Today’s Top 40: The Stories Behind the Hits of Today.

In this edition of Today’s Top 40, I used the following current music charts that are published weekly by BBC Radio 1, Billboard Magazine, Spotify, KEXP-FM (Seattle), CHUM-FM and INDIE88-FM (Toronto). For this week, I looked at songs that were found at or close to position #25. I found lots of great tunes and interesting stories to go with them. So, without further delay, let’s dive into Today’s Top 40.

Snap by Rosa Linn (BBC Radio 1)

Rosa Linn.

Rosa Linn is a singer from Armenia. If you have never heard of an Armenian Pop singer before, well now you have. Rosa Linn’s story is a very interesting one. She was selected to represent Armenia in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. The ESC has been a big deal in Europe for quite a long time. In fact, the contest has been around so long that it was the vehicle that ABBA used to get their first big break when they entered the contest with a song called “Waterloo” almost half a century ago. As Eurovision unfolds, it does so like the FIFA World Cup. Nations are placed into smaller competitive brackets (for organizational purposes) where they compete against each other in a series of round robin competitions. A select few from each bracket then qualify to go on to the final round of twenty which then becomes an elimination tournament like those types of shows seen in North America (such as American Idol). In the case of Rosa Linn and her song, “Snap”, she was eliminated in 20th place in this year’s competition. But, the story doesn’t end there. Ever since she was eliminated, there has been a groundswell of support given to her by outraged fans, many of whom believed that “Snap” was the best song in the whole Eurovision tournament, let alone the 20th best song! Since being eliminated, “Snap” has gone viral, as the cool kids say. It is roaring up the European music charts and finds itself at #25 with a bullet on the BBC Radio 1 chart in the UK.

“Snap” is a good strong Pop song that mines the familiar territory that comes with an emotional romantic breakup. However, one of the things that is helping to capture the attention of the public is an unusual and very creative official music video. Having watched it, I can attest to the fact that the video for “Snap” is very interesting from a visual perspective. *(Much in the same way that the video for “Ceremony” by Joy Division/New Order was more a movie told silently in colourful, meaningful imagery. You can recall that video here.) In any case, “Snap” by Rosa Linn is one of the most noteworthy happenings in the music world at the moment. Feel free to click away on the link above and see what all of the fuss is about. For what it is worth, I think this video justifies the hype.

***The link to the lyric video can be found here.

The Kind of Love We Make by Luke Combs (Spotify)

Luke Combs.

Luke Combs is one of the rising stars in the world of Country music. He has had numerous hits in his young career and has already been nominated twice for Entertainer of the Year and, as if that wasn’t enough, Luke Combs is the youngest singer in many years to have been invited to join the legendary Grand Ol’ Opry. Luke Combs possesses a strong, clear voice and has a passion for storytelling that allows him to tap into many of the emotions and experiences felt by “ordinary folks”. I guess that is something that Country music singers/bands tend to do better than other genres. It is easy for audiences to see themselves in the songs that many Country stars sing. “The Kind of Love We Make” is no exception. In this song, Combs offers some excellent advice for those of us who have been married/in a relationship for a number of years. The song is a cautionary tale about becoming too settled and comfortable, too distracted by parenting and running a household that you allow the romantic passion that originally brought you together to flicker out. It is easy to stop being lovers and morph into a kind of platonic friendship that, while comforting, is nothing like those days when the mere sight of each other got your hearts a-pumping. So, “The Kind of Love We Make” is a song that encourages couples to keep finding time for the romantic side of their relationships. In true Country fashion, the video tells a wonderful story that many of us can relate to.

***The lyrics video for this song can be found here.

She Had Me At Heads Carolina by Cole Swindell (Billboard Magazine).

Like Luke Combs, Cole Swindell is one of the young guns in the Country Music scene. He has had many Top Ten hits and has won awards for his singing and for his music videos. That creativity is on full display in this song, “She Had Me At Heads Carolina”. One of the many things that the Country music genre does well is to honour its roots. So, while sidelined from touring because of the pandemic, Cole Swindell and a few of his songwriting buddies gave themselves a challenge. The challenge was to write a new song that built upon the story of a legendary Country song from a previous decade without simply echoing the song or turning it into a sequel. After several swings and misses, the boys opted to use the song that introduced the world to Country star Jo Dee Messina, “Heads Carolina, Tails California”.

Cole Swindell and Jo Dee Messina.

In 1996, Messina released her debut single, “Heads Carolina, Tails California”. This song was about a working class couple who were caught in the humdrum of everyday life and sought greener, warmer pastures elsewhere. The location of those new pastures was to be determined by a simple flip of a coin. Like so many songs before it, “Heads Carolina, Tails California” has this “us against the world” feel about it that has you rooting for the couple as they pull up stakes in search of finding a better life somewhere else. Needless to say, this song became an instant classic for Messina, who has never looked back in her career.

What Cole Swindell managed to do was honour Messina’s song by making the singing of it part of a love story of his own. In “She Had Me At Heads Carolina”, Swindell sets his song in a karaoke bar where he watches a girl sing Messina’s song on the karaoke stage. In Swindell’s lyrics, he states how beautiful he thought the girl looked, but he is just as enthralled with her because she “loves 90s Country just like me”. In Swindell’s capable hands, he manages to honour a singer he admires, honour the roots of the Country music genre and, at the same time, reaffirm the foundational aspect of Country music which states that it is real music for real people. All in all, this is a clever take on a time-honoured Country music tradition and proves to be an enjoyable song in all regards.

***The lyrics video for this song can be found here.

Pharmacist by Alvvays (KEXP-FM)


I find it interesting that it took a radio station from Seattle, Washington to showcase the latest song by a band with its roots in Cape Breton, the home of my heart. The lead singer of Alvvays (pronounced “Always”) is a young woman named Mollie Rankin. Mollie is the daughter of John Morris Rankin, who was one of the founding members/siblings of Cape Breton’s famous Rankin Family band. As such, Mollie Rankin is descended from musical royalty in the eyes of those of us who call Cape Breton our home. While adept at playing the type of Celtic music that made her family name so well known, Mollie Rankin has chosen, instead, to focus on a career built upon a foundation of Alt-Pop. Her band’s most famous hit to date is the catchy song “Marry Me, Archie”, which you can listen to here.

Well, Alvvays has released a new album called Blue Rev. The first song from this album is called “Pharmacist”. The song has not been officially released, so there is no video as of yet…only an audio track, so in the link above, that is what you will get to hear. But the folks at KEXP-FM are pumping this song’s tires and, as a result, it is already a hit with fans of that station’s music. “Pharmacist is about three minutes long and is filled with the same type of jangle-Pop energy and spirit that have come to typify their sound. Alternative music is my go-to choice of genres so I think this song is a lot of fun. Hopefully you will give it a chance and a listen and will like it, too.

***If I can find a lyrics video for this unreleased song, I will post it here.

Happiness by The 1975 (INDIE88-FM)

The 1975.

The 1975 are an English band who happen to currently be operating out of that musical breeding ground of Manchester, UK. They are known as an Alt-Rock band who write songs with literate lyrics. The 1975 are also known for producing highly creative music videos. Keep all of that in mind as you watch the video for their latest song, “Happiness”. The whole song is filled with lyrics like, “I have traveled far to hold you near”. The wordplay is clever and will keep you guessing as to what the message of this song actually is. The music video is equally engaging. As I watched, I found myself constantly having the focus of my gaze re-oriented by the stop-start filming technique being used. That is not necessarily a bad thing because it kept my mind guessing all throughout the song. I apologize if it seems as though I might be making “Happiness” seem like a challenging song to take in. On the surface, it is a bright, fun, boppy tune that is easy to listen to and enjoy. However, bubbling just below the surface are a lot of creative touches that you don’t always get from bands. I appreciate the lengths that The 1975 went to in order to bring a deeper meaning to their music. If you care to give this song a listen, I hope that you will find it witty and clever and enjoyable, too.

***The link to the lyrics video can be found here.

Moth To A Flame by Swedish House Mafia ft. The Weeknd (CHUM-FM).

Teeny tiny iPod Shuffle.

About five or six years ago, when my daughters were more children than the young women they are today, my wife and I gave them each an iPod Shuffle. If you are familiar with iPod Shuffles at all, you will remember that they looked like sticks of gum and were basically just meant to hold and play a finite number of songs. You really couldn’t do much with the music held on these devices except to press play and listen to the same songs in the same order again and again. We bought these for the girls to use during road trips in the car. We thought that they were ready for this type of device because they had begun to have an awareness of popular music because of what I listened to and what they heard on the radio when driving around town with their mother. One of the songs that made it onto that original iPod Shuffle playlist was a song by Swedish House Mafia called “Don’t Worry Child” *(which you can listen to here). “Don’t Worry Child”, along with Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” (which the girls also had on their playlists) were among the very first songs to crossover from the burgeoning Electronic Dance Music genre and have success on mainstream radio. Because we could plug the Shuffles into our car’s audio system, we all became quite familiar with the thirty-fifty songs each girl had on their playlists, and, as a result, we know far more about Swedish House Mafia than you may expect from nerds like us.

Swedish House Mafia.

“Moth To A Flame” is the latest single from Swedish House Mafia to enjoy crossover success. This is helped in part because of the presence of The Weeknd on this song. The Weeknd owns his own publishing company. This company signs and promotes other artists and bands besides The Weeknd. One of the bands that recently signed onto The Weeknd’s company was Swedish House Mafia. So, it is not unexpected that a collaboration would take place and that The Weeknd would use his star power to boost the signal on this new song. Even though this is not a Hip Hop song, “Moth To A Flame” uses the same group dynamic as old-school rappers used back in the day. In this case, The Weeknd is the singer of the lyrics while the three members of Swedish House Mafia act as DJs. They bring their skills at sampling to bear and surround The Weeknd’s vocals with an enormous soundscape to play in.

Much is expected from this song because of the business investment being made, so I imagine we will be hearing “Moth To A Flame” quite a bit over the next few months. You get to hear it while it is still relatively fresh and new. Enjoy.

***The link to the lyrics video for “Moth To A Flame” can be found here.

Note: Header photos taken at the recent Osheaga Music Festival held in Montreal at the end of July, 2022. A link to the festival website can be found here.

***As always…all original content found in this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post may be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

My Best Teacher Gift Ever!!!

From the Vault on #TBT…the story of the Best Gift I ever received as a teacher! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you, all!

At the core of teaching lies humanity.   

Teachers don’t manufacture widgets or track currency fluctuations on overseas markets as they go about their daily business.  Teachers spend their day interacting with some of society’s most interesting, creative, adaptive, vulnerable, courageous citizens.  Children are capable of doing almost anything at any time. That’s one of the reasons that teaching is such a fascinating profession.  You can have the same teacher in the same classroom with the same group of children and never experience the same school day twice!   

To the teacher who views his/her students as human beings, rather than names on a class list, the complexity of the young hearts and minds that assemble in their classroom each day is what makes the job so attractive and interesting. Sometimes, an “interesting” day can be a tiring day if one of the students is angry or emotionally upset. Sometimes, an “interesting” day can be hilarious and memorable.  The story of My Best Teacher Gift Ever is one of those moments that come completely out of left field and, once you regain your wits, makes you smile for the rest of your life. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did when it happened.

I was teaching in a Grade 2 classroom in Courtice, Ontario.  I had no gifted students in this class but, no hardcore, troubled behavioural children, either.  On the whole, the class was comprised of nice, friendly, average kids.  They were a good group. I liked coming to school each day and so did they. I got along well with all of their parents. In short, it was a good year in the wonderful world of Grade 2.

This story takes place on the last week before our Christmas holidays.  If you have ever been in a primary-aged classroom the week before Christmas, you know that there is a higher than normal buzzing of energy to be found (and, I don’t mean from the overhead lights, either). If teachers were being honest, they would admit that that last week of school is not the most academically-intensive week to be had during the school year. But, just the same, maintaining some semblance of routine is important so, in between concert rehearsals and craft making, we still did some simple bits of regular work.  One of the things that helped make up my “Holiday” unit was, of course, a set of spelling/vocabulary activities.  We brainstormed chart paper filled lists of words that had to do with Hanukkah, Kwanza and Christmas.  The kids searched for words in word search puzzles, they unscrambled mixed up spellings, they filled in the blanks, they typed stories on the computer and on and on it went.  Well, since it was the last week of school and I had a group of kids that could go along with a joke,  I created a worksheet of questions and answers that had, as the final question, the following: “If you were a millionaire and could buy Mr. MacInnes any three gifts in the world, what would your three gifts be?”    I was hoping for answers like, “A rocket ship to go to the moon in”, or “A fancy sports car” or, “A trip around the world” but, instead, what I got back from this bunch of well-meaning but, average-joes was more along the lines of shirts, sweaters and pants.  I was a bit disappointed by the lack of imagination that they had shown until I got to the worksheet handed in by a little girl named Megan.

Megan was a nice little girl with freckles across her nose that spilled onto her cheeks. She wore her blonde hair in a bob style. Her blue eyes sparkled whenever she smiled, which was fairly often.  All in all, Megan was a good kid so, as I read over her answers, I was not prepared for what I saw when I got to the last question. She wrote, “I would give Mr. MacInnes a new sweater, a new pair of shoes and a g string.”  

I read the first two parts of her answer with my brain in neutral but, her last answer snapped me to attention!  I re-read her answer just to confirm that I had actually read what I had thought I had read.  It turns out that I had!   G-string! Wow!  Where did that come from?  I decided to check to see if she could have meant something else like “guitar” or “gerbil” because kids at that age can still be prone to phonetic and/or inventive spelling but, the spelling was clearly a “g” and a space and “string” spelled correctly.  Needless to say, I felt the need to check into this so, as the rest of the class crafted or did whatever Holiday activity they were engaged in, I called Megan over.

“Megan”, I said. “I was checking over everyone’s worksheet and there are a couple of answers I’d like to read for me, if you would.”    

She said, “Sure, Mr. MacInnes.”

I had her read her answer to Question #1 and #3, just so she wouldn’t realize what I was really wanting to know and have her think that she was in trouble or anything like that. She read her answers and proudly smiled at me as if to say, “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“Could you read #5, too, please?”

“Ok….. I said that I would give Mr. MacInnes a new sweater……….because you have a hole in your brown one. Did you know that?”   I grunted a smile and motioned for her to continue. “I would give Mr. MacInnes a new pair of shoes…….because you have scuff marks on yours………and a g string.”   She turned to me and smiled the same smile she displayed after reading the answers to Questions #1 and 3.

So I said, “Megan, I understand what a sweater is and the part about the shoes but, I’m not sure what you mean by a g string”.

She smiled and put her hand on my arm and sweetly said, “Oh, Mr. MacInnes, everyone knows that a g string is underwear.”

“Ok”, I said. “Then answer this for me, please. I understand why you would buy a new sweater to replace my holey one and new shoes to replace the scuffed ones but, why do you want to buy me underwear?”

She looked around to be sure that no one could hear and then she leaned in, “In my home, whenever Daddy or Mommy wear their g strings, they run around the house, laughing and tickling each other.  It makes them so happy. I want you to be happy in your home, too.”

Well, what do you say to that?  I smiled and gave her a quick hug and thanked her for thinking of me and my state of personal happiness.  The story would have ended there except for a fluke of timing. During the month of December, report cards are prepared and sent home and parent-teacher interviews are conducted. Depending on everyone’s schedules, it sometimes takes a couple of weeks to get everyone to come in to the school to meet.  As luck would have it, Megan’s parents were one of two interviews I had left to conduct!

So, the very next day, after school, Megan’s mother and father walked into the classroom and sat down.  I had Megan’s work folder out and showed them some of her Math work, a painting she had done, some pictures she had drawn and, lo and behold, her spelling work that included word search puzzles, mixed up spelling words, fill in the blank sheets and, yes, a certain question and answer sheet that she had completed just the day before!   I sat there and let them look at each sheet and then, the final Q & A sheet.  I watched as they scanned down through the answers, finally arriving at the last question.  I saw Megan’s Mom mouth the words, “sweater” and “shoes” and then, her mouth just opened and she began blushing furiously. Dad broke out laughing and looked down at the floor. I just sat there quietly for a few seconds, thoroughly enjoying the moment.

Then I said to them, “Don’t worry. Teachers hear far more about what goes on at home than most parents realize.  The important thing to take from this is that in Megan’s eyes, she feels that she comes from a home that is filled with love and happiness.  She feels that you both love each other and not every child can say that about their parents. You should feel proud that your daughter views you that way and that she feels so happy herself.”   They both smiled and thanked me for my kind words.  

I have gotten many, many gifts from families over the course of my career but, nothing comes close to the imaginary g string I received that year from little Megan.  I wonder if widgets ever give gifts to the people who make them? I doubt it.  Thank goodness I have had the pleasure of spending my career in the daily company of children.  They are the essence of humanity and our society’s most precious gift.