Chow Down on Your Thanksgiving Dinner Playlist

One time, at some hobby shop, there was a sign that read, "Music is the food for the soul." But what if that message wasn't just new-age bologna? What if we actually thought about music not as a fun thing to accentuate our daily lives but the very thing that nourishes the human spirit?

Why then we'd have the proper framework for our list below, which gathers a slew of genre-hopping songs to explain the most important foods for arguably the most important dinner of the entire year, Thanksgiving. Is this just an excuse to talk about the rarely discussed intersect between great food and great music? Sure. But that doesn't mean it's also not a way to commemorate great art in a time that we're tallying up all the other things we're most thankful for. Happy Turkey Day!


John Mellencamp, 'Jack & Diane'
There are heaps of songs about America as a concept. But this classic feels like it’s about a very specific experience in America (heaps of tradition and nostalgia) and that’s an idea tied to our relationship with the humble turkey. That, and both are a little dry despite being delicious.

Bruce Springsteen, 'Thunder Road'
The Boss’ (arguably) biggest song is not only amazing, but its sense of innate darkness is far removed from the blue collar vibes of Born to Run. That’s the turkey: a singular standout in a holiday food field that also includes ham and prime rib.

James Taylor, 'Carolina in My Mind'
There’s something especially comforting and engaging about this ballad. And we think that eating turkey does a lot of the same mentally — it feels deeply comforting given its connections to this day of thanks and yet it never proves either boring or passé.

Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Louis Armstrong, 'What a Wonderful World'
This has got to be among the most widely played and recognized songs in our history. And that ubiquitousness, alongside just the sense of gravity and heart of the song itself, feels as close to encapsulating the majesty of mashed potatoes as we can ever get.

Nina Simone, 'Sinnerman'
The secret to proper mashed potatoes is how smooth they are; lumps are a needless distraction. And so if you’re talking truly smooth songs, few are as immaculate as this unsung, sweat-soaked ballad from one of music's smoothest operators.

Waylon Jennings, 'Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)'
Plenty of songs try to describe some down-home, country-fried vibes. But few nail it as fluidly and effortlessly as this song, and its entire aesthetic just feels like the sonic equivalent of a steaming pile of the world’s smoothest potatoes.

Cranberry Sauce

Aqua, 'Barbie Girl'
The first bite of cranberry sauce always feels like a sugary assault to the senses. And so what better song to capture that instance than the one that, even after all these years, still feels like shotgunning a bag of sugar from your grandma’s pantry.

Sex Pistols, 'God Save the Queen'
Truly good cranberry sauce retains that slightly assaultive quality across every bite. And that’s sort of what this song does: It’s irritating and irksome no matter how catchy it is. Plus, you’ll always go back for another bite of both.

The Pretenders, 'I'll Stand by You'
This soft rock gem can be overly saccharine, just like any good helping of cranberries. But also like its Thanksgiving equivalent, you accept it for a specific kind of simplicity and directness and enjoy it the one time a year you happen to encounter it.


Earl Scruggs, 'Foggy Mountain Breakdown'
I can’t think of very many other songs that offer this kind of robust, transcendent level of rootsy warmth and connective potential. That’s stuffing to a T — something so pure and approachable that we can't help but gather together and shuffle mounds of it in our faces.

Roscoe Mitchell, 'Chant'
Maybe I’m truly alone, but eating stuffing can become a slog depending on how it’s cooked and your tendency to over-pile it atop a plate. This song, then, serves as a huge, winding reminder that both the journey and destination are totally worth it.

Brian Eno, '1/1'
In some ways this song is tied to a decidedly similar notion to the Mitchell track. However, this song feels both joyous and consuming, thus making it a far better soundtrack than hearing your family argue or watching yet another football game.

Green Bean Casserole

Minor Threat, 'Straight Edge'
This song occupies a similar (albeit distinct) space to Sex Pistols in that it’s also quite grating and irksome. And that’s really the kind of emotional slate you’re going to hone in on as you choke down yet another needless bite of casserole.

Shari Lewis, 'The Song That Doesn't End'
The whole song is meant to be a fun little gimmick, sort of like a proper casserole. But in practice, it just feels annoying and bloated — sort of like how you’ll feel beyond a bite or two of soggy green beans.

Ramones, 'Judy Is a Punk'
Green beans themselves aren’t bad; it’s just this casserole’s popularity that’s truly confounding. So let this song be a reminder that small doses (like a breezy punk track) are often the best approach into actually enjoying something and avoiding the wrong kinds of leftovers.

Dinner Rolls

Stevie Wonder, 'Another Star'
The version of this song that’s eight-ish minutes is, like, 90 percent outro. And that’s totally great — the best kinds of rolls should be extended for as long as humanely possible as a proper vessel for a mini-turkey sandwich or to sop up potatoes.

Bread, 'Everything I Own'
Yes, this song’s inclusion on the list does make for a totally dumb, doubly funny little joke. However, and we kid you not, this song also facilitates nearly the same joyous, mostly fleeting experience as eating a decent roll/muffin/etc.

LeAnn Rimes, 'God Bless America'
Are rolls good? Yes, they’re pure carbs. But do they often feel a little compulsory? Also yes. That’s sort of a snapshot of this song: It’s generally quite a treat, even if it’s a little old hat and pretty much mandatory at most gatherings.

Pumpkin Pie

Hanson, 'MMMBop'
Whereas the Aqua song was all about sweetness as a means of shocking the consumer's system, this pop gem is as warm and rich and nuanced as a proper piece of pumpkin pie. And unlike a slice of (the often inferior) apple pie, it always seems to go down smooth.

Creedence Clearwater Revival, 'Suzie Q'
If you make a pumpkin pie properly, there are lots of layers of flavor and texture. This Creedence jam is sort of the same: It smacks you with sweet rhythms just as much as it pulls you along with a lot of heft and attitude.

Taylor Swift, 'You Belong With Me'
This is arguably Swift’s most saccharine song ever (and that’s saying a lot). But no matter how overwhelmingly rich it proves to be, it’s hard to ever truly say no. Kind of like eating your third piece of pumpkin pie, right?