'Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping' nails the bumbling woke bae


Imagine This Is Spinal Tap updated for the age of Snapchat. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, out in theaters Friday, is a mockumentary spoof of the music industry from the Lonely Island comedy trio. Andy Samberg‘s dim but likable Conner4Real is a mega-popular recording artist, a broad pastiche of the likes of Justin Bieber, Justin Timberlake, and Kanye West. The man-boy king employs 100 producers to work on 17 tracks and a personal “perspective manipulator”—naturally, a small man who stands next to Conner to make him look taller.

At 86 minutes, Popstar is a short movie, though it can feel more like a very, very long Saturday Night Live digital short—particularly given that there’s a new celebrity cameo roughly every 90 seconds. But the high notes are so high they might as well be Connor’s own falsetto: like the pop star’s Bieber-esque public meltdown, which crescendoes in a fistfight with Martin Sheen, or Adam Levine grinding up on his own hologram in one of the film’s bonkers concert sequences.

One of the movie’s most insightful riffs on the state of contemporary pop music comes in the form of Conner’s Macklemore moment. “Equal Rights,” the first single off his horribly reviewed new album (instead of a star rating, Rolling Stone gives the record one poop emoji) is a gay anthem that literally no one asked for. Conner, you see, has written a song advocating for the legalization of same-sex marriage… after same-sex marriage has already been legalized. In an echo of “Same Love,” Connor sings: “I’m not gay / But if I were / I would want equal rights.”

The deeply misguided video for “Equal Rights,” which features Pink, depicts gay couples getting married under rainbow flags, but quickly devolves into “no homo” frat-boy anxiety on Conner’s part. He begins to rap “not gay!” between every verse, reasserting his own heterosexuality with random references to bro-y touchstones like gym socks, hot wings, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

The “Equal Rights” gag goes on a little long, which, if anything, only makes it a more spot-on parody of its source material. It’s both excruciatingly earnest and glaringly tone-deaf—a welcome reminder that (just saying!) rich, white, straight, cis-gendered male voices should not feel entitled to position themselves as the mouthpieces for marginalized groups of people, especially when they’re as exuberantly, spectacularly misinformed as Sandberg’s Conner.

Of course, “Equal Rights” is pure farce, but it doesn’t stray too far from reality. Let this be a lesson to you, would-be woke baes: An empty social justice “message” does not a hit single make. We can smell your thirst.

Molly Fitzpatrick is senior editor of Fusion’s Pop & Culture section. Her interests include movies about movies, TV shows about TV shows, and movies about TV shows, but not so much TV shows about movies.

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