Here's a question music fans don't get to ask very often: what was your favorite hit song about Peter Pan from the past year? But at this year's end, three rising and revolutionary artists are letting us ask that important question. So, with 2016 on its way out, here are the nominees that should be included in the Best Peter Pan Song category at February's Grammys.
"Lost Boy" by Ruth B
Yes, this song came out in late 2015, but it blew up this year and almost became the weirdest summer hit in a long time. A melancholy ballad about loneliness and growing up doesn't sound like a pool party go-to, but Ruth B's ode to Neverland broke the top 50 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart in April and peaked at 24 in July.
The first verse introduces the lonely narrator and her first encounter with "a shadow flying high," Peter Pan. She sings Peter Pan's saving message: "I promise that you'll never be lonely."
The song's creating started with the first two lines of the chorus: "I am a Lost Boy from Neverland Usually hanging out with Peter Pan."After days of debating whether or not to post the song to Vine, where she'd gained a following singing covers of hits like Drake's "Hold On, We're Going Home," she decided to do it. A huge reaction almost immediately signaled a future of success for the song and gave her the confidence to write its verses, line by line, vine by vine.
The final version that soared up the charts in 2016 is a patient, narrative ballad about an escape to Neverland from loneliness: "As we soared above the town that never loved me / I realized I finally had a family." The song isn't trapped by the Peter Pan mythology, but uses it to build a powerful metaphor in which anyone can find comfort. It describes a universal feeling through the characters and places of a near-universal story.
"Same Drugs" by Chance the Rapper
From Chance the Rapper's massive 2016 release, Coloring Book, comes another surprise nominee for the Best Peter Pan Song category. "Same Drugs" doesn't sound like a song about Peter Pan in lyrics or title unless you listen closely. And Chance only hinted at its real meaning when he became frustrated at people's surface reading of the title:
It's not until the first verse that the Peter Pan references appear. "When did you change? / Wendy you've aged," Chance sings. The verse looks back to the 1991 movie Hook. In the movie, Wendy and the children have grown old when Peter Pan returns and some have lost the ability to fly.
"You must have lost your marbles," Chance says, pulling another character from the movie: a Lost Boy named Tootles who is always looking for his marbles, leading the other characters to call him crazy. But Peter, returning from Neverland at the end of the film, gives Tootles the bag of marbles that he'd left there.
"A shadow of what I once was" is another reference to the original Peter Pan story, when Peter loses his shadow. It's when he comes back to the children's house to find it that he wakes them up and teaches them to fly, starting everything.
The song is ultimately about nostalgia for youth and the scariness of growing up and growing apart. Chance uses the story of loss in Hook beautifully to mirror the song's own story of loss, the separation of time: "We don't do the same drugs no more," he sings. We're changed, and we don't share the same love anymore.
It's funny that a 105-year-old novel and a 25-year-old movie have combined to form two incredible songs in the past year. It shows the universality and agelessness of the themes of Peter Pan. It also shows the constant struggle to hold onto the dream of never growing up.
"Peter Pan" by Kelsea Ballerini
This country chart-topping hit is another worthy nominee, with a stunning performance at the American Country Music Awards that even featured a surprise Nick Jonas guitar solo wait woah whaaaaa…
Um, what was that? Those weren't notes. Oh, now he's giving up. His face was trying so hard to rock that solo. He wasn't even playing anything technically fancy. Or emotionally moving. Well, at least he turned his guitar off and jumped in for the harmony at the end. Too bad the internet is a thing and nothing nothing goes unnoticed.
If you can forget the second half of that performance, the song is still another great Peter Pan story.
It's down to three great songs: vote for your choice in the comments!
And download the novel for free from Project Gutenberg.