I know in my head that vulnerability is a beautiful thing. I’ve seen the power of authenticity. You see, those kinds of authentic people—the ones who refuse to listen to the societal pressures that exactly who they are is not enough—are by far the most captivating, inspiring and attractive. Why? This kind of true vulnerability is messy, but it’s so brave.
And it’s in these moments of witnessed bravery that strength is evident, hope is on brilliant display and comfort is immediate in assuring us that we are certainly not alone.
That’s what the best music is—brave, vulnerable and messy. But I haven’t always appreciated that beautiful mess. In fact, the fear of vulnerability almost made me give up music, the thing I loved, altogether.
Music has always been a huge part of my life; I’ve been in love with singing since the moment I learned to speak a word. I still remember the songs my mom and dad would make up and sing over my sister and me while we fell asleep. And I can still sing the catchy refrains from songs that I wrote with my sister when we were little—songs that seemed, at the time, like major money makers but are now only kept on file for when a good laugh is needed. To this day, I could still tell you every song I’ve ever sung in a school talent show, church service, recital or in-home performance on the steps of our living room.
But somewhere along the way, I lost sight in the performance. Pursuing what I loved was no longer going to cut it; I wanted to be perfect. I was disinterested in removing the mask and exposing every flaw, shortcoming and fear. I was convinced that this kind of honesty with myself and with others would ruin me.
But vulnerability does not wreck us; it rescues us.
It rescues us from the unbearable pressure to perform, to keep it together, to never let anyone down, to be good enough yet somehow never too much and to not drop the ball. And music is that rescue for a lot of people, myself included. Music, when crafted artfully, intentionally and honestly, has a special power and hope that levels the playing field for all people from any background. It is a safe place for anyone to both inspire and find inspiration.
This playlist includes songs by a lot of artists whom I have looked up to for some time now, and they are artists who push past the ordinary in music, creating art that encourages and refreshes. Many of these artists are ones I’ve gotten to see live, and every song included in the list gives a glimpse of my journey as I am learning that vulnerability is crucial, that beauty is omnipresent and that this world needs more hope.
Some of these songs have made me cry and still give me chills each time I listen. Other songs have reminded me that it’s okay not to be okay. And still other songs have provided just the right inspiration to never give up on a dream, no matter how difficult the seasons get.