Well, the live Herndon Playlist experiment is in the books. I’ve listened to it again and the mistakes make me cringe. Still, I promised to post it as a podcast, so here it is:
And, as promised, here is some of the thinking (and overthinking) behind the songs I included in this year’s playlist. I have used a couple of songs on multiple playlists and wanted to give this one its own feel.
Right as Rain, Chloe & the Silver Strings
I added this one for two simple reasons. One, I love the sound of Chloe’s voice. Two, in the first half of the song, she sings things are “all right as rain” but in the second half she changes that, every so subtly, to “I’m GONNA be all right.” To me, that encapsulates my Plebe Parent experience. When my son received his appointment, everything felt perfect. It wasn’t until our horrible I Day experience I realized I wasn’t all right and had to convince myself I eventually would be. It took a long time to get to that point. I love that the first two songs are from groups near the Bowling Green State University campus and that both groups have performed in our Stanton Audio Recording Studio as part of our Live and Loud series.
Longshot, Freight Street
I hate to play favorites, but this is the one for this playlist. When I learned this group was coming to our studios for a performance, I did a little research and came across this song’s title. I saw “Longshot” and thought, well, this will be on a Herndon Playlist. I was totally focused on the effort needed to get into the Naval Academy and thought that was that. I was able to sit in on the recording and that’s when lead singer Flannery Murnen got choked up talking about this song. Flannery (they/he) talked about their struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic and how the song was about self-care and working through struggles. I listened to the song repeatedly, each time picking up something different because there are so many fragments of the lyrics that hit home. The line that sticks out: “”I lost myself out there, changed my name and cut my hair, I had to change my point of view.” I envisioned my son on Worden Field, enduring another endless PT session. No longer Noah but, at best, Smith and more likely something much less pleasant, sporting his shaved head. As emotional as the song is, it reaches another level near the end when Flannery begins singing, “I just try to breathe.” It takes me back to those six weeks that felt like six years when I suggested he take things minute to minute but struggled to follow that same advice. How powerful is this song? Well, as. I sat in the Falcon Radio studios with is pouring out of the monitors, I found myself getting misty-eyed. It brought forth memories that powerful.
Cruel Summer, Superchunk
This one was a simple add – I love the title but wasn’t crazy about the Bananarama style because it didn’t match the Plebe Summer vibe (too laid back). Finding interesting cover songs is one of my joys so I went about finding the perfect one for this song. I think I found it. The pace feels like the way my son described Plebe Summer.
Way Down Now, World Party
I’ve had this CD for years … if you couldn’t tell by me using the term CD. I don’t know why I never included it in a Herndon Playlist but for some reason, it came to my mind as I was mulling songs for this year’s edition. While I love the beat and rhythm, the lyrics are quite dystopian which, to be honest, fits Plebe Year pretty well. Best example: “”Inside my future life, what I see just makes me cry.” I can imagine every single Plebe thinking that very thing during Plebe Summer because, if the beginning is bad, how awful will the next four years be?
Fruitless, Poi Dog Pondering
Here’s another piece that’s been in my musical library for decades but for some reason never came to mind when I was curating Herndon playlists. I love Poi Dog’s sound and the lyrics are definitely Plebe-worthy. I shared this line during the broadcast – “I push and push not to give in.” But consider the opening line: “I could walk away, I could let this fly
Go back home and start again” and “I could walk away, I’ve been pushing for so long, All dried out and sap sucked thin.” Could have been written by a Plebe.
Forward Motion and The Distance (Cake Cover), Relient K
It’s no secret that I’m a big Relient K. The first time I saw them, they were near the bottom of a seven-band show in the basement of a church in suburban Philadelphia. I’ve featured them a couple of times on previous playlists and I thought these two songs made a great couple. The key to surviving Plebe Summer is simply moving forward. The best advice I gave Noah was observing that no matter what happens, the Detailers and later upperclassmen, in general, couldn’t stop the clock. So if he had just survived the worst 30 minutes of his life, he was 30 minutes closer to it all being over. So it was all about forward motion. Eventually, they realize this is a marathon, not a sprint and it’s all about going the distance. Is it any wonder I played these songs back-to-back?
Hey Hey, Superchick
Here’s another band I’ve liked for a long time and have featured in previous playlists. I love this one because it’s about not worrying about what other people think. That applies to Midshipmen, of course, but also to their parents, a group more passionate than just about any other I’ve encountered. So as lead singer Tricia Brock proclaims, “This song is for us, so put your hands in the air if you’re crazy like us.”
The Ballroom Blitz, Calibretto 13
As you have probably figured out already, I overthink this whole thing. A lot. But if you think I overthink most of the playlist, you have to believe I really overthink the final song. In fact, I agonize over the final song. I always want to find a song that captures the frenetic excitement of those final moments just before that Midshipman cover finds its final resting place. In my never-ending search for great cover songs, I came across this gem, which I love because some of the 2026 parents will (vaguely) remember the original.
Woo Hoo, Newsboys
The postlogue … I like to add a song after saying thank you and always think of this as the “after party.” This song is another one that has been in my regular rotation for many years. You can almost visualize Homer Simpson saying, “woo hoo!” for the Plebes after completing their climb.
Of course, I believe ending each playlist with a version of Blue & Gold seems appropriate. It never gets old.
I hope you enjoyed this year’s Herndon Playlist half as much as I did just making it. And best of luck to Class of 2026. Enjoy the rest of the ride!