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Summed Up in a Song

Ella Ban

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Building the Perfect High School Reflection Playlist: A Guide, with Commentary. Whether you’re a music junkie or not, everyone needs a good playlist to remember their high school experience. This will especially come in handy in the fall as you’re cleaning out your room. With your very own High School playlist you won’t need dozens of photographs to remember your high school experiences; these songs will effortlessly summon up such memories without wasting space. Warning: it will be eclectic. It should be eclectic. So let’s start at the beginning.

   The first song on your playlist isn’t aggressive or direct, just a hint of what’s too come. I prefer the aptly named “Intro,” an instrumental piece by the xx. Unassuming, rhythmic, and practically trembling with anticipation, it’s the perfect lead-in for any playlist that you know is going to give you all the feels.

   The next couple of tracks should be songs you discovered on your own. Maybe it was the song that made you fall in love with your new favorite artist. Maybe it was the song you hated listening to until it played on Pandora for the thousandth time, and then boom –– everything suddenly clicked. My playlist would contain some early songs by the Killers, “Mr. Brightside” and “Runaways.” In public I will cringe at those lyrics, angsty and overwrought, but privately I would still sing along, remembering how important those songs were for lonely 14-year-old me.

   Now we move into the real guts of the playlist, where every song brings up a new memory. If you’re nostalgic enough to immortalize your high school memories in a playlist then you will pick happy songs. What was the anthem of the summer that you, newly licensed, listened to while driving your friends around? What was the song that you would sing every time it was on the radio? I remember when Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” came out and everyone did their best to match pitch with the significantly autotuned singer, no matter how far of a reach it was. Or Pitbull’s “Timber,” with a lumberjack metaphor that definitely did not fit the persona of pop at the time but which nobody really questioned. What was the song that played at homecoming your freshmen year that made you shake off that last bit of discomfort and finally start having fun? The one that everyone put their hands up for, the one that made the lights pulse in rhythm. The one that you could still hear ringing in your head the next morning. Add that to the list.

   Here we begin to trade sound for content. The amp music fades and is replaced by the music with the message, the songs that you listened to for the message. Maybe the message is what kept you going through breakups, setbacks, or those long nights where you couldn’t sleep and asked yourself if you were really gonna make it. I find “Put a Light On” by the Generationals and Grouplove’s “Ways to Go to be good pick-me-ups. Listen to those songs again and revel in knowing that you have finally “made it.”

   Now find music that was given to you by friends, former and current. I have three Twenty-One Pilots songs here because of the afternoon I spent on the hard floor of my friend’s bedroom listening to their entire album.

   And now –– a small section for the heartbreak. What was the song you really, really wanted to show your crush, the one that perfectly encapsulated all your feelings and expressed it better than you ever possibly could? What song makes you think of your first kiss? Love songs are overly abundant and come in all different sounds and meanings, but my favorites so far have been “All the Time” by the Bahamas, “You Make My Dreams” by Hall & Oates, and Coldplay’s “Yellow.” (Sometimes you just can’t beat the classics).

   Now, pick a closing song. This is really up to interpretation. Personally, I like ending things on a happier note and would probably choose something by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, because I’m cheesy and would rather be happy and clichéd than cynical and “different.” Pick a song you like, maybe one you discovered this year. Pick one that makes you think about the future, and the possibilities it holds.

   Maybe you’ll make this playlist and hate it. Maybe you’ll make a playlist for every semester, every year, until you graduate. Share it, or don’t.

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Summed Up in a Song