By Rhea Kapur (VI)
I recently finished reading the book On the Road by Jack Kerouac. You might have heard of it—the novel is an American classic, a roman à clef, an autobiographical chronicle of Kerouac’s (in the text, Sal Paradise’s) adventures hitchhiking across the country with his writerly friends: Neal Cassady (the infamous Dean Moriarty), Allen Ginsburg (Carlo Marx), and William S. Burroughs (Old Bull Lee), to name a few. Rife with casual sex, drugs, alcohol, poetry, jazz, and endless exploration, On the Road paints a comprehensive portrait of 1950s America, and it has come to define the Beat Generation: postwar nonconformists, disillusioned bohemians… those who championed spontaneity, psychedelics, and the journey, not the destination. On the Road is an anthem, the Beatnik ode to freedom, to wanderlust, to the quest for “it,” whatever “it” is—authenticity, purpose, the American ideal. The novel’s influence on literature and writing has been widely studied, but I’d like to explore how On the Road has shaped music and individual musicians as well as introduce a playlist that, to me, matches the novel’s message.
There’s no better place to start than the 10,000 Maniacs classic, “Hey Jack Kerouac.” Natalie Merchant, the band’s lead singer and main songwriter, penned the folksy tune, infusing her own opinions and frustrations with Kerouac and other Beatniks—like Ginsburg and Burroughs—into her work. She sings directly to Kerouac, who is at once the “brightest star” (after On the Road caught fire) and broken “little boy lost in our world that hated;” she recognizes the “tear-stained shock of the world” that hit when he “[went] away without saying goodbye.” Perhaps this line is a reference to Kerouac’s early death (caused by his excessive drinking), but I think it also speaks to the departure of the greater Beat Generation. Their call to pack and drive—to hit the road and see where it travels, to stand by the emptiness of the harsh red horizon they chased—faded almost entirely as the counterculture and civil rights movements of the 1960s and ‘70s took root. And what about where it stands now, in the progressive, fractured 2021? The wanderlust is relatable, and the lifestyle alluring, as Merchant sings, but in today’s context, On the Road reads like an anachronism—a privileged, misogynistic, old boy’s travelogue that offers no place of worth for women and people of color.
Nevertheless, many other artists revered Kerouac and the Beat Generation, or were at least considerably influenced by their message at its prime. There’s John Lennon (“Beatles” derives from “Beat!”), a huge fan of the writings of both Kerouac and Allen Ginsburg. There’s Bob Dylan, the regular Dean Moriarty himself! On the Road “blew his mind… and changed his life,” an influence particularly clear in Dylan’s songs “On the Road Again” and “Desolation Row” (inspired by another Kerouac work, Desolation Angels, along with Allen Ginsburg’s city poetry). There’s Jim Morrison, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, the Grateful Dead… and the list goes on. Kerouac’s anthem of freedom, transcendance, and exploration lends beautifully to music, an art that itself strains to be free, to embody being free, to provide subconscious escape. Aspects of his subject matter may now read as out of touch, but it is because of this paralleled identity that Kerouac’s influence will always remain in tune.
I leave you with a playlist of my own, entitled “There was nowhere to go but everywhere.” The title is derived from one of my favorite passages in On the Road: “…because he had no place he could stay in without getting tired of it and because there was nowhere to go but everywhere, keep rolling under the stars, generally the Western stars.” I’ve filled it with all of the songs and artists mentioned above, along with others that embody Kerouac’s resigned, inexplicably consuming wanderlust. You’ll hear the AC/DC classic, “Highway to Hell”; Train’s “Drive By” and “California 37;” “Midnight Rider” by the Allman Brothers Band; Green Day’s “Stray Heart;” and many more. It’s a playlist for the open road – Kerouac’s road, yes, but also the Beatnik road, my road, and maybe even yours, too. Give it a listen, and keep faith; music will take you everywhere.
By Rhea Kapur (VI)
I have a friend who loves rock music. Floyd, The Who, The Byrds, Rolling Stones, The Doors, Guns N’ Roses…you name it, Sanjana knows it. I don’t just mean their greatest hits, either; she is no poser. Sanjana highlights the forgotten gems, the underrated masterpieces: Cream’s “Badge,” The Beatles’ “It’s All Too Much.” And she has the exceptional ability to detail every step of a rock musician’s life and loves by memory, whether it’s the history of Bon Jovi’s Sanctuary Sound recording studio (built in the basement of his New Jersey ranch home!) or George Harrison’s spiritual beliefs (he embraced Hinduism and transcendental meditation). I knew next to nothing about the genre before I met her, so the fact that I can recall all of this now—thinking alone, off the top of my head—I’d say that only further confirms how vibrant, how infectious, how real her love for rock music is. Sanjana taught me that rock has a beat, a rhythm, a personality and character like no other. It’s an anthem that pulses in stride with your heartbeat, she’d say—one that pushes you to float and strain free and live in the moment, the literal embodiment of carpe diem. There’s something brilliant and creative in rock music: where else can you find a haven where soul, extraordinary lyrics, and every metal instrument imaginable meet in the heat of intensity, charisma, insanity, thrill? To consider a genre powerful enough to define a generation, and to journey back in time while listening now and still feel that indelible, mythic mark…it’s an extraordinary thing. Difficult for me to articulate, but Sanjana—she understands it, she really does. I don’t think I see rock music at her level—what I described is a mere taste of how she feels about it—but honestly? I prefer it that way. Rock reminds me of how different we both are, and of how we’ve grown together to find comfort and our own special place in that difference. That is, without a doubt, what I love most about our friendship. This holiday season, friends, I encourage you to embrace the eccentric music tastes of those you hold dear. Who knows? You might find a couple hidden gems of your own.
By Rhea Kapur (VI) & Monica Chan (VI) We’ve reached that dreaded first semester of senior year. While our lives seem to be drowning in the realization that we have no idea who we are (but are expected to tell colleges exactly who we are), it is difficult yet even more necessary to find solace in daily comforts. The one constant comfort, besides the shared empathy of our fellow 21’ers and teachers, is music. We bring you a joint music column to share our college application playlists.
When looking to get inspired to write my college essays, I like listening to songs with heavy background instrumentals and introspective lyrics. My first song is “When You Come Home” by Rich Brian. This song is written from a parent’s perspective, “So one day, if you find your way, I’ll be waiting for you . . . I got all these questions to ask but I’ll save them for when you come home.” My parents have always been the most present people in my life, and so writing college applications is surreal not only for the reason that I am embarking on the next chapter of my life, but also the realization that my parents will have to watch me from afar.
My next song choice is “Streetcar” by Daniel Caesar. This song was originally written by Kanye West, but I prefer the slower and more melodic version by Caesar. One of the most difficult parts of the application season for me is grappling with a sense of finality. We’ve prepared our entire high school lives for this time, “Let me know, do I still got time to grow? Things ain’t always set in stone, that be known let me know . . . see I know my destination, but I’m just not there.” At this in-between teenager and adult age, we’re beginning to forge our own futures while trying to understand who we are; these events happening simultaneously make it all the more difficult.
“Nights” by Frank Ocean is a slight wildcard. The first time I heard this song I was sitting in the backseat of my friend’s car on the way to someone’s house and we were on Route 287 when someone said, “Wait for that beat drop . . .” There was something magical about it being nighttime and zooming down at (legal) highway speeds surrounded by the laughter and company of my friends that I find relatively comforting reflecting on now. Maybe it’s because we can’t hang out with the same liberty we used to have, and those memories are all the more precious.
When I write, I focus on flow. I study how each sentence glides into the next, I listen to the melody two words sing when side by side, and I observe how each thought fits with every other to form a whole, defined piece. I like to think that how I approach the art of writing – my style – tells just as much of a story as the words do themselves. For me, when it comes to college essays, that’s generally “in media res” storytelling to start, then half stream-of-consciousness reflection, half punchy declaratives. Recently, I’ve designated Spotify’s “Nightstorms” playlist as the soundtrack to my late-night writing sessions. It features recordings of every type of rainstorm imaginable, and in nearly every possible setting; there’s “Thunderstorm in the Cabin,” “Monsoon Storm,” “Lightning Strikes at the Farm,” and even “Oregon Rain.” The storms lift me out of the scramble that is everyday life, offering an escape from the minutia and creating the perfect, focused environment for essay writing. I’m fascinated by how different they sound across the world; Indonesian rainstorms are thundering, intense, incessant downpour, while Swedish ones gently patter along, each large droplet claiming its own, distinctive splash. Every storm tells its own story. And they remind me, too, to write my own stories – to lift my admissions reader into a faraway land where the lighting strikes and little details I craft make all the difference.
Monica mentioned introspection, and I agree; it’s an essential part of the essay writing process. I turn to Lana Del Rey for inspiration in this regard. As an artist, she is intimately comfortable with herself, with natural, human uncertainty. In “Born to Die,” she sings: “Sometimes love is not enough and the road gets tough – I don’t know why.” In “Freak,” it’s “Looking back, my past, it all seems stranger than a stranger.” Seniors, who can’t relate to that one!? Del Rey’s voice brims with feeling; listen to how she sings “Ground control to Major Tom, can you hear me all night long?” in “Terrence Loves You.” Her songs build slowly to a close, a finish that is not always final. I see them as the embodiment of a dream – an imperfect, messy, wonderful subconscious world. It’s exactly where I find myself when brainstorming. At times, I’m in the lows, forehead against the cool countertop, reminding myself that, like Del Rey, it is okay – good, even – not to know, not to be okay. At others, my fingers fly across the keys to keep up with my thoughts, chasing the high of the dream and the height of introspection. Lana Del Ray is every end of the spectrum; seniors, it’s okay for us to be, too.
By Rhea Kapur (IV)
In preparation for Snowball, Pingry’s annual winter formal, there are a couple items to consider. One is, of course, the look. For female students, it’s finding the perfect dress—classically beautiful, yet original—and for the gentlemen, a suit that stands out. Refer to this issue’s fashion column for more! Other items that come to mind include finding a date, perhaps, a group of friends to get ready with, and everything in between. In all the mayhem that ensues in the week leading up to the event, many don’t stop and think about the music. Out of sight, out of mind—until the event starts. There, it’s, “Ugh, what are the words to this again? Let’s go get a drink and wait ‘till something we know comes on.” The cycle repeats itself every year. The real fun at Snowball—or any dance, for that matter—is to vibe with your friends and just enjoy the music. Many upperclassmen I’ve talked to agree: at a dance, we enjoy the music to the fullest when, first of all, we like the songs, and even more importantly, we know the songs– the chorus, when the beat drops, and a cool freestyle that matches. And let’s be real here: a lot of the time, that isn’t the case.
To investigate this further, I reflected on exactly what type of music is played at Snowball. A friend on Student Government sent me the suggested playlist, which is curated by members of the group and sent to the Snowball DJ. Looking at it, we see that the songs mainly fall into two categories: hip-hop and iconic bops. The latter is self explanatory: the likes of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside,” and John Legend’s “All of Me” are commonplace. These are songs that we’ve grown up listening to on the radio, the kinds of songs that friends scream out loud together, smiling, arm in arm—the songs that bring us teenagers together. These fall under the wider umbrella of “pop,” and they’re perfect for a close-knit, school-wide dance. An observation, though, if I may—at Snowball, it’s mainly the female students who dance to these songs, while the males stand on the side awkwardly. Maybe it’s because the lyrics are more touchy-feely, and that, even though male students know the words, singing along goes against the “masculine” image that they must project. Or, maybe this music just isn’t as popular among male students—but I digress.
The roles quickly reverse, though, when songs from the former category—hip-hop—come on. These are characterized by rhythmic beatboxing and clean beats accompanied by raw, flowing rap lyrics. The most popular of them—Drake’s “One Dance,” Travis Scott’s “HIGHEST IN THE ROOM”—are decently well known to all genders and bring most people out to the dance floor. However, when just slightly less popular songs come on—Lil Uzi Vert’s “That’s a Rack,” Migos’ “Narcos”—it’s the male students that jump up and crowd around the middle of the dance floor, enjoying the beat and shouting the lyrics, while female students step back.
Does this mean that the music tastes of our generation, our age group, also split into these two strict categories—and that the gender interests do as well? I would disagree. Take a look at recent breakout stars like Lil Nas X or Billie Eilish, for example. Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” a smashing hit, combines a country sound with the classic hip-hop beat. Both sounds are prominent, and by putting them together, Lil Nas X becomes original, a pioneer, and instantly popular. Eilish’s sound is also definitive, original; she specializes in horror pop, with tunes that are uncannily catchy but also creepy and spine-tingling, and even have a bit of the hip-hop influence mixed in with the beat. As such, Eilish’s music has an entirely different, captivating sound, unlike anything that has been heard before. Both artists have a fantastic following with teenagers of all genders and backgrounds, including Pingry’s own—both artists are on the Snowball playlist and stirred the entire crowd to their feet when played. They’ve blurred the lines between the different genres. I believe this is also reflective of the world our generation is growing up in as a whole: we’re more accepting, more fluid, more willing to combine different aspects of what is known to create what is not. Although there may not be as many artists like Lil Nas X and Eilish out there just yet, with the same degree of popularity, I think that’s the direction we’re going in. Soon, popular music will be more obviously made up of more than just two sounds. Just imagine what the dynamics at Snowball will be like when that’s the case.
By Rhea Kapur (V)
Existentialism has dominated my last few weeks. What does that mean, exactly? What even is existentialism? That question in and of itself, my friends, presents its own existential crisis––and that should tell you something about just how much it has been on my mind lately. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, existentialism is the pursuit of what “further set of categories… [are] necessary to grasp human existence.” Let that sink in. Deep, I know. And, of course, we teenagers should all be familiar with the “existential crisis,” a term that is now so ingrained in American culture that it is considered colloquial, dare I say the content of memes. Just to be clear, though, an existential crisis is a moment where we question the meaning of life––or, conversely, contemplate how life has no meaning.
I love to explore different aspects of the Slavic cultures and Russian language. Russian literature offers nothing if not some of the best reading, and many great Russian writers were existentialists. A couple of weeks ago, I was reading Uncle Vanya, one of Anton Chekhov’s plays. There’s a line in there that immediately stopped me in my tracks. Helena remarks, “What a fine day! Not too hot.” And Voitski (Vanya) responds, “A fine day to hang oneself.” If that’s not existentialist, I don’t know what is. Yes, Vanya perhaps takes it too far, but the sentiment is there. In my Russian Literature HIRT, we’re reading Anna Karenina, a great novel by Leo Tolstoy, and a friend of mine recently gave a presentation on Tolstoy’s spiritual crisis. You guessed it: by the end of his life, he was a die-hard existentialist. And, in my American Literature course right now, we’re reading “Bartleby the Scrivener”––perhaps one of the strangest short stories of all time––which presents a perfect case study in absurdism, existentialism, and even nihilism.
For me, all of this inspired a Spotify playlist, which I have lovingly entitled “sediment of existentialism.” In curating this playlist, I had to think about what has had me feeling so existentialist (the literature, obviously, and maybe the crushing amount of work). How could I elicit those same feelings again at a random 2:00 AM, when I really need them?
I came up with two answers. One is slow, melancholy music: “Apocalypse,” “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby,” “Affection,” and “K.” These are slow-burning gems from the band Cigarettes After Sex, perfect for those late nights after you return from a memorable night out, or even while you type out one last essay before our upcoming break. Lana Del Ray, with her unique voice and powerful lyrics, has some stars too: “Love,” “Brooklyn Baby,” “Off to the Races,” and “Born to Die” (that title has me convinced that she, too, is an existentialist) are some of my favorites. All of these songs showcase raspy, unique, and contemplative voices, and they really get my existentialist gears turning, transporting me to entirely new worlds.
The other mini-genre in my existentialist music consists of songs that I’ve associated with a memory. Now, hang with me, folks, we’re getting deep here. What are those sentimental songs for me? “Supermarket Flowers” by Ed Sheeran is one that immediately comes to mind. I know I may have denounced pop in my last column, and Ed Sheeran would definitely qualify as a pop artist, but this song is exceptional; it’s poignant, and above all it’s beautifully sung. Sheeran wrote it to cope with losing his grandmother, and that loss is simultaneously raw and crystal clear in his voice. As someone who recently lost mine, I can really connect to it. Listening, I remember my dadi, yes, but I also think about death, the meaning of death, and where we go afterwards. Where is the “home” that Sheeran refers to? What quantifies “a life that’s been loved” and lived, as Sheeran sings? How can we measure that?
I have lighter songs, too: the last songs of the night that I’ve danced to (“I Lived” by OneRepublic), a Beatles piece a faraway friend of mine used to play me on his guitar (“Blackbird”), or the favorite song of a sister I never had (“The Monster” by Rihanna). All of these songs––the happy, sad, and in-between––make me contemplate life and its meaning. You could say they elicit those existential crises.
My advice for creating your own existentialist playlist? Find those songs that matter to you – the ones that make you reason, reflect, and reminisce. Find those melancholy songs to which you wallow, or the upbeat songs to which you sing along at the top of your lungs, shaking out your hair and smiling ear to ear (“Story of my Life” by One Direction, anyone?). If you need inspiration, give “sediment of existentialism” a listen. Maybe while reading Dostoevsky (another Russian existentialist––sigh) over break, as I will be. You never know what kinds of existential moments you might find yourself in.
Rhea Kapur (V)
Even though I dislike the mainstream, formulaic pop that constantly fills Spotify’s “Today’s Top Hits” Playlist, I keep an eye on the charts. Billboard Hot 100? The top 200 albums? Rolling Stone’s Top 100? iTunes Top 100? You name it. Imagine my surprise when, just a few days into October, I saw not Taylor Swift’s Lover at the top of the Billboard 200, but The Beatles’ Abbey Road, as it was just past the album’s 50th anniversary (Sept. 26th).
I went through a brief Beatles phase this summer, after rediscovering Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and the “Twist and Shout” cameo – the song was on repeat for weeks, so much so that Spotify would start recommending it in every single one of my personalized playlists. I mainly listened to their popular works – “Twist and Shout,” of course, “Hey Jude” (the beautiful lyrics of which, by the way, were written by Paul McCartney to comfort John Lennon’s son Julian during his parents’ divorce), “Here Comes The Sun,” and “Blackbird.” But, last week, after noticing the Beatles’ unusual appearance in the Billboard 200, and reminiscing about my summer obsession, I was intrigued. So I put in headphones, closed my doors, and blasted Abbey Road, Remastered 2009. The Beatles’ swan song. The famous last album. The goodbye. And I have to say – it was an experience.
My favorite song by far was “Carry That Weight,” one of the only songs on the album recorded with all four members. It’s dark, it’s deep, it’s striking. A bit of history: recorded as one with “Golden Slumbers,” an eerily reassuring, hopeful, and vulnerable track in and of itself, the song was written by Paul McCartney but it interestingly featured vocals from all four Beatles. The sheer pressure the song conveys (heavy trumpets, “weight” being repeated, etc. – and that abrupt ending) mirrors the Beatles’ own struggles at the time: inter-group rifts and management troubles with Apple plagued them. Fellow juniors, I bet you can relate to this pressure – I know I’m already feeling it. Take comfort in knowing that the Beatles, too, went through seemingly hopeless times – but of course, theirs was probably much more significant, as the band ended up breaking up at the end. However, those times overall turned out to be great and remembered from today’s perspective, and ours will too – have faith. The weight, in fact, will be “carried a long time.”
A couple more gems from Abbey Road – “You Never Give Me Your Money,” featuring a beautiful, poignant piano base, “Oh! Darling” with McCartney’s wrought, almost painful, but undeniably powerful vocals, and of course, “Come Together” with its unique instrumental backbone – quiet, but with all the more noticeable guitar and beats in the back. I highly recommend those. And check out the 2019 mix of Abbey Road – it has come out in honor of the 50th Anniversary!
To continue my “classics~vibes” music pattern, I was reminded of Elton John – another great artist I constantly listened to this summer after watching the movie in his honor, Rocketman, with some friends. And what a movie that was. It was the first time I really listened to and recognized Elton John, and in theaters, too – the music was just all-encompassing and consuming in conjunction with the story of his eventful, bright-as-a-supernova life. Hearing the song “Rocketman” blasted, I could sense the mixed feelings and, of course, the Ray Bradbury influence – he wrote a short story in the 1950s entitled “The Rocket Man” upon which the song lyrics are heavily based.
Elton John wrote about the most obscure things – the “blue jean baby” in his hands in “Tiny Dancer” (a classic, by the way – simply a beautiful song), or “Spanish Harlem” in “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” (one of my favorite songs of all time, and one of Elton’s own favorites, too. I mean, the emotion in it is unparalleled). Honky Chateau is definitely a must-check-out album. But, I digress. Overall, Elton manages to make each and every one of his songs striking and beautiful. He’s simply a genius – not only with the jazz piano, which backs almost all of his songs, but with the lyrics and the voice, too. I’m eternally envious of those fortunate enough to have witnessed his genius in person, in his prime (Mr. Keating, looking at you!).
So I highly, highly recommend checking out Elton John and Abbey Road. Listen to them alone, in a quiet space, or even on a rainy morning bus ride, but with the music blasting as loud as you can bear – and really feel the music. Let it transport you away from the generic pop for a minute and take you back to the roaring 60s and 70s, when people, places, and music had unique character. Anyway, I’ve been listening to these two as I write this column, and it’s been the perfect vibe. I guarantee you, you’ll be hooked.
By Allie Verdesca ’18
Spring is my least favorite season. Allergies get worse and schedules get busier. What’s more, the weather has not been very cooperative in keeping me going throughout the school year. Especially with senioritis sinking in, I am finding it hard to stay on task. My main coping mechanism for these feelings has been music, and more specifically, breakup music. In my opinion, there is no song more relatable than a breakup song. Even if you haven’t been dumped (or dumped someone else), everyone can understand the sting of heartbreak. While not all of these songs are about the end of relationships, they are perfect if you’re ready to break up with the school year and move on to the bigger, better things that the summer will bring. So grab some earbuds and get ready to rock!
The first song on this list is “The Greatest” by Sia. Recently, I have been listening to many pop musicians and getting reacquainted with a more traditional pop sound. Sia’s “The Greatest” is the perfect earworm to get you through these last few draining weeks of school. The song’s driving beat and refrain of “don’t give up” provide the perfect antidote for your end-of-the-school year woes. Sia’s soprano voice and mastery of her trademark pop sound will keep you hustling through exam season and reassuring yourself that you too are “free to be the greatest here tonight.”
In a similar vein is Ingrid Michaelson’s main claim to fame, her song, “Girls Chase Boys.” Like “The Greatest,” Michaelson’s song has an upbeat and repetitive chorus, and she really knows how to sing a good breakup song. From her emotional vocals on “The Chain” to her enthusiasm on “Be Okay” and her sass on “Hell No,” Michaelson has mastered the craft of channeling sorrow into productivity. With “Girls Chase Boys,” hopefully, you too can release your disenchantment with the school year and use it to finish strong. The song’s leading verses are relatable and encouraging, and with a fun, danceable beat, “Girls Chase Boys” will have you shrugging off your setbacks and admitting that “I’m gonna be alright!”
On a different note, one of my favorite songs of all time is “Sad Song” by Scotty Sire. Not my typical type of music, “Sad Song” combines biting sarcasm with a bubbly, upbeat rap to create the ultimate feel-good, feel-bad song. The song’s lyrics carp on all the little things that can go wrong in life, and Sire’s nasal voice and accompanying whistling along to the tune of the chorus make everything seem a little easier. While this isn’t necessarily a breakup song, it embraces the self-pity and stress that come with the end of the year and reassures us that “it’ll be alright,” and sometimes, joking about your misery makes your problems easier to bear.
And finally, the epitome of breakup songs has to be Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” After performing the song with the Balladeers for our annual assembly, nothing has encapsulated my end of the year more than this iconic 1980’s single. Gaynor is the epitome of a classically trained vocal powerhouse with an amazing belt. The strength in Gaynor’s voice is undeniable, and the way she puts weight behind every word will have you singing along. The slow, dramatic piano introduction sets the stage for its pulsing chorus. The chorus will have you jumping off your feet and dancing, and will be the perfect push to get you through final exams and AP season. Knowing that “you will survive” may be the best motivation to send exhausted Pingry kids into the summer feeling accomplished and ready for a well-deserved break.
As this is my last music column for the Pingry Record, I just want to say it has been a pleasure to share my music interests with you all. I hope I have been able to provide some musical inspiration and broaden your horizons. Have a great summer!
By Allie Verdesca ’18
All right, raise your hand if you’ve had this experience. During a family car ride, your mom or dad would turn up the radio and sing along – a little too loudly – to the music they loved as a teenager: classic rock. Maybe it was Bruce Springsteen, maybe the Rolling Stones, maybe the Eagles. Although I might not want to admit it to my parents, a lot of this music has stayed with me throughout my life and provides a nice break from today’s oft-auto-tuned pop offerings.
For this column, I want to explore these musical roots. This is in no way a comprehensive list of the best classic rock songs. Instead, I will highlights songs that I’ve been listening to at the moment. With that said, here are three of my favorite classic rock and roll songs.
The first song on my list has made a comeback recently due to the popular Netflix show, Stranger Things. “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by the Clash plays in one of the first episodes of the first season. Stranger Things, which is set in the 1980s fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, is known for its nostalgia. This nostalgia has exposed a whole new generation to the Clash’s hit single. One thing I love about classic rock is the amount of guitar highlighted in each song. “Should I Stay or Should I Go” pairs raunchy guitar riffs with a solid, catchy drum beat. The song shifts tempo from the verses into the chorus, creating an effect that keeps the listener guessing. The vocals are shouted in punk-esque style, highlighting the band’s origins as a part of the first wave of British punk. The song is a great addition to a throwback playlist, and it should keep you going through these brutal weeks before Spring Break.
Another song I listened to growing up is “Uptown Girl” by Billy Joel. Frankly, any Billy Joel song could make this list. Billy Joel is arguably the quintessential classic rock artist. He has sold over one million tickets at Madison Square Garden, setting the record for any single artist, and he will be performing his fifty-fifth consecutive show in August during his musical residency at MSG. Of all his songs, however, “Uptown Girl” is one of my favorites. Anyone who claims “Uptown Girl” isn’t catchy is lying; the rhythm is infectious and conveys the song’s status as a cheerful earworm. The song is playful and light; it stands in perfect contrast to “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” Nostalgic vocals back the lively chorus, giving the song a danceable beat.
The last throwback song on my list is “Call Me” by Blondie. Showcasing the vocals of female singer Debbie Harry, Blondie was among the first bands to show that girls could rock and roll alongside the guys. A quintessential eighties band, Blondie’s other hits included “One Way or Another” and “Heart of Glass.” “Call Me,” which was Billboard’s most popular single in 1980, pairs girly pop vocals with a steady and tempestuous drum beat underneath. The vocals are certainly part of the rock genre; the song, like “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” prioritizes instrumentals over vocals, which is common among classic rock songs. The simplicity of the vocals and the driving beat gives the song its iconic reputation.
I hope these three throwback songs will provide you with a little nostalgia and encourage you to listen to classic rock. In our modern era of auto-tune and rap, it’s always nice to hear the bands and singers who put the era of popular music into motion. Happy listening!
By Allie Verdesca (VI)
Transitioning from summer to fall is tough. Having to balance a new schedule while also getting back into the swing of schoolwork makes it easy to get overloaded with new information. However, one of the benefits of this season of change is the amount of new music being released. Hundreds of artists are releasing new songs for the fall, and with the help of fresh new sounds and outlooks, you’ll be better prepared to take on the new school year.
Looking for an edgier approach by a superstar? Try Taylor Swift’s new album, Reputation. Although the album won’t be officially released until November 10th, her lead single “Look What You Made Me Do” is already taking the world by storm. In mid-September, it was ranked number 3 on iTunes’s Top Songs and number 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Her other song from the album,“…Ready for It?”, also rose to number 4 on Billboard’s Hot 100. “Look What You Made Me Do” marks a significant shift in Swift’s musical style. Her last album, “1989,” was her first full-fledged venture into the world of pop music. This time around, Swift’s lyrics contain newfound themes of revenge and shady nods to those who have wronged her in the past. The rhythm of the song and its infectious beat provide the perfect backdrop for her spiteful lyrics and determined message. There’s no doubt that Reputation will become wildly successful upon its release.
Still popular is one of this summer’s most notable releases, Kesha’s album Rainbow. Following a controversial contract dispute and a sexual assault case, Kesha’s songs “Praying” and “Rainbow” show the singer’s renewed passion and positivity in the face of setbacks. A central theme of the album is affirmative energy, and this is not only reflected in the album’s vibrant and psychedelic music videos and album cover, but also in the very fibers of the songs’ rhythms. “Praying” is a pleading, satisfying pop tune with a good message of forgiveness and renewal.
On the more alternative side of the spectrum, Imagine Dragons’s new release “Believer” has a catchy and gritty beat that has commanded attention this fall. Their album Evolve, which was released last June, contains the band’s typical futuristic and post-apocalyptical sound, represented in its shouted vocals. The other main single off the album, “Thunder,” introduces a new, more synchronous style to the group’s usual intense chords and choral background vocals. It has a more generic pop sound, which isn’t my personal taste, but for those looking for more variety in Imagine Dragons’s usual sound, this song may be for you.
In this same vein of more rock-sounding, alternative beats, Fall Out Boy has been teasing their fans with songs off their album Mania, set to be released in January of 2018. The three leaked singles so far, “The Last of the Real Ones,” “Champion,” and “Young and Menace,” have already become immensely popular. “Young and Menace” has been a real experiment for the band. Ever since their last album American Beauty/American Psycho, Fall Out Boy has been experimenting with integrating a classic pop sound into their more traditional rock, angst-ridden, pop-punk sound. “Young and Menace” is one of Fall Out Boy’s first official forays into synth and auto-tuned sound effects, a recent trend in many popular songs. “Young and Menace” has a great build up; the song starts off soft, with a driving beat, until it finally coalesces into mass hysteria at the chorus. “Champion” is a much more subdued song, with a simpler instrumental accompaniment. It is more like their typical style; gritty, determined vocals are paired with a strong drumming beat to craft a great pump-up song that will be sure to get you through those first trying weeks of school. No matter how you’ve managed to deal with all the layers of stress that come with the beginning of the school year, I hope that all of these new releases will keep you motivated for a great year to come!