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Music Monday: “Springsteen” – Eric Church

I don’t hate Country music.

I don’t think that I ever did. In fact, I had not consciously formed much of an opinion of it at all given my scant signposts of Patsy Cline, Garth Brooks, and Shania Twain.

However, a thing I’ve learned about being an adult is that sometimes the unconscious – both your own and the collective – decides something on your behalf, and that determination lingers in your mind in the place of an actual decision until you realize you’ve started making other decisions based on it.

Case and point: Country music. I don’t hate it. Yet, from absorbing a “my truck” here and a “my woman” there from songs playing in the background of life, I was passively assuming I hated country music. People at Smash Fantastic shows would request country songs from time to time and I would selectively ignore them. When Ashley gently suggested that it was finally time for us to learn a few country songs for the band, my reflexive response was, “UGH, NOT COUNTRY MUSIC.”

Despite that, I love to please a crowd, so I looked up a few of the artists that had been shouted in our direction. One was Eric Church. I fired up iTunes and YouTube to see what his most popular song was and they came back with a resounding answer of “Springsteen,” from Church’s third album, Chief.

Fast forward six months and “Springsteen” is AKA my favorite cover song to sing and my toddler’s bedtime song and generally just a fucking masterclass in songwriting.

(Advance to :24 to get to the beginning of the song.)

To get to that realization I had to stop hearing the twang in Church’s voice, because it was activating that unconscious bias of “UGH, NOT COUNTRY MUSIC.” Honestly, it’s a tiresome affectation on any singer, especially when it’s obscuring wonderful pop songs or gatekeeping them from the wider consciousness. You just have to hear past it to get to the performance and the lyrics. Singing it yourself aids in that, if you are able.

Somewhere between that setting sun, “I’m On Fire” and “Born to Run”
You looked at me and I was done. We were just getting started.

Beneath the twang and beyond the minimal band arrangement is the wonderful device of singing about how to find a person who doesn’t exist anymore. Not his long lost high school lover – she’s still walking around in the same town, skirting the edges of his life.

No, the person that no longer exists is his long lost high school self, and the only way to find him for a moment is to hear Bruce’s ragged baritone.

When I think about you, I think about seventeen
I think about my old jeep
I think about the stars in the sky
Funny how a melody sounds like a memory
Like the soundtrack to a July Saturday night
Springsteen

There’s no part of this song that says, “So let’s get back together.” That’s not the point. The closest he comes is suggesting “there’d still be a spark.” He’s not seeking an illicit final kiss. He’s looking for the one person who, if they were to lock eyes and hear one of those songs, could travel in time with him back to that prior self and all of the blithe, foolish love and hubris that came along with him.

I bumped into you by happenstance. You probably wouldn’t even know who I am,
But if I whispered your name I bet there’d still be a spark.

Back when I was gasoline and this old tattoo had brand new ink,
And we didn’t care what your momma’d think about your name on my arm.

Baby is it spring or is it summer, the guitar sound or the beat of that drummer
You hear sometimes late at night on your radio

Even though you’re a million miles away, when you hear “Born in the USA”
You relive those glory days so long ago

1024.EricChurch.ms.020113_copyThat second verse is perfection. If it won a hundred pounds of award statues they wouldn’t be enough of a reward for how good it is. Listen as Church methodically unravels the layers – first the physical present day, then the physical past day, then the ephemera of memory, and then just the sound.

I don’t have those memories, but when I am on stage and I sing about the spark, the gasoline, and the tattoo ink I am there. I’m moved to tears thinking about the guitar sound pumped out by a tinny transistor radio sitting on the sill of an open bedroom window in the dead of summer, the guitar riffs from those classic tunes overdriving its inadequate speaker, me glued to the sheets by the sweat from my back, smelling the sour dry grass of unmowed lawns and thinking about her.

Except, now I’m not pining for that girl, I’m pining for me. Youth. Possibility. Imagination. Love. The magic of hearing your favorite song for the first time.

Beneath that I have another, newer layer: how I am now twice as old as his lost self and I am making new memories with this song in the present day, singing it to EV as we splay colorful stars across her ceiling and get ready for bed. Over weeks of singing it together, our version has evolved.

Do you think about me when you go to sleep?
Do you think about last night’s dreams?
Think about the stars in the sky?

[Or, if I am holding her up above the projector: “Think about the stars on your butt?,” which was her contribution to the adaptation process.]

In our version, it’s the song “Springsteen” that makes the memory rather than the man, and I think one day later in life when EV hears it on some subconscious level she will still see the stars on her ceiling and smile wistfully at her own lost girl, never to be found again.

You can find the person, but the melody becomes a memory.

(If I have one critique of the song, it’s that it doesn’t reward the listener with a final chorus. When you’ve got a chorus this good, it’s not enough to play it two-and-a-half times. When we cover it, we deliver a final full chorus after another round of “whoa-oh-ohs” and then end on “Springsteen.”)

the new gig

Tomorrow will mark the start of my fourth week spent at home with EV, which will be the longest consecutive amount of time I have not worked since I was seventeen.

2016-01-03 11.04.07

In January, headed to our post-X-Mas celebration with Drexel friends.

I am not on a vacation. Spending time at home with EV is currently my full-time gig.

It could have been a vacation. A sabbatical, if you prefer. I could have asked the execs at RJMetrics if I could take time off from leading the Customer Success team to hang out with my toddler and they would have said yes – not only because of the unlimited vacation policy but because it’s the sort of thing they all value and respect.

I considered that option for an agonizingly long while, because it would be insane to leave a job I enjoyed with a technology that delighted me and a team I personally recruited and loved dearly.

Right? (Continued)

RuPaul’s Drag Race Power Rankings, S8E05

Last week Thorgy Thor was consolidating her lead after a minor meltdown from Bob and a strong weak finish from Chi Chi. Did that top three get shaken up this week?

Even after this crash and burn of a dull Snatch Game and repetitive runway there is barely any daylight separating the top and the bottom girls in this week’s power ranking.

It might not have been the tightest Snatch Game in history, but this feels a lot like Seasons Four and Five with a larger, well-rounded cast with many potentially winners. The best few queens have all shown weak spots, and the bottom few are just one or two hot weeks away from snatching the crown.

Also, there was some strange editing contributing to the doughy episode this week. RuPaul was clearly having some weird energy on Snatch Game, and I suspect we lost some very funny answers from the queens to moments Ru simply didn’t want shown. That probably detracted from a few queens who the judges loved, and also didn’t make Acid Betty’s performance out to be quite as bad as it played on stage.

1. Bob the Drag Queen (Average 1; was: 2, 2, 1, 1)

bob-the-drag-queen-03Yes, she’s back in the top spot, showboating and all. Bob’s Snatch Game was magnificent – a solid Uzo Aduba as Crazy Eyes (her poem answer was a scream) plus a Carol Channing that completely erases the memory of Pandora’s strong version.

As for the runway. Bob’s Madonna may not have been as iconic as the rest, but it was FLAWLESS. Sure, we all would have rather seen her rock early-80s punk Madonna, but that’s way too close to her actual look and probably would have gotten read by the judges. She found the right offbeat (and political) outfit from Madge’s oeuvre.

I can imagine several situations where Bob is bested by this confidence and fails to make the top three. We’ve seen her be able to sew a garment, but she’s not the makeup pro that some of the other girls are. That said, I know she’s a strategic player, and I’m willing to bet he’s got a few fashion stunners tucked away for the late game when he’s not so darn safe all the time. (Continued)

RuPaul’s Drag Race Power Rankings, S8E04

Last week Bob won the acting challenge but Thorgy walked out with the Power Rankings Emmy for her performance. How will the girls stack up after a live singing challenge? I’ll tell you, it’s my tightest ranking yet – despite being hard on these contestants, I can seriously see all of them reaching the final three.

Let’s get one thing out of the way before we begin that should clarify a lot of my rankings: I think Team NYC crushed the other two teams with their Street Meatz performance, even if “Rectangle Girls” was weirdly the most memorable of the three songs. The NYC girls looks, lyrics, and performance tics were so perfectly of the B-52s era that it’s shocking they weren’t awarded the win – but, more on that below.

1. Thorgy Thor (Average 4, was 1, 6, 7)

thorgy-thor-02Thorgy owns the top spot for a second week in a row. She was on-point in her singing and stage presentation and she was one of the few queens who seriously read as neon, even if some of her styling ruined the impact.

This is a queen whose main weak spot (other than Ru not awarding her a win) is in her ability to edit – but even that has been shown to be within reason and based on a solid taste level. Maybe Snatch Game will change that streak.

2. Bob the Drag Queen (Average 2; was: 2, 1, 1)

Bob was predictably great in this challenge – both in her vocal performance and her onstage presence. As for her runway – eh, I could have lived without its pastel-not-neon-realness. However, the big show tonight was her inability to stop herself from arguing with coach and guest judge Lucian Piane. Yes, his advice was awful, but Bob just kept on arguing with him past the point of no return. You could even see in her eyes how bad an idea she thought it was!

The combination of Bob’s over-the-top, charm-laden performances and this slightly uncontrollable streak represents real risk of missing the top three. She’s still stronger than the rest of the field, but I’m a bit nervous for her.

(Continued)

RuPaul’s Drag Race Power Rankings, S8E03

Last week I kept Bob The Drag Queen in the top spot despite Chi Chi taking home dance captain honors. This week Bob strutted her stuff on the Empire parody – so, do I still have her leading the pack? And, where will returning queen Naysha Lopez wind up?

thorgy-thor-011. Thorgy Thor (Average 5, was 6, 7)

The lovable Thorgy hoscotches to the top spot this week with impeccable acting (maybe the best ever on Drag Race?) and a perfectly on-theme and girly runway. She truly should have won the episode over Bob’s ad-libbing spectacle; more on that in a moment.

This lady has all the chops this show requires – including being a classical musician, which means she’ll likely be decently equipped for musical challenges. Aside from the willfully silly streak we saw last week I don’t think she will commit any unforced errors. Also, it seems like the plastic showgirl opening look was an example of how hard she commits to each look rather than a fashion faux pas, which is a good sign for future runways.

Altogether, my initial read of, “She’ll never be the next drag SUPERSTAR” has evaporated completely. She’s quickly becoming the star of the show, and she doesn’t have the confidence gap of Katya.

2. Bob the Drag Queen (Average 1; was: 1, 1)

How did Bob descend in the rankings while winning a challenge? Because this episode exposed just how reliant she is on her charisma and comedy to get her through other, weaker spots. She bested the challenge by constantly going off-script – a lot – which wasn’t really the assignment. Then, on the runway, she was in a busted Halloween costume look with flaking makeup, a bit of a belly, and an inability to roller skate, all of which she sold through comedy.

Bob remains my personal favorite, but I’d like to see a decisive win from her while playing the game, rather than deconstructing it. Right now I feel she’s at risk of that awful top four cut.

(Continued)

RuPaul’s Drag Race Power Rankings, S8E02

Last week I had Bob on top of the weekly winner, Kim Chi. Where did they land after an all-dancing challenge? It turns out, the only shake-up came from one of the two of them.

1. Bob the Drag Queen (Avg 1; was: 1)

bob-the-drag-queen-02Bob was safe for a second week in a row, so why does she have the top spot? Because she is pretty great at everything, and when she isn’t she’s doing so with great intent.

I was annoyed by her oddball take on the cha cha dancing challenge, but did she really want to be a team captain a singing or dancing challenge, which is what always happens in this spot? Maybe it was better not to win. Similarly, her runway fashion was unassailable, but not a week-winning standout – but why blow a major closet piece (as Kim Chi did) on an early week when your performance had you near the top of the pack?

Bottom line: she has flaws, but none of them are as troubling as the weak spots of the other queens. Add to that the fact that Untucked is effectively the Bob The Drag Queen Comedy Revue (and for that reason is the best it has recently been) and heading into an acting challenge, and Bob remains the queen to beat.

2. Acid Betty (Average 3, was 3)

On this show, attitude is everything – and for Acid Betty that cuts both ways. This week she slayed in the challenge and in the runway, but her acid test personality took its toll on all the other girls on her team (even if it helped them in the end).

If Betty could balance the Ph of her personality she’d be a surefire winner this season, but right now she’s destined to be stuck as a villain. After seeing the edited episodes and social media reaction, Ru will never crown such a heel. Maybe Betty doesn’t want the win… but if she does, let’s hope she found a kinder, gentler side at some point in the competition.

(Also, just so someone says it: Betty is a dead ringer for Amanda Palmer when she is in drag)

(Continued)

RuPaul’s Drag Race Power Rankings, S8E01

Earlier this week, I ranked the Ru Paul’s Drag Race queens based on their brief Meet The Queens interviews. Now we’ve seen a whole hour of them interacting and strutting their stuff. Who came out on top?

BOB-drag-IS1. Bob The Drag Queen

Bob seems to be the queen to beat this season. Everything about her in this episode was perfection.

I think her potential stumbling block is that her fashion might be a little too obvious and off-the-rack based on her Meet The Queens and entrance look. Yet, we saw her construct a stylish garment for the challenge – and, it was one of the most from-a-pattern garments of all the looks. Clearly she has a sense of her fashion and fashion history. Whether that comes across in her suitcase remains to be seen.

There’s also the risk of her sarcastic humor. Bob’s style of comedy does not yet feel like something she can perform all season without ever backtracking or apologizing the way Bianca did.

I don’t think either issue is going to seriously hamstring Bob – she comes off as one of the smartest contestants of all time and I don’t think she would have auditioned without a plan. In the shorter term, I doubt she’s in any danger from next week’s acapella challenge.

2. Kim Chi

Despite my instant obsession with Bob, last year I had Violet in first place largely because she swept the first week of challenges. Who nailed that this year? Kim Chi. She was excellent on everything from entrance look to runway, with some hilarious interviews between.

Kim Chi seems to have the ingredients to make a deep run in this competition except for one thing – her meekness. We saw her be meek in the photo shoot and, to a degree, in some of the runway discussion. She was also a non-factor on Untucked. Wallflowers are not generally winners here, and despite Kim Chi being bomb dot com at everything this week, I have serious concerns about her making it through team challenges or anything theatrical. There’s a certain shyness about her that puts her at risk. We need to see her overcome that ASAP.  (Continued)