The past few months have been the definition of up and down. There have been, and still are, the obvious lows — namely, a pandemic — but also plenty of opportunities for growth; opportunities that each of us has felt and embraced differently. I’ve found myself resorting to music in both good times and bad, hearing messages that I needed to be reminded of or even hear for the first time. This isn’t necessarily a list of what’s been on repeat in my house this summer, but these are songs that spoke to me in ways that I needed.
“Come as You Are” by The New Respects
The New Respects have one of my favorite styles in music, blending throwback rock ‘n' roll, soul and pop into something that only the Nashville-based family quartet can own. “Come As You Are,” an ode to equality, acceptance and love, has found a consistent spot on my playlists this summer. It’s a timeless message, but one that has particularly resonated as the Black Lives Matter movement has sparked conversations about what those ideals mean in the context of race in America.
“Six Feet Apart” by Luke Combs
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Luke Combs’s quarantine anthem echoed the feelings of many of us at the beginning of the pandemic: missing our friends and family, longing for our favorite events and wanting to return to our everyday activities. The ending line of the chorus, “there will be light after dark, someday when we aren’t six feet apart,” perfectly summarized the odd combination of fear, uncertainty and optimism being felt across the country.
“Black Like Me” by Mickey Guyton
In a country music scene that has been, and still is, dominated by white men, Mickey Guyton, a Black woman, became a necessary voice in the genre with “Black Like Me.” Her story is one that needed to be told in country music and one that many listeners, including myself, needed to hear. Guyton’s voice belongs in the ongoing conversations about race in America and it’s one that every person should listen to.
“Daylight - Live From Paris” by Taylor Swift
This has always been one of my favorites from "Lover," but I began to appreciate it a lot more over the past few months. It’s a great reminder that, even if it feels as if the world is going against you, there’s always a reason for hope. I put the live version here because, for me, the sounds and energy of a concert are some of the things I’ve missed the most this summer — and maybe the things I’m most looking forward to getting back to.
“Breathe” from In The Heights, by Mandy Gonzalez
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s other major Broadway hit, "In The Heights," might be my favorite musical soundtrack of all time. The entire album is worth a listen, but “Breathe” has hit a different note for me this summer. Performed by Mandy Gonzalez, who portrays college dropout Nina Rosario, “Breathe” shows Nina’s struggles to admit that her college dreams didn’t turn out the way she and her family imagined. This song, when put into the context of the full musical, is a beautiful story of fighting through fear and discovering the different ways in which self-worth can be found. Oh, and "In The Heights" is getting a film adaptation in 2021, so there’s some more motivation to listen.