probably is — regularly posting delightfully unflattering selfies with their dog. Get in while the getting’s good, before the Facebook Moms find it.

Lizzo played a centuries-old flute

Leave it to Lizzo to get us interested in an old president’s flute. For a few sweet seconds at her DC show this year, the Library of Congress let her play a few fluttery notes on James Madison’s rare crystal flute. This year alone, Lizzo also won an Emmy, launched a size-inclusive shapewear brand and released a new album. May we all be as productive as her.

Lizzo played a crystal flute owned by James Madison, a mashup we didn’t know we needed. (Shawn Miller/Library of Congress via CNN)

Young Thug and Gunna were indicted

Rappers Young Thug and Gunna were among 28 people indicted on gang-related charges in Atlanta, sparking both an internet-wide movement to #FreeYSL and a conversation about the use of rap lyrics as evidence by criminal prosecutors. Gunna entered a guilty plea in December and was released from prison while Young Thug awaits trial. We miss their occasionally unintelligible, always entertaining mumble trap.

Zendaya continued to slay

She won her SECOND Emmy for her role as teen addict Rue on “Euphoria.” She continues to be the best thing about that mess of a program. To be fair, the bar is low. But Zendaya, we love you.

Kendrick Lamar returned to rap royalty

If we won a Pulitzer (hello Pulitzer committee, wake up and smell the talent!!), we would retire to a luxury beach house and never work again. Kendrick had other ideas, dropping “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers,” his first album in five years. Though his song about trans relatives earned both praise and criticism, Kendrick knows all press is good press. We guess we’ll hear from him in another five years?

Takeoff’s death rattled fans

Whew. This one really hit us, folks. RIP to a real one, a legend, an icon, one-third of the beloved trio Migos. Takeoff was the glue that helped Atlanta’s favorite rap family together, the brainchild behind some of the most quotable lyrics of the decade and the least flashy but still deeply talented member of the group that changed the game. We miss you, Takeoff.

Mayor of Atlanta Andre Dickens spoke onstage during Takeoff’s Celebration of Life in Atlanta. (Kevin Mazur/Getty Images via CNN)

‘The Bear’ stressed us out

Remember when this show came out and everyone kept saying “Yes, chef” and “Thank you, chef”? And suddenly, we all found ourselves a little attracted to a very specific brand of restaurant cook — disheveled hair, tattoos, and definitely not good for us? We can’t lie, some nights, in the midst of cooking dinner, we imagine we’re in the middle of a busy shift, frantically taking orders in between bites of cola-braised short ribs. Mmmm.

Kate Bush became a Gen Z favorite

“Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” featured heavily in the fourth season of “Stranger Things” as an anthem that kept Sadie Sink’s Max grounded (literally). The show introduced its millions of viewers to the ’80s indie chanteuse, and they fell hard. Ms. Bush graciously welcomed her legion of new fans, many of whom are decades younger than her hit song.

The eventful end of 2022

The last few weeks of the year were especially momentous: We were all glued to our televisions for the “White Lotus” finale, while discussing that death and nitpicking one Gen Z character’s style. We all argued about nepo babies to the point where even said nepo babies chimed in. The Netflix series “Wednesday,” a mystery centered on Wednesday Addams, broke viewing records and had TikTok users doing their own danse macabre to Lady Gaga’s “Bloody Mary.” And Tory Lanez, the Canadian rapper accused of shooting Megan Thee Stallion in the foot in 2020, was found guilty on all charges just days before Christmas.

[“Don’t Worry Darling,” “The Batman” and “Elvis” were distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, which like HBO (home to “Game of Thrones”), shares parent company Warner Bros. Discovery with CNN.]

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

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The 2022 pop culture moments we couldn’t forget if we tried