When Lin-Manuel Miranda was a teenager in the 1990s, he liked to make eclectic mixtapes for his friends. In those cassettes, he experimented with the rise and fall of energy in music: A musical theater number might play after a hip-hop song, only to be followed by an oldie or an obscure pop song. It was through mixtapes that he could bridge the gap between two seemingly opposing passions — Broadway and rap.
John Grant is not your run-of-the-mill singer-songwriter. He's a superstar overseas, but he's relatively unknown in the U.S., where he was born. He lives in Iceland and speaks four languages. He's openly gay. And he's HIV positive, as well as a recovering alcoholic and drug addict.
By day, Nicola Berlinsky and sisters Lisa Pimentel and Joanie Pimentel are all teachers at the same elementary school in southern California. By night, they're rockers, playing together in a band called No Small Children. It sounds like a lot to balance, but the members say they often find their two careers overlapping.
Ben Johnston doesn't follow the rules of music. Sure, he's got degrees from two colleges and a conservatory. But from an early age, Johnston heard music differently. When he was growing up in Georgia, he questioned the standard scales he was taught in school. "I played by ear and I invented my own chords," he says.
Whew. This year has been a year. Seems like it's been tough for some, if not all of us. One bright spot is there has been some great pop music released, so I felt like putting together a list of songs that just make me feel good. Because sometimes good music can be a great remedy for a bad day. (Or year).