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The Good Listener: A Father-Daughter Wedding Dance That Won't Make Everyone Gag

How do you pick a song for a father and daughter's wedding dance without spiraling into sappiness?
How do you pick a song for a father and daughter's wedding dance without spiraling into sappiness?

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the debt-consolidation offers is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, our ideas for songs that fathers and daughters can dance to at weddings.

Célèste Brott writes: "I'm trying to pick a father-daughter dance song for my wedding, but most of the suggestions I come across make me gag. They fall mostly into the category of 'What an angel she is'-type songs, or are too sentimental about 'What a great dad he was.' I want it to be something we both love, and that we can dance to. Something that hits the right sentimental note, sure, but isn't sappy or impersonal. Any ideas?"

Picking any music for a wedding is weirdly fraught, particularly if you're the sort of person whose taste in love songs — or taste in love, for that matter — runs toward the complex and compromised. Weddings are about absolutes, and love songs that express absolute emotions (permanence, certainty) have a tendency to come off as mawkish or excessively sentimental. Throw in the unconditional love between a parent and a child, and ... hoo boy, that narrows down the options. I've been taking my daughter to "daddy daughter dances" since she was barely old enough to run around, and have yet to hear anything there that conjures up images of her future wedding day. (THANK GOD.)

That said, since before she was born, I've had the exact right song picked out for this very occasion, should it arise — a song that has been laying waste to my defenses since I first heard it almost exactly 10 years ago. I've been playing it for my kids since way before they can remember, and my 8-year-old daughter still listens to it as part of our bedtime ritual virtually every night.

With apologies to those who've heard me prattle about this song before, Clem Snide's "Find Love" is, in all seriousness, perfect; I have listened to it hundreds if not thousands of times, and if anything, it's only grown on me. Heard in the context of a parent's love — of deeply humane advice and wishes for a child, regardless of his or her age — it says everything. Take chances. Put yourself out there. Face the world with a generous heart. Live your life. Make the world your own. "Find love, and then give it all away."

That said, that's my choice; while you're welcome to swipe it for your own purposes, the important thing is to pick something that suits you and your specific relationship. Reader suggestions, song picks and wedding stories are more than welcome in the comments section.

Nick Faris writes: "A friend recently posted a picture of her old Ace of Base cassette tape. I'll admit that when that album came out, I saw the sign and it opened up my eyes. But if I saw that same sign for the first time today, I don't think my eyes would open nearly as much as they once did, if at all. So my question is, would you rather outgrow or grow old with the music you currently love?"

Well, there's no reason you can't do both: You can recognize what was silly or schlocky about songs you once loved, and understand what has caused them to age even more poorly than I have and yet still hold them close to you as triggers for happy memories. In part because of my job, I rarely go back and dust off the music I loved as a kid, but I still hold on to those records and think of them fondly — whether they were gateways into more adult tastes (Tracy Chapman's fantastic first record) or emblems of embarrassing adolescent episodes (yeah, I'll admit it: Chicago 18).

Given the choice, I would much rather outgrow my favorite music — and, on most days, much rather hear something new than something old. The sense of discovery is intoxicating: It keeps us young and enthusiastic, and wards off the disease of perpetual discouragement; of thinking that nothing is as good or fresh or inventive or exciting as it was back when we were open to amazement.

Got a music-related question you want answered? Leave it in the comments, drop us an email at allsongs@npr.org or tweet @allsongs.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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