I’ve been listening to a lot of Top 40 radio this month, and letting the folk mind fall fallow for a bit – an unusual trend, and one which has kept me far from the fodder which we usually celebrate here at Cover Lay Down. But something about the mindless beats and shallow surfaces of pop serve the soul lightly without disturbing the quiet, contemplative depths that I have come to depend on for sanity and solace, focus and function.
As I noted at the end of August, real life is a balancing act right now. Afterschool life as smalltown school board chair takes focus and energy; so does taking on the tormented role of Judge Turpin in our local production of Sweeney Todd. My Media Literacy class takes preparation and poise; my English class of repeat ninth graders takes careful management both in and out of the classroom; self-evaluation takes real time, and I have joined the leadership team in the failing inner-city high school where I teach, the better to ply my management skills on behalf of school and students as we try to turn ourselves around in the face of worsening test scores and drop-out rates.
The trifecta of work, theater, and community service to which I commit myself take almost every minute of my day and every ounce of my best thinking; it’s worthy work, but constant, and it leaves me weary. I have taken to an earlier bedtime out of sheer desperation, and the loss of those evening hours in which I once blogged have meant more work and less play overall.
But playing pop in the car is also good parenting, in its way. At 11 and 8, my daughters are not naturally popular, and their lack of familiarity with the cultural artifacts of their peers limits their access to tween culture, and to the carriers of that culture that surround them in school. Singing along to the radio brings us closer, but it also reinforces a lesson we have struggled with as they have come to outgrow the kidfolk we used to share: though we believe that confident ownership of one’s own unique tastes and talents is the ultimate goal for self-realization, as a teacher of media and culture, I cannot help but acknowledge that music and style are the ultimate markers of peer acceptance in the middle school years; learning their ways provides the same inroads into social recognition for my daughters that coverage does for the artists and folk fans we have long served on these pages.
And so, today, although I am not ready to commit to the next feature just yet, my children and I scavenge the streams together to net a core sample of acoustified pop songbooks, a snapshot of the times that allows us to check in without dipping too deep into the pool. Nothing deep, just a skitter across the surface, at the fine line between authenticity and shimmer, of lingering summersongs of heat and beat, the heartfelt ballads of the young and still-innocent, the darker claims to fame and heartache which populate the radio dial – all the stuff and fluff that the DJs are playing to our kids this week, folked up a bit but still eminently within the acoustic pop range, with vamped vocals and catchy chords enough to share with even the most jaded of pre-tweens.
Best wishes for the weeks ahead; know that I am thinking fondly of this space, and that we will return in force when balance has been reached. In the meantime, here’s a playlist vetted by the elderchild, for those unafraid to sample the shallow waters, and find joy and solace in their sweetness and light.
Walk Off The Earth: Royals (orig. Lorde)
Daniela Andrade w/ New Heights: Just Give Me A Reason (orig. Pink ft. Nate Ruess)
Daniela Andrade: The A Team (orig. Ed Sheeran)
Jasmine Thompson & Gerald Ko: Everything Has Changed (orig. Taylor Swift ft. Ed Sheeran)
Jason Levy: I Need Your Love (orig. Calvin Harris ft. Ellie Goulding)
Jordan Heller: Safe and Sound (orig. Capital Cities)
Tori Kelly & Scott Hoying: Roar (orig. Katy Perry)
Idiots Lantern: Brave (orig. Sara Bareilles)
Hollywood Ending: Mirror (orig. Justin Timberlake)
Boyce Avenue ft. Fifth Harmony: When I Was Your Man (orig. Bruno Mars)
Travis Flynn and DaangMel: Love Somebody (orig. Maroon 5)
Laura Elizabeth Hughes: Summertime Sadness (orig. Lana Del Ray)
Brian Autumn: Stay (orig. Rihanna ft. Mikky Ekko)
Jake Coco & Corey Gray: Royals (orig. Lorde)
The Gregory Brothers: Wrecking Ball (orig. Miley Cyrus)
Lindsay Stirling and Pentatonix: Radioactive (orig. Imagine Dragons)