“Mother, Mother” Tracy Bonham

album cover art for Tracy Bonham's The Burdens of Being Upright. Shows her holding up a stack of bricks on her shoulders.

This one is new to me, even though it’s Tracy Bonham’s most famous song and it’s from 1996. I’m a fan of 90s music, especially alt rock, so I’m surprised I never came across this. But I’m glad I did, thanks to a Spotify playlist full of female rock artists.

Bonham mixes soft, acoustic guitar verses with a raging chorus that builds to her screaming, “Everything’s fine”. Something makes me think she’s not fine. Coupled with her deft songwriting that contrasts what she tells her mother about her life with what is actually happening, “Mother Mother” is a nuanced and layered song both musically and lyrically.

I really feel her struggle as an adult who maybe doesn’t feel like an adult when talking to her parents. It also highlights how we make small talk, tell our parents what they want to hear, but face a different reality. I’m always going to connect with good songwriting. It helps though that the song kicks ass and melds the acoustic and louder rock together in one song.

I really do miss the alt rock and adult contemporary singer/songwriter combos of the 90s. We could use a revival of this type of music on today’s charts. The modern iteration of “adult contemporary” is basically just regular pop music. It’s not that we don’t have artists who emphasize writing and create minimalist songs; it’s just that those people don’t have their own category or genre, besides maybe indie or folk.

Thank God for streaming services.

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