Annual Wrap! Your Top 12 Hottest Pop Culture Trends in Order That Defined 2023

Published 12/31/2023, 2:25 AM EST

via Imago

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.” This iconic line from 1986’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off pretty much sums up the daily hoopla and hush-bush of modernity that has led one more year, a whole 365 days, to come and pass by in the blink of an eye. As 2023 draws the curtains upon itself, a look down at the months that ebbed and flew by would give us a glimpse of the highlights that went down this remarkably eventful year.

As major developments took place on the global stage, pop culture went through another round of metamorphosis and documented the living examples of change. From the heights of celebrities leading the way to a slew of cultural exchanges, here are the top twelve pop culture moments that defined 2023.

1. Prince Harry’s Spare and the life of Britney Spears

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The dawn of the year took an explosive turn as Prince Harry debuted his memoir, Spare, on January 10, 2023. Laden with massive bombshells, the 416-page long book shook the very core of royal quarters as no one, not even King Charles III, remained spared from the estranged royal’s claims. From charges of Prince William leaping at him to Kate Middleton making Meghan Markle cry, the book very well brought relations between the two factions to an all-time low, diminishing hopes of any reconciliation.

In sharp contrast, months later, on October 24, Britney Spears went on to launch her own memoir – The Woman in Me. Selling over a million copies and landing just behind Spare in total volume, the 288-page book documented the singer’s life. Riveting stories surrounding her rise to fame, familial troubles, and conservatorship found widespread resonance, leading to plans for the possible release of a second volume in 2024.

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2. Rihanna’s Super Bowl surprise guest

Marking her first live performance in five years, Rihanna took to the stage at the Super Bowl LVII 2023. The spectacle and sheer hype around the singer brought in about 121 million viewers, making it the most-watched Super Bowl halftime show of all time. Wearing a red silk Loewe catsuit, the $1.4 billion net-worth pop star indirectly announced her second pregnancy silently yet ever so gallantly. Making gestures to hint at the news, the revelation surprised not only the viewers but her stage dancers as well.

Regardless, a giant floating stage, the singer opened with ‘B*tch Better Have My Money’. Soon after, she ignited a sheer meltdown craze as ‘Only Girl (in the World)’, ‘Work’, and ‘Rude Boy’ received glorious renditions by her, accompanied by a brilliant light show. Although she claimed the revelation to be unintentional, the waves had already hit the harbor.

3. Met Gala 2023’s iconic cockroach 

On May 1, 2023, the invite-only and about $50,000 to $275,00 per ticket event unfolded at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Little did anyone know that a secret guest lay firm in its plans to soak in all the limelight. Minutes before Rihanna and A$AP Rocky marked their red carpet appearance at the Met Gala, all cameras panned and flashes shuttered to capture all but one cockroach. The uninvited member made a flurry of trips up and down the stairs, even occasionally stopping to pose for photos.

Unfazed even as a photographer tried to stomp it with his feet, the roach went viral. The live stream hype to witness that one-of-a-kind moment also marked a temporary spike in traffic. However, unlike other guests who went in to dine for luxuries, the little guy suffered a tragic end. While unclear on the culprit’s whereabouts, the poor pest lay plastered dead on the prestigious red carpet soon after.

4. Beyoncé’s Renaissance of superstardom

On May 10, 2023, in Stockholm, Sweden, Beyoncé kick-started her concert tour for her seventh studio album, ‘Renaissance’. The months-long star-studded event would soon go on to cement itself as one of the biggest spectacles of the year, as well as an iconic moment in the music industry as a whole. Coming in close to three hours each, the 56-show event amassed a staggering revenue of close to $579.8 million, coming in as the seventh highest-grossing tour of all time.

The concerts remained a big draw with the likes of Meghan Markle, Kim Kardashian, Zendaya, Tom Holland, Justin Bieber, and Jeff Bezos marking their presence. The tour would hold one more surprise as Queen Bey announced the worldwide release of her Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé concert movie. Raking in close to $33.5 million from the screenings, the ‘Halo’ singer laid another feather to her beaming cap.

5. The beginning of the fall of the MCU

“I am Iron Man”. The iconic 2008 line that birthed the MCU also marked a fateful tryst down its path following 2019’s Avengers: Endgame. With a slew of disappointing box office and critical reception to many of its last few projects, Marvel Studios took a bullet with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. A colossal failure to hype up its next big bad with Kang, the Kevin Feige-led team hit the panic button not much later following the November release of The Marvels.

In the meantime, rising up the charts, came Sony’s spiderverse. The fluid animation and moving story behind Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse landed it at the top of some of the best movies ever produced and a worthy contender for the Oscars. Following its reception, and the diminishing hype for comic book movies, Marvel Studios may hit DCEU lows unless a miracle creative genius lands its way; hint: Deadpool 3.

6. War of text: Threads vs. X

A lot of modern interactions, news, and first-hand exclusives break on social media first. Specifically on Twitter. However, on July 5, Mark Zuckerberg decided he had watched the reign of Elon Musk enough and rolled out Threads. Touted as the closest rival and a near clone of X, aka Twitter, the app grew mercurially. Surpassing 1 million users in just under an hour, the app shifted the social media axis. However, the reign of Meta did not last long.

Threads lacked a proper spine. Although X itself did change under Musk, its underlying features such as hashtags, discover, and algorithms made it the sole source of breaking news. Zuckerberg did all he could to make his boat stay afloat, but the bare-bones app lacking even a messaging feature frizzled out. By the end of the quarter, Threads had already lost about 82% of its active user base and its appeal now remains all but over.

7. The Barbenheimer craze

July 21, 2023, marked the clash of two box office behemoths of vastly different tones. Leading the charge on the biopic side, Christopher Nolan barged in with his acclaim and Oppenheimer. On the other side, Margot Robbie remained defiant and relentless in her pursuit of Barbie to release on that very day itself. The resulting collective hype summed itself up as ‘Barbenheimer’ and, with rabid meme-fests, debates, and interviews centered around it, sealed a place in the pop culture lexicon.

Narrating the tale of the first-ever atomic bomb drop, Oppenheimer and its tale of Nolan’s creative genius stood polar opposite to the pink, sparkling, and fourth-wall-breaking Mattel doll story of Barbie. However, while the first went on to collect over $912 million, the Greta Gerwig flick made history as the highest-grossing woman-directed movie with a haul of $1.4 billion. Meanwhile, as many opted to watch both movies on the same day, businesses beamed on that summer day.

8. A sphere overlooking Las Vegas

Standing tall, err, round, and overlooking the Las Vegas skyline, The Sphere boasts of being the world’s largest concert venue, spherical building, biggest cinema, and largest screen. Costing over $2.3 billion, the iconic landscape addition remains 366 feet tall and 516 feet wide. With a seating capacity of 10,000 seats and standing room for 20,000 people, the sphere took the world by storm. As videos emerged online of a giant eyeball looking at the skies or a giant emoji staring through hotel doors, the landmark became as iconic as debatable.

Adorned with over 1.2 million LED pucks, the sphere opened to the public on September 29, 2023. For the opening act, Irish rock band U2 did the honors, after which there lay absolutely no limits to what would come up that screen.

9. Jada Pinkett Smith drops a Will Smith bombshell

On October 17, 2023, Jada Pinkett Smith dropped her memoir, Worthy. However, the cat was already outside the box days before it. Taking to the public, the Madagascar actress revealed a slew of updates on her relationship with Will Smith. For starters, she narrated her marriage ordeal, which had led to the couple staying separate for the past seven years. The bombshell, being just the tip of the iceberg, the floodgates opened as a barrage of such claims landed ashore.

From The Red Table Talk show host’s “entanglement”  to discussions on August Alsina, nothing remained private anymore. Furthermore, claims that she stood as dumbfounded as any when Smith smacked Chris Rock at the Oscars 2022 stage, landed much scrutiny as well as support. The divisive affair sent shockwaves through Hollywood’s front lines as one of its biggest power couples now lay split miles across.

10. Taylor Swift – An era of phenomenons

On 13 September 2023, Taylor Swift charted a massive win at the MTV Video Music Awards as she collected the second-highest number of wins with nine trophies. However, that glory would hardly be her biggest that month, let alone the year. Commenced on 17 March in Glendale, the Eras Tour landed the 34-year-old singer the sheer heights of superstardom. The following legs of the concerts, as well as a concert movie of the same in October, meant that the ‘Blank Space’ singer had now successfully entered the billionaire club at $1.1 billion net worth.

Not done yet, the singer still has about a year of touring ahead of her before the Eras Tour comes to a close. Expected to rake in over $4 billion by its end, the concerts may install Taylor Swift at the top of the music pedestal. Finally, with all eyes on her romance with Travis Kelce, the singer remains the center of attraction and keeps boosting NFL viewership numbers now and then with her appearances.

11. The great Kanye West comeback

In the 50th year of hip-hop, one of its most influential rappers, Kanye West, made a comeback to the stage. After nearly a year of remaining behind the scenes and months of hopping borders, the singer finally dropped his album in the form of ‘Vultures’. The mega collaboration alongside Ty Dolla $ign signaled a turning over of fortunes as the ‘Flashing Lights’ singer took brave steps to a makeover, starting with an apology.

Boasting a catalog of rappers such as Metro Boomin, Lil Durk, and, of course, Ty Dolla $ign, the upcoming album may just as well land to be Ye’s best yet. However, a string of disappointing postponements plagued the release, and days after its pre-save listing on Apple Music, the musical foray received a takedown. As of now, Kanye West has reportedly taken to fine-tuning ‘Vultures’ before its final flight and has kept himself busy recording.

12. North West vs. Adonis

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A final mark to end the year on a cliffhanger came in the form of Kanye West’s eldest daughter, North West, marking her proper rap album debut during the 12th December Kanye West rave. Taking to the stage, the 10-year-old, announced “It’s your bestie, miss miss Westie”. Credited alongside James Blake in Vultures’ ‘You Don’t Want’, the confident show by West Jr. called for a direct showdown opposite Drake’s son, Adonis Graham.

The six-year-old kid of the rapper took beside his father to sing his debut song ‘My Man Freestyle’ in October 2023, on his birthday. Cowritten and produced by Toronto rapper Lil Esso, the appearance had drawn widespread acclaim from many A-listers. Following West’s stage debut, calls grew to see who among the rival rapper kids would steal the show in the coming future.

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Regardless, in hours, 2023 would close and 2024 would write its own story, yet a piece of history lies here. What are your reactions to this list of the top 12 most iconic pop culture moments from 2023? Let us know in the comments below.

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Imteshal Karim

850 articles

Imteshal Karim is a Hollywood News reporter at NetflixJunkie. With a penchant for writing in multiple forms, he is a published writer with his works published in anthologies. A star at his college’s writing competitions, he loves telling a good story and hopes to tell impactful ones about the unexplored side of the Entertainment industry.

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