There’s often sentiment best expressed through art. The experience of parenting is no exception. History is rich with artists voicing the vast gamut of emotions that come with raising a child. We can turn to these works as companions in our own life. They speak to us like mentors, comfort us like friends.
As B and I prepare to navigate through parenthood, I’ve accumulated a playlist of songs on the subject. These are songs about children, not for children (if you’re looking for a children’s playlist, google will find you thousands). Despite the list’s eclecticism in terms of musical style, I’ve seemed to stumble upon an unconscious thread of similarity: purity. Each song eludes to the hope and purity we admire in our young, perhaps because purity is synonymous with adolescence and it’s ever-fleeting as we age. In any case, these are the songs that have been rotating through my iPod in preparation of the big day.
“Dark Side of the Moon” – Chris Staples
This has become the song of our pregnancy. It’s one of those rare transportive songs that, for me, has so clearly defined a specific time in my life. Staples speaks beautifully about life’s revolving door (I’m just replacing a man that came before me/One day the world is going to see/Another man replacing me) and accepts our brevity not with resignation but pragmatic realism.
The purity of the refrain and the candor with which its sung is always an emotional listening experience: “I want to love you/I want to pass it on/I want to give and give until it’s all gone/I want to know you/While we have the time/Because that’s all I got to leave behind.”
If you listen to one song on this list, please, let it be this one.
“Only One” – Kanye West (feat. Paul McCartney)
Those who know me well will tell you about my deep reverence of Kanye West. And while my dissertation on Yeezy proving his genius and widespread cultural influence is yet unwritten, I’ll debate Mr. West’s musical merits to just about anyone who’ll listen. But regardless of your personal feelings about this polarizing figure, I challenge anyone to listen to “Only One” and not feel the naked honesty of this track.
Written from the unique perspective of his mother who passed in 2008, she speaks to and through Kanye about his wife and baby girl North: “I know you’re happy, cause I can see it/So tell the voice inside ya’ head to believe it.” The most emotional moments of the song come near the end when his mother pleas “Tell Nori about me,” and Kanye sings these words repeatedly with heartbreaking sincerity (Nori is their daughter’s nickname).
Kayne always speaks from his heart. Sometimes it gets him in trouble. But more often than not, it creates uncompromising, emotional music rarely paralleled today.
“Que Sera Sera” – Jun Miyake
This is a beautiful, modern interpretation of an American classic written in 1956. To me, what makes this song unique is the blunt, childlike simplicity that a rather heady and philosophical perspective is expressed. It tells a story of a woman reflecting on her life who as a child asked her mother, “What will I be?” The answer, which is also the song’s title and refrain, is “Que Sera, Sera/Whatever will be, will be/The future is not ours to see.”
Simple yet profound. It acknowledges the inevitable lightness of the human experience and accepts it with a pragmatism reminiscent of our first selection “Dark Side of the Moon” by Chris Staples.
And like Staples, Que Sera Sera also eludes to the revolving door or circular nature of life. As the protagonist ages, she sees her own children asking the same question she asked as a child: “What will I be?” And she, like her mother before her and presumably her children after her, responds with that same timeless refrain: “What will be, will be/Que Sera, Sera!”
“Sail to the Moon” – Radiohead
The album Hail to the Thief (2003) represents a band worried about the future – both their future as a group and the world at large. Tom Yorke laments about topical issues like the War on Terror, President Bush, and global warming against a musical backdrop that’s eerily disjointed.
But in the midst of the discord comes Sail to the Moon, a beautiful lullaby-like ballad about Yorke’s then infant son. Against droning piano chords and shifting time signatures, Yorke expresses the hope and potential he sees in his boy: “You’ll build an Ark/And sail us to the moon.” He also warns of the responsibility inherit in power: “Maybe you’ll be President/But know right from wrong.” I’m not yet a parent, but if a child can inspire optimism in Thom Yorke, it must be pretty potent stuff.
“The Youth” – MGMT
As you may’ve seen, the tagline for HypeDad is “staying relevant through fatherhood.” This touches on my desire to keep a finger on the pulse of modern culture both through and throughout raising our child. I believe that parenting doesn’t have to come with a resignation letter. As we age, we can learn more about the evolving world around us through our youth.
Enter MGMT and their a energetic anthem “The Youth.” It touches on the very subject matter described above. While the verses encourage our youth to remain spontaneous and carefree, the chorus calls out our older generations to learn from and live in harmony with our young: “The youth is starting to change/Are you starting to change?/Are you together?”
For the sake of post length, I couldn’t annotate every selection on the list. But whether you’re a parent, expecting, or other, I encourage everyone to explore these songs. As we have heard, children can evoke unparalleled truthfulness about the world. Listen to the entire playlist below or on Spotify here.