Emergency Music.

By: Jen Shoop

There is a fantastic scene in “As Good As It Gets” in which the protagonist (played by Jack Nicholson) senses that he is missing his opportunity to woo the character played by Helen Hunt and plays a tape cassette marked “for emergency.” Nat King Cole’s “I Love You (For Sentimental Reasons)” crackles through speakers of his red convertible. His love interest is not having any of it, but — for a moment — we sense that change may be afoot, and we find ourselves moved not only by Nicholson’s valiant last-ditch effort to communicate his romantic intentions but his evident pre-planning in stowing the tape in his glove box to begin with.

Do you have “emergency music”? Music that can change a mood, turn a tide?

During the depths of the pandemic, I must have played Tony Bennett’s “Silver Linings Album: The Songs of Jerome Kern” close to nightly. It is piano bar music — jazzy, crooning, light on the ivories — and I find it fills a room in a unique way. It casts a cozy ambiance, almost like the subtle perfume of flowers or the throw of candle light, but shies from center-stage. You never need to turn it down, or interrupt your thoughts or conversation to accommodate it. It is fundamentally non-competitive with other elements of an evening experience–and yet I find it wildly effective in changing my mood. I put it on, and I feel my shoulders relax, and the dense networks of thought and emotion I have been knitting throughout my day loosen from their spindles. There is a beautiful couplet from the poem “Failing and Flying” by Jack Gilbert in which he writes: “every morning she was asleep in my bed / like a visitation, the gentleness in her / like antelope standing in the dawn mist.” The poem is about a failed relationship, and so this remark is wildly out of context, but whenever I listen to the Silver Linings album, I feel that precise kind of gentleness gathering inside, a fawn-like, quiet grazing in morning haze.

Some of the album’s appeal sprang from its dramatic contrast with my daily life in those days: my day-to-day was so far removed from an elegant piano bar experience. I was marooned in my apartment with two young children and a dog and we did not know when or if New York’s restaurant scene would reopen. And so perhaps there was an element of imagination or ruefulness afoot, a nostalgia for the evening Mr. Magpie and I shared a bottle of champagne with my sister and brother-in-law at Bemelman’s Bar, or the times my parents treated us to cocktails at The Pierre before dinner, or the night we caught Stacey Kent performing on Central Park South. Those nights felt impossibly exotic to me as I rocked my son to sleep on the floor of his tiny Manhattan nursery in my marinara-spattered sweatshirt, not knowing when I would next see my parents, let alone next sit at a bar in a cocktail dress. I am still processing the endlessness and imprecision of those days. The way time just sat, pooling in the middle of Manhattan. It required strength of mind to find the breaks in the clouds in those days, but Tony Bennett helped me through. And now the album’s name now feels oddly, movingly prescient: it was, in a very real sense, a silver lining. It remains my “break in case of emergency” soundtrack.

How about you?


+A dinner party playlist.

+A song that reminds me of my siblings.

+More on processing the pandemic.

Shopping Break.

+These pants just arrived and OMG. I have gone evangelistic about them. They are as comfortable as leggings but can easily be dressed up for work / cocktails / etc. I took the petite XS and they fit snug but flattering — I would size up if you have any question at all. I am now unsure how I ever lived without a great, flattering pair of black ankle-length pants? These are absolutely perfect for slightly dressier occasions, work meetings, conservative affairs. But I also think I will style them with my Nike Daybreaks for more casual wear and they’ll totally work. LOVE. Love. LOVE! They are SO flattering. I wore them they day they arrived to dinner with my parents. (You can see me in them here with my new FRP Collection bag! The founder of FRP is generously offering us 10% off through 4/30 with code MAGPIE10. These bags are quickly becoming an obsession. They are so high-quality for the price – could easily be a $1000+ bag!)

+Three fun new beach attire finds: this woven Missoni-esque cover-up, this gorgeous sarong, and this oversized button-down.

+My Hunza G suit is on sale in a gorgeous lilac color here. More details on fit, etc, here.

+Adore this J. Crew dress.

+Sweetest lavender pattern pajamas for babies — I actually just bought a girlfriend expecting her first this sleepsack from the same brand in that pattern. I LOVED the Kyte sleepsacks — they come in different weights to accommodate season/geography and hold up so beautifully in the wash. They are so incredibly soft. The best colors, too!

+Love these $58 earrings.

+Hearing good things about this beach read book.

+My kind of everyday dress — love the pattern!

+ICYMI: attractive athletic shorts for little ladies.

+A spectacular summer dress.

+This white mini dress is a perfect bridal outfit.

+I find infinite uses for utility tubs like these — perfect for under sink, utility closet, lightbulbs, batteries, etc.

+For mamas about to become the tooth fairy — how cute?!

+Fun statement sandals.

+Such a cute stool for extra outdoor seating.

+Perfect outfit for a little prince.

+Adore these bold striped trousers.

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4 thoughts on “Emergency Music.

  1. Ah, those Spanx pants remind me of the Ann Mashburn Faye pants – I wore my navy ones today! They’re perfectly polished and chic, yet stretchy, pull on, and SO easy. They make them in fabulous seasonal colors/fabrics, but regrettably, not in the tall version I need, so I’m stuck with the boring colors. Cannot endorse enough though!

  2. Love this concept of “emergency music”. In a similar vein, I have a running list on my notes app on my phone for “turn the day around” ideas for when my daughter and I are in a funk and the day feels like it’s dragging in slow motion — and it usually involves turning on some dance music and having an impromptu living room dance party. Lately in my “turn the day around” playlist, it’s been the song “One Foot” by Walk the Moon. A good friend and I share a mantra: “one foot in front of the other” (because sometimes even “one day at a time” seems too long) and this song never fails to give me that additional burst of energy.

    Also love these for an energy boost —

    You Gotta Be by Des’ree
    Crazy by Seal
    Shake It Out by Florence + the Machine
    Freedom by George Michael
    Where The Streets Have No Name by U2
    This Is Me from The Greatest Showman
    Defying Gravity from Wicked

    A few more for positive vibes–
    Strawberry Swing by Coldplay
    Ocean Drive by Lighthouse Family
    In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel (I’m dating myself here, but who else remembers that iconic scene from the movie Say Anything, when John Cusack’s character holds the boombox over his head? I requested this as our last song during our wedding and I remember a group of us in a circle, arms around shoulders, singing along and swaying to this song. Aaahhh the memories!)

    For a different mood, listening to Bring Him Home from Les Miserables (sung by Colm Wilkinson — my goodness, he is a marvel) is an almost spiritual experience that makes me want to weep.

    1. Oo thank you so much for the playlist and also the intro to Colm Wilkinson!!! These are great. Love!


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