Exploring emotions through music


Currently, 69 playlists reside in my Spotify library, each handcrafted by me for all sorts of different moods and situations. Any possible occasion you can think of, I probably have a playlist for: dancing around the kitchen, driving with the windows down, going through a breakup, turning 18. Making playlists is one of my favorite pastimes and something I always find myself gravitating toward when I’m going through seasons of change. What I love most about creating a playlist is that it forces me to reflect on my emotions. It is impossible for me to make a playlist for a certain mood or occasion without coming to terms with how I feel about that mood or occasion first. As a result, not only does my playlist-making result in a wonderful assemblage of music, but it allows me to reckon with my feelings. 

I’m currently in a season of change where I’m transitioning from summer to the start of another school year. Now that it’s August, the things that became a forgotten fantasy at the back of my mind have suddenly become real. My first few days of August have been characterized by a flurry of activity as I figure out all things school-related: apartment shopping, textbook ordering and getting my life at home in order before I leave. In this chaos, it’s been easy for me to push down my bubbling emotions about the first day of school — the anxieties and hesitations about going back to school combined with the cautious excitement I feel. That is why I decided to sit down amid everything going on and do something I love: make a playlist. This playlist, which I have lovingly titled “Hello Sophomore Year,” is how I sorted out my sadness about summer coming to an end and my apprehensions about school approaching a beginning. I will be listening to all 22 minutes of it as I walk from class to class to come to terms with my emotions and enjoy the start of my sophomore year of college through the comfort that playlist gives me. 

“Can I Call You Tonight” — Dayglow

“Can I Call You Tonight” is my summer song and has been since 2020, when I first listened to it during a walk around my neighborhood at the height of the pandemic. It was a blistering summer day and I needed to escape my house and clear my head, so I decided to spend some time outdoors. I scrolled through my music, unsure of what to listen to, before going to my Discover Weekly. “Can I Call You Tonight” was the first song featured, and after listening to it once, I listened to it on repeat for the entire walk. Since then, it’s become one of my staple summer songs. I don’t normally listen to it throughout the school year, but the moment summer begins, it is the first song I queue on my phone. I love this song and the memories associated with it — watching the sunset from my backyard, driving to visit old friends and immersing myself in the peacefulness that follows the end of the school year. While summer is over, this song is a reminder that it will be back very soon. 

“What Once Was” — Her’s

This is me and my sister’s song. Every single morning of my senior year of high school, I would play “What Once Was” in the car as I drove both of us to school. We would both be annoyed with each other — me, because she made us late taking her sweet time in the bathroom and her, because I would constantly tell her to hurry up — but as soon as I played the song, the ice between us would begin to melt. Soon, I would play it every single morning and it became our thing. On the last day of my senior year, the last time I would ever drive the both of us to school together, we listened to it one last time, crying our eyes out and reminiscing on an entire year that has passed in the blink of an eye. Now every time I hear “What Once Was,” I think of my sister, who is now a junior in high school and growing up way too fast. I will miss her so much when I move back to campus, but she will always be here with me, whether it be through a text or through a song. 

“Santa Cruz Tomorrow” — French Cassettes 

“Santa Cruz Tomorrow” is a song about working past the point of exhaustion — a concept I believe all college students to be well acquainted with. The catchiness of the chorus, where “I think you need some sleep” repeats over and over again, plays in my mind every time I overwork myself. It’s a good reminder to take care of myself and prioritize my sleep, especially at the beginning of the year. But to be completely honest, the main reason I’ve included this song is just in case there is the slightest chance that I will be stopped in the Diag and asked what I’m listening to by someone holding a tiny microphone. Listening to French Cassettes makes me feel mysterious and special because French Cassettes is a small indie band that I discovered two months ago. I like feeling like I have some underground music taste, even though most of what I listen to is mainstream, which is why “Santa Cruz Tomorrow” is on this playlist. 

“Malibuu” — Matt DiMona 

The heart of “Malibuu” is about chasing after a certain feeling. Matt DiMona sings about the feelings that come with driving to Malibu and spending a summer by the sea. In the song, he talks about how he’s been feeling out of touch with reality, as his former memories of summer keep on pulling him back into the past. It is a mix of positive recollection and longing: two feelings that tend to define my reminiscence of summer. I like this song because it reminds me that it’s okay to miss something that has ended and reminisce fondly over it. While I don’t want to spend all my time thinking about the past, it’s okay to let the memories of warm summer days wash over me when I’m feeling homesick or particularly overwhelmed. But it also reminds me that when I’m feeling an intense sense of longing to ground myself in my present and appreciate the things around me. 

“Superposition” — Young the Giant 

If someone asks me what my favorite song is, I will always answer with the song “Superposition.” It is truly my absolute favorite song of all time. No matter what mood I’m in or what’s going on, whenever I listen to this song, it fills me with joy. I love the vibrance of the opening beat containing a combination of drumming and a string instrument, the brightness of the album cover featuring a portal to space in the sky and the lyrics in which Sameer Gadhia of Young the Giant sings about not believing in fate and yet allowing it to exist in his life when things happen without explanation. It just makes me want to jump and dance and run and shout. It fills me up with happiness and that is exactly how I want to feel on my first day of school. I want to feel cheerful and content as I begin a new chapter, and “Superposition” will undoubtedly do that for me. 

“Perfect Places” — Lorde 

“Perfect Places” is the first song I added to this playlist and the one I knew I wanted to end with. The premise of the song is Lorde attempting to find perfect places after transitioning to adulthood. She spends her nights engaging in activities that supposedly bring her closer to her perceived notion of happiness but instead leave her empty and purposeless. After some contemplation during the song, Lorde ends it with, “What the fuck are perfect places anyway?” This song strikes every chord in me. Blood starts to hum within my veins every time I hear the opening beat. I feel so much more alive. “Perfect Places” reminds me to not get engrossed in my expectations and place too much pressure on the events in my life. I’ve always been obsessed with this idea of a perfect place: where the grass is greener, the sky is bluer and all my emotional turmoil has quieted. But the truth is that a perfect place like that can only exist in my imagination. Rather than wasting precious moments hoping for something better, “Perfect Places” reminds me to learn to love and enjoy the place I’m currently in. Listening to this song jolts me into the present. “I’m 19 and I’m on fire” — my favorite lyric from this song — and I want to live my life wholeheartedly in the moment, rather than waiting for something to happen. I want that to be my motto for the upcoming year.

My First Day — Ananya Gera 

The first day of school is an end and a beginning, a day full of sadness and excitement that causes my emotions to come together in a messy conglomerate. I’m mourning the conclusion of summer — a time when I got to take it slow and spend each day away from all the pressure and expectations of academic life that normally surround me. Yet, I’m also buzzing with anticipation, ready to start my school year and immerse myself in my college life, excited to see where it takes me. It’s tough to miss something so acutely and also be enthusiastic that you can barely breathe. This playlist represents those difficult feelings: the yearning for what used to be and the hopefulness of what will be. The six songs that I have chosen for all the reasons I’ve described above have allowed me to find the serenity in my amalgamation of feelings. I am grieving and I am optimistic and I think it will be okay. 

MiC Columnist Ananya Gera can be reached at agera@umich.edu

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