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No. 1 Meghan Trainor, Title
The recent Grammy nominee delivers on her debut album
Meghan Trainor dominated the pop scene last year with her catchy body anthem “All About That Bass.” Luckily the 21-year-old’s debut LP is packed with the same retro bubblegum that shot “Bass” to the top of the charts and nabbed her two Grammy nods. Title continues to tap into the millennial zeitgeist: Whether she is reliving post-hookup frenzy on “Walkashame,” drunk-texting on “3am” or sharing her standards for a man on the adorable, radio-ready title track and “Dear Future Husband,” Trainor is honest about her partying and growing pains. On this 15-song collection, the Nashville-based artist—who writes on each track and even snagged John Legend as a guest on “Like I’m Gonna Lose You”—proves she’s an It girl with staying power. These playful, doo-wop-tinged jams will keep you shimmying and singing long after the “Bass” buzz has faded.
No. 2 Togetherness
Mark Duplass and Melanie Lynskey play a couple (with kids) whose sex life has less rev than a Segway. Domestic routine goes out the window with the arrival of his schlubby buddy (Steve Zissis) and her romantically unstable sister (Amanda Peet). It’s a sitcom setup, but the bedroom issues are depicted with a farcical sharpness that cuts deep and wounds. (HBO, Jan. 11, 9:30 p.m.)
No. 3 Girls
Lena Dunham’s hit explores the world beyond Brooklyn
In its new season, Dunham’s millennial buzzfest about four young sorta-career women has sprung back to life: Its emotional consistency and storytelling grasp equal that classic first year. Hannah (Dunham) has enrolled in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where her fiction is dissed by classmates. Her friends back home continue to search for meaning but with more focus and pathos. They are getting older, wiser—and sadder. (HBO, Jan. 11, 9 p.m.)
No. 4 Match
Patrick Stewart gives a rippingly theatrical performance, equal parts flamboyance and gravity, as a ballet instructor who revels in his students. (“Arms loose! We’re not making pizza!”) Then a single day shatters his poise. (In limited theatrical release Jan. 14, R)
No. 5 Jazmine Sullivan, Reality Show
Jazmine Sullivan broke out on the soul scene in 2008 with the hit “Bust Your Windows” (remember Amber Riley’s Glee cover?), and “Dumb”—the lead single off her first album in four years—serves as a worthy follow-up. The eight-time Grammy nominee puts her husky pipes on display during songs of romance (“Forever Don’t Last”) and fame (“Mascara”).
No. 6 Gone Girl
Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike (both great) play a Manhattan couple, as casually glamorous as catalog models, forced to move to a depressed Midwest town. She vanishes, he’s the suspect, and through some fearlessly daring twists—disruptions, really—we realize that “till death do us part” can also be a death sentence. (Jan. 13)
No. 7 The Best New Books
A charming memoir about weight loss and self-discovery, plus two smart, intricately plotted thrillers
Andie Mitchell – It Was Me All Along
If there’s anyone who knows not to judge a book by its cover, it’s Andie Mitchell. Now a healthy 150 lbs., she spent her first two decades as “the fat girl” (268 lbs. at her heaviest), always wishing the world didn’t notice her girth first. But the cover of her new memoir is an exception: Her story of self-transformation is every bit as winning as that shot of her as a gap-toothed kid. The daughter of an alcoholic, overweight dad, Mitchell, now 29, grew up bingeing on sweets for comfort, a habit that worsened after her father died when she was 12. Diet and punishing exercise changed her shape in her 20s, but depression followed—until she came to terms with the losses of her childhood. Now a food blogger, she’s traded extremes for moderation, which means her beloved sour cream fudge cake (recipe included) isn’t off-limits. Growing up heavy had its pluses: “I developed a personality first.” It’s paying off nicely.
BOOK OF THE WEEK
Paula Hawkins – The Girl on the Train
Gone Girl fans will devour this psychological thriller narrated by three deluded women. Rachel plots revenge on Anna, who ran off with Rachel’s husband. Anna will do anything to protect her new marriage. Married Megan lies to her therapist, the chief suspect when Megan disappears. Hawkins’s debut ends with a twist that no one—least of all its victims—could have seen coming.
Greer Macallister – The Magician’s Lie
Did she or didn’t she? That’s the question at the heart of this richly imagined thriller set in 1905. Ada Bates, an illusionist famous for sawing men in half onstage, is accused of murder when a body is found jammed into her trick box. As a lawman tries to separate truth from illusion, Ada reveals a secret life of betrayal, love and—yes—magic.
No. 8 The Gambler
Mark Wahlberg in a risky role
Mark Wahlberg may never escape certain parameters as an actor—Andy Samberg’s “Mark Wahlberg Talks to Animals” will stick forever—but here he plays an English professor with a gambling problem, and he’s on the money: tortured, sweatily tense, but still with that distinctive note of inexpressive toughness. Nice job. (R)
No. 9 Episodes
Matt LeBlanc is just as silvery a fox as George Clooney, except he’d probably be happier wiping rib sauce off his fingers than improving the world. In the new season of this light Hollywood send-up, he economizes after losing half his fortune. He starts by firing the man who rakes his private beach. (Showtime, Jan. 11, 10:30 p.m.)
No. 10 @LauraBenanti
The singer-actress, a beloved stage performer now on ABC’s Nashville, tweets with the pure-heartedness of a Broadway ingenue who only recently made the transition from girl next door. Humor, no snark—and she just taught her 90-year-old grandmother FaceTime!
No. 11 Red Menace of the Red Carpet!
Kathy Griffin, replacing the late Joan Rivers on Fashion Police, deserves her new tiara
As a comedian, Griffin has hewed close to Rivers: She advanced by putting herself down in the most self-aggrandizing way possible (Bravo’s My Life on the D-List); she proudly displays the mask of various cosmetic procedures; and she loves vulgarity (check out YouTube clips of her appearances with Anderson Cooper). She’ll come out slinging. (E!, Jan. 12, 9 p.m.)
No. 12 Ella Henderson, Chapter One
A new year, and another soaring, heartbreaking voice from Britain. If 2014 was the year of Sam Smith, Henderson, a former contestant on Britain’s The X Factor, could be the breakout of 2015. Her can’t-miss debut (which already topped U.K. charts) is filled with stunners like “Ghost” and “Yours.” (Jan. 13)