Although I already reviewed my sophomore year in a recent post, I’ve since realized that it wasn’t complete. The missing piece? All the music that I was listening to last year! The classes, clubs, and other milestones I talked about were all important, but so was the soundtrack to all of those things. As all of my friends can tell you, I am always listening to music, no matter what I’m doing–whether if it’s just during a short walk to the dining hall, studying in the library, or picking my clothes out for the day. I absorb the music I listen to into my experiences to the point where they become a part of them as well. In order to give a fuller picture of my sophomore year, then, I thought that it would be helpful to list what I listened to. Here’s 9 of my most listened-to songs last year, in order. Enjoy!
9. “Posing For Cars” by Japanese Breakfast
Some things just cannot be fully articulated in words. This is a reality that Japanese Breakfast, an indie/alternative band led by Michelle Zauner*, demonstrates in “Posing For Cars,” which expresses “a slow desire fermenting” through a stunning, sprawling four-minute long guitar solo at the end of the song. I’m a sucker for guitar solos in general, but this is my favorite one yet. It builds and builds, and by the end of the song it feels like I’m soaring. It’s the perfect song for daydreaming, gazing out your window and pretending that you’re in one of those coming-of-age indie movies (which I did a lot last semester, haha). Highly, highly recommend listening to this.
*Zauner also wrote an excellent memoir titled Crying in HMart, which I really love and highly recommend you guys to check out as well (maybe I’ll write a review on it soon).
8. “Dynasty” by Rina Sawayama
“Dynasty” was the first song I heard by Rina Sawayama, and it turned me into a complete Rina Sawayama fan. It’s an epic, powerful rock-influenced track tracing the problems throughout Sawayama’s family line, spanning money, infidelity, and mental illness. In my favorite part of the song, Sawayama proclaims that she “is her dynasty,” her voice ascending to the heavens as she harmonizes with (and even reaches notes beyond) an electric guitar solo. I appreciate that Sawayama writes many songs about topics other than love and heartbreak, which, in my opinion, have become too trite in the musical world. Her willingness to tackle issues like family and identity head-on in “Dynasty” is refreshing*, and I wish that more singers would write about these things rather than resorting to the safe territory of soft love ballads or breakup songs.
*In fact, her entire album, SAWAYAMA, is full of other songs that continue to explore these things and others as well, like capitalism and celebrity culture.
7. “Suite bergamasque, L. 75: Clair de lune” by Claude Debussy, Julian Weber, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
I’m a classically trained pianist and violinist, and I grew up loving Claude Debussy. “Clair de lune” is one of my favorite pieces he’s composed. This cello rendition only amplifies the beauty of this piece, as the instrument’s sonority aptly expresses the sad, sullen beauty of the moon it describes. I often listened to this song while studying late at night in the library, where I could sometimes see the moon through the windows–and this would often make me feel peaceful and calm as I did my work, even if I had a lot of stressful things coming up.
6. “Style” by Taylor Swift
This is my favorite song off of Taylor Swift’s 1989. It’s been the object of lots of fan speculation about Harry Styles in the past few years, but to me it’s just a song that I love singing and dancing to. The funk-pop influences in this song are infectious, giving it a groove that makes you want to get up and move. It’s a high-energy, vibey song that never failed to boost my mood during the year, giving me a taste of some much needed fun even during super busy times.
5. “Japanese Denim” by Daniel Caesar
Ever hear a song so good that you just..swoon? That’s exactly what happened when I first heard Daniel Caesar’s “Japanese Denim,” a romantic ballad that practically brims with feeling. On this track, Caesar’s voice is dreamy and soulful as he compares his love to denim jeans that last a lifetime. Every time I hear this song, I can’t help but just sing along (actually, I was just singing while typing this up and listening to it). I have some really nice memories associated with this song, especially from this semester, so this song will always have a very special place in my heart.
4. “Video Games” by Lana Del Rey
I first listened to Lana Del Rey‘s “Video Games” when I was in eighth grade, and I fell in love with it immediately. This song has only become more beautiful to me over the years, as I’ve understood its meaning more and more as I’ve gotten older. In the beginning of the spring semester, I learned how to play it on the piano for fun, and that was probably the most therapeutic and stress-relieving thing I did this year. As I got lost in the process of learning something new, everything seemed both less intense and more manageable at the same time, reminding me that rather than doting on things that I couldn’t control, I only needed to do things that were, in fact, within my grasp–like just playing a song that I loved on the piano.
3. Call Out My Name by The Weeknd
The Weeknd is one of the biggest musical stars of the planet, but I still feel like some of his songs–even some of his most popular “hits”–deserve more attention. “Call Out My Name” is one of them, the lead single off of his EP, My Dear Melancholy. It’s a haunting R&B/soul ballad where The Weeknd laments putting in so much “waste[d]” effort into a relationship where the other person didn’t reciprocate equally, even revealing that he would’ve even “cut out a piece of himself for [her] life.” He mourns that it was all a “waste [of his] time,” that he was just “a pit stop”—and yet, despite all of that, his yearning is still evident, as he confesses that he still wants her to stay, that he’ll “be on [his] way” if she just “called out [his] name.” Although I can’t really relate to this song, the rawness of the emotions in this song moved me when I first listened to it. I was also completely in awe of The Weeknd’s vocals (which are actually very underrated), as he often goes into falsetto and hits some notes that I didn’t even know were possible on this track.
2. “home with you” by FKA Twigs
I just started listening to FKA twigs in my sophomore spring, and I’m so glad that I did. She is so talented and I absolutely adore her MAGDALENE album and LP1. I love that twigs’ songs often blend multiple genres together, a quality that’s especially evident on “home with you,” which demonstrates elements of R&B in production and opera in vocal performance. Like many of my other favorite songs (as you may have guessed), “home with you” is raw and emotional, a devastating but beautiful song about human loneliness. Listening to this while writing creatively often helped me channel the necessary emotions I needed to fully develop my characters and stories. I strongly recommend everyone to take a look at this song or to check out FKA twigs–she’s so talented, and even if you don’t like “home with you,” there’s a lot of other songs in her discography that simply cannot be missed.
1.drivers license by Olivia Rodrigo
This was my most listened-to song of last year. I primarily love this song so much because of how palpable the emotions in it are. There’s yearning, indignation, anger, despair, nostalgia, betrayal–all delivered through Olivia Rodrigo’s excellent vocal performance, from the quivers in her voice as she laments over how her ex-lover is “so okay now that [she’s] gone” to practically screaming at the end. You don’t just know how Rodrigo’s feeling–you feel with her too. This song reminds me that art is a powerful medium to express your emotions, which is super inspiring to me as a burgeoning creative who also thinks and feels deeply. I’ve also played this song so much because singing along to the bridge is so cathartic.
Well, in case if you can’t tell already, my music taste is all over the place. In just one post, I’ve listed classical, pop, indie, R&B/soul, rock, alternative and funk-pop songs–but honestly, I think that’s perfect. It’s a collection eclectic enough to capture the range of the past 6 months, and I look forward to exploring more music in the future. Till next time!