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2017: The Culture Review
2017: The Culture Review avatar

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1. Dua Lipa. With her The New Rules the 22-year-old British singer became one of the hottest singers on the planet and the most streamed woman on Spotify in 2017. The viral hit, ranking among YouTube’s top UK trending videos for 2017, had a sisterly solidarity message as it doled out advice for how to deal with those troublesome men, containing the unforgettable lyrics, “And if you're under him, you ain't gettin' over him."

2. Ed Sheeran. The musician who owned 2017. There was a time, back in March, when all 16 songs on his album Divide were in the Top 20 singles and all of his three albums were in the Top 5 albums.

3. Perfect. Just to ram home how perfect Ed Sheeran’s year has been – apart from that broken arm – it's worth also mentioning one of his tracks, Perfect. Or, rather Ed Sheeran and Beyonce singing a duet of Perfect. Or, perhaps, even Ed Sheeran singing Perfect with Andrea Bocelli. For Perfect has become, very nearly, the perfect duet.

4. BTS. The Korean pop/hip hop septet was the most tweeted-about music act in he US and also the most tweeted celebrities across the globe. Blame those BTS fans, known as the Army (“Adorable Representative Mcs for Youth”), who would give Directioners a run for their money.

5. Bjork. Yes, she was back again, being as weird as ever, with her new album Utopia.

6. Young Fathers. Not only was their music the sound of Trainspotting 2, its heartbeat, but the Edinburgh trio and former Mercury Prize winners ended the year by announcing that their next album was finished with the release of Lord, their gospel-infused first single from it.

7. Lewis Capaldi. The singer from Bathgate was given the breakthrough artist gong at this year’s Scottish Music Awards and deservedly. His big single, Bruises, a…well…bruising, bluesy track, even ended up on the soundtrack of Riverdale (a Netflix series).

8. Taylor Swift. Whatever she did in 2017, including the release of her album Reputation, she caused controversy, right down to her comment this month, “I couldn’t have asked for a better year.” Eh?, was the social media response of many – what about all the bad stuff that’s gone on in the world?

9. Ariana Grande. The singer’s One Last Time was instantaneously transformed from a sweetly addictive piece of pop to something that made our hearts ache when her Manchester arena concert was the centre of a horrific terror attack that killed 22.

10. Kendrick Lamar. The artist’s Damn was the biggest album of the year, top of the Billboard 200. Variety described it thus: “A hip-hop album of truly uncommon range, depth, and precision. ”

11. Lorde. It was a year in which the singer not only pumped us up to a frenzy with her stunning single Greenlight, but also showed she could do a good mad dance at the Video Music Awards.

12. Rag 'n' Bone Man. The singer ends a superhuman year, in which he was crowned British Breakthrough Act at the Brits, by playing Edinburgh’s Hogmanay.

13. Latin music. 2017 was the year the world went Reggaeton and Latin, as Despacito, by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, with Justin Bieber, topped the charts week after week, and then other Latin tracks followed. Video streaming service Vevo found that Latin claimed seven of the top 10 spots,.

14. Pink. The artist gave us the big, mainstream, anti-Trump anthem, What About Us?

15. Depeche Mode. The1980s band sold 1.27 million tour tickets through the first nine months of 2017, more than Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber or Bruno Mars

16. Katy Perry. As Perry said early in the year, there seemed to be a race among pop starts to “see who can be the most woke”. And former Hillary Clinton campaigner was definitely in that race with her subversive disco tune Chained To The Rhythm, featuring Skip Marley.

17. Calvin Harris. It’s always Calvin’s year, isn’t it? And Funk Wav Bounces Vol 1 was another addictive album from the Scot.


1. Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari. The author of Sapiens turned his historian gaze from the past to the future and gave us the kind of vision we can't turn to the tech geeks for. Sapiens – a book that, as the New York Times put it, seems tailored for the “thought-leader industrial complex”.

2. What Happened by Hillary Clinton. The 2016 Presidential candidate’s best-selling account of what it was like to be the first woman ever to run for President – and against Trump. There were quite a few rants – as there should be.

3. Hunger: A Memoir of My Body. Bad Feminist author Roxane Gay’s memoir told the story of her rape, overeating, and her struggles with her public and private identities. Shockingly honest.

4. The Long Drop by Denise Mina. The author’s true crime story about Peter Manuel, "the Beast of Birkenshaw", won the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish crime book of the year.

5. Border: A Journey To The Edge Of Europe by Kapka Kassabova. The book that won the Saltire Literary Award. “ If ever there was a book for our times,” said the judges, it was this one.

6. The Book Of Dust by Philip Pullman. Set 10 years before the start of His Dark Materials, the long-awaited prequel follows the story of Malcolm, a boy who more than lives up to the hype.

7. Fall Out: A Year Of Political Mayhem by Tim Shipman. In last year's All Out War the journalist produced a gripping and bestselling account of the EU referendum campaign. This year he followed up with the madness that came after.

8. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. The book that delivered the Norse myths behind those figures now more familiar to us as superheroes, Thor and Loki.

9. Why Mummy Drinks by Gill Simms. Just one of a whole slew of books on just how hard it is to be a mum, and why one might require alcohol.

10.The Power by Naomi Alderman. The sci-fi feminist novel that won the Baileys Women’s Prize tells the tale of a future in which women can emit electric shocks.

11. Books for girls. It’s been the year in which children's publishing has gone wild for tales of real-life and fictional female heroes, a trend that was kicked off with the phenomenal success of Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls by Francesca Cavallo and Elena Favilli.

12. How to Survive a Plague: The Story of How Activists And Scientists Tamed Aids by David France. The Baillie Gifford non-fiction prize went to this book about the early years of Aids in New York.

13. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy. Twenty years after the publication of The God Of Small Things, Roy is back, and with a book that examines India’s violent history and the disastrous effect of Partition.

14. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. The black lives matter book that topped the New York Times bestseller list for young adult novels, a tale of racialised violence, seen through the eyes of a teenage girl.

15. How Not To Be A Boy by Robert Webb. A challenging dissection of masculinity, written through the story of the comedian's own childhood.

16. The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young. A book about organic dairy farming couldn’t be more charming or compelling. Chapters include “Bovine friendships are seldom casual” and “But bulls are a different kettle of fish”.

17. Munich by Robert Harris. The author of Fatherland turned his storytelling skill on the Munich Agreement of 1938 with his chief focus, not Adolf Hitler, but a pair of minor subordinates


1.Blue Planet II. The biggest show on live UK TV, more watched than any other, was one that not only gave us a new window into our oceans, but also the way we are choking our seas with plastic. Emotion, hunting sealions, David Attenborough at 91…. it had it all. It even slowed down the internet in China.

2. Great British Bake Off. Many said it couldn’t work. The GBBO’s departure from the Beeb, and into the hands of Channel 4, with Mary Berry being replaced by Prue Leith. But people tuned in, it was a ratings triumph, proof that, as Leith put it, the contestants really are the stars of the show.

3. The Replacement. The psychological chiller of last winter was this bonkers BBC Scotland drama, starring Morvern Christie as Ellen, a successful architect who goes on maternity leave, and is replaced by the terrifyingly ambitious Paula, played by Vicky McClure.

4. The Handmaid’s Tale. No drama seemed quite as relevant as this adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian 1968 tale of female enslavement, which tapped into all our fears about the roll back of rights in Trump’s America, and globally.

5. 13 Reasons Why. Binge-watched by many on Netflix, this teen drama told the story of 17year-old Hannah Baker who commits suicide, leaving behind a tape which detailed the 13 reasons why she did it. Many mental-health experts said it glorified suicide.

6. American Vandal. Who drew the dicks? That was the key question in this hilarious, but affecting, satire of true crime documentaries focussed on a high-school phallic graffiti prank.

7.Catastrophe. Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney’s sexually frank, biting comedy about a couple who form a marriage after an accidental pregnancy, in its third series got darker and only ended up funnier than ever. It also featured Carrie Fisher’s last appearance on screen.

8. Stranger Things 2. 1980s nostalgia was never so gloriously escapist as in the hands of the Duffer brothers – 361,000 people watched all nine episodes on the first day. Nearly 16 million Americans watched the first episode within the first three days.

9. The Deuce. The Wire creator David Simon’s drama series charting the rise of the porn industry in New York recreated the 1970s world of pimps, prostitutes, mobsters, cops and exploitation so effectively you felt you were there.

10. The Crown. The televisual obsession with the Royal Family continued, with Claire Foy delivering yet another magnificent and magnetic performance as Elizabeth.

11. Outlander. Achingly romantic as ever, the third season of Outlander again separated Jamie and Claire by centuries.

12. Babylon Berlin. Forget Nordic Noir. The crime drama event of the year came from Germany and was the most expensive non-English drama series ever produced. Based on the 2008 novel by Volker Kutscher, set in 1929 Berlin, it premiered in Germany to the highest ratings since Game of Thrones launched.

13. Twin Peaks: The Return. David Lynch’s long-awaited sequel took us back inside the surreal, inter-dimensional world of Dale Cooper, and it was just as weird as we'd hoped.

14. This Country. The BBC3 mockumentary delivered us, with warmth and biting comedy, life in a Cotswold village for the rural disenfranchised.

15. Three Girls. Possibly the most harrowing series on television this year, based on the real-life grooming of vulnerable girls in Rochdale, the men who dehumanised them, and the system that failed to protect them. No details were spared.

16. STV News Tonight. With the new STV2 channel came the launch of STV News Tonight, its flagship news programme, presented by Halla Mohieddeen.

17. Alex Salmond on RT. The former First Minister couldn’t have caused more controversy when he began hosting a show on the Kremlin-backed broadcaster. But, to his credit, he did pull in a scoop – an interview with former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont


1. Trainspotting 2. Spud, Renton, Begbie and Sick Boy, were all back in our lives, in Danny Boyle's nostalgia trip of the year. It was a pining for those days of crazed, youth and energy, and an examination of friendship and getting older – and the adrenaline was all still there.

2. The Levelling. The debut first feature of Edinburgh resident Hope Dickson Leach, an intense, haunting tale of family grief on a dairy farm. Film reviewer Mark Kermode listed it as one of his best films of the year, describing it as “quietly overwhelming”.

3. Wonder Woman. Played by Gal Gadot and directed by Patty Jenkins, the heroic Amazonian launched herself onto the big screen in the first superhero movie centred on a female hero, and won the world over. Womankind rejoiced.

4. Call Me By Your Name. Luca Guadagnino’s gay, erotic story had critics and audiences swooning over his love affair between 17-year-old Elio and handsome older grad-student, Oliver, played by Armie Hammer.

5. Beauty And The Beast. The biggest grossing film of 2017, starring Emma Watson, and very nearly a Disney feminist retelling of the tale.

6. An Open Secret. The 2015 film that we probably wouldn’t have heard of if it weren’t for the Harvey Weinstein scandal, which made “open secret” the phrase of the year. A documentary by Amy J Berg, it exposed child sexual abuse in the film industry in California.

7.The Shape Of Water. Tipped to be a big winner at next year’s Oscars, this is director Guillermo Del Toro doing what he does so well, creating a strange fairytale – this time set in a high-security government laboratory in Cold War America.

8. Prevenge. The most entertaining British horror comedy of the year follows Ruth, a pregnant woman, who goes on a killing spree guided by the voice of her unborn baby.

9. Raw. Belgian director Julia Ducournau’s Cronenbergian tale of cannibalism saw two audience members faint and ambulances called at the Toronto film festival

10. Blade Runner 2049. Director Denis Villeneuve helped it be the year we debated, yet again, whether or not Deckard was a replicant, and went back to find him in the company of Ryan Gosling.

11. Moonlight. At least the Oscars didn’t look a whitewash this year when this film, shot on a tiny budget, and following the story of a black gay youth named Chiron as he grows up in a rough part of Miami, won Best Picture.

12. Get Out. Some declared this horror movie, starring Daniel Kaluuya as a young black man on a weekend getaway with his girlfriend’s white family, as important a movie as Moonlight. Entertaining, satirical, funny, it skewered white racist behaviour.

13.It. Was Bill Skarsgard as creepy a Pennywise as Tim Curry had been in the television series? Did it matter? Only, it seemed, to critics. It, after all, became the biggest grossing Stephen King horror adaptation ever.

14.Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Yet again we have felt the force of this unstoppable franchise.

15. Mother! Darren Aronofsky’s film was widely panned and ridiculed. Critic Rex Reed wrote, “I hesitate to label it the 'Worst movie of the year' when 'Worst movie of the century' fits it even better."

16. The Square. The Swedish art-world satire that follows a contemporary art museum director won the Palme D’Or.

17. War for the Planet of the Apes. Some said it was the best franchise film, others the best film of the year when it came out in July. Either way the final part of the trilogy, following Caesar and his apes as they battle it out with the Colonel’s humans, was a tour de force.

PC and Console Games

1.Stories Untold. Glasgow-based No Code’s aesthetic is all about technology nostalgia and the chill that can bring. As much an experiment in story-telling as a game and winner of this year's Scottish Bafta for Best Game.

2. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. It struck out into new territory with this standalone game featuring not series regular, Nathan Drake, but a new hero, fortune hunter Chloe Frazer. Girl power.

3. Nex Machina. Earth has been taken over by killer robots and the fight is on to save the planet in the name of humanity. In other words it’s a glorious, basic shoot 'em up. “What a trip,” wrote Keith Harris in his Guardian review.

4. Night in the Woods. Few games have managed to explore the difficulties of being a young person growing up as well as this one, in which the player is Mae, a young cartoon cat who returns to her hometown of Possum Springs and has a few mini adventures.

5. Binaries. Winner of the Best Gameplay Design in the 2017 Game Design Awards, Edinburgh-based Ant Workshop’s Binaries is the simplest of games with seemingly one of the trickiest of challenges – controlling two balls at once.

6. Destiny 2. The was only released back in September, but after just one month of sales it had become the best-selling game of 2017. But the game was not without its controversies – including the discovery of a hate symbol design on one of its pieces of armour.

7.What Remains of Edith Finch. A young woman revisiting her old family home recalls, or discovers, the stories of deceased family members. IGN games review site critic Marty Silva described it as “a gorgeous experience and one of the finest magical-realism stories in all of games".

8. Horizon Zero Dawn. Described, by Casey Newton of online magazine Verge as his “game of the year”, this is an action role-play game with robot-dinosaurs, story, and a heart.

9.Super Mario Odyssey. Mario and Cappy go off on a journey to save Princess Peach, in a game that wowed long-term Mario lovers as well as newcomers. Edge magazine even called it the spiritual successor to the Super Mario 64.

10. The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The wild. The 19th instalment in the Zelda series was named Game of the Year at the 2017 Game Awards. Story-driven and with a vast open-world environment, it holds the largest number of perfect reviews of any game on review aggregator Metacritic.

11. Assassin’s Creed Origins. The Brotherhood was back. And Origins outsold its predecessor by 100 per cent within the first 10 days. A monster of a game.

12. Cuphead. With its 1930s visuals Cuphead seemed like nothing that came before it. But really it was a great "run and gun" game, in which Cuphead fights a series of bosses in order to repay a debt to the devil.

13. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. The latest game in the survival horror series delivered a whole new level of terror and, some said, put the game back on the map.

14. Universal Paperclips. Your job, in the game, it to make paper clips. As many as you can, with the help of a single button. What could be more diverting?

15. Splatoon 2. The shoot 'em up game many parents don’t mind their kids playing. After all the game's guns are only shooting paint. Sweet.

16. Little Nightmares. Basically hide and seek, in which you guide around a hooded figure. “Gleefully strange, unceasingly grim and quietly smart,” was how IGN’s Joe Skrebels described it.

17. ARMS. This is fighting game, but it’s brightly coloured, and from Nintendo, so it feels fun, and almost cute and harmless. Possibly Nintendo’s next big franchise.


1. S-Town. The makers of the highly addictive Serial and This American Life followed up with another utterly compelling podcast which tells a story of murder and mental illness in small-town Alabama.

2. Homo Sapiens. Pop star Will Young's podcast aimed to be "an LGBTQ+ version of Woman's Hour", and it’s a treat for all.

3. Missing Richard Simmons. Some saw it as ethically suspect for its pursuit of Simmons, the fitness guru, who had retired from public life, but Dan Taberski’s investigative podcast was addictive listening.

4. The Butterfly Effect. Jon Ronson’s eye-opening series of short documentaries on the impact of the porn industry. As with everything Ronson does it’s both chilling and uplifting.

5. Pod Save America. The American progressive politics podcast created on a shoestring, which by last month had been downloaded 120 million times. The New York Times described it thus, "something that liberals have spent almost two decades, and hundreds of millions of dollars, futilely searching for: the left’s answer to conservative talk radio”.

6. Fathers And Sons. Mr Porter and Radio Wolfgang’s podcast exploring contemporary masculinity through the eyes of fathers and their sons. Named Podcast Of The Year at the British Podcast Awards.

7. Intelligence Squared. A source of fascinating debates, including intelligent people like Jimmy Carter, Sean Penn, Nate Silver and Martin Amis.

8. Sincerely, X. TedX’s audio series – which allowed those stories that are just too private or sensitive to have a face or some video attached to them – to have an airing for listeners.

9. The Guilty Feminist. Comedian Deborah Frances-White and her special guests discuss 21st century feminist topics “while confessing their insecurities, hypocrisies and fears that undermine their lofty principles”.

10. They Walk Among Us. The British true crime podcast that retraces some of the UK’s most fascinating crimes, from James Darwin, the canoeist who faked his own death, to the 1971 Baker Street bank robbery.

11. The Joe Rogan Experience. One of the most popular podcasts in the United States, by American comedian, actor, sports commentator and television host Joe Rogan

12. Reasons to be Cheerful. Yes, people are listening, quite cheerfully, to the thoughts of Ed Miliband, with Geoff Lloyd, as they talk with other folk about “ideas”. There is life after Labour Party leadership.

13. My Dad Wrote A Porno. Each episode Jamie Morton reads a chapter of a series of erotic pornographic novels written by his Northern Irish father under the pen name Rocky Flintstone.

14. Fresh Air. The American radio talk show is iTunes most downloaded podcast.

15. Under the Skin with Russell Brand. Not a Brand fan? Aw, give him a chance. As the Financial Times put it, “In Under the Skin Brand has returned, quieter and more questioning and trying to educate himself in the complexities of politics past and present”.

16. Death, Sex and Money. American Anna Sale talks the big stuff. No taboo unturned.

17. A Scottish Podcast. A dramatised horror series which follows Lee, a washed up former radio DJ, who launches a paranormal investigation podcast.

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