The Internet Is Exploding: The List of Lists 2021

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My favorite list of the year: The list of lists! Highlights: Longreads and essays, those we lost, music, TV, memes and internet culture, and weird websites. 

I’ll also be taking next week off, but I’ll be back January 9th!


1. Longform: Top Ten

Pick of the list: “Who’s the Bad Art Friend?” is probably my pick of the list because the story is absolutely WILD. Dawn Dorland donated her kidney and shared the process on social media. Sonya Larson, with whom Dorland was acquainted, wrote a story that featured a kidney donation that mirrored what Dorland shared on social media. This essay recounts the ensuing MESS, lawsuits, and questions who is in the wrong. (They are both in the wrong.)

What’s missing: One of the writers and scholars I’ve been most captivated by this year has been Namwali Serpell. Much of Serpell’s writing centers around the relationship between Blackness and the internet. Any of Serpell’s work could be included here, but one of my favorite pieces she published this year was “Black Hole,” which takes as a given that the internet is Black, and analyzes how “Black pussy is our absent center. It is everywhere and nowhere on the Internet.”


2. Longreads Best of 2021: All of Our No. 1 Story Picks

Pick of the list: “Seeing in the Dark” by Breai Mason-Campbell, published on Pipe Wrench. I’ve been thinking about this essay since I first read it in April. Apart from being formally beautiful, this “secular sermon on race, grief, accountability, and change” is as relevant as ever as Omicron sweeps over the world.

What’s missing: This list is composed of all the number one picks from Longreads’ weekly roundups. Although “The Gradual Extinction of Softness” by Chantha Nguon with Kim Green was on some of Longreads’ other lists, and was included in their top five stories for the week of November 12th, it was not the top pick that week. Through stories tied to food, this essay explores how “softness is not immutable, but it does not disappear all at once; it slips away slowly. You might not even notice its disappearance at first.”


3. The New York Times: The Artists We Lost in 2021, in Their Words

Sorely missed: bell hooks. Not only is hooks a recent loss, but she also guided the thinking of so many people across so many disciplines. hooks will be greatly missed by many, but she also left us the incredible gift of her work. Also, essayist Joan Didion died this week. She was 87. Known for her linguistic precision, Didion “​​was ever the observer, surveying human folly from a deliberate distance, amazed and not amazed by what she saw.

Another person we lost: Greg Tate might not have been considered for this as he was known as a critic, but his impact on the arts—specifically music—was as profound as anyone else on this list.


4. NPR: Best Albums of 2021

Pick of the list: Unsurprisingly, my pick of the list is also the pick of the list, with Jazmine Sullivan’s Heaux Tales coming in at number one. I also particularly enjoyed Little Simz’s Sometimes I might Be Introvert which came in at number two. 

What’s missing: Most of the albums I listened to on repeat were featured on this list. One album I did really enjoy, however, that is not on this list is Akiho: Seven Pillars performed by Sandbox Percussion. I’ve had the privilege of seeing Sandbox Percussion perform live a few times, and they are very deserving of a Grammy nomination for this project. 


5. Pitchfork: The 100 Best Songs of 2021

Pick of the list: “Introvert” by Little Simz. As mentioned above, Sometimes I might Be Introvert was one of my favorite albums of the year, and this single from the album is exquisite. “Introvert” was not the song I listened to most frequently on this list, but it is a song that I have discussed in many robust conversations over the year.

What’s missing: Ever since my friend sent me a link to Tora-i’s “PBFF” in November it has been on constant rotation for me. I don’t really know how to explain my love for this song except that it’s a vibe. 


6. Rotten Tomatoes: Best TV of 2021

Pick of the list: Mare of Eastown is my pick of the list both because it is an incredibly well-acted, produced and written show, but also because it is a limited series. I love when narratives have closure and properly written endings—as opposed to being canceled. The way Mare of Eastown ended considered all of the characters and, as a viewer, left me satisfied. 

What’s missing: Netflix’s On My Block ended after four seasons this fall. I always quickly binged On My Block, which followed a group of four teenagers on adventures around their Los Angeles neighborhood. While the fourth season wasn’t my favorite, as mentioned above I love when shows have written endings, and all of the characters had convincing narrative arcs.


7. Esquire: The Best Memes of 2021 Reflect Our Collective Madness

Pick of the list: I love a well-produced shitty action franchise, so I have a particular affinity for Vin Diesel and family. It is not my favorite meme of the year (see below), but I do like it in the same way I like the Fast and Furious franchise. 

What’s missing: Every year, picking a best memes list is the hardest. There are a lot of good lists, but I can never seem to find a great list, as a few memes are always missing! My favorite meme that is missing from this list is “the urge to.” While the “feminine urge” has a stronghold with this meme, one of the reasons it is my favorite from this year is because of its adaptability. There are a lot of urges, including the masculine urge and African American urges.  

In addition to this list, I also recommend lists by BU, Thrillist, and this Twitter thread by Amy O’Connor.


8. Vulture: The Internet Did Too Much, Even for 2021

Pick of the list: The saga around Nicki Minaj’s cousin’s friend’s swollen balls. A lot of weird stuff happened on the internet and with Nicki this year, but this has to be one of the strangest things. A queen of diversion, Nicki tweeted that her “cousin in Trinidad won’t get the vaccine cuz his friend got it & became impotent. His testicles became swollen. His friend was weeks away from getting married, now the girl called off the wedding.” She tweeted this right before the Met Gala, “which required all attendees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and promptly broke the internet.” The tweet spread misinformation and eventually “the government of Trinidad and Tobago even weighed in on the claim.”

What’s missing: Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith were all over the internet this year! We learned a lot about their relationship and people had a lot to say about their honesty. The couple was trending more than I could keep track of, but Tea with Queen and J had a nice segment on Will and Jada



9. BuzzFeed: TikTok Released A Report On Their Top Videos In 2021, And Here’s What Made The List

Pick of the list: If I’m being honest, I love TikTok, but none of these are that interesting to me and I don’t have a pick of this list. 

What’s missing: Bama Rush. Perhaps no singular Bama Rush video made it onto this post because there were so many, but for at least a week Bama Rush took over all of TikTok before it set its sights on the rest of the internet. I also have consistently seen duets of the hostage situation all over the internet since it first appeared in the spring. 



10. Make a Website Hub: 40 Of The Weirdest Websites On The Internet 2021

Pick of the list: MapCrunch transports you to random locations via street views all over the world. Sometimes an exact address is given, and other times only a country. 

What’s missing: The only time I spend looking at weird websites is for this list at the end of the year. Because of this, I’m not sure what is missing, but I’m glad to continue my annual tradition. I will, however, say that I do have a fondness for the Toad Sings series on YouTube.


Other things I loved this year: Three of my absolutely favorite essays this year were published by Believer Magazine, and I didn’t see them on any lists. “Crush” by Larissa Pham, “The Last Black Stage” by Harmony Holiday, and “Gold Dust Woman” by Niela Orr are all absolutely beautiful and make the loss of Believer Magazine all the more tragic.

David Treuer’s cover story for The Atlantic, “Return the National Parks to the Tribes,” was an absolutely phenomenal piece and makes perhaps the most comprehensive argument as to why “the jewels of America’s landscape should belong to America’s original peoples” I’ve seen in any mainstream publication.


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