Sometimes we need to be reminded of the things that make life good. It’s hard to think about how we are often so caught up in our own problems that we can barely see the people around us. When we really look, we are reminded that we are not alone in our struggles. Sometimes we need to give kindness to others before kindness can come to us. While giving is a truly beautiful part of the human experience, in many instances, it has turned on its head. Instead of letting people give to us out of the kindness of their hearts, we demand and we take. This playlist explores the ways that selflessness allows us to be closer to others and how selfishness further isolates us.
- “The Giving Tree” by Plain White T’s
This Illinois rock band formed by high school friends soon became an important influence in music to the pop punk scene. Although everybody knows the famous hit “Hey There Delilah,” the Plain White T’s have been responsible for recording other hit songs such as “Rhythm of Love” and “1234” which were both nominated for Grammy awards. In 2000, the band recorded their debut album Come on Over and later in 2002 released their second album, Stop, which caught the attention of the record label Fearless Records who later signed Plain White T’s. After later signing with Hollywood Records in 2006 for their subsequent albums, Plain White T’s went back to Fearless Records to record their latest album, Parallel Universe.
Inspired by the children’s book of the same name, “The Giving Tree” is about a relationship in which the speaker feels like they have given everything and have gotten nothing in return. It’s a sad story that illustrates the capacity of the human heart and how much we are able to give before we use ourselves up. The song begins with the lines “All the leaves on the giving tree have fallen. No shade to crawl in underneath.” It is clear that the tree is wilted and baren because of how much he’s allowed himself to hurt for this other person. He can no longer provide any shelter for them because he’s had to give up on protecting them in order to save himself. The chorus pinpoints the exact message of the song in the lyrics “If all you wanted was love, why would you use me up?” Here, the speaker is trying to show that he had so much love for this other person, but that they kept taking advantage of that love instead of nourishing it. It became a relationship that was one-sided and taxing. In comparing himself to a tree, the speaker allows himself to be seen as a commodity instead of as a person.
- “Give A Little Bit” by Supertramp
In 1969, the English rock band from London, Supertramp, formed with members Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies. They were known for their progressive rock style, but later expanded their sound to music that combined the sounds of pop, rock and art rock. One of the things that set Supertramp apart was their inventive use of instruments in their music. Their use of the Wurlitzer electric piano and the saxophone set them up for a unique sound. They gained more popularity upon the release of their studio album Breakfast in America which sold over 20 million copies. Most recently, Supertramp reformed again in 2015 for their European tour “Supertramp Forever.”
“Give A Little Bit” is a song about what it means to share in a relationship and how mutualism can lead to its success. Even though Hodgson repeatedly asks throughout the song for his partner to “give a little bit of [their] love to [him],” it does not come across as demanding because he immediately reciprocates by giving his own love as well. Instead of simply taking all of the love, he demonstrates how both partners in a relationship need to feel valued in order for things to work out. He furthers his message in saying, “There’s so much that we need to share, so send a smile, and show you care.” He doesn’t just want love to get it, he wants to be able to share in an experience with the person he loves through the act of giving and receiving. This song is not about want, but about balancing one’s needs with someone else.
- “You Get What You Give” by New Radicals
Perhaps having the briefest shelf-life of any band featured in this article, New Radicals was only active from 1997 to 1999. While they had a short history, they didn’t leave without first making an impact. The band was formed by songwriter and producer Gregg Alexander alongside the only other permanent member of the band, keyboardist and percussionist Danielle Brisebois. During their short run-time, the band only released one album in 1998 called Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too. The album transcended the laws of modern rock as it was heavily influenced by stylings of rock and soul in the 1970s. In mid 1999, the group split up as Alexander went on to pursue songwriting opportunities for other artists.
The inspirational track from New Radicals highlights the difficulties that adolescents have with growing up and finding who they are. This song is not just about revolution, but about ingenuity and perseverance. The song begins with the line “Wake up kids, you’ve got the dreamer’s disease” as a way of trying to motivate the next generation to keep trying. New Radicals are trying to point out that your dreams can be achievable if you work towards them. The song was also released during a time of mass hysteria as the Y2K freakout was brewing in the minds of young people everywhere. The song tries to inspire hope in the minds of listeners in saying, “One dance left, this world is gonna pull through.” While they are talking about the continuation of life past the year 2000, they also are assuring their listeners that the world will pull through for them and that good fortune will come their way. If there’s any takeaway from this late 90s hit, it’s not to give up on yourself.
- “Something’s Gotta Give” by Camila Cabello
Former member of the popular girls group Fifth Harmony, Camila Cabello is a Cuban-American singer and songwriter. She began working as a solo artists through her collaborations with other artists including “I Know What You Did Last Summer” with Shawn Mendes and “Bad Things” with Machine Gun Kelly. In 2018, Camila Cabello officially went solo with the release of her debut album, Camila. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart and the lead single “Havana” reached number one in both the United States and the United Kingdom. In December of 2018, Cabello was nominated for two Grammy Awards for Best Pop Solo Performance and Best Pop Vocal Album.
“Something’s Gotta Give” is the portrait of the tragic end of a relationship. Cabello narrates the story of her experience in a partnership that is no longer serving either one of them well. Although she reminisces on how good their love once was, she claims, “But we could only burn so long,” because desire isn’t enough to keep a relationship in motion. She adds that she knows that their relationship is now fruitful with lies and faked emotions, and she doesn’t want to keep this up. She says, “All I do is give and all you do is take,” meaning that the relationship has become a one-way street. She has no reason to stay in it anymore because she is not getting what she needs and in turn is just feeling taking advantage of. When there is no balance and no compromise, there can’t be real love.
- “What You Give” by Tesla
American rock band from Sacramento, California, Tesla, formed in 1981. The band consists of lead vocalist Jeff Keith, guitarist Frank Hannon, drummer Troy Luccketta, guitarist Tommy Skeoch and bassist Brian Wheat. Formed by Wheat and Hannon, originally they were known as a duo under the name Earthshaker and the City Kidd, but later changed their musical style to a more rooted sound under the new name Tesla. To date, the band has sold over 14 million albums in the United States. In 1986, they released their debut album, Mechanical Resonance, after agreeing to change the band name inspired by the inventor Nikola Tesla. Although this band has a long history of disbanding and getting back together, this past March, they released their 9th studio album titled Shock.
“What You Give” takes a deeper look into human need through an introspective set of lyrics. The speaker in the song begins by asking a series of questions to his partner, saying, “Who’s the one that makes you happy? Or maybe, who’s the one always on your mind?” By asking these questions, he is reminding the other person of the importance of feeling wanted and being happy with someone. He then laments over his loneliness, knowing that right now, he’s not getting everything he needs from life. He continues by saying, “Everybody needs somebody” as a way of telling his audience that everyone needs to feel loved and cared for in order to really get by. He tells the other person that they are the one that’s keeping him going and that he’s willing to sacrifice everything to love them. While we don’t know how this other person feels, it’s clear that one side of this relationship wants to give a whole lot more. Maybe the guy should just move on and find someone who’s willing to give his love back.
- “Giving Up Groud” by Chelsea Cutler and Quinn XCII
Chelsea Cutler is an up-and-coming EDM artist from Westport, Connecticut. In 2014, she started attracting attention through her music covers on YouTube. In 2016, she began collaborating with other EDM artists including Kidwaste, Louis the Child and Kasbo. In October of 2017, she released her debut EP, Snow in October. Quinn XCII is an American singer from Michigan who started his career in 2014 when he was enrolled at Michigan State University. This past February, he released his second album, From Michigan With Love.
“Giving Up Ground” depicts the struggles of trying to find one’s place in a relationship and if that relationship is right to begin with. Throughout the song, the speaker is questioning her decisions to be with this person because of the unfair scales in in their partnership. She’s finally fed up when she says “I’m done pretending I’m wrong when it’s not my fault.” Her partner has kept blaming her for the problems they’re having, a manipulative tactic to try to turn the crime on the victim. The song switches off to a male speaker as Quinn XCII takes over and describes his difficulties in a longtime relationship that’s no longer working. He doesn’t know how to say goodbye to the idea of something he’s had for so long, but now he sees the “For sale signs on whatever once was [theirs].” Sometimes you have to evaluate if its worth it to stay when you’re no longer a priority.
- “Giving In” by Club Kuru
Club Kuru is a British alt-psych-rock band from London, England signed to Dog Holiday Records. The band draws much of its influence from music of the 1960s and 70s and prides themselves on the drama and wit of their music. The duo, made up of vocalist Laurie Erskine and guitarist Laurence Hammerton, released their debut EP ,Giving In, in 2018 which was entirely self-written and self-produced. Their latest project is a single called “By the Windowpane.”
“Giving In” describes a crossroads in a man’s life at which he has to start making major decisions. The first of those presents itself in the opening lyrics “Carley is hardly a part of me, but Angie is living inside of me” in which he has to choose between two women in his life. Right now, he just wants to live for the sake of living, but he knows that eventually he has to grow up and face the music. He says, “Spiders are living inside of us, and the party is running away from me.” This is likely a metaphor for growing older and not being able to pursue the drunken days of his youth. He doesn’t want to give in to his maturation, but he can’t keep giving in to all of his desires either.
Giving reminds us of the parts of human nature that are both good and bad. When someone gives or takes too much, it begins to complicate relationships. We need to realize our worth, but we also need to know not to be selfish with our time and our love. Finding the balance is just the true challenge of life.