8. thank u, next - Ariana Grande
I don’t think any song has so quickly moved to my most listened to tracks. Beyond the catchiness, the namedrops, and that record-breaking homage to chick flicks everywhere, the message is so eloquently delivered: there’s such beauty in letting things go when they no longer serve you.
7. On The Regular - Shamir
If you ever catch me strutting across campus to class like I’m on a catwalk at 8am, I can almost guarantee you that this is what I’m listening to. Self image has been one of my biggest goals of the semester: taking it apart, examining it, and reconstructing it. And Shamir gives his listeners permission to revel in self-assuredness, the kind that makes one almost fearless. While I doubt I’ll be penning my own raps in the future, sometimes those sleepy morning walks before campus wakes make me feel almost brave enough to try.
6. 20 Something - SZA
I could never make a list of music without something from Ctrl - it feels ingenuine to myself. “20 Something” is one of the few pieces of music that moves me to real, vivid emotion. It represents the precipice so many college students - college women, especially - find themselves placed upon: simultaneously watching the past replay on a loop and watching future hopes and fears alike. For me, Ctrl as a whole is a direct confrontation and dissection of that uncertainty, a restlessness I’ve come to appreciate and even find beauty within. My college experience has been an experiment in finding comfort in change and growth.
5. You Oughta Know - Alanis Morissette
Jagged Little Pill, as evidenced by this list, is so far from my comfort zone when it comes to music, but that ended up being reflective of my year overall. When I “discovered” it this summer, I fell in love with the passion: I could almost picture the window Morissette is probably singing from behind while she contemplates interrupting her ex’s dinner with his new girlfriend. I felt that desire to express myself in an unmistakable way. Self-expression became a recurring theme, and its pursuit became a vital part of my life. In everything, I learned to seek a new side of the prism through which to see myself.
4. Strength Courage & Wisdom - India.Arie
There is something so wholly warming about someone telling you you’ve been strong, courageous, and wise all along. It’s an important reminder on campus, where comparisons can truly swallow you whole if you forget yourself. If I could condense the fruits of every prayer my mother and father and grandmothers and grandfathers prayed over me before I even existed into three minutes, I imagine it would sound a little something like this.
3. No Small Talk - Kari Faux
Kari Faux has this quirky charm that reminds me of Shamir. While “no small talk” has a literal meaning, for me it represented how I wanted to accomplish my goals. Each day was less about little things, like people I felt I needed to impress or grades I needed to perfect my GPA. It became more about who I wanted to become and the qualities I wanted to grow into: those are the “calls” I’m taking in 2019.
2. Rise - Solange
Looking back, my obsession with this song makes so much sense. In fact, it became the inspiration for the creation of this list as I considered why I was posting to my Instagram story for what seems like billionth time. 2018 revealed multiple of my own layers, but none more than my ability to ultimately rise. Two academically challenging semesters, several heart-to-hearts, a reckoning with my anxiety, lots of journaling, and a couple of spontaneous trips later, I am finally at peace, and “sleep[ing] at night.”
1. Mama Said - The Shirelles
“Mama said there’ll be days like this” doesn’t require much explaining. For me, it was a liberating theme song for the year. More than “chalking it up to the game,” it’s acknowledging life’s irreconcilable messiness. While my obstacle isn’t usually a new crush as The Shirelles’ is, even my most enjoyable work can have roadblocks that can, in the moment, appear insurmountable. However, it’s only a day. And tomorrow beams bright as ever.