Student Life

‘This Year Has Been Up and Down’: How Music Medicated a Turbulent Year

Ella Govrik | The PhoenixSophomore Megan Beu listens to LANY on her AirPods in the Damen Student Center.

Even non-Swifties like sophomore Megan Beu can admit Taylor Swift’s recent release of “Red (Taylor’s Version)” encompassed the year for many — the heartbroken, the scream-criers and the casual pop fan. 

While albums such as Swift’s captivated the masses, many agree this year’s music has been comprehensive and multifaceted. It provided listeners with a diverse collection of tracks by both seasoned creators and up-and-coming artists that can appease any music fan, no matter the tempo of their year.

Some students struggled to pinpoint a specific song that resonated with their life this year. Instead, sophomore accounting majors Jessica Ras and Amani Pittman thought specific genres were a more accurate representation. Lo-fi rap and indie-pop came to mind when reflecting on their favorite sub-genres recently. 

Ras, 19, said she listens to upbeat music when she’s stressed or upset, as it tends to lift her mood and shift her mindset. 

“I use music more as a method of escapism,” Ras said. 

When facing pre-interview nerves, Ras channeled her “Zendaya confidence” by jamming out to the singer and actress’ song “Replay.” She said this 2013 pop track helped her escape from the stress and has been a mood-boosting source for her this year. 

She also listed Lil Nas X’s song “INDUSTRY BABY (feat. Jack Harlow),” as one she found herself repeatedly hitting play on. She also mentioned Olivia Ridrigo’s first studio album, “SOUR,” as being a popular but impactful record for her this year.

Once beginning in-person classes this semester, Pittman said her year improved and her self-made yearly playlist transitioned from sad songs to happier pop. While songs such as “Slip” by Jacob Lee initially ruled her playlist, she began to see songs such as “I Like That” by Bazzi become more prevalent in the queue. 

“I like a lot of the sad and emotional songs that make you feel something,” Pittman, 19, said. 

For some students, their listening patterns mirrored the changes they were experiencing. First-year Isoken Ogbomoh said she found herself shifting between artists and albums as she transitioned from high school to her first year of college.

Nujabes, a Japanese record producer and composer, stood out to Ogbomoh when reflecting on the end of her high school career earlier this year.

“I feel like it really got me through that time,” the 19-year-old nursing major said. “There’s no lyrics to his songs, so you can put whatever spin you want on each song.” 

Ogbomoh said she attached albums to certain points in her year. Tyler, the Creator’s album, “Call Me If You Get Lost,” echoed warm weather and long days. 

“It really encapsulates the summer for me,” Ogbomoh said.

Kanye West’s “Donda” wrapped up the summer for Ogbomoh and WizKid’s album “Made in Lagos” was a staple in her summer mix as well, citing that their Nigerian backgrounds influenced her love for the singer. 

Kevin Garcia, a senior who uses he/they pronouns, said one artist that stood out to them was Natalia Lafourcade, a Mexican folk-rock singer.

“My sister recommended that I listen to a bit of Spanish rock because my parents grew up in the ’80s, but we never really listened to it,” Garcia, a political science major, said.

Lafourcade’s music resonated with the 22-year-old due to his and the singer’s shared identity as Mexican individuals. Garcia connected with the mix of folk, rock and Spanish aspects of Lafourcade’s work, and is confident that she’ll take a top spot in his Spotify Wrapped.

Many found music to be a manifestation of personal ups and downs as well as universal experiences. As the turbulence of the COVID-19 pandemic has remained constant, students felt as though they could relate the music they were hearing to what was going on in the world around them.

Beu, 19, said she noticed a distinct shift in her listening habits as the year progressed. 

Beu said LANY’s music represented personal successes and high points, such as “really starting” college as a sophomore. The sports management major said the song “care less” is her go-to listen while shuttling between campuses or strolling through Damen.

“It’s just about not caring what people think, or not giving more than what you get,” Beu said.

Some students agreed music’s virality online has reflected onto users’ everyday lives. Beu called on Taylor Swift’s re-recording of her album “Red” as having a major influence on social media and subsequently resonating with a widespread audience. 

For some, the songs they put on repeat this year allowed them to revisit memories or check in with how they were feeling — whether that means delving back into their “2000s throwbacks” playlist or shuffling their personalized “Discover Weekly” mix.

“This year has been up and down,” Beu said. “People just need that kind of music to get through the unrest.”

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