Mandy Moore: “Only Hope”
I enjoy a good Mandy Moore power ballad any day. I’ve earned two Master’s degrees in English and, yet, the moment I hear the first few bars of the theatrical piano intro for this song from A Walk to Remember, the overly dramatic 2002 Nicholas Sparks film for high schoolers, I never fail to tear up just a little. Without giving too much away, think of this movie as the poor man’s The Fault in Our Stars.
K-Ci and JoJo: “All My Life”
I slow danced with the first boy I ever had a crush on to this song in junior high. I will never forget those few breathless minutes as I swayed gracelessly in little half-circles, secretly hoping that the song would go on forever. And now, thanks to the power of the internet, it can.
Helen Reddy: “Candle on the Water”
I don’t even think I’ve ever seen the film this schmaltzy song comes from – Disney’s live action / animated gem Pete’s Dragon – but the minute my college roommate decided not to skip this song on her iTunes one day, I knew it would be added to my own secret list. And then, after she reluctantly showed me the dance she’d coordinated as a child to “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” I knew we’d be friends for life. Fun fact: This song was nominated for an Academy Award in 1977 (it lost to “You Light Up My Life,” another song that could easily make this playlist).
Jamiroquai: “Virtual Insanity”
Between Hootie & the Blowfish and Jamiroquai, I loved my fair share of bad pop in the '90s. But my love for Jamiroquai has actually grown in recent years, thanks to one brave regular at one of my favorite karaoke bars who has memorized Jamiroquai’s entire repertoire.
The Gaylords: “TOOT TOOT ROOT”
Most normal families play Christmas music on Christmas. My quirky family tends to favor blasting The Gaylords and polka music once the holiday wine really gets flowing. Needless to say, it takes a lot of grappa for my boyfriends to meet my family and more than a few listens to this album.
Rockapella: “Everything to Me”
As a child of the '90s, it only makes sense that I would love the musical stylings of Rockapella, the a cappella group featured on the popular educational TV show Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? But even I can’t justify the sheer number of times I have listened to this 1992 album inspired by that show, no matter how often I insist Tito Puente’s contribution helps make the CD cool.
Ace of Base: “The Sign”
I still have no idea why my septuagenarian elementary school choir director one day decided that, instead of our usual program of Disney musicals and doo-wop hits, we would sing this song instead. But I’ll admit that this song (and her next pick, TLC’s “Waterfalls”) was my gateway to deciding I wanted to do more with music. And so a long and illustrious middle school and high school career as a musician in the jazz band began.
The Blind Boys of Alabama: “People Get Ready”
The average audience member for a gospel music concert is probably someone in their mid-50s. I should know because I’ve seen the Blind Boys of Alabama perform twice now. As a devoted fan of all things jazz, blues, and gospel, it’s getting harder and harder to hide my love for this group. But, thanks to their 2004 collaboration with Ben Harper for the album There Will Be a Light, I nearly feel justified taking this band off my secret list.
Psych: The Musical: “Santa Barbara Skies”
This song combines two of my favorite guilty pleasures – half-sung, half-spoken musical lyrics and Psych, the best comedy show to feature a fake psychic solving crimes in Southern California. I’m not even ashamed to admit I’ve memorized the lyrics to “Jamaican Inspector Man.”
Carly Rae Jepson: “Call Me Maybe”
When Jepson’s song was released in 2012, this ear-worm became the song of the summer. And while my students sang along as they waited for class, I, too, bopped my head…but only in the background. After all, what student in their right mind wants to know their teacher likes the same song? And, what teacher in her right mind wants to admit it either?