Temperatures in the kitchen have just hit 89 degrees thanks to the turkey in the oven, cranberry sauce boiling over on the cooktop, and Uncle Blowhard’s opinion on the Build Back Better program. Quick! Queue up The Prompt Mag’s Thanksgiving Playlist. It’s guaranteed to smooth over all* flare-ups this holiday.
*Kyle Rittenhouse convos not included
Ah, Thanksgiving. The meal we share with family members by tradition over choice. Where we can still sit down to commemorate the Native Americans and Pilgrims coming together (I question the consent, but whatever) over major differences and forget all of that instantaneously and start bickering over minutiae like the word woke, or how sustainable veganism is, or the Dallas Cowboys. Just remember, on matter how bad it gets in your family, it will never be as bad as the Gallagher brothers, which is why, when things get tense, you should put on “Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Oasis and remember that your family isn’t that bad after all.
If there is any song that can quell political tensions at the Thanksgiving table, it is “Toxic” by Britney Spears. Not only will the title possibly make your family members reflect on the toxicity of their own conversations, but it will also provide a perfect segue into the topic that has managed to unite America: that Britney is quite talented and deserved much, much better than the treatment her family, the media, and most of America has given her throughout the past two decades. Yes, your uncouth uncle may make overtly sexist comments that will spark a different conversation. But for three minutes, you’ll have a bit of political peace from a pop queen to enjoy.
I believe in the power of song. It brings people together. Even corrupt and dysfunctional families can sing this song together and share a moment of pure bliss. Ever seen Step Brothers?
Alexa, play “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses.
Tensions are high. Grandma Edna keeps hovering in the kitchen, wondering when the turkey will be done. Her frustrated daughter, my mom, wants me to play Frank Zappa’s “My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama” but I intervene, exhibiting stern musical judgment. I furiously press the forward button and Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” shuffles up. My precocious nephew Bradley hears the opening lyric and says loudly “Aren’t we Jewish?”
“Yes, Bradley, but it’s not a Jewish holiday.”
He looks confused as I mess with the controls, accidentally starting George Michaels’ “Father Figure.” My cousins look at me funny, and I shrug it off. Finally, I select the one song that gets everyone dancing, yet no one knows the words: Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family.”
I have a whole playlist of universally-appealing pop music, usually reserved for multi-generational wedding dancefloors, but it’s an easy segue to a T-givs salve. Top trax include:
“Easy” – The Commodores
“Stay High” – Britney Howard
“Lovely Day” – Bill Withers
“Do You Know the Way to San Jose” – Dionne Warwick
“Turn this off, I have a migraine,” moaned Hannah (22), who lay on the couch with a limp arm over her eyes.
“BTS is the best boy band to ever walk this planet,” Mia (12) snapped back. “Alexa, turn it up.”
“‘Best boy band,’ psshh,” Jessica (34) muttered under her breath.
“What Aunt Jessica?”
“You two didn’t even experience the best boy bands, plural, in real time. Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC torch BTS and One Direction. That’s your pick, right Hannah? By the way, that’s not a migraine, you’re hungover,” she said, tossing a bottle of Excedrin on the couch near where her niece writhed in agony. Another victim of Thanksgiving Eve.
“Alexa, play ‘Cool It Now’ by New Edition,” I interject. “Not only is it getting a little heated in here; you all need a lesson on the original boy band.”
Dad’s debating this with my Aunt Janice. Monica’s arguing about that with our cousin Robert. Grandpa was almost falling asleep when Mom mentioned this, and now they’re discussing it. Our cousin Helen was scrolling through Instagram when my Uncle Joseph mentioned that, and now they’re disputing it. I get up, walk over to the Bluetooth speaker, connect my iPhone, and play a particular song. A few of them look at me as the song and my sing-along begins to drown out the room. “What is love? Baby, don’t hurt me no more,” I yell.—“Kevin, are you drunk already? It’s barely six,” my mom asks, looking at me and at the bottle in my hand. I shrug in the most exaggerated manner possible. “You hear that?” I say aloud. No one replies. “Exactly! Neither do I. Just Haddaway playing and no one arguing.”
Anytime a relative sets out on a convoluted attempt to apply logic to their sincerely held belief that some groups of people don’t really deserved to live a life free of institutional harassment or oppression, hit them with this classic that I have known by heart since I was 13 years old, “Nugget” by Cake. Specifically the chorus.
Example of use:
Uncle Cletus: Those BLMs are the real terrorists. Did you know that they…
You: *hits play on queued up playlist*
Cake: Awwwww, nawwwwwww, shut the fuck uuuuup.