Remember the summer of ’94? I sure do. Everywhere I went, there was Sheryl Crow’s cool-girl voice singing, “All I want to do is have some fun…” I wanted to have some fun, too. But I was immensely pregnant with my first child and wallowing through blood-glucose tests, sciatica, and conflicting advice about the best stretch mark lotions (Clarins Stretch Mark Minimizer, BTW).
I watched videos of Crow, with her hair flowing, those knowing, flirty glances, those rocker-chick guitar strums. Her voice, her look, her anthem took me away during a hugely transitional moment in my life and made me yearn to be back in responsibility-free life.
There was breast cancer in her 40s and a not-so-idyllic seeming relationship with effing Lance Armstrong.
She represented a free spirit and she sure got under my skin. While she lost me musically when she went country, I stayed curious about the woman behind the music that had been the soundtrack to my new–mom status, and followed the thread of her personal life which went up, down and all around. There was breast cancer in her 40s, a not-so-idyllic seeming relationship with effing Lance Armstrong, and then the adoption of two beloved boys to create a family. It hasn’t been a cakewalk.
Our New Soundtrack
When I heard she was returning to her bluesy rock roots on her latest album, “Be Myself,” I wanted to listen – curious if now, as my first-born graduates from college, she’d have a new kind of soundtrack for my summer. What I found was a solid, soulful rock album. But beyond the catchy tunes, what jumps out is that Crow wants to talk about exactly the kind of stuff my best friends and I blab about.
She is clearly searching for how to manage midlife circa 2017.
Her still-spectacular voice makes her new album an engaging listen, with a blend of peppy pop (go listen to “Woo Woo”) to more bluesy numbers. But it’s the lyrics that hooked me big-time. Crow is 55, mom to two kids, ages 6 and 9, and still very much a hot ticket when she tours. But she is clearly searching for how to manage midlife circa 2017.
Looking for Old School Contact
Part of her rails against modern life, like the digitization of our days that she refers to in “Roller Skate.” The lyrics talk about “All the kids snapping pics, they can click on what they missed, I kinda like real life instead. ” What she says she’s looking for is “old school contact–would it be asking too much?” (Actually, it probably is. Can you remember the last time you just called someone to chat? Me neither. Or when it took fewer than three tries to meet up with one of your bffs?)
In the engaging first single, “Be Myself,” she does a little hand-wringing about being “terminally normal” and recognizes that you don’t have to keep up with every trend out there. She sings of “taking an Uber to a juice bar, to hear a new indie band play,” but it’s a case of thanks, but no thanks. This new hipster guise doesn’t suit. “If I can’t be someone else, I might as well be myself,” she sings in the chorus.
Don’t let the tyranny of keeping up with the younger Joneses force you to do something uncomfortable.
At first, this struck me that she was feeling set in her ways and rejecting experimentation. No!, I wanted to remind her. Midlife is the perfect time for reinvention. (Along with most of my friends, I’m poring over those brochures that promise certificates and new career paths – do I want to be a life coach or a home stager when I grow up?) But by the time the song wound down, I got it. Crow is reminding us, at this moment, to be yourself and be kind to yourself. Don’t let the tyranny of keeping up with the younger Joneses force you to do something uncomfortable.
Up in the Middle of the Night
She’s got more global issues on her mind, too: Namely, the elephant in the room (or should I say the White House?). Crow gets unapologetically political in “Heartbeat Away,” singing, “You bet the president is sweating, or Russia’s blowing up the phone, Deny, deny everything.” She clearly is angry, but she’s got a, “People, can’t we all get along?” POV going.
“Could you meet me down the river, hash it out over a beer? Could you smoke from the same peace pipe til our anger disappears?”
In “Halfway There,” she’s all about reconciliation and reaching across the aisle: “Could you meet me down the river, hash it out over a beer? Could you smoke from the same peace pipe til our anger disappears?” There’s real wisdom in that dream of finding common ground, whether with a partner in a rough relationship or dealing with the dissension shredding our nation.
It’s comforting to know that the woman who, almost half a lifetime ago, wanted to have some fun and soak up the sun is probably pretty much like the rest of us right now. It sounds like she too is up in the middle of the night, anxious about her kids and her country. She’s airing it through her music, and getting us to think about some tricky issues as we glide along to the beat.