Friday, December 1, 2017

Top 10 Minivan Songs of 2017

CoolVan, 2017 Edition

Swagger Wagon

It's December, so that means it's time to start the lists. For the last few years, I've kicked off list season with the "Minivan Songs" post. This, amazingly, is the fifth installment.

Two things have changed since last year:

1. Last year, I said that it was getting harder and harder to put this together because the cooldaughters were sharing less music with me and I was driving fewer carpool shifts. Well, now I'm back to driving regularly; and the cooldaughters have started doing things like blasting their music in their rooms.

2. I started last year's post with "We've gone over 120K miles on the CoolVan, and I have no plans to trade it in." I traded it in. But! I re-upped with a newer model of the same van in a very similar color, so we're still doin' that minivan life.

Minivan life means minivan songs. So here are about 10 of the songs that soundtracked the cabins of our old and new minivans during 2017.

10. "Look What You Made Me Do" -- Taylor Swift

Neither of the cooldaughters is really sold on Reputation. CoolDaughter #2's swim carpool, though, loves this one. One of the girls has a bunch of remixes on her phone that she plays on the drives over to swim practice. She does this even if a different song is playing on the radio.

Typical drive to the pool: CD2 reading silently in the front seat. One girl playing "Look What You Made Me Do" remixes from her phone. One girl dancing like a maniac. One girl reading poetry aloud. One girl taking it all in with an incredulous smile.

My favorite thing about this song is that, with Nazis marching in the streets, with North Korea successfully testing ICBMs, with our entire country on the brink of some kind of civil war, the most powerful pop star in the world is still mad at Kanye West and Katy Perry.

I also love "The old Taylor can't come to the phone right now. Why?? 'Cause she's dead!"

9. "That's What I Like" -- Bruno Mars

I'm not a huge Bruno Mars fan. And, honestly, I haven't heard the girls talk too much about this one even though it's on in the car a whole bunch. One thing I will say, though: Bruno Mars makes actual music. Like, I'm sure he's taken the odd meeting about how to work some advertiser keywords into his songs, but the songs have a retro-King of Pop vibe that is legit.

Also, variations of "That's what I like. That's what I like." have become a thing I say all the time as kind of a lame dad joke. Give the dog a piece of steak: "That's what he likes. That's what he likes." Give CD1 a bowl of ice cream: "That's what she likes. That's what she likes." You get the idea.

8. "Despacito" -- Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee

I think the one we hear in the van most often is the one with Justin Bieber on it, but this is the original. When I was trying to decide which version to post here, I went with the one that has 4.4 BILLION!!! views. What else can I say? Biggest song on earth this year, ever even; so it kinda has to be here. It's cool listening to all the kids in the car try to sing along with it.

La Perla, the neighborhood in San Juan that serves as the setting for this video, suffered mightily at the hands of Hurricane Maria. Here are some ways you can help out your neighbors and fellow citizens courtesy of PBS Newshour.

7. "Slow Hands" -- Niall Horan

We've been an anti-One Direction household ever since Harry Styles and Taylor Swift called it quits. #TeamTayTay. CD1 would go so far as to violently turn off the radio if she recognized a One Direction song. Things have softened a bit as the individual members have ventured out on their own. This is a harmless enough pop song.

There's this little engineered "whooo" that comes up at the end of the chorus, and I can always see CD2 out of the corner of my eye waiting for me to do it when it comes around. I usually say "Whooo!" and poke my finger in the air or something. She gets embarrassed if we've got the carpool.

Whoops!! Sorry...

6. "It Ain't Me" -- Kygo, Selena Gomez

I'm still at that point where it's weird to hear a bunch of tween or teen girls sing about "Sipping whiskey neat" and "When you're drunk and all alone," but this song is pretty tame when compared to lots of pop.

Another thing: I'm not saying that Selena Gomez needs to use Auto-tune or robot voice machine or whatever, but she sure does use it a lot. It could just be for effect; but I find myself always saying, "she sounds like a robot" to the girls in the car.

Anyway, I guess this song's message about not being co-dependent is a good one.

5. "Stay" -- Zedd, Alessia Cara

I saw that Alessia Cara was the musical guest on SNL once; and I said, "Who is that?" Now, it is pretty likely I was just out of the loop; but it also seems like some of these big pop stars just get unleashed on the world without much build-up.

Alessia Cara is pretty big now, and even I know who she is. She can sing. I was already familiar with Zedd from previous collaborations with Selena Gomez, Kesha, and, perhaps most notably, Ariana Grande.

I associate this song pretty heavily with morning carpool pickup during the summer long-course swim season. It has some of that vinyl record popping and hissing at the beginning. I've never been sure if that's just there on the sample they used or if it was added for effect. The defining characteristic of this song for me, though, is the way the "drums" on the second part of the chorus sound like the band at a high school football game.

4. "What About Us" -- Pink

CD2 had a swim meet a couple of weeks ago at Peddie School in Hightstown, NJ. She pretty much runs the radio when it's just us, and she bounces between SiriusXM Hits 1 (which, sensibly, used to be channel 1 but is now channel 2 for some reason) and Z100. On the weekends, SirusXM put their channel on a never-ending countdown loop that just plays the same 45 songs over and over and over again. Z100 plays from a very narrow list of current hits but will sprinkle in the occasional "Baby One More Time" or "Roar" from time to time. We managed to hear Pink's "What About Us," the number 1 song on the SiriusXM countdown that week, a total of about 8 times between the two stations during our drives there and back.

CD2 has always taken her singing along with the radio very seriously. The cheesy melodrama of this song really makes for some heartfelt performances from her.

3. "There's Nothing Holding Me Back" -- Shawn Mendes

This is going to sound really bad, but why do kids today (or has it been kids always?) like pop music that is so unchallenging and unthreatening? I mean, Shawn Mendes is clearly very talented. There is nothing wrong with this song; but, to me anyway, it's just so... ...blah...

Kind of like Taylor Swift up above, it just has this corporate, least common denominator polish that I can't see moving anyone. The cooldaughters enjoy it, though, and I value their opinions. They were pretty bummed to miss out on Shawn's tour with the next entry on this list.

2. "Attention" -- Charlie Puth

I like to pretend that the opening line to this song is "You been runnin' 'round, runnin' 'round, runnin' 'round, throwin' that turtle on my name." It's more fun that way.

Anyway, Charlie Puth really has made good following his hard-scrabble upbringing on the mean streets of Rumson, NJ. This song is another one that gives me a kind of 80s R&B vibe, and the video features Samara Weaving (She is the niece of Agent Smith / Elrond.) who starred in Netflix's schlocky tribute to 80s slasher movies, The Babysitter.

Charlie Puth is a hometown hero; and, every time he comes around, I see the cooldaughters' friends and their moms posting pictures of themselves smiling wildly at the show.

1. (CD2, Tie) "Believer" -- Imagine Dragons, "Something Just Like This" -- Coldplay, The Chainsmokers

CD1 wanted a bluetooth speaker for Christmas / Hanukkah last year. I did a little bit of research and went out and bought her one not knowing that CoolMom had ordered one from Amazon. Mine was a little Sony job that got good reviews. CoolMom's was a cylinder combo light / speaker that changed colors and came in a white box that said "Romantic Life" on it and nothing else. We gave CD1 the Sony, and Romantic Life sat romantically in a closet for several months.

CD2 then discovered Google Play music and started listening to songs through the little speaker on her phone. I said, "I have something for you!" Now, I can hear her in her room playing these songs and singing along as she does her homework. Romantic, no?

Imagine Dragons and Coldplay are the bands that pass for "rock" in the world of Top 40 music. I don't even know what to make of that.

CD2 discovered these on her summer camp bus, I think. She will not let me change the channel when they come on the radio, and she knows every word. To her credit, of "Something Just Like This," she always says, "I like the singing (Coldplay) part better than the music (The Chainsmokers) part." That's heartening because The Chainsmokers are insufferable.

I wonder if Imagine Dragons still have that big drum. From this video, the drums look pretty regular-sized.

1. (CD1) "Castle on the Hill" -- Ed Sheeran

I've been a big fan of Billy Bragg for a long time. Back to Basics, Talking with the Taxman about Poetry, Workers' Playtime. Those are some of my favorite records ever. One of the most fun things about Billy Bragg is singing along with his songs while trying to mimic his accent. That's what CD1 does with her beloved Ed Sheeran.

"Over the caaahhhhstle on the hill..."

This choice was pretty tough because, despite the world domination of "Despacito," Ed Sheeran has been blowing up the minivan's radio ever since ÷ came out. "Shape of You," "Galway Girl," and "Perfect." The cooldaughters know the words to every one of these. "Castle on the Hill," though, is the one I think. It's another one that defines summer swim carpooling for me. It's another one that you'd be able to hear 4 times in an hour without trying very hard. It's another one with uncomfortable-sounding moments when sung by your children like, "Me and my friends have not thrown up in so long." It's another one that makes me ask, "Why do young people like this?"

Bonus Video, "Swagger Wagon" -- Toyota

And, here, just because it is so awesome, is the video that inspired the title of this post. It's from a 2009 campaign that Toyota did for the Sienna minivan, and I can't thank my coolcousin Dana enough for reminding me that it exists.

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