Pop Diary: Maid, Natalie Bergman, Meet Me at the Hop

What I'm watching, hearing, drinking, etc.

Maid (Netflix). Margaret Qualley's performance in the title role is the best thing about this limited seres about a young mother's desperate efforts to make a home for her daughter and a new life for herself after becoming trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship with her alcoholic boyfriend. Fleeing for safety, Alex has no money, no job, no home and no one to help her.

As Alex, Qualley is frustrated, angry and lost, but also smart, warm and surprisingly funny. I was ready for this show to be a long, grim slog that highlights all the ways in which our so-called safety net fails to help people while ensnaring them in bureaucracy that prevents them from moving forward. Yes, the show is all of that, but it's also richly human and humorous.

When Alex loses a job, or a place to live, or when the housing she does find is contaminated with black mold that so sickens her daughter that she can't go to daycare, meaning that Alex can't go to work to pay for housing (or daycare), we feel her distress, but also share in her appreciation of the absurdity of it all.  How much more f-ed up can things get? Quite a bit more, actually.

On top of her own challenges, Alex's mom (played a little too much by Qualley's real-life mom, Andie MacDowell) is mentally ill, off her meds and in need of care. Her estranged dad is no help, and the ex-boyfriend keeps turning up to make things that much more difficult. Portions of the series enter more conventional TV territory via some of these side dramas, but improve whenever Alex is the focus. 

Through the course of the show, we're thoroughly caught up in her many challenges, rooting for her success and more sympathetic to others going through challenges like this. It's an important show for that last reason, and a richly moving one thanks to Qualley's portrayal of Alex, who seems completely real. How could you not want her to succeed?

Natalie Bergman - Mercy.  Jesus rock on Jack White's Third Man label? I guess so. Bergman's LP is unashamedly spiritual and full of praise for the divinity she sees as having led her out of depression following the deaths of her dad and stepmother, who were killed by a drunk driver in 2019.

The songs exhort us to talk to the Lord in times of need, ask Jesus to shine His light on us, and shower Him with praise, and it all works fantastically as contemporary indie pop. Whether you enjoy it or not likely varies on how open you are to Bergman's message, but I like it quite a bit. It's melodic, different, thoughtful and it has heart. Test here:

Meet Me at the Hop (Bear Family). Another big bang for the buck from Germany's excellent reissue label. So much to like here: R&B from Lavern Baker and Hank Ballard, doo-wop from the Flamingos and the Three Pennis, teen rock from Fabian and Ricky Nelson, and instrumental grit from the Viscounts. It's like having a stack of nickels and access to a great jukebox. It'll send you, even if you were never there.