When we built this Experience Magazine playlist for our Play issue, we resolved to keep it to actual songs about play and fun. That meant none of pop music’s countless bitter love songs about “playing games with my heart.” Nor did we indulge in any rockers’ self-regarding songs about playing guitar.
Instead, we lead off with three playful songs with “play” in their titles. “We want to kick it like we used to,” sings Prince on “Play in the Sunshine,” a hopeful song from his landmark 1987 album Sign o’ the Times. Maybe he’s thinking of childhood, maybe a younger adulthood. Queen’s “Play the Game,” from 1980, is a song about love, but for once in pop music, the singer declares that the listener can win the game. (OK, twice: we’ve also included Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders’ 1965 single “The Game of Love,” which hit #1 in the U.S. and #2 in Britain.) And Santana’s “Let the Children Play,” from 1977, is a rousing call for free-range parenthood.
Like our Play issue, our playlist mostly focuses on keeping a spirit of playfulness and fun, even as adults. The White Stripes’ “We’re Going to be Friends,” from their 2003 album Elephant, is all about the excitement of going back to school in the fall. It’s sung from the point of view of one child to another: “Walk with me, Suzy Lee / Through the park and by the tree / We will rest upon the ground / And look at all the bugs we found.” Spare and acoustic — very stripped down for the White Stripes — the song’s sound, like its lyrics, evokes the kind of innocence that play can restore in anyone.
Listen to the playlist as you read this month’s stories about games, sports, music, and how we enjoy the world.