Pomp Pop And Circumstances: High School Graduation Music From Lori McKenna, Eric Hutchinson, Abby Bannon and Sharon Van Etten & Joshua Homme

It’s high school graduation season, and this year it is a very unique one. There’s the pandemic obviously, but it is also the year for my daughter’s high school graduation. And since she is the only child in our household, this graduation has been high on our agenda. Happily there have been a several songs to come out to help provide a nice soundtrack to this strange graduation season.

For parents, there’s no place better to start with the inimitable Lori McKenna. Her new tune, “When You’re My Age,” is a heartfelt, heart-aching ode to parent/child relationships, crafted with all the real-life moments and emotionally resonant details that McKenna is known for. The tune is a guaranteed eye-welling gut-punch for parents, and perhaps teens too. It’s worth noting too that she is a parent of a high school senior. Jostens, the country’s leader in custom class jewelry, wisely picked it as its official song for the Class of 2020, and it’ll be featured as part of Jostens’ free online “Virtual Commencement” programs. Folks can also find it among the ten tracks on McKenna’s forthcoming album, The Balladeer, due July 24 on CN Records via Thirty Tigers

Those graduating high school might gravitate more to Abby Bannon’s song “Here’s To You.” Like McKenna, Bannon has a personal connection to this year’s high school graduation; the 18 year old just finished her senior year at Crawfordsville (Indiana) High School. Much like its video scrapbook style, the song offers a sweet, and a bit bittersweet-tinged, look at her high school days. Bannon does a wonderful job wrapping her teen spirit into an expertly composed tune. No surprise then that she is headed to Nashville to study music at Belmont University.

Eric Hutchinson strikes a hopefully, nostalgic note on his new tune, “Good Things Come.” He originally wrote it as a message he would’ve given to his teenaged self, but the song now has added meaning to those graduating into this strange, unsettled world. The fun little (sub-3 minute) tune boasts a nifty, ‘90s college rock sound – something Hutchinson explore more on his new CD, Class of 98 (due June 12) that has been described as an autobiographical look at his adolescence.

Watch its retro-notebook-themed video here:

Now, Sharon Van Etten’s duet with Joshua Homme on “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?” isn’t really directly related to high school graduations, but I couldn’t resist including for a couple reasons. One: it is one of my favorite tunes (going back to Brinsley Schwarz’s original, pre-Elvis Costello’s version). Two: Van Etten and Homme do a great job in re-envisioning the song. Their pensive rendition made me think how the song resembles a classic country duet. Three: this cover very much concerns parents and children, particularly how parents wish for a better world for their kids. Four: the video is a terrific done-at-home effort – haunting but sweetened with just enough humor. For a more harrowing Van Etten- involved high school viewing experience, track down Never Rarely Sometimes Always, a recently released indie film in which she has a small role as a mom. But here is the “Peace, Love and Understanding” video…


Hope everyone is well, taking care, being safe, and hanging in there.


About Michael Berick

I am a longtime writer, and lover, of music and pop culture. I have written for Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, the LA Weekly, the San Francisco Chronicle, Cleveland Scene and more places (that I wouldn't take up more of your time mentioning now).
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