Of magical powers and muddle-headed social justice warriors

NOTE: The following is my personal opinion. It in no way reflects or represents my employer, its policies and platforms, or my daily efforts on behalf of said employer to keep the company head in Purina Giraffe Chow.

 

One of the advantages of working in a toy store is watching children react to various toys. This of course involves first hand viewings of assorted temper tantrums, crying jags, screaming fits, and the like. But enough about the parents.

I bring this up because the other day I put out the first shipment of Elena of Avalor toys. For those of you minus a girl or girls aged four to ten in your household or reasonable equivalent thereof who faithfully watch Disney Channel, the recently debuted show is set in a fictional Central American country during colonial times. Elena is a Latina princess with magical powers. There’s more, of course, as any aforementioned girl or girls aged four to ten can breathlessly tell you.

Getting back to the merchandise, it’s in the front of the store, where coincidentally I’m usually stationed. This provides a prime vantage point for observing responses. Which are …

… pretty much universal for girls in the four to ten age bracket. Doesn’t matter what color the child: white, black, brown, yellow, purple with pink polkadots, etc. Immediately their eyes become big as saucers and they grab an Elena doll of various features (one sings, one comes with a horse, one comes with her sister, and all come with a special feature that automatically sucks money out of parental wallets and purses). Just as immediately, it is totally apparent their harried mothers have absolutely no idea who this character is. Apparently they’re not spending a lot of time with their children watching Disney Channel. I know parenting is tough, Mom, but once in a while put the wine down and watch some TV with the kid(s).

Now, what lesson can we draw from this? Despite the whining of some self-appointed Social Justice Warrior types, it’s quite simple. Regardless of the character’s race, and regardless of the child’s race unless they’ve already been programmed to hate, girls love princesses with magical powers. Period.

I am reminded of an afternoon I spent at a local mall after Frozen hit the theaters. It was Halloween time, and all the stores in the mall were participating in giving out candy to children. For amusement, I decided to see how many girls dressed as Elsa I could count. I gave up after it rapidly became apparent I should be counting by dozens and not one at a time. Again, as with the girls grabbing the Elena dolls, it was every color child imaginable wearing an Elsa address. The identity wasn’t with her race. It was with the character herself. Indulge me while I repeat myself: regardless of the character’s race, and regardless of the child’s race unless they’ve already been programmed to hate, girls love princesses with magical powers. Period, end of story.

Maybe if we would stop defining ourselves and each other, and dividing ourselves and each other, by our skin color we might be better off.

Out Of The Grey’s “A Little Light Left” brilliantly shines

I’m not sure when it changed, but in the past few years I’ve noticed more “my kid(s) is/are back in school” social media posts in mid- and even early August. Whatever happened to school starting back up in early September? Apparently that has gone the way of having to have gotten off the couch and walked across the shag carpet to turn a knob if you wanted to watch a different television channel. Or, as they were known in the murky past, stations. But I digress.

Understandably accompanying said posts are parental musings combining justified pride at their children’s accomplishments and wondering aloud who knows where the time goes. The child seen seemingly yesterday playing in the back yard is now packing books for high school or packing the car for college. The nights are long, but the years are short when you’re alive. Where did my baby boy or girl go?

Enter Out Of The Grey. When the husband and wife combo of Scott and Christine Dente first emerged in the early ‘90s Christian music scene, they were noticeable for their sophisticated adult rock style and being the most ridiculously good looking couple working in the genre. After more than a decade away from it all, the Dentes returned last year with the crowdsourcing funded A Little Light Left. For some inexplicable reason I neglected to review this gem when it first arrived. Hopefully this belated commentary will make amends.

Leaving artists to their own devices can be a dangerous thing. Some need an outside guiding hand to steer them in the right direction and/or challenge them to do their best. This duly noted, some artists thrive when serving as chef, cook, and bottle washer. The Dentes are most definitely in the latter camp. Freed from commercial concerns, they have woven a truly magical musical carpet of acoustic sunrise rock; sparse, precinct textures atop the foundation of Scott Dente’s understated acoustic guitar mastery. The sound is relaxed without slipping into lazy complacency, topped by Christine Dente’s sweet, heartfelt vocals with occasional effective accompaniment by her husband. If their vocal blend on “Giving Up Slow” doesn’t grab your heart in all the right ways, you’re doing it wrong.

The years have not dulled Out Of The Grey’s songwriting skills. Melodies are pure and comforting, backed with inventive structures and arrangement. Everything makes sense; nothing is included for the sake of ‘because we can.’ The Dentes understand that less is more without always stripping everything raw for “authenticity’s” sake. A Little Light Left makes no apologies for being warm and approachable without pandering to the lowest common pop denominator.

Lyrically, A Little Light Left addresses the concerns of middle age as seen through the eyes of faith. In the Dente’s word pictures, relationships deepen and mature as time passes. Children grow up regardless of wishes for all to somehow remain the same, as expressed with simple love in “Bubble Girl”:

And what she don’t know, she don’t know
And what she’s going to find, she’s going to find
Tell her for me to take her time
Take her time

Every parent of a daughter can relate.

On all fronts, A Little Light Left is a superb album. It touches heart, mind, and soul without heavy-handedness or cheap emotional manipulation. The album gracefully, skillfully reassures its listeners that they are not alone in simultaneously enjoying the passing days and wishing that somehow once in a while time would remain fixed at a single moment of joy. And for the record, the Dentes are still a ridiculously good looking couple making equally ridiculously great music.

The album is available at the Dente’s website, CD Baby, Amazon, and iTunes.