After I clicked the link to outreach coordinator Maggie Leahy’s iEdit playlist, I was overwhelmed with trepidations. I recognized very few songs on her playlist. After all, my ears were trained by my dad’s car stereo blasting songs from the Cultural Revolution. Am I, a vagabond from the other side of the Pacific, equipped to interpret the iEdit of a lifelong Ohioan?
Yet, going through Maggie’s playlist was a lesson in never making assumptions too quickly. The fun-loving, kind, and never-endingly joyous Heights “mom” has a diverse musical taste that oddly touches on the deeper human emotions that are beyond cultural barriers.
The playlist opens with Paramore’s “Hard Times.” The funky, lively marimba riff made me believe that it’d be a cheery song. But the lyrics sing of the inner struggle present in many of us. It reminded me of the Rick and Morty episode in which Tiny Rick—while dying inside—puts on a happy facade that fooled almost everyone. If sadness is sad, then pretending to be happy is sadder.
At the transition production when Maggie passed me her mantle as the associate metro editor, she asked me “Gavin, are you a Swiftie?”
I said no. Little did I know then that virtually every board member but me is a Swiftie of some sort. With Taylor Swift’s freshly dropped song “Karma” from her new album Midnights, however, I see a path to my personal conversion. Under Swift’s ever angelic voice is the common yearning for poetic justice in this cruel, cruel world. Does Maggie believe in karma? I can only speculate.
Yet not all of the songs on the list are recent releases. Maggie also adorned her playlist with multiple oldies.
Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain ” sings of two lovers’ toxic love-hate relationship. The song’s crescendo makes the lover’s laments more aggressive and desperate with each repetition. Meanwhile, “Sister Golden Hair” by the rock band America whispers softly a longing for a beloved.
Yet not all of Maggie’s rock selections paint a grisly outlook on love. TOTO’s “Hold the Line,” with its bright beats and vocals, gives encouragement to lovers that are facing hiccups in their relationships. Better things are to come, it says—you’ve just got to hold the line.
“I Got A Name” by Jim Croce is a classic folk song that reminds me of the soundtracks from the film Inside Llewyn Davis. It conjures the timeless image of a modern troubadour cruising on the highway with a trusty guitar on the front passenger seat. The troubadour rides into the dusk leaving only dust, dyed red and gold by the setting sun, behind them.
As a fellow learner of the French language, Maggie’s inclusion of “La Vie En Rose” by Lucy Dacus flexes her raffinement. Instead of the trills and frills in Piaf’s original chanson, Dacus’ simpler iteration features soft drumbeats and piano riffs. Intertwining with Dacus’ velvety voice, the melody paints a world in rosy tint—a world only a lover could see.
Maggie wraps up her playlist with “Chiquitita” by the Swedish band ABBA. The vocalist Agnetha Fältskog attempts to sooth the melancholy of the little girl in the song. As if holding the girl by the hand, Fältskog opens by gently asking her “what’s wrong,” before telling her that everything will be alright.
As the Heights mom and my “deputy godmother” (she was present—by a happy accident—at my baptism into the Catholic Church), the song’s nurturing vibe is right up her alley.
With the echo of my dad’s stereo still haunting me, I doubt I’ll ever be able to fully understand the meanings behind the songs in Maggie’s playlist. But many of them have underlying notes that tug at my heartstrings, and I am grateful for taking the leap to learn such a sophisticated side of my predecessor.