Moments That Made Us Smile: 2021

It began with a bang, the sound metal crushing down on Washington, D.C.’s sidewalks as hundreds of Trumpers stormed into the Capitol. It continued into another epidemic year. We were knocked back by variants of those who valued individual freedom over societal safety for every step we took with vaccines, testing, and vaccinations. We went further into the internet, the metaverse, the cryptosphere — remember a time before NFTs? — and came out the other side feeling perhaps a little less connected to our humanity.

There were some things to be grateful for, a few glimpses of happiness and hope during one of the most difficult years of our lives. The staff of Rolling Stone took this opportunity to dig for moments that reminded us the world isn’t always a cold, harsh place — even in 2021.

Jan. 20, Amanda Gorman, the youngest U.S. inaugurator poet, welcomes Joe Biden into his office

There was no clearer embodiment of the break from the darkness of Trump era than when 22-year-old Gorman took center stage at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol inauguration day — in her bright yellow coat and vibrant red head band, flashing an ebullient smile — to read her ode to the new presidency, “The Hill We Climb.” 

The young poet, whose slender fingers pierced the air like a conductor in a symphony orchestra, spoke hopefully to the trauma of the nation. “Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed / a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.”Her poem is a powerful reproach to those who would. “shatter”America is the Promise “rather than share it,”spoke of the hope for a “new dawn”That “blooms as we free it.”There is! “always light” Gorman told us — “if only we’re brave enough to see it. / If only we’re brave enough to be it.”It was a reminder to us that even after a winter of darkness, we might still see the sun. –Tim Dickinson

March 25: Lil’ Nas X releases the video “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”

Lil Nas X released his highly anticipated debut album when he dropped it. Montero earlier this year, it wasn’t surprising that conservatives were up in arms. But no one could have possibly expected that he’d bait the trolls in the most spectacular way possible: by releasing a super gay, super sexy video featuring himself twerking on the Devil in hell. It was released in March last year. “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”It angered every conservative interest group in the world. The Satanists gave it a loud endorsement. Rolling StoneLil Nas X “obviously did his homework”Satanism. The Devil himself! There’s nothing more rock and roll than that. -Ej Dickson

May 15: Olivia Rodrigo makes pop-punk cool again on SNL

Olivia Rodrigo performing “Good 4 U”On Saturday Night Live social media users quickly clocked the similarities between the catchy new single and Paramore’s 2007 hit “Misery Business” — and people wereIt’s all about feeling it.It was a moment of generation-bridging glory when everyone seemed to be jumping to the adorable pop-punk sound. This elevated the breakup song to song-ofthe-summer status. Rob Sheffield wrote about Rodrigo back then. “She’s not hung up on stylistic or historic boundaries — in her songs, the ancient and the new-school play off and inspire each other. Everything old is new again, and anything in the past can be the start of something new, as long as an artist like Olivia can find a way to use it.” -Andrea Marks

May 21: Linda Lindas perform “Racist, Sexist Boy”Los Angeles Public Library

It was May 20, 2021. When I scrolled through the article, I was just finishing the 25th about how we were all hitting the seventh pandemic Wall.VideoLos Angeles Public Library posted this video featuring the Linda Lindas band.

The viral clip begins with Mila, the 10-year-old drummer. She wears a green scrunchie and a Bikini Kill t-shirt. Mila tells the story of a Chinese boy who her father told him to stay clear of Chinese people. Mila and her bandmates,  sister Lucia, Eloise Wong, and Bela Salazar, then launch into a primal scream of a song “Racist Sexist Boy.”

You are a racist, sexist and homophobic boy
Then there are the racist, sexist delights
We will rebuild what you have destroyed
You are a racist, sexist and homophobic boy

It was refreshing to see the honesty of the lyrics, the power of their shouting voices, and the driving punk beats. The kids let loose their anger and invited the rest of the world to do the same. Days after the video, the Linda Lindas signed a deal with Epitaph recordsAnd they’ve released two songs “Oh” and  “Nino” (the band’s second song about a cat) and count Riot Grrrl luminaries like Kathleen Hanna and Carrie Brownstein among their fans. –Lisa Tozzi

May 29: Half the U.S. Gets the Jab

Do you recall who you first visited after getting vaccinated. Mine was my college roommate, in May, who’d recently had her first child. We hugged and shrieked on the sidewalk in front of her Philadelphia home. Memorial Day Weekend 2021 was a highlight of our Covid-ridden years. That Saturday, CDC data showed we’d reached the milestone of vaccinating more than half the population. The shot made it possible to finally visit family members, plan vacations, and host dinner parties. We had no idea what Delta (and Omicron now) had in store. The proliferation of vaccines last Spring ended the era total lockdown. It also greatly reduced the misery of school, work, and well, life itself. -AM

July 20: Wally Funk goes to Space

NASA selected Mary Wallace in 1961 “Wally” Funk as the youngest of 13 elite women pilots to train to become astronauts in the nation’s first human spaceflight program. But she never got to go — until now. Funk was 82 years old when she became the 2021 President. Oldest person at the time to go to space aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket, fulfilling her lifelong dream (and making the Amazon founder’s publicity stunt feel a bit more meaningful). Funk said that she was happy to be back from her suborbital flight of 11 minutes. “I want to go again, fast.” –AM

Reddit and beyond: The Great Resignation of R/Antiwork in Early October

Millions of people left their jobs in frustration with the exploitative employers who paid poverty wages in the midst of a pandemic. There was a power imbalance, some of them noticed — in these tough times, bosses needed wage workers more than wage workers needed shitty jobs. Some of the text conversations that led to mass walk-offs became viral by this fall. It was simple. The boss asked for an unreasonable request (covering a shift in less than 24 hours; covering while on vacation), then got angry at the employee, and finally quit instead of giving in to his abusive boss. R/Antiwork, the Reddit forum where many of these texts were posted, was around for eight years. But it was the pandemic which brought in almost one million members. “This is bonkers,”Doreen Ford, a Boston-based dog walker of 30 years, was moderator. Rolling StoneOctober “We never really thought anything like this would happen. I’ve never been a part of something so successful in my life.” -Elisabeth Garber-Paul

Oct. 18: Noodle the Pug’s “No Bones Day” goes viral

There’s nothing the internet loves more than elderly and/or weird-looking animals. Noodle the Pug is a prime example of this. The ancient, laconic pug accidentally became a symbol for national moods when Jon Graziano created a TikTok series declaring that it was a TikTok series. “Bones Day”Or, “No Bones Day”If he falls right back down, You could try to be productive on Bones Days; on No Bones Days it was acceptable to give up outside clothing and become one with the couch. “Bones/No Bones Days”It quickly became part the national vernacular. Even the Louisiana governorParticipating in the fun by using this meme to promote Covid-19. -ED

Dec. 6: Ramones Ducks

Though actor Coyote Shivers and his partner Pleasant Gehman started visiting L.A.’s Hollywood Forever Cemetery early in the pandemic, it wasn’t until last December that we found out they had been training ducks to visit Dee Dee Ramone’s gravestone every day. Pavlovian technique of a “dinner bell”That ring to the tune “Blitzkrieg Bop”Title “Duckskrieg Bop.”

“Sure enough, it worked like the ice cream truck song in the summertime,”Shivers were told Rolling Stone In December, early. “The kids come running when they hear it.”

Although it may not have been much but the joy of a few goths in the cemetery was enough for us to feel warm and fuzzy. It is interesting that Dee Dee wrote this theme. Pet Cemetery didn’t hurt, either. –ED

Dec. 13 – The saga Jorts the Cat

This story about two office cats was viralized mid-December. “Am I the Asshole” subreddit. One user shared a dispute between two cats living at their workplace: Jean, an intelligent tortoiseshell, and Jorts (an orange cat who falls into trash cans and accidentally closes himself in closets). Conflict arose when the user’s coworker tries to teach a dumb cat new tricks, like how to clean himself properly, and the user suggested Jorts may not have the capacity. One top commenter in the thread said, “I can’t believe she fuckin buttered Jorts.”HR steps in. The question of who manages the cats is a hot topic. An UpdateWe learn that the cats have their own staff bios. What? Is this company — and is it hiring? It’s impossible to know whether the post is true or just a piece of online storytelling brilliance. It doesn’t matter. The Jorts story is pure joy. -AM

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