Spring is known as a time of change. This year, the state of Maryland may invoke the spirit of the season by throwing out its tired old state song and replacing it with something newer, fresher, and 100 percent less pro-Confederacy. Today, the Maryland State Senate passed a bill that would retire the current song “Maryland, My Maryland” as a “historic” song and make way for another song to take its place.
The state has a huge opportunity here. Aside from sounding like it was written by your college friend’s racist grandpa, including lyrics like “Northern scum” and references to Lincoln as a “tyrant” during the Civil War, the song is not even fun to listen to. It didn’t become the state song until 1939, well after the Civil War ended and closer to the period in the early 1900s when most Confederate memorials were constructed. But with this bill there is a chance for the state to pull from the its impressive musical history for a song that actually deserves the recognition.
Famed Maryland musicians include Toni Braxton, Tori Amos, Frank Zappa, Billie Holiday, Philip Glass, David Byrne, Mya, the Madden twins from Good Charlotte, Animal Collective, and, uh, Logic — the list goes on and on. There is a deep well of great music to dip into, and an infinite number of directions to take the state song in 2018.
You could go with the new classic banger, best song of 2017 “Crew” by DMV-area artist GoldLink, which mentions the state in its first lines.
They could lean fully into the ‘90s nostalgia trend and choose the easy-to-love 1995 hit “Stay” by Maryland-born artist Lisa Loeb.
They could get a jump-start on 2000s nostalgia and go for “Thong Song” by Baltimorean Sisqó. (Though, admittedly, both are guaranteed viral PR stunts with short shelf lives.)
Or they could give Baltimore-raised star Billie Holiday her due props and choose pretty much any song she’s ever recorded.
But the obvious route is choosing a song that is actually about Maryland and, as Sen. Cheryl Kagan wrote in the bill, “honors the past, celebrates the present, and anticipates the bright future of this State and its residents.” In that case, the best choice is “Good Morning, Baltimore” from the 2002 musical Hairspray based on the 1988 John Waters film.
Yes, it’s just about Baltimore. But with a refrain like “Good morning, Baltimore / Every day's like an open door / Every night is a fantasy / Every sound's like a symphony” the song is sufficiently celebratory of Maryland’s largest city, honors the past, is unbelievably optimistic for a song about the morning, and, most importantly, isn’t racist trash. It’s a win all around!
If the House passes the bill and the Governor signs it, Maryland lawmakers are going to have a very contentious pop culture decision to make. If there’s anyone we can’t trust to pick a hot song, it’s politicians … but hopefully, they’ll do the right thing and pick a song with style, or else Marylander swill be stuck with another boring, stupid tune.