For those of us who don't inhibit Norman Rockwell paintings, all of our families have problems, and those problems are never more apparent than when the family gets together for Thanksgiving. Inevitably, there will be fights over politics, religion, and more when a bunch of relatives with different views get placed around the dinner table. Long-held grudges left festering often boil to the surface when people who haven't seen each other in a year spend a whole day together. Whether it's screaming matches over mashed potatoes or cold silences over pecan pie, Thanksgiving always has festive ways to celebrate our families' dysfunctions. Some of us may find eventual peace and comfort with our families, and some may not, but well all be back next year to go through the ordeal all over again. Here is a list of songs that celebrate these dysfunctional families, because even if we don't like everyone we share a Thanksgiving meal with, our families define us, and ultimately shape who we are as people:
1. Kanye West - "Family Business"
"Family Business," off of Yeezy's debut album, is his tribute to his family. Rather than depicting an idealized, perfect version of family, Kanye shows how life really is, revealing his family to be as full of flaws as they are warmth and connection. He references opening up photo albums with relatives and Grandma's food, and in the same breath his cousin locked up in prison and his constantly fighting aunt and uncle. In this way, Kanye depicts families like the one you're most likely going to be among this Thanksgiving, with black sheep and forgetful aunts and fighting relatives, that all, nonetheless, truly love and care for each other.
2. The Killers - "Uncle Jonny"
In this song by The Killers, the band discusses the black sheep in a family, Uncle Jonny, who is addicted to coke. As the song goes on, it becomes clear that despite his family's attempts to offer help to him, he brushes them away. It's an all too often story of addicts who are incapable of receiving the advice or help from their family.
3. Drake - "You & The 6"
On Drake's If You're Reading This It's Too Late, he may have gone for a more aggressive tone than his earlier projects, but on "You & The 6" he returns to his heartfelt origins in a song written as a message on his mom's answering machine. In this song, he praises his mother for raising him and always wanting the best for him. He also discusses his father, recognizing the mistakes that he made for not being a larger presence in his life as a kid, but also commending him for exposing him to different experiences, including bringing him to Memphis as a kid. He recognizes the dysfunction in his family, but considering the end result of his fame and fortune, he sees it as worthwhile.
4. The Mountain Goats - "The Legend Of Chavo Guerrero"
Anyone who has listened to The Mountain Goats autobiographical album The Sunset Tree knows that John Darnielle's family was much worse than merely dysfunctional when he was growing up. In the band's newest album, Beat The Champ, Darnielle explored his formative years through the lens of the professional wrestling he watched. In "The Legend Of Chavo Guerrero" he reveals the deep problems with his family through contrast with the, comparatively, normal Guerrero family. The pro wrestling dynasty had their own problems, but John's childhood envy of their familial relationship reveals the severe dysfunction in his family.
5. Kacey Musgraves - "Family Is Family"
Kacey Musgraves rose in the country music scene and crossed over for her unflinching and un-romanticized view of small town country life. Although she's taken a more cynical perspective on dysfunctional families in songs like "Merry Go 'Round," on "Family Is Family" Kacey recognizes the problems present in families, but also the close bonds and loyalty between family members. As she says "family is family / in church or in prison," for better or worse the people related to you are an integral part of your life.
6. Arcade Fire - "The Neighborhood #2 (Laika)"
In this song, the lyrics focus on the narrator's older brother, but inevitably tell us about the family the two both belong to. In it, the singer mourns the loss of his brother from his life, while celebrating his ability to escape the family. Throughout the song, Arcade Fire paints a picture of family dysfunction, from fights between father and son, to the eventual banishment of this son from familial gatherings. The narrator calls his brother "Laika" after the Soviet dog sent into space, never to return.