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What's Making Us Happy: A guide to your weekend viewing and listening

Tia Nomore stars in <em>Earth Mama </em>as Gia, a single, pregnant mother of two, working to reclaim her children from foster care.
Tia Nomore stars in Earth Mama as Gia, a single, pregnant mother of two, working to reclaim her children from foster care.

This week we said goodbye to Tony Bennett, we looked ahead to a very different Comic-Con, and we braced ourselves for Barbenheimer.

Here's what the NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour crew was paying attention to — and what you should check out this weekend.

Earth Mama

Earth Mama is a small, quiet indie film directed bySavanah Leaf. She is a former Olympian turned filmmaker and it's her debut feature. She shot and set this in the Bay. It stars Tia Nomore as Gia, who's this young, single, pregnant woman trying to regain custody of her two children. Tia is a local Bay Area artist — this is her first acting role and she is fantastic in this part. She's one of those actors who really kind of reels you in with just the intensity of her face.

This movie also features the great Erika Alexander from Living Single, and then Doechii, the rapper, plays a small role as one of Gia's friends. It's a really beautiful and thoughtful meditation on motherhood and the way that the government and local systems prey upon and make life harder for single, Black women. — Aisha Harris

The "Life Has Been Lifing" episode of the Vibe Check podcast

/ Vibe Check
Vibe Check

Our friend and former NPR host Sam Sanders is now in a new job – he has a show for Vulture,Into It,and a showwith his friends, Saeed Jones and Zach Stafford called Vibe Check. They had an episode recently talking about grief following the death of Sam's mother. I want to highlight not just how beautiful that episode is, but how they have found a way to have it be very intimate among the three of them, but also intensely emotionally relevant to lots and lots of people. If you think about grief, if you are dealing with grief, if you are worried about dealing with grief — I really recommend this episode and the show in general. — Linda Holmes

Aqua's Aquarium album, including the song "Doctor Jones"

I'm a walking, talking cliché. I can't help it. But what made me really happy in anticipation ofthe Barbie movie this week was the 1997 album called Aquarium by the Danish band Aqua. (Which, fun fact, was the first cassette I bought — I think it was 125 rupees, which was a fortune back then.) It's the album with the classic "Barbie Girl" song. I re-listened to that album and I'd say there are quite a few bangers. "Dr. Jones" is my song on that album. — Bedatri D. Choudhury

The Japanese House's In the End It Always Does album

/ The Japanese House
The Japanese House

This is my favorite album of this summer so far. It's by an artist named Amber Bain who records under the name The Japanese House. And she plays this kind of moody, electropop music, kind of in the vein of like, the softer side of the band MUNA. It's called In the End It Always Does, and it's got this mix of soft, electropop bangers and then these gauzy, beautiful ballads that are just gorgeous. I think this record gets better and better as it goes along. I've just been listening to it over and over again and couldn't recommend it more. — Stephen Thompson

More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter

by Linda Holmes

James Poniewozik wrote a terrific piece for The New York Times about the ways in which, as he puts it, we are all background actors.

It's easy to understand why many people might have thought GWAR at NPR's Tiny Desk was extremely unlikely. But thanks to the long efforts of NPR Music's Lars Gotrich, it happened. (Caution: contains explicit ... visuals and ideas and so forth.)

I was fascinated this week by the developing story of the trimmed trees by some of the WGA/SAG-AFTRA picket lines.

Beth Noveyadapted the Pop Culture Happy Hour segment "What's Making Us Happy" for the Web. If you like these suggestions, consider signing up for our newsletter to get recommendations every week. And listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit

Bedatri D. Choudhury
Aisha Harris
Aisha Harris is a host of Pop Culture Happy Hour.
Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.
Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)