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Jake Paul Blows Up, Scaramucci Goes Down, Miley Gets Boring: Spin’s Year in Suck 2017

2017 was a bad year by any measure–so bad, in fact, that its badness often felt like unavoidable but unremarkable background noise, the elevator music we all learned to tolerate as we shuttled back and forth between the floors of our monotonous lives. The world has an infinite capacity to surprise and disappoint, however, and occasionally, the drone reached an awful screeching crescendo that was impossible to ignore. What follows is a catalog of those moments: the openly evil executive orders, the terrible rap songs by social media stars, the endless cloying and disingenuous apologies for sexual assault. This is Spin’s Year in Suck 2017.

The rise of Jake Paul 

It came from Vine, then appeared in a dead-eyed Disney vehicle called Bizaardvark, and found even more prominence on YouTube. The 20-year-old Aryan menace’s catchphrase is “it’s everyday, bro,” a direly empty platitude that is meant to refer to his work ethic for making videos of all kinds: prank, dance, “action sports,” all of them edited with seizure-inducing quickness. His name is Jake Paul. Lately, he has taken to rapping, luring 21 Savage into a faux Carpool Karaoke video and allegedly paying Gucci Mane $250,000 for a feature and the attendant cred. This month, he laced the world with a Christmas album called Litmas, on which he mixes Yule-inspired non-sequiturs with automatonic Lil Uzi Vert and Chief Keef musical fanfiction. His most popular song, which cracked the singles charts on the back of over 70 million YouTube plays, is also called “It’s Everyday Bro,” and it makes Post Malone look like Tupac.

Paul has been to the White House, invited as part of a social media event during Obama’ sad last days in the Oval. While there, he snuck into a bathroom and tried to stay overnight, like a stray waterbug on a rainy D.C. day. (I look forward to Oliver Stone’s film adaptation.) He is no insignificant pest; he’s influencing children and teens everywhere, and we’ll all truly have to face the music when he becomes president. — WINSTON COOK-WILSON

The fall of Ja Rule

It didn’t have to be like this. Ja Rule’s career supposedly ended sometime in the mid-2000s, after a disastrous feud with 50 Cent and the general falling out of favor of the R&B-duet approach that yielded Ja’s biggest hits. But people pretty quickly remembered that “I’m Real,” “Mesmerize,” and “Always on Time” are great songs, and realized that Curtis Jackson’s personal approval didn’t matter all that much to them. It was unlikely that Rule would ever make a pop comeback (and the same could be said of his old rival), but he could have at least rested on the reputation of a string of classic singles that will be powering millennial party playlists for years to come. But then he got in over his head with a “serial entrepreneur” and “alleged fraudster” named Billy McFarland as co-founder the disastrous Fyre Festival, and now his legacy will always carry an asterisk involving FEMA tents and terrible sandwiches. Last we heard from Ja, he was searching for Banksy in the wilderness of Twitter, perhaps scheming to team up with the infamous street artist for another harebrained adventure. We wish him the best in 2018. — ANDY CUSH

Mel Gibson’s unearned redemption

At the 2017 Academy Awards, Mel Gibson showed up with his 29-year-old girlfriend Rosalind Russell, bantered with red carpet reporters about the recent birth of their son Lars Gerard, and waited to see if he’d take home statues for Hacksaw Ridge, the lauded World War II drama he directed. Aside from the light roasting he received from host Jimmy Kimmel, you’d never know that Gibson spent 10 years essentially blacklisted from the movie industry after sexually harassing a female cop and going on a drunken anti-Semitic screed. Given the way People and US Weekly fawned over Ross’s dress and post-pregnancy body, you’d never guess that Gibson’s ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva once accused him of punching her in the face and breaking her tooth while she held their child, leading to a battery charge to which Gibson pleaded no contest. After these transgressions, Gibson earned his release from movie jail simply by checking himself into rehab and laying low for a few years.

In a sane world, audiences would be wary of paying money to see a PG-13 romp like Daddy’s Home 2, starring a guy they heard throw the n-word around and tell his girlfriend that he’ll burn her house down after she blows him, but the box office receipts proved otherwise. One has to wonder if Gibson would be enjoying this auspicious second act if the post-Weinstein reckoning began, say, two years ago instead of a few months ago. Or perhaps his redemption is a bleak preview of the warm welcome back into the fold that recently disgraced names like Kevin Spacey will enjoy in a decade or so. Hollywood loves a comeback story, right? — MAGGIE SEROTA

Kid Rock’s Senate run that wasn’t 

In July, Kid Rock unveiled a website, hosted by his record label Warner Bros., that sold promotional merchandise for a supposed Senate campaign. The header read “Kid Rock ‘18 for U.S. Senate.” One day after the store went live and journalists speculated it was a publicity stunt, Rock, published a statement titled “Once again the press is wrong” decrying fake news, in true Republican fashion. “I’ve got 15 days from my announcement to file paperwork with the FEC!” he wrote. “It’s not a hoax, it’s a strategy and marketing 101!” For three months, a political press and Washington establishment followed the story in detail, having recently lost its eagerness to ignore the alleged political ambitions of a loudmouthed celebrity. Elizabeth Warren fundraised off of Rock’s announcement. A watchdog group filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission. Pollsters conducted polls. A Senate GOP super PAC urged Rock to run, and Steve Bannon reportedly did too. All the while, Rock issued indignant statements teasing a possible campaign, but never actually filed any candidacy paperwork.

In the end, of course, the candidacy was a hoax. But the fact that lawmakers and journalists entertained the idea so seriously is telling in itself. Rock is a vulgar traditionalist whose major political positions are limited to a defense of the Confederate flag and a fuck off to Colin Kaepernick, making him an ideal puppet for a certain type of Republican strategist. He looks like an outsider, with the cowboy swagger to say things like “Democrats are “shattin’ in their pantaloons’,” and the rock star allure to make corporate tax cuts sound cool, but without any pesky convictions that might stand in the way of the G.O.P.’s plans to enact its agenda. Rock only gave up the grift in October when he visited The Howard Stern Show. “Fuck no, I’m not running for Senate. Are you fucking kidding me?” Rock told Stern. “Who couldn’t figure that out?” The website is still live. — TOSTEN BURKS

RIP Fweaky Miley

Miley Cyrus used to be kind of a freak. Or, as she so inventively put it on her 2015 Flaming Lips collaboration Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz, she was “Fweaky.” There was a time, in 2014, when her Instagram was an onslaught of fan-created photoshops of the star–the more transgressive, the better (Miley as a baby, photoshopped onto her infamous VMA performance from the previous year, was a popular choice). She talked about puking up animals while on ayahuasca in The New York Times. She made raver-inspired “art” with Jeremy Scott that was included at Art Basel in Miami, and then wore giant marijuana leaf earrings to the opening.

As aggressively tone deaf as she was at peak fweakiness, Cyrus’s personal “summer of love” was at least a refreshing take on the standard “child star gone wild” narrative. Whereas Lindsay Lohan, Demi Lovato, and a litany of other teen darlings publicly crashed under the immense pressure to remain celibate, responsible, and drug-free as they transitioned into adulthood, Cyrus leaned into her budding sexuality and openly promoted the use of mind-altering substances. It was radical PR that worked tremendously well on millenials, that seemingly unreachable target audience. She was a living example of the tangle of contradictions that define 21st-century youth. In that way, she was arguably the world’s most authentic pop star.

But now, it seems, Miley Cyrus has retreated. Gone are the confessional Instagram posts, the excessive use of “z”s, the fledgling explorations of queerness. Instead, Miley’s new joint is wearing all white and singing about how much she loves the freakin’ beach. Friends and family close to Cyrus have called her boring new album Younger Now a “return to her roots,” but if her roots only involve twangy platitudes about feeling young and in love, perhaps they’re better left in the past. — ARIELLE GORDON

The year in assault apologies 

Since the blockbuster New York Times report on dozens of sexual assault and harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein, 47 high-profile men— particularly in the entertainment and media industries— have resigned or been fired for sexual misconduct. An additional 26 have been suspended, taken leaves of absence, or experienced other professional repercussions. In the wake of these allegations, a slippery genre of “non-apology-apology” statements has emerged. Seeking to downplay or deflect attention from the allegations, a boilerplate version typically defends the accused by claiming that these actions were once viewed as harmless, or even expected. Weinstein’s statement began, “I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.”

A vague gesture of praise for this “watershed moment” and “all of the brave women coming forward” is also customary. Russell Simmons called it “the birth of a new consciousness about women.” In describing one of his accuser’s version of events as “different than mine,” Simmons also invoked another common refrain. Many men have used hackneyed language to describe how the accusations against them have encouraged “deep reflection.” In a statement read by his co-host Savannah Guthrie live on air, Matt Lauer said, “The last two days have forced me to take a very hard look at my own troubling flaws. It’s been humbling.”

Other statements have been brazenly casual and truly bizarre, such as Mario Batali’s email apology that ended with a holiday recipe for cinnamon rolls, or Garrison Keillor’s, which attempted to excuse his behavior by pointing out that women frequently ask to take selfies with him. In a profanity-laden interview with Rolling Stone, James Toback labeled the accusations against him “too stupid to waste time on.”

The phenomenon of toothless public apologies is nothing new. And certainly, there can be no “ideal” statement of this kind. But these convoluted attempts to obfuscate the truth, shift blame, or shamelessly mock women represented an infuriating, pernicious continuation of the silence and fear-based culture that brought us to this moment of reckoning. — LIZ CANTRELL

Chuck E. Cheese breaks up the (animatronic) band

Kids growing up in the Twin Cities in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s were not exposed to Charles Entertainment Cheese and his brand of restaurant/arcades. We locals had Circus Pizza, which was built on pretty much the same business model as Chuck E. Cheese but subject to none of the licensing agreements. All the basics, nevertheless, were there: mediocre pizza, four-player video games like Turtles in Time and The Simpsons, skee ball games and Whac-A-Moles that paid out tickets patrons could exchange for stickers and plastic combs, and of course, the unsettling animatronic band.

While the members of Circus Pizza’s Rock-afire Explosion were different than Chuck E. Cheese’s Munch’s Make-Believe Band, both were successful in inspiring nightmares in hundreds of thousands of children who attended the restaurants. Whoever had the idea of creating six-foot, anthropomorphized animals with dead, vacant eyes to play covers of top 40 hits for eight year olds wolfing down undercooked, flavorless pies was a mad genius, because for about four years straight every kid I knew wanted to have their birthday parties there. Children just possess a keen, innate appreciation of messed up, awesome stuff, I guess.

Unfortunately, Chuck E. Cheese announced in August that they would be phasing out Munch’s Make-Believe Band at locations across the country to make the restaurants more “adult friendly,” which is weird, because my friends and I once tried to go there when we were stoned and they wouldn’t let us in without a kid. A whole generation of Americans will now be denied the distinct, bizarre memory of watching a guitar-playing robot dog malfunction while a tinny stereo blasts The Vapors’ “Turning Japanese,” but with the lyrics rewritten to be about cheese pizza. RIP. — DREW SALISBURY

The 10 days of Anthony Scaramucci

Like a comet in women’s Oakleys, for a brief week-and-a-half, Anthony Scaramucci burned hot and bright. His official tenure as White House communications director was only six days long, but he informally assumed the role four days earlier than his July 25 start date. By either measure, it was the shortest stint in White House History. (Even Jack Koehler, who was appointed to the role by the Reagan administration but stepped down after news broke that he had been in a Nazi youth group as a child, made it to 11 days.)

Aside from its brevity, Scaramucci’s time representing the White House was marked by catastrophe. Including Scaramucci, four administration officials exited their roles while he worked for the president, beginning with the cursed whipping boy Sean Spicer–who, after months of humiliating treatment from his boss, the press, and late night television, refused to be belittled by a man whose biggest claim to fame was paying $100,000 for a 15-second cameo in an abysmal Oliver Stone sequel. Spicer was followed by Michael Short, who resigned after Scaramucci told Politico he planned to fire the communications staffer, but never actually did it. And finally, after a very public and very messy campaign to undermine chief of staff Reince Priebus, Scaramucci successfully managed to get the former RNC head replaced by General John Kelly, whose first order of business was firing Scaramucci himself.

Nobody, of course, felt very badly for the former financier. His greatest White House legacy will probably be the mental image we all unwillingly conjured of Steve Bannon attempting autofellatio, when Scaramucci mentioned it in an impromptu call to a New Yorker reporter. For that alone–to say nothing of his temper, his Trump boosterism, his horrible nickname, his laughably bad treatment of his (now ex) wife–we’ll never be able to forgive him. — DREW SALISBURY

John Popper, Twitter troll 

There are many fates that can befall an artist who is past their prime creative years. Some slip into obscurity. Others find a home on the nostalgia circuit. Thanks to the magic of social media, a new option has recently emerged: becoming Too Online. Such is the case for Blues Traveler bandleader John Popper, whose three-year-long feud with a random social services worker from Kentucky culminated in 2017 with a doxxing and several suspended Twitter accounts. Forrest Rutherford first appeared on Popper’s radar in 2014, when he tweeted some jokes about Blues Traveler’s VH1 Behind the Music episode, which included an unforgettable detail about Popper once being so obese that he couldn’t masturbate. The singer and harmonica player regularly responds to his fans on Twitter, and sent semi-frequent angry tweets to Rutherford in the ensuing years. This summer, Popper escalated his war, posting Rutherford’s address and aerial photos of his house for his 30,000-plus followers, seemingly encouraging them to harass his unassuming enemy. Popper has since admitted that the entire ordeal was incredibly stupid, but maintains both he and Rutherford are responsible for letting the situation spiral out of control. Never meet your heroes, or start Twitter beef with a ‘90s folk-rock star. — JORDAN FREIMAN

Casey Affleck’s Oscar

At the 2017 Oscars, it didn’t go unnoticed that sexual assault survivor advocate Brie Larson didn’t clap for Casey Affleck when he won an award for his performance in the Kenneth Lonergan drama Manchester by the Sea. She was just as stoic when presenting Affleck with his Oscar. When asked by the press why she was so reserved, Larson has been evasive in her response claiming to have “no memory” of those moments. “I think that whatever it was that I did onstage kind of spoke for itself,” Larson told Vanity Fair.  

She’s right. Larson took home the Best Actress Oscar the previous year for her portrayal of a sexual assault and kidnapping survivor in The Room. She’s also an outspoken advocate for sexual assault survivors and made it a point to individually hug each survivor who accompanied Lady Gaga onstage during her performance of “Til It Happens to You” at the 2016 Academy Awards. In 2010, Affleck settled two sexual harassment claims out of court with women who say he behaved inappropriately towards them while working with him on the the film I’m Still Here. One of Affleck’s accusers said that she awoke to find that he had entered her bed uninvited “wearing only his underwear and a T-shirt” and was “caressing her back.” Handing one of Hollywood’s highest honors to an alleged predator was clearly an unpleasant experience for Larson and a disgraceful one for the industry at large. The same Oscars audience that eagerly applauded acceptance speech takedowns of President Trump clapped just as enthusiastically for a guy accused of sexually harassing his female subordinates.

Affleck is expected to appear as the Best Actress presenter at the 2018 Academy Awards. After the Weinstein reckoning, it will be interesting to see whether he’s received so warmly again. — MAGGIE SEROTA

280 characters

For a little more than a decade, Twitter’s character limit for an individual tweet was 140–an admittedly arbitrary number, but that was the social network’s entire thing. Then, this year, the limit was doubled. Suddenly, everyone’s timeline became an unwieldy mess, as tweets ballooned from two or three lines to seven or eight. Thanks to the relatively small amount of lateral space afforded to any tweet, each thought that took full advantage of the added characters felt like a paragraph to get through. Start adding things like line breaks and embedded images, and a single tweet could easily occupy your entire screen. The rollout was even worse, as it it was selectively applied during a trial run, meaning some users were able to post 280-character tweets while most others were left annoyed and waiting.

Compounding the issue was the decision to allow users to make display names with up to 50 characters. A space once reserved for short puns or, y’know, names, had been turned into yet another arena for unnecessarily long jokes – most of which couldn’t even be seen without clicking through to the user’s profile, taking you away from the flow of tweets from those you were following. Add to that the confusion of a new non-linear timeline, which placed tweets from hours or even days ago at the top of your feed, and the entire site had fundamentally changed. What was once a place for real-time updates and quick jokes became a garbled mess of moronic threads and BREAKING NEWS updates rendered useless by the small problem that they happened 48 hours earlier. Throughout the past, all anybody asked for from Twitter’s powers that be was a better response to harassment and maybe slightly fewer Nazis. Instead, we got this. — JORDAN FREIMAN

Trump’s victories

While many of President Trump’s highest-profile policy efforts have failed (most notably, the repeal of Obamacare and his first attempts at a travel ban), it isn’t as though he hasn’t achieved anything. And considering the amount of recent cable news airtime devoted to a special counsel investigation that may not end in any real repercussions for anyone other than low-level flunkies, those victories haven’t received nearly enough attention. While much of the press has obsessed over every minor development in the Russia story, the Trump administration has rolled back environmental protections and civil rights, and changed the makeup of the nation’s courts.

The president withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord. He cut the size of two national monuments in Utah by about two million acres to make room for more fossil fuel development. His Environmental Protection Agency is dismantling Obama-era initiatives aimed at reducing greenhouse gases and banning drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans. His State Department approved the Keystone Pipeline, which took only a few months to start leaking 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota, just like every protestor knew it would.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has encouraged the prosecution of low-level drug offenses, increased the federal use of the civil asset forfeiture, supported discriminatory voting laws, argued that sexual orientation was not protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and announced his intention to cut off funding to sanctuary cities. The administration also overturned an Obama-era executive decision that provided protections for transgender students in public schools, and is fighting in court to ban trans people from military service. With the end of DACA, another Obama executive order, some 800,000 immigrants who were legally in the United States lost their status, or will lose it when their eligibility runs out. ICE arrests have increased by 30 percent since 2016, as have deportations of unauthorized immigrants already living in the United States.

In the years to come, when Trump’s legislative and executive efforts are inevitably challenged, it will be his judges who have the final word. In addition to his Supreme Court appointee Neil Gorsuch, who fully supported his travel ban, the president has also appointed 19 judges to the federal judiciary so far—more appellate court judges than any of his predecessors ever appointed in their first year. More than anything else, reshaping the courts will likely be this president’s legacy, ensuring his presence is felt long after he leaves, whenever that may be. Happy New Year. — DREW SALISBURY