My favorite stories of 2020

Last year was a tough one as a sports reporter, but there were still stories I wrote that stood out to me. Here’s a look at my favorites:

Briggs Beats Cancer: Wylie family prepares for extra celebrations this Thanksgiving weekend


Two years after helping to restart softball team at Martinsville High School, Bulldogs’ senior Trinity Gravely commits to PHCC softball


Martinsville’s Jeff Hensley celebrates fourth Martinsville Speedway win, prepares for NASCAR Trucks championship


Stories from Martinsville Speedway: Always take the tunnel into the infield


Stories from Martinsville Speedway: Jimmie Johnson looks back his most memorable Martinsville victories


Stories from Martinsville Speedway: A pole win a cherished memory for local NASCAR racer Jimmy Hensley


ELECTION 2020: Teachers stress critical thinking with students excited about joining the political process


Stories from Martinsville Speedway: NASCAR writer Steve Waid recalls stories from his early reporting days


Stories from Martinsville Speedway: Fox Sports analyst Larry McReynolds recalls winning his only trophy at The Paperclip


SRSC welcomes NC Fusion lacrosse tournament as a “blueprint” for how to handle youth sports in the age of coronavirus


Henry County’s best using each other to stay in baseball shape


Cooper: Bubba Wallace continues to impress off the track


Keselowski pit crew looking for another perfect day at Martinsville Speedway


Miles in Martinsville brings together runners from 8,000 miles away for a virtual race


Hanging With Miss Cooper: Angela Tincher and the greatest game I ever saw


WATCH NOW: Martinsville’s class of 2020 celebrates untraditional graduation day


WATCH NOW: The day the track stood still


High school football teams staying connected from afar


Wood Brothers Racing generates fans’ support to donate iPads to help nursing home residents


Bassett high school cross-country runner Jake Arnold has won races already against autism and epilepsy


CARA COOPER: Kobe’s death is a horrible loss for the women athletes he supported so staunchly


Grind of a Season Leads to Big Rewards for JR Motorsports Late Model Program

Wendell Scott Trailblazer Award Winner Gracie Trotter Enjoys Success After Taking the Next Step in 2020

‘I’m Living Out My Childhood Dream’: 42-year-old Shawn Labelle Surprised Even Himself in His First Season of Racing at Edmonton International Raceway

55 Years Later, Bob Finan Still In Love With his ‘Desert Oasis’ at Riverhead Raceway

‘It’s a Family Thing. That’s What it’s All About’: Shive Family Brings Big Crowd to Pits at Salina Highbanks Speedway

‘I Never Leave My House Without My Camera Bag’: Lisa Andresen Reflects on Long Photography Career at Bethel Motor Speedway

Frank Noiles Jr. a Part of Beech Ridge Speedway’s History and Future

‘I Know That She’s Watching Me’: Annabeth Barnes Crum Brings Extra Motivation to Hickory Motor Speedway

Gina Schild-Knowles Working to Keep Racing Going at Houston Motorsports Park

‘We Sort of Grew Together’: Ernie Saxton set to begin his 53rd year Grandview Speedway

Playlist of the Week: Songs of 2021 so far

One thing I thought about often during quarantine last year was how good pop culture will be once we get past all this.

Maybe that was just my way of coping and finding something to be excited about, but with the best artists on the planet doing nothing but spending time in their homes to write songs, movies, and TV pilots, I figured there’s no way we don’t come out on the other end with incredible art.

And so far in 2021, when it comes to music that’s 100 percent true. We’re just over four months into this year and there have already been three songs released that have legitimate “Song of the Year” nominee potential.

I’ve been keeping a playlist since January 1 and adding my favorite new songs often. Here’s my “Best of 2021… so far”

– Wilder Days (Morgan Wade)

              – I’ve heard of Morgan Wade just from her being from southern Virginia and playing local shows people I know have been to, but this song randomly played while I was at a cookout and I sound-hounded it and ever since then I think I’ve listened to her most recent album about 50 times. Oh my gosh it’s good. It’s alt rock/country in the same vein as Elle King, Miranda Lambert, and Ashley McBryde, but still sounds like no one else who’s out right now.

              I could have put about five different songs by Wade on this list (and there are quite a few on the actual playlist) because Reckless is far and away my favorite album of the year so far. But Wilder Days is the actual first single from her album, and you may start hearing it on the radio soon. It’s a love song full of pain and longing. The line “You’re scared I’m too right for you” punches straight to the heart.

– Fillin’ My Cup (Hailey Whitters & Little Big Town)

              – This song was released on New Years Day, so I spent the first day of the year listening to it over and over and then listening to every other song Hailey Whitters has ever released and I gotta say, it was a perfect way to start the year.

– Teach Me How To Love (Shawn Mendes)

              – I feel like Shawn Mendes is sort of overshadowed in the world of male pop stars, and he’s also definitely overshadowed by his extremely successful girlfriend, but this song is magic. It reminds me so much of his song, Lost In Japan, which was one of my favorites of 2018.

– Let Me Reintroduce Myself (Gwen Stefani)

              – Listen, not that I don’t love Gwen Stefani’s shift to country. I’m happy she’s happy with Blake Shelton. But we get new Gwen Stefani pop music this year and I couldn’t be more excited.

– Drivers License (Olivia Rodrigo)

              – Am I embarrassed to be the age I am and know every detail of Olivia Rodrigo’s romance with her High School Musical The Musical The Series co-star Joshua Bassett? Not even a little bit. You know why? Because HSMTMTS was very good and I greatly enjoyed it.

              If you don’t know, the rundown is Olivia Rodrigo dated her HSMTMTS co-star Joshua Bassett, and he apparently left her for another Disney Channel star, Sabrina Bryan (of Girl Meets World fame, another show I enjoyed for a time I’M MATURE!).

              So anyways, Rodrigo did what any great teen star does – she turned her pain into a song, and that song ended up being incredible.

– Lie Lie Lie (Joshua Bassett)

              – This was Bassett’s response to Rodrigo’s song about him. As far as response songs go, this was solid. He took advantage of keeping his name in the news, and got to release his first single in the process. I mean, this song isn’t good enough to have a sketch on SNL dedicated to it, but it’s fun.

– Déjà vu (Olivia Rodrigo)

              – However, Olivia’s second single is probably better than her first, and is also probably about Bassett so she’s definitely winning the breakup. This song also proves that Drivers License is good mostly because it shows there are great things coming in the future from Rodrigo. She’s clearly cut from the same cloth as Taylor Swift, because not only is she insanely talented, but she’s also very good at drumming up interest in her music by giving the songs a real world backstory with a real world villain. I promise you she will win Best New Artist at the 2022 Grammys.

– Life Rolls On (Florida Georgia Line)

              – If you want a good laugh, Google why Florida Georgia Line allegedly broke up. It was one of my favorite stories last November. After you Google why they may or may not have broken up, the fact they open this song with the line “People Come and People Go” becomes even funnier.

– Lovely Day (Bill Withers)

              – Was this song actually released in 1977? Yes. However, Demi Lovato did a really great version of it during Joe Biden’s inauguration, and for some reason she didn’t release the cover on Spotify, which makes me angry. So instead I’ve just been listening to the original a lot.

              Side note – Maroon 5 also did an acoustic version of this song a few years ago that’s almost better than the original.

– Better Days (Ant Clemons & Justin Timberlake)

              – I heard this song for the first time also during Biden’s inauguration, and I’m kind of surprised it wasn’t a bigger hit. I mean, ask Chris Stapleton how much doing an televised duet with Justin Timberlake can jumpstart a career. I really like the message behind this song though.

– Anyone Else But You (Anthony de la Torre & Lana Condor)

              – It is not fair that Lana Condor starred in the To All The Boys I Loved Before trilogy, which had the cutest teen movie love story since 10 Things I Hate About You, and somehow Condor and her real life boyfriend are even cuter. This song is the mushiest of mush.

– Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home) (Elle King & Miranda Lambert)

              – I was indifferent about Elle King when she first came to prominence a few years ago with her single Exes and Ohs. Then I saw her open up for Heart and Joan Jett (side note – best concert I’ve ever been to) and I totally got it. That rasp in her voice. She’s a rock star with a banjo. She’s incredible.

              So then I saw King released a song with Miranda Lambert, my favorite person on the planet, and before I even listened I knew I would love it. Guess what, I was right. This song is so fun and also makes me sad it was released at a time when no one can go to bars.

– Polyester (Luke Dick & Miranda Lambert)

              – Oh hi, another Miranda Lambert feature. The lines “look at you now, You got your first comma in your bank account, Well you made it out but you’re still in, we still remember when” guts me. Tears every time. I guess you never become too big for imposter syndrome.

– Leave The Door Open (Silk Sonic)

              – I’ve already decided Silk Sonic will be my first post-pandemic concert. The group is a collaboration of Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak, and although they’ve only released one song, if every other song on the album is half as good as Leave The Door Open it’ll be a lock for Album of the Year.

– Dancing With The Devil (Demi Lovato)

              – If you have any interest in the life of a young incredibly famous pop star, I strongly suggest watching the YouTube series Dancing With The Devil, which outlines Demi Lovato’s struggles with addiction and her drug overdose. I also don’t suggest watching it right before bed because it is HEAVY.

But watching that docuseries makes every line in this song hit so much harder, and makes you realize the pain Lovato obviously felt when she wrote it. Demi has some pop bangers in her repertoire, but if we’re being honest her best music is when she writes about herself and her struggles. It’s unfortunate it has to be that way, and let’s hope she’s in a place where she doesn’t have to keep writing about that stuff anymore, but I’m also glad she’s here to do so and she can hopefully help other people with similar struggles.

– I’m Not For Everyone (The Brothers Osborne)

              – I love Brothers Osborne. That’s it.

– Vintage (Blu DeTiger)

              – This song makes me long for the days of going to clubs and hearing music from bands I’ve never heard of and dancing in groups with strangers. Have I ever done that? No, but I miss knowing the option is available to me.

– Is It True (Tame Impala)

              – I wasn’t really a big Tame Impala fan, but this song sounds like old school Daft Punk and is really fun.

– No Plans For Love (D-Nice, Ne-Yo, & Kent Jones)

              – If you don’t remember, D-Nice is the DJ who used to have “Club Quarantine” at the beginning of the pandemic last year where he would go on Instagram Live and do DJ sets that literally everybody who was anybody listened to. You’d look at the comments and see Michelle Obama saying she was dancing along in her living room probably on some amazing beach somewhere. I know it made me feel a little better about quarantine knowing somewhere in the world Michelle Obama was spending her Saturday night listening to the same DJ on Instagram that I was listening to.

              Anyways, D-Nice has brought that same Club Quarantine feel to this single with Ne-Yo. Maybe when you listen to it Michelle Obama is somewhere in the world listening to it too!

– MONTERO (Lil Nas X)

              – The most controversial song of 2021 (so far!). I’m not going to get into the music video to this song, but I will say that Lil Nas X can write a catchy hook better than just about anyone out right now. This song will be stuck in your head for days.

              It’s also truly impressive that his first single was country rap and his second is hip hop with a Spanish guitar. Also truly impressive that Lil Nas X has now released two songs, both of which were extremely controversial for very different reasons, and also huge hits, and he’s only 22 years old.

              By the way, you can say all you want about the controversies behind this song, but I can guarantee it will be nominated for multiple Grammy awards.

– Woman You Got (Maddie & Tae)

              – This is the type of song that five years ago would have made my eyes roll out of my head. But darn it I’m older now and I can really appreciate the sentiments behind a song telling a guy all of your flaws but also all the ways he should be thankful to be with you anyway. I’ve sang “I know you know me, but if I know me I’m gonna drive you crazy” at the top of my lungs about 500 times since I heard this.

Maddie and Tae have an incredible knack for taking country music clichés about women and turning them on their heads. I adore them for that.


Roanoke, Virginia slander will not be tolerated

In case you missed the big news on the Twitter this week, on Sunday New Yorker reporter Emily Nussbaum tweeted this.

Okay, 1. Karen Carpenter came to Roanoke once. The Carpenters did a show at the Roanoke Civic Center in 1973 and my mom was there and she said it was great.

2. HILARIOUS! Punishment to go to Roanoke. Get it cause no one’s ever heard of Roanoke, Virginia.
The sad part was author Stephen King responded with this.

Hey Stephen, maybe in those boring two weeks in Roanoke you could take the time to edit some of your books down a couple hundred pages!
No, sorry. Stephen King is one of the greatest American writers of all time. I just get testy when you make fun of my home town.

Listen, just say you’ve never been here. Because Roanoke is awesome. You see these pictures?

Breathtaking. Brilliant. Amazing. Incredible.
There are so many great things about our wonderful city to consider.

  • Wayne Newton is from here! He doesn’t admit it and claims his “home town” is Las Vegas, but we know the truth.
  • The greatest free throw shooter in the history of college basketball, J.J. Redick, is also from here.
    In middle school I was in love with J.J. Redick and during times when I knew Duke was out on breaks I would look his family’s phone number up in the phone book and call his house just to see if he would answer. He never did. But my friends did meet him at a high school baseball game once and got me his autograph and it’s still framed in my bedroom.
  • Other famous Roanokers include Henrietta Lacks, Whitney Cummings who apparently lived here once, and Ronde and Tiki Barber. You may know Tiki Barber because I think his wife was on one of the Real Housewives shows though I don’t know which one and I don’t feel like looking it up.
  • (There are some other people who have spent time living in Roanoke, but maybe don’t look up the list…)
  • What’s the deal with that star? That star is, according to Wikipedia “The Hollywood sign of the East Coast.” I’ve never heard anyone call it that but I agree!
  • It is the largest free standing illuminated star IN THE WORLD. It was originally built as a Christmas decoration because in Roanoke we go hard.
  • Also this is the view from it.

  • How about famous eateries? Um, have you heard of Texas Tavern? The only place where asking for a fried egg on a hamburger is normal but asking for ketchup will get you yelled at.
    But Cara, if it’s in Virginia why is it called Texas Tavern?
    … I don’t know. No one knows. Whatever. Shut up. They don’t cash checks or play with bumblebees. Kevin Bacon ate there once! And I know that because it was on the front page of our paper the next day.

  • If you’re looking for celebrity sightings, those happen all the time here. One time my flight out of Roanoke’s sprawling airport was delayed, and there was a lady there who had was also going to be on my flight and she had played at the Jefferson Center the night before and through a lot of eavesdropping I found out she was on “Orange Is The New Black.” I can’t remember her name but she was famous.
  • Also in Roanoke we have this very tall guy.

  • We also used to have this very tall dog. We don’t anymore, but we used to.

  • We have this incredible piece of architecture, the Taubman Museum of Art. One time the art museum had an exhibit where they put a statue of a girl sitting on the ledge of the balcony and so many people called 911 thinking someone was trying to jump off of it the museum had to take it down. We get art around here.

  • Look how pretty our downtown is!
  • If you want more incredible food, just head east of Roanoke to a wonderful small town called Vinton. In Vinton, a town of a population of 8,039 people, we have about a dozen restaurants, six of which are pizza places and three Mexican restaurants. That is a pizza or Mexican food place for every 893 people!
  • On the other side of Roanoke there is another small town called Salem. Salem has a minor league baseball team that Roger Clemens’s son played for one summer. My mom sat beside Roger Clemens’s wife in a suite at a game and said on the way home she didn’t know who Roger Clemens was. My brother saw Roger Clemens running laps around the stadium during a game and said hi to him. He said hi back.
    Someone I knew in high school saw Roger Clemens eating at Applebee’s that summer. Yea, we have an Applebee’s. We have four of them!
  • Salem is also the home of Roanoke College, a wonderful institution with really awesome alumni, if I do say so myself. According to Wikipedia, Kristen Wiig attended Roanoke College for some unknown amount of time (note – I cannot verify if that is true).
    Arguably Roanoke College’s most famous alumni is John McAfee, known best for creating McAfee computer virus protection and definitely nothing else he’s ever done in his personal life.
  • If you go up the road from Salem a bit you’ll get to some wonderful hiking trails, including this one called McAfee Knob which you’ve undoubtedly seen pictures of. (The name of the trail has no relation to John McAfee… I don’t think…)

  • Though if I’m being honest I’m partial to Dragon’s Tooth which is right across street. I mean.

  • Off of the Parkway we have the Explore Park, which is home to many hiking and bike trails and where a lot of school field trips take place and also it’s haunted.
  • We have a super cool movie theatre, The Grandin. It’s also haunted.
  • Monterey House on the campus of Roanoke College? Super haunted. We got lots of haunted places around here!
  • There are tons of great historic spots in and around Roanoke. We’re about an hour and a half from Appomattox, where the Civil War ended. Appomattox is SUPER HAUNTED and I have stories to prove it.
    On one fateful night in 1976, at the former Avalon Club in Appomattox, The Rolling Stones played a secret concert, upsetting the bar’s regulars so much they ran the Stones off the stage, destroyed their instruments, and allegedly hit Keith Richards in the head with a whiskey bottle, leaving a scar that is still seen to this day.
    Does that story have anything to do with Roanoke? No, but it’s one I love talking about.
  • Within an hour of each direction of Roanoke is Virginia Tech, home of basically the birthplace of the modern College Game Day on ESPN. Lee Corso’s rental car was struck by lightning there. There’s also Martinsville Speedway, NASCAR’s oldest track. And also Lynchburg, Virginia, former home of the incomparable Connie Britton. If it wasn’t for southern Virginia there would be no Tammy Taylor to save the Dillon Panthers! You’re welcome.
  • Franklin County, Virginia is the moonshine capital of the world and they have the t-shirts to prove it!
    Spending time in and around Roanoke, Virginia is anything but a punishment. We’ll show you. Come and see us sometime! And bring Wayne Newton with you. Danke shoen.

Playlist of the Week: The Greatest Super Bowl Halftime Show of All Time

I tried to think of a good “Playlist of the Week” theme relating to football since the BIG GAME is this Sunday. But unlike baseball, the far superior sport, there are no songs about football. Maybe I’ll write “Take Me Down To the Gridiron” but I probably won’t because I don’t care that much.
So instead of a football playlist, I created a half time show playlist based on the greatest Super Bowl Halftime Show of all time.
Have there been some very great SBHTSs recently? Yes. But, no offense to other SBHTSs, but the 2001 SBHTS was the greatest SBHTS of all time.

The 2001 SBHTS was double-billed to feature both NSYNC and Aerosmith, but after five songs it devolves into the perfect encapsulation of everything great about the year 2001.
The 2001 SBHTS begins with a skit featuring Ben Stiller in character as White Goodman from Dodgeball, which I don’t understand because Dodgeball wasn’t released until 2004? Anyways, Stiller concludes the introduction by screaming in Lance Bass and Steven Tyler’s faces “You are AeroSync!!” birthing the greatest musical mashup since The Travelling Wilburys.
Next thing you know thousands of little tweens start swarming the stage on the same football field where the Baltimore Ravens would later raise the Lombardy Trophy. (Oh yea, there was a football game that night.)
NSYNC opens the show with “Bye Bye Bye,” doing their best puppet mimicry made famous in the song’s iconic music video. Of all the boy bands who have been around in my lifetime, NSYNC was by far the best dancers, which is important to their legacy.
Interesting Justin Timberlake was the biggest star of NSYNC, but he doesn’t get a solo in the band’s SBHTS opener. It’s okay though because JT would go on to have a much more memorable SBHTS in his future.
(Although, if we’re being honest I bet JT remembers his 2001 SBHTS performance much more fondly than his 2004 performance.)
Back to the show. Why would Aerosmith open their portion with “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing”? Because it’s an absolute banger. It’s not just a stadium anthem, it is THE stadium anthem. There are no Imagine Dragons or FUN. if Aerosmith does not write the lead single to Armageddon.
NSYNC returns with “It’s Gonna Be Me,” and it makes me miss concerts where you the music is drowned out by hear the screams of 13 year old girls in the background.
NSYNC’s choreography was a lot of puppet mimicry. They’re most famous for donning puppet costumes in the “Bye Bye Bye” music video, but if we’re being honest their choreo in every song was a bit one-note. A lot of popping. A lot of locking. Still better dancers than Backstreet Boys though. I said it.
They get to the end of the song and out of nowhere Steven Tyler belts “IT’S GONNA BE ME!!!” My jaw dropped. It also really threw off the 13 year olds. Like when you and your friends are doing karaoke at the sleepover and your dad comes downstairs and insists on doing just one Creed song.
Anyways, the show continues with Aerosmith performing Jaded.
I’m trying really hard to figure out what group of people in 2001 were equally as big a fans of Aerosmith as NSYNC. Like what was the age, gender, and occupation of someone who could identify both Joe Perry and Joey Fatone? I want to meet those people.
Aerosmith gets to the end of Jaded and, PLOT TWIST, JT is the one who belts “I’m the one that jaded you.”
(English major gripe: It should be “I’m the one WHO jaded you,” but I digress.)
But get it? Cause a member of Aerosmith sang the last line from the NSYNC song and then a member of NSYNC sang the last line of the Aerosmith song? That, my friends, is called cohesion.
It’s at the end of this song the two groups come together to truly form AEROSYNC, and it is at that moment when this SBHTS truly goes off the rails. It’s incredible. The music to “Walk This Way” begins, so you know it’s happening. NSYNC hops on stage and truly has NO idea what they’re doing. They’re just kinda bopping around, watching Steven Tyler. Smiling from ear to ear. It’s actually very charming.
And then…
Ms. Spears comes out of nowhere. She’s wearing a crop top, her patented low-rise britches, and a sock on her lower arm like a shooting sleeve because 2000s fashion was the best.
She does a verse. Then her and JT look all couply and cute as they bop down the catwalk singing together. Chris Kirkpatrick awkwardly joins. I’m sure it was not the first time he was an awkward third wheel in that relationship.
As if that wasn’t enough, the camera goes back to Steven Tyler and he’s sharing a microphone is Mary J. Blige! She doesn’t really do anything, but she’s there. (If I have gripe about this near perfect SBHTS it’s that they don’t give Mary J. Blige enough to do. You couldn’t have given her one ad lib run? Come on now.)
And then, the song keeps going and NELLY runs out and starts rapping a verse from “E.I.” over the “Walk This Way” music.
(It’s hard to tell, but I know it’s verse from E.I. because Nelly says “I’m a sucker for cornrows and manicured toes” which is what bothers me about E.I. a whole lot because how do you manicure toes?????)
Anyways, the entire group eventually joins together again in the center, the song ends, Britney and her sock sleeve kill it. NSYNC and their puppet moves kill it. Nelly and his manicured toes kill it. Mary J. Blige is just kinda there not allowed to kill it, which is a shame. And Aerosmith kills it and it is the greatest Super Bowl Half Time Show of all time.
There is a playlist of the five songs from the show right down there, plus a couple others from each group I added because they’re songs I just love. Enjoy and happy footballing! 🙂


Playlist Of The Week: Songs By Actors

Hi! Welcome to the first of what will hopefully be many “Playlist of the Week”!

Every Monday I’ll come up with a theme and make a playlist for you to listen to to hopefully help your week go a little better 🙂

The first Playlist of the Week theme is: Songs By Actors

Now, this isn’t a playlist of songs by people like J.Lo., Selena Gomez, or Demi Lovato, people who are known equally for both acting and singing. This is also not a playlist of songs from TV or movie musicals (except one, which we’ll get to).

This is a playlist of songs by people who are very known for roles they’ve played on TV or in movies, but would maybe not want people to remember they also at one time tried to give singing a chance. Or maybe they do! That’s fine!

Here’s the playlist, and as always the link to listen on Spotify is posted below!

  • Paris Hylton, “Stars Are Blind”

This song is the reason I made this playlist. Is Paris Hylton an “actor”? Depends I guess on your definition of the word. But she starred on “The Simple Life,” so I’m counting it.

This is, and I’m not exaggerating, an incredible pop song. I make quite a lot of these themed playlist and I’ve found a way to incorporate this song into at least 60 percent of them. I’m genuinely shocked she didn’t try to release more music after this, it’s that good.

Of course, Ms. Hylton is now a world renowned DJ so it’s not a surprise she has some musical talent (although, after a quick Google search the jury is still out on whether she’s actually good at DJing). Regardless, She released a perfect pop song in 2006 and it was her best contribution to pop culture, as far as I’m concerned.

  • Kim Kardashian, “Jam (Turn It Up)”

Paris Hylton’s reality TV counterpart and former BFF Kim Kardashian also tried her hand at pop music when she released “Jam” in 2011. And the results were terrible. This is not a good song. The attempt at a club hit was there, and you know, I commend her for trying. Kim Kardashian in 2011 was trying to become Kim Kardashian of 2021, and thought getting into music was the way to that.

It was not, but that’s okay! You tried, Kim! Good job! Good effort!

  • Mandy Moore, “Candy”

Mandy Moore was one of the original Hilary Duffs and Selena Gomezes of the world. Someone who was a teen celeb and did both music and movies. Though she’s most famous now for This Is Us, at the time she was probably much more into music, and released some very good mid-90s Disney Channel hits, of which “Candy” is my favorite.

Ms. Moore also released a version of “Stupid Cupid” for “The Princess Diaries” soundtrack which is an absolute delight. I don’t know if her appearing in that movie was the highlight of her career in her mind, but it was definitely the highlight of her career in mine!

  • Leighton Meester, “Good Girls Go Bad”

Leighton Meester was only featured on this song by Cobra Starship, but I’m counting it because Leighton was at the time deep in “Gossip Girl” mania and I’m sure she desperately wanted to prove to people she was NOT Blair Waldorf.

I loved this song in college (it was released in 2009) but listening now, it was pretty cheesy. Good on Leighton though who seems very cool in real life, way better than Blair Serena Van Der Woodsen.

(Side note: Leighton most recently starred in the ABC sitcom “Single Parents” which was very good but was canceled after just two seasons which was very bad but you should watch it anyway.)

  • Jennifer Love Hewitt, “Barenaked”

I can’t hear the name Jennifer Love Hewitt and not think of the episode of “Boy Meets World” she guest starred on where there was a serial killer in the high school and they called her Jennifer Love Fefferman and (spoiler alert) Shawn finds the killer but he takes the mask off to reveal he was the killer the whole time! It was nuts.

JLH actually released FOUR albums between 1992-2002. None of them had any success in the U.S. though, so she’ll always be known for her “Party of Five” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer” fame.

  • Lindsay Lohan, “Ultimate”

Yes, Lindsay Lohan was also one of those Disney stars who tried to do everything, but my guess is she was legitimately such a great actress she realized taking time away to release music was a waste of time.

Okay, yes she also had some issues that hurt her career, but we’re not talking about that! She was an incredible young actress and “The Parent Trap” proves that!

I know I said this is not a playlist for songs from movies (“Ultimate” was the main theme from the movie “Freaky Friday,” also starring Lindsay), but her biggest other non-movie hit was “Rumors” and I like this song better! And this is my playlist!

  • Chad Michael Murray, “Baby One More Time”

This is not a song CMM released but it’s also from “Freaky Friday”. It’s not a song so much as it’s just a 30-second clip of CMM singing Britney Spears’s first hit terribly, which makes me happy because hot guys like CMM were supposed to be able to do everything and this proves he cannot.

(He hurt Sophia Bush, I do not like him)

  • Eddie Murphy, “Party All the Time”

The original actor-turned-musician, I think. He probably wasn’t, but the fact this song exists is hilarious to me.

  • Brie Larson, “She Said”

I never knew Brie Larson released music until I did research for this playlist. Her first album came out when she was 15 and clearly a big fan of Avril Lavigne. The album was called “Finally Out of P.E.,” which is an incredible title for a record by a 15-year-old.

“She Said” was apparently the biggest hit from the album, but it has a very generic early 2000s sound and… well, let’s just say it’s a good thing Ms. Larson stuck with acting.

Also, fun fact I learned tonight! Brie Larson used to date the lead singer of Phantom Planet, the band that same “The O.C.” theme song! I would pay SO much money to be a fly on the wall watching famous people meet each other.

  • Kelly Osbourne, “Papa Don’t Preach”

Another reality star, Kelly Osbourne released an album in 2002, a time when, like Paris Hylton and Kim Kardashian, famous people didn’t have Twitter or Instagram and felt like they had to release music to stay famous.

Kelly’s first single was a cover of Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach” and, like, get it? Because her dad is Ozzy Osbourne? There was an attempt.

Thankfully we don’t have to worry about influencers trying to make money off of releasing songs anymore. They have sponcon for that!

  • Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, “The Situation”

Listen, I’m going to come right out and say there will be no Situation Slander on my blog! I’ve been watching the new Jersey Shore show about everyone’s favorite shore residents and what they’re doing today, and Sitch has become a completely different person. He’s married now. He has a kid on the way. He’s a great friend to the rest of his Shore family. I implore you, if you liked “The Jersey Shore” in college, watch one episode of the new show. It’s boring and nothing ever happens, but it’s a delight to see people who 10 years ago became famous for fist pumping and smashing their heads into walls get their adult fun from eating funfetti cakes and just spending time with one another.

I don’t know if Mike actually recorded anything for this song or if the DJs just took a bunch of clips he said on the show and put them in the song and made him the lead name on the single as a way to sell it more. It’s very weird but there’s some incredible nostalgia hearing “We got a situation” again.

  • Gwyneth Paltrow, “Cruisin”

I’ve heard this song at least 500 times in my life. I feel like it was always on the adult contemporary station in town when I was growing up. But it wasn’t until a few months ago I learned Gwyneth Paltrow is the one singing it with Huey Lewis. If you would have given me 1,000 guesses I wouldn’t have guessed that.

This Smokey Robinson remake is from some movie from 2000 called “Duets,” and I know I said this wasn’t a playlist for songs from movies, and I’ve now broken that rule twice, but listen. You remember in 2010 when Gwyneth was in the movie “Country Strong” and was also on “Glee” and was like “I did a lot of singing in movies, I should release an album” and everyone laughed at her? That was good times.

But I could listen to this song a million more times. It’s very, very good.

  • Miranda Cosgrove, “About You Now”, and “Dancing Crazy”

Miranda Cosgrove is probably on the Mount Rushmore of Nickelodeon stars, and will forever be known as Carly Shay from “iCarly”, but I can’t allow it to be overlooked that she released some absolute bops!

She release just one album in 2010, probably as a way to capitalize off of her Nickelodeon fame, but it was really good! Like, I’m way too old to listen to it and I love it and listen to it all the time!

  • Lucy Hale, “Lie a Little Better”

Little known fact about the actor best known as Aria on “Pretty Little Liars,” Lucy Hale got her first start in showbiz at 13 when she appeared on “American Juniors,” an “American Idol” spinoff show on which she finished in fourth place.

Despite her mega fame from one of the biggest teen shows of the 2000s, Lucy has said music was her first love, and she released an album in 2012 that didn’t sell great and was a bit critically panned. But good for her for trying! This is a good song!

  • Victoria Justice and Ariana Grande, “L.A. Boyz”

Did you know former Nickelodeon Star Ariana Grande is also a singer?? Little known fact!

I kid. But her “Victorious” co-star, Victoria Justice, was a very well-known Nickelodeon star who tried her hand in music too. She was… a bit less successful than Grande. But that’s okay! There was a lot of good pop songs that came out of Victorious.

Also, I’m adding “Begging on Your Knees” by Justice to the playlist, which is also from “Victorious,” because it’s great and I love it.

PS – If you have a theme you’ like to see for a future Playlist of the Week, tweet me @caramariecooper 🙂


I’ve watched a lot of HGTV and don’t understand why rich people don’t put doors around their toilets

I don’t know how it happened. I was always the person who didn’t understand the HGTV craze. Why would anyone spend time watching people pick which way overpriced house to buy and discuss the many changes they planned to make with the tile in the bathroom? Didn’t people know there are sports on, like, all the time?

But then one day I was sitting in the dentist chair, basking in my cavity-free life (not to brag). This was the first time my dentist had gone full-luxury upgrade and installed TVs in every room. Super high class. There was an episode of House Hunters on, and though I didn’t understand it, it provided a welcome distraction from my fear that the hygienist might hit a snag and the sharp tool will fly out of her hand and into my eye ball.

In that 30 minutes, I was hooked (no sharp dentist tool pun intended). It was very clear this couple had made a terrible decision and also even more clear they should probably just break up. I mean, the girl who had said all along she wanted a two-bedroom apartment settled for a one-bedroom half the size of every other place they looked at just to appease her unemployed boyfriend who wanted to save $100 a month. How much was she regretting every decision she ever made while quarantined in there with him for 8 months? I loved the drama.

Since then, HGTV has become my go-to. I LIVE for new episodes of Home Town, which is the most soothingly Southern show on TV and has made it so I must DEMAND a banquette in any future home I own. A year ago I didn’t even know what a banquette is, and now, I need it. The first episode of Home Town I saw they made a book nook and painted it BLUE! I didn’t even know what a book nook was or that blue on walls was allowed but I was instantly in love with the thought.

These are some other thoughts I’ve had while watching way too much HGTV:

  1. I’m pretty sure at least 75 percent of people on House Hunters International are running from the IRS. There is no other explanation for why a couple with two children under the age of 5 would just up and move to Costa Rica.
  2. “Open concept” is stupid. Why would you ever want to walk into a house and immediately be in the kitchen? Also, no one wants to hear the dishwasher running while you’re trying to watch football. Plus, don’t even get me started on the dangers of having the snacks that close to you at all times. You need cased openings, people!
  3. Do you think Zooey Deschanel ever wishes she had the bearded Property Brother instead of the clean-shaven one?

But the biggest thought I’ve had, and it’s a thing I’ve noticed a lot, is this:

Why do rich people not put doors around their toilets???

I’m not talking about large bathrooms. I’m talking about a straight up, out in the open for everyone to see, toilet.

I’ve seen it more than once. At least a dozen times across several different shows. The first couple times I saw it was on like Beachfront Bargain Hunt and other shows where people buy homes in remote areas or other coastal countries. So my initial thought was maybe this is just a cultural thing or I guess if you’re near water and you need an open shower the next step is just slapping a toilet beside it. Maybe I just don’t understand the concept.

I’m thinking maybe I’m too poor to understand.

Because it’s always in giant mansions or multi-million dollar homes that I see this “open-bathroom” living. There are homes way out in the middle of nowhere with bathrooms completely outside, which baffles my mind! I saw one episode with a (not kidding) $7 million house in a literal jungle somewhere near the equator where the realtor told the people they would have a lot of animals around. So WHY would you want a toilet outside of your million dollar abode when you run the risk of being attacked by monkeys while sitting on it? Is that really how you want your obituary to read, because I promise no one is too rich to have “death by macaw while taking a dump” in your New York Times write-up.

And it’s not just a phenomenon in other countries. One home on one of those mansion hunter shows had a toilet in the bedroom with just sliding glass shower doors surrounding it, which is almost worse than no doors at all. Sure, the smell is contained, but your dignity certainly isn’t.

I was recently watching one of the many shows that isn’t Home Town about a woman who redesigns houses and truly got a taste of an open-toilet life in the suburbs. The three-story house had a gorgeous attic loft the lady turned into a glorified studio apartment. She had a sitting area and bed up there, and an enviable bay window seat. She filled the entire space. The house had more usable square footage just in the attic than most New York apartments.

It was beautifully decorated except she put a bath tub in the middle of the room like she was hoping the new residents would be time travelers from a Bronte novel. And she stuck a toilet up against the wall beside the tub, wide open allowing any and all smells to waft through the entire loft. How could that be enjoyable? I mean, sure, it may add a tiny bit of convenience when you have to pee in the middle of the night, but at what cost?

The woman brought her young daughter and family to look at the place before it went on the market, and amidst all the ooohs and ahhhs her daughter said, horrified, “where’s the door to this toilet?!” Look, if a 7-year-old has to ask, it’s was clearly a big oversight on your part, lady.

I’ve spent many hours thinking about why open-toilet life is a trend. My best guess is it’s a power move. Like how Lyndon B. Johnson used to have meetings with people in the White House while he was on the toilet (Google it). If you have an 8,000 square foot home and you’re inviting people into it, nothing says, “You should feel lucky I allow you here” like peeing in front of them.

I guess if you live in one of those super remote, off-the-grid houses, when you talk with former friends and do the song and dance of “you should come visit me!” even though you really don’t want them to and the friends actually hate you so there’s no way they’re spending $3,000 on a plane ticket to spend a week listening to you lie about how much you LOOOOVVEEEEEE waking up to the sounds of alligators snapping their jaws in the morning, when you send them postcards you can say, “I don’t need a door around my bathroom. You gotta take two planes, a boat, and hike 6 miles to get to it,” and that’s supposed to make them jealous or something.

Until your obituary goes viral, of course. But you’re about 800 miles from the nearest WiFi router so it’s not like you can browse the internet on your open-air toilet anyway.

Also, jokes on those people because do you know what is a real bathroom status symbol? A toilet closet! That’s luxury, my friends. That’s living right.