Who’s having a good week? Who’s having a bad one?
Every week we track the highs, lows and everything in between. We give you … What’s Up? What’s Down?
Comedian-turned-podcast-multi-millionaire Joe Rogan has never been a stranger to controversy.
Spotify knew this when it bought the exclusive rights to distribute his podcast for $100 million two years ago. The streaming platform came under fire — including from its own employees — in 2020 when Rogan invited conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on his show, and it ended up removing more than 40 episodes from Rogan’s catalog to appease critics’ concerns about misinformation.
Even just this month, almost 300 “scientists, physicians, professors, doctors, and healthcare workers” wrote an open letter to the company, demanding Rogan’s de-platforming over his Covid-19 skepticism.
But never until this week has Spotify had to choose between its flagship podcast and a best-selling artist. Rock legend Neil Young issued an ultimatum to Spotify on Wednesday, saying that the platform could host his music or Rogan’s podcast, but not both.
Spotify chose Rogan — an easy call from a business standpoint, given that his podcast commands a minimum $1 million ad spend — choosing to part with Young’s catalog rather than alienate Rogan’s massive audience.
That decision isn’t just rankling fans of Neil Young, it’s hurting Spotify’s credibility with Rogan’s many, many detractors. The last thing the company needs is to be seen taking sides on a culture war issue, but it’s getting harder for Spotify to stand by the Joe Rogan Experience without having to answer for its content.
There’s no indication that Spotify will change course yet, and it seems to be waiting for this all to blow over. But for the time being, Spotify is trending down.
When the iconic metal band heard that Los Angeles street performer Sheriff Drumman lost his drum kit in a burglary last month, they knew they had to make it right. And so on Tuesday night, a rep for Metallica met with Drumman in Hollywood to present a gift, courtesy of the band: a brand-new kit.
Drumman was thrilled, and Metallica said on Twitter they’re always happy to help out a fellow artist who’s fallen on hard times. They seem to mean it, too, because they don’t appear to be promoting a tour or an album right now.
Metallica, probably best known outside the studio for its controversial takedown of streaming service Napster, doesn’t exactly have a warm and fuzzy public image. This display of genuine kindness may be a bit off-brand, but it’s certainly good news.
This week, Metallica is trending up.
The entertainment juggernaut was forced into unfamiliar territory this week, playing damage control mode after actor Peter Dinklage took aim at its planned live-action remake of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
The Game of Thrones alum called the fairy tale, best known to modern audiences from Disney’s 1937 animated rendition, a “f—ing backward story about seven dwarfs living in a cave together.” He wondered why the studio was patting itself on the back for casting a Latina actress in the title role while saying nothing about the story’s portrayal of people with dwarfism.
Caught unaware, Disney was forced to issue something of an apology for its silence on the matter. The company promised to take a “different approach with these seven characters” and claimed it had been “consulting with members of the dwarfism community” all along.
Adding insult to injury, the studio recently debuted a new look for Minnie Mouse, which was not only widely panned but also tone-deaf, given the context of Dinklage’s well-reasoned critique.
It’s unusual to see Disney flailing, given it usually has airtight control of its public image, but this week, they lost the magic. Disney is trending down.
UP: KOBE BRYANT
To commemorate the tragic 2020 helicopter crash that killed the NBA legend, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others two years ago this week, sculptor Dan Medina unveiled a statue at the site of the accident.
The 160-pound bronze sculpture depicts Kobe in his Los Angeles Lakers uniform with his arm around Gianna, who’s carrying a basketball. Medina set the statue up early on Wednesday and it stood guard over the crash site until late that night.
While officials have said there are no plans for a permanent memorial at the crash site itself, Medina said he hopes to find a long-term home for a smaller version of the statue in LA.
It’s a poignant reminder of the basketball star’s tragic and sudden death, which feels now like a distant memory. But even in the tumult of the last two years, Kobe Bryant — as an athlete and as a father — hasn’t been forgotten. This week, he’s trending up.
Crypto’s most famous coin enjoyed an all-time high last November when it was selling for almost $70,000 a pop, but it’s been on the backslide ever since, losing over 20 percent of its value since the start of the new year.
Things came to a head this week when Bitcoin fell to just around $35,000 per — about 50 percent of what it had been worth a few short weeks before.
There is speculation among media observers that crypto’s precipitous fall — which has also affected alternative currencies like Ethereum, to varying extents — may be because the Federal Reserve is planning to rapidly unwind its pandemic-era stimulus.
At any rate, Bitcoin has enjoyed a reputation as the more stable investment choice in crypto finance, and its sharp drop signals uncertainty about its future. This week, it’s very literally trending down.
UP: LGBTQ CATHOLICS
The Catholic Church isn’t generally known for its inclusion and tolerance for queer people, but there were some encouraging signs from the ecclesiastical world this week for LGBTQ keepers of the faith.
First, Pope Francis said — seemingly unprompted, during unscripted remarks on Wednesday — that Catholic parents shouldn’t “condemn” their children for their sexuality. This, after the pontiff recently embraced civil unions for same-sex couples, and championed American nun Jeannine Gramick for her outreach to LGBTQ Catholics
Then, more than 120 German Catholic priests and clergy members came out as gay to call for reform within the church’s doctrine, which currently still holds that homosexuality is “intrinsically disordered.”
There’s a long way to go, but queer Catholics can take comfort in the small victories that seem to keep coming these days, because this week, they’re trending up.
DOWN: RFK JR.
The nephew of President John F. Kennedy had a reputation for loudly supporting anti-vaxx causes well before the Covid-19 pandemic kicked off in 2020.
But his advocacy drew more outrage than usual this week, when he compared the plight of vaccine skeptics in America to that of Jews in Nazi Germany at a rally in Washington, D.C. on Sunday.
“Even in Hitler[‘s] Germany, you could, you could cross the Alps into Switzerland. You could hide in an attic, like Anne Frank did,” he said, drawing condemnation from everyone from the Holocaust Musuem to his own wife, actress Cheryl Hines.
Bobby Junior eventually backpedaled and issued a half-apology on Twitter, writing that “To the extent my remarks caused hurt, I am truly and deeply sorry.”
But it was a dumb thing to say, he got embarrassed by his own wife, and now he looks spineless even to the anti-vaxx crowd he’s a part of. The Kennedy curse is alive and well, and this week, it’s RFK Jr.’s problem.
UP: STEPHANIE RUHLE
The long-time MSNBC host was announced as Brian Williams’ replacement, a change that will become effective sometime next year when Williams retires.
Ruhle will take over Williams’ late-night news roundup The Eleventh Hour, which was invented out of thin air when he was dumped from his perch at NBC’s Nightly News for lying. Her current 9 a.m. time slot on the cable news network will be rolled over into another hour of Morning Joe, MSNBC’s early morning staple.
A lifelong investment banker and ally to big finance, Ruhle is unlikely to rock the boat when she finally takes the reins from Williams next year.
That said, a promotion is always good news, so Ruhle is trending up.
The Grammy-winning artist was forced to indefinitely postpone two Las Vegas shows this week after tearfully admitting on Instagram that her team and the venue just wouldn’t be ready in time for the concerts.
Some fans had reportedly paid as much as $26,000 for scalped tickets and many said they had taken time off work and secured travel accommodations for the shows — but since the cancellation was so last-minute, it will be difficult for many fans to get a full refund for airfare and lodging.
What’s more, Adele’s Vegas residency has been plagued by rumors of backstage drama. Earlier this week, reports emerged that the singer and her set designer have had “explosive” disagreements over how the shows should look, leading to a breakdown in communication that might have contributed to the delay.
Adele’s got a lot of good will from fans and the general public, but fans aren’t too happy right now. This week, she’s trending down.
UP: DON’T LOOK UP
Comedic director Adam McKay has come a long way since Step Brothers.
In his latest offering for Netflix, Don’t Look Up, McKay takes a satirical stab at the media and political narratives surrounding climate change, which is ever-so-subtly embodied by a giant looming comet that is sure to destroy all life on earth.
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio alongside Jennifier Lawrence, Don’t Look Up, was immediately well-received by critics. But this week we learned that audiences were pretty pleased, as well. Citing their own internal data, Netflix said the movie had the second-best debut week of any original film in the platform’s history.
McKay is back for the first time since 2018’s Vice, and he’s got something to show for it, because Don’t Look Up is trending up.
See you next week for What’s Up? What’s Down?