The Ultimate Late 80s/Early 90s Adult Contemporary Playlist

We spent Saturday night at my sister’s up in the Philadelphia ‘burbs and attended a costume party in celebration of my brother-in-law’s birthday. We had a great time chatting with their neighbors and friends. Clay and I originally set out to be Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton but over the course of the night, we morphed into recent Powerball winners from Houston (check out my Instagram for photographic evidence). I learned that platinum blonde is not my color and Clay learned that it is extremely difficult to eat hors d’oeuvres while wearing a fake beard. And on the drive home the following morning, Clay and I put our Amazon Music subscription to good use and spent the three hours working together the most epic late 80s/early 90s adult contemporary playlist.

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This was the music on the radio while our parents drove us to practices, sleepovers, and the roller skating rink. When we listen to these songs today (usually in a grocery store), we’re not only met with nostalgia but also the realization that these are actually pretty damn good songs. Perhaps your mom would fan herself while watching a Michael Bolton music video on VH1 or your dad would belt out the chorus of I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That) with the passion of Jean Valjean. And if you were anything like 8-year-old me, you preferred the adult contemporary station on your battery-operated boombox and thought it didn’t get much better than Bette Midler in Beaches.

There is a particular sound associated with adult contemporary music from this era (we set the parameters of music released between 1987 and 1993) that evokes an ethereal vibe (probably the pan flutes) that instantly puts me in a good mood. This list features too many saxophone solos to count (does anyone else think that there are far too few saxophone solos in popular music today?) and enough synthesizer to power Cleveland. You will see that Michael Bolton makes the list twice because we couldn’t agree on the best Michael Bolton song during that period and that we didn’t discriminate based on age, race, or creed.

The Ultimate Late 80s/Early 90s Adult Contemporary Playlist

And just for fun – here are the best music videos from the list. Enjoy!

King of Wishful Thinking by Go West. After you watch this deliciously early-90s video, be sure to check out the shot-for-shot remake that Jimmy Fallon and Paul Rudd did earlier this year.

Fun fact – this song was Donny Osmond’s comeback hit after a radio station promoted it via a mystery artist campaign – read more about it here.

The “We can work it out!” in a pained yell at 2:37 is EVERYTHING and gives me life.

What are some of your favorite adult contemporary songs for this era? Did any of your favorites make the list? Do you disagree with any of our selections? Let’s talk grocery store music…

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My Favorite {Good Mood} Songs

Last night, after spending the entire day running around the District, we dragged the kids to see the National Symphony Orchestra play on the west lawn of the US Capitol. We sat on an old Toy Story bedsheet as we ate Shake Shack underneath the stars while listening to works by Aaron Copland, John Williams, and Adolphus Hailstork.

It was hotter than a pepper sprout and the air was sticky but for 90 minutes, we were surrounded by notes, chords, and even spoken word. It would have been easier to just take the kids home after the Air & Space museum closed but I was determined to give them this experience – especially because it was free. And I really wanted to see the National Symphony Orchestra because music has the ability to illustrate and evoke emotions beyond words. And what better place to experience such a feat than within steps of the US Capitol?

Jack Kerouac told us that “the only truth is music” and according to Jane Austen, “without music, life would be blank…” so when my friend, Kait, sent out a bat signal for posts about favorite songs as part of her September blogging challenge, I knew I’d participate. My focus is a bit more narrow because I am focusing on my favorite good mood songs. You know, the type of songs that embody a flickering neon pink positive vibes only sign. Some just beg us to get up and dance. Others have us sitting down with a goofy smile. And a few are so transformative that they can turn around our mood for the day.

My Favorite {Feel Good} Songs

Harry Belafonte – Jump in Line. This song is pure vacation. You can find me scrubbing toilets and mopping floors with Jump in Line streaming through headphones. You can also find me humming this song poolside while sipping a pina colada –  my feet moving back and forth with the beat.

AC/DC – Back in Black. I don’t think it is possible for me to complete a workout without listening to at least the opening riff of Back in Black. Whenever I want/need to feel like a badass, I turn on this song, channel my inner-Brian Johnson and let the good times roll.

Regina Spektor – FidelityThis album was so important to my early twenties and I will forever be indebted to Fidelity to getting me through some of the darkest moments of Clay’s first deployment. Back then – I would play this song to brighten my mood and it’s impossible for me to hear her over-annunciate heart and fall without a smile on my face. On a related note – Samson was one of my go-to sad/pensive songs during that time and continues to be to this day.

Queen – You’re My Best Friend. I like to imagine this song playing during the slide show that showcases the story of Clay and I – from when we were teenagers – to now – to when we’re super old and hitting the buffets at 4pm in pants with elastic waistbands. But since the opening credits of The Break Up features this song, perhaps it isn’t the best choice for our soundtrack. Oh well – it’s a damn good song and it makes me smile.

Walk the Moon – Shut Up and Dance. How can you not love this song? It’s so 80s, it’s so fun, and it just begs you to dance while singing along with the lyrics.

The Beach Boys – Kokomo. I was nine when I first saw The Beach Boys in concert at the Arizona State Fair. Yes – they have better songs than Kokomo but there is just something about this song. Is it is the saxophone solo? Perhaps. Is it the name-dropping of Caribbean islands? Maybe. Whatever it is – Kokomo is just a fantastic feel good song.

More feel good songs…

  • OutKast – Hey Ya!
  • Neil Diamond – Sweet Caroline
  • Billy Joel – Only the Good Die Young
  • Paul Simon – You Can Call Me Al
  • MIKA – Grace Kelly
  • Pink – So What

5 Movie Quotes About Love

“Everything I learned, I learned from the movies.”

Audrey Hepburn

I like to joke with Clay that I endured a lot of bad movies for the sake of spending time with him during our dating years. We do have similar tastes in most areas of life and there are no shortage of films that we both love – but we certainly have our preferences. He loves Quentin Tarantino films. I do not. I’m a sucker for (good) romantic comedies. He can take them or leave them. My argument is that the real world can be enough of a bummer that when I sit down to watch a movie, I want to experience happy feelings and be reminded about the positive aspects of life. He respects that and therefore watches John Wick-type movies on airplanes when he is TDY. I’d like to apologize to those who sit next to him.

The following are some of my favorite quotes about love from various films. The first one is arguably the most famous and I’m sure quite easy to find on Pinterest written in a whimsical font with an ascetically-pleasing graphic. But the others may not be as well-known. This list doesn’t feature “You had me at hello” or “As you wish” or even “Here’s looking at you kid“, but don’t let that deter you from reading on.

“I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

When Harry Met Sally

Okay, okay – this one is cheesy. It’s pure Velveeta. Speaking of Velveeta, I can’t stand the processed cheese product. I’m horrified when it is used in cheesesteaks and I find Rotel dip absolutely terrifying. Clay entered into our marriage with a fondness for Velveeta. However, that affection dissipated when he discovered that it was, in fact, not legally able to be labeled as cheese. Thank goodness. But back to When Harry Met Sally – yes, the quote is cheesy but it is also spot on. It’s true – when you realize that you want to spend the rest of your life with your lobster, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible. As someone who got married young (I was 21 when I walked down the aisle), I identify with this quote. For us, we knew we wanted to be together so why delay the inevitable?

“The odd thing about this form of communication is that you’re more likely to talk about nothing than something. But I just want to say that all this nothing has meant more to me than so many somethings.”

You’ve Got Mail

Sigh. You’ve Got Mail is one of my favorite movies. I find it to be a superior film to Sleepless in Seattle (controversial opinion, I know) and truly believe that I could watch it once a week and never tire of the 1998 Nora Ephron film. Meg Ryan’s character typed these words to Tom Hanks’ and I just adore how this quote captures the simplicity of communication. That a conversation seemingly about nothing can be just as, if not more, meaningful than the bigger moments in life, simply because you are having it with the right person.

“They say when you meet the love of your life, time stops, and that’s true. What they don’t tell you is that when it starts again, it moves extra fast to catch up.”

Big Fish

Clay and I went to see Big Fish at the theater when we were in college. Directed by Tim Burton, it is surreal film about tall tales, metaphors, and the relationship between a father and a son. This quote has stuck with me after all these years – now that I am in my mid-thirties time sure does seem to move a lot faster than it did in my twenties.

“It’s all those good things you have in you. The love, the wisdom, the generosity, the selflessness, the patience. The patience! At 3 A.M. when everyone’s awake because Ibrahim is sick and he can’t find the bathroom and he’s just puked all over Katki’s bed. When you blink, when you blink! And it’s 5:30 and it’s time to get up again and you know you’re going to be tired all day, all week, all your fucking life. And you’re thinking what happened to Greece? What happened to swimming naked off the coast of Greece? And you have to be willing to make the family out of whatever you have.”

Away We Go

I was pregnant with Weston when we saw this movie in the theater so I heavily (ha) identified with Maya Rudolph’s character. In the film, a couple, John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph (who is pregnant), travel around the country in hopes to find the perfect place to set down roots and start their family. The quote is from Chris Messina’s character to John Krasinski’s and it perfectly captures the absurdity of parenthood. In the moments – the ones where it feels like we’re gasping for air while drowning in attitude, clutter, kid sports, and homework – it’s important to remember who we are as a couple.

“I knew I’d never be able to remember what Nina wore that day. But I also knew I’d never forget the way she looked.” The Father of the Bride

How can you not love this movie and it’s opinion on superfluous buns? Steve Martin’s character said this about Diane Keaton’s and I think it perfectly sums up what is like to be with someone for years and experience life milestones together. These memories are etched into our souls but some of the details fade with time. It’s such a beautiful and simple sentiment.

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What are some of your favorite movie quotes about love?

The Ultimate Family Road Trip Playlist

Clay and I have been taking long road trips since our dating years in college. We were both out-of-state students at Clemson University and had a 650+ mile drive home – me to Pennsylvania and him to Ohio. During breaks we occasionally accompanied each other on these long drives home, unaware that they were just the beginning of what would be a lifetime of road trips together. Living far away from family and moving across the country on the whims of Uncle Sam have resulted in hundreds of thousands of miles logged together. Malcom Gladwell famously reasoned that 10,000 hours of practice can turn anyone into an expert – by that logic, Clay and I are fast approaching road trip expert status. Because of this, we have extensive knowledge in creating the ultimate family road trip playlist.

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Music is life. And thanks to streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music, we’re able to curate playlists that lend themselves to life on the road. We personally use Amazon Music – we find it the most user-friendly across a variety of platforms. We’ve used Price Music for years but recently we completed a free trial of Amazon Music Unlimited and loved it so much that we will continue to pay $7.99/month for the service.

Before I get into some specific song choices, I’d like to share the one rule regarding music on road trips to which we adhere – the driver veto. Whoever is driving on the road trip (which let’s be honest, is Clay 75% of the time), get’s the right to veto any song he or she wishes. It is just one of the many privileges that accompanies driving. Other than that, everything is fair game. So how do you make a spectacular road trip playlist that transcends the vast and various landscapes of our magnificent country? Easy – choose music you like, music that won’t make you fall asleep (e.g. we rarely listen to Bon Iver in the car), and music that is easy to sing along too.

If you’re like us and have little ones in the car, then you probably try to limit the explicit lyrics. But we certainly do not send ourselves to a Raffi and Laurie Berkner purgatory. Quite the opposite – we have no problem exposing our kids to great music. We also have no issue introducing them to the magic of guilty pleasure songs and the joy of singing along with one-hit-wonders. Below is just a sampling of songs we’ve included on our Ultimate Family Road Trip Playlist – I’ve broken them down by decade but there is no sense of order beyond that. We always utilize the shuffle function so everything gets discombobulated anyway – which is the way it should be when listening to music in the car.

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1960s

1970s

1980s

1990s

2000s

2010s

What are some of your family’s favorite songs to listen to in the car? Do you create playlists or listen to full albums? Is there any song in particular that reminds you of a road trip?