Winter is melting away, and a misty spring season is on the way, but right now, we are in the in-between. Too hot for our puffer jackets but too cold for a zip-up. Our brain tells us it is a little early to start spring cleaning, but our heart feels a sense of change in the air. Those of us who go to the nail salon skip past the blues and purples, our eyes hungry for yellows and greens. Recently in my life, I have felt like a leaf blowing through the wind. Hesitant to fly towards the change bright spring air brings, yet I loathe going back to the same winter chills as before. Temperature changes can undoubtedly produce a new wave of emotions, and I've been feeling them more than ever.
So I created a playlist titled "Winter-ish" — the season we are currently living in right now, at least in New York. These sixteen songs gallop from themes of confusion, instability, exploration, and acceptance. While I figure out the next steps I want to take in life; these songs have brought me an inner peace that seems out of reach some days. Whatever you're contemplating right now, I hope these songs bring you similar feelings of relief.
"Garden (Say It Like Dat)" by SZA
“Garden” is about the craving for reassurance in a relationship while questioning if you even deserve this type of love and attention. I used to hear these lyrics as a conversation between SZA and her lover, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that this is a conversation between SZA and herself. From inflation to deflation of self-worth, the vulnerability to exist as an imperfect being is daunting. But, as we morph into different versions of ourselves, we must remember that identity is a never-ending cycle fueled by all sorts of care.
"Bad Religion" by Frank Ocean
On this sorrowful track, Ocean treats his taxi driver as “his shrink for the hour,” hoping — praying, albeit this stranger can provide clarity for all the issues swirling around his head. There is an unusual catharsis one experience’s when talking to a stranger. This refreshing level of sympathy and empathy tends to wash away when you know someone for too long. In the most hectic moments of our lives, a safe space where we can confide in someone who knows nothing about our past, soley our now, is an underappreciated beauty of the human race.
“And on that evening when we grow older still we'll speak about these two young men as though they were two strangers we met on the train and whom we admire and want to help along. And we'll want to call it envy, because to call it regret would break our hearts.”
- André Aciman
“Your Best American Girl” by Mitski
On Mitski’s 4th album, Puberty 2, this lead single encapsulates one turmoil of the pubescent age — figuring out who the hell you want to be while conforming to everyone else’s ideas of who you should be. Mitski sings about such joys of falling in love with “an all-American boy” while realizing that their cultures, thus livelihoods, are opposites. Even as she tries to bridge the gap between herself and the boy, this is a love that should probably never come to fruition. Yet, as the last line hints — this painful awakening allows Mitski to appreciate her background in a stronger sense.
“You're the sun, you've never seen the night/ But you hear its song from the morning birds/ Well, I'm not the moon, I'm not even a star/ But awake at night I'll be singing to the birds”
“Something In the Way” by Nirvana
As the twelfth and final song on Nirvana’s Nevermind, “Something In the Way” etches a feeling of despair and uncertainty. Much of lead singer, Kurt Cobain’s life remains a mystery. Today fans still argue whether this track is autobiographical, concerning a time of vagrancy in Cobain’s life. We might never know what the singer meant. Nevertheless, this idea that “something [is] in the way” between ourselves and happiness, wealth, love — whatever, leaves the lyrics up to interpretation forevermore.
“The sad little, sensitive, unappreciative, Pisces, Jesus man.”
- Kurt Cobain’s alleged suicide note
“in my head” by Ariana Grande
Sometimes the facade of what could be, distracts us from the reality of what is. On “in my head” Grande expresses similar feelings of betrayal as she realizes the picture she painted in her head, is not what her lover actually is. It is important to center ourselves and escape the cobwebs of anxiety and frustration that are bound to come when we let our imagination get the better of us. We can only live in the now, and try our best to see what is truly there.
“I saw your potential without seein' credentials/ Maybe that's the issue”
- Ariana Grande
“Moon River” by Frank Ocean
A "moon river" is the ghostly reflection of the moon upon a river, and surrounded by comfy vocals, Ocean notes that this "river" is also a symbolic gateway into the hearts of our lovers. Sometimes it seems impossible to balance our yearning to carelessly explore with the urge to settle down with someone we love. If we get into a relationship, there is this idea that self-exploration ends there. Society makes us feel that we can either be alone or together, never both. If you don't comprise your needs for your partner, you're selfish, but if you do, you're weak. Yet, no matter who we are surrounded by, life will only feel fulfilled when we are fulfilled with ourselves.
“Two drifters off to see the world/There's such a crazy world to see"
- Frank Ocean
“Vienna” by Billy Joel
As a teenager, our parents, teacher, and grandparents tell us to dream big but wisely. "Vienna" is sung from the perspective of Joel’s father, who preaches similarly, that ambition is lovely, but every goal comes with its risks. If you approach anything too fast, you might burn out halfway through. Instead, we must enjoy the early days of our lives. Not everything we want is going to fall into our laps by the age of 25. Appreciate the process because while tomorrow is only a day away — you still have to get through, well, today.
- Billy Joel
"Smells Like Teen Spirit" by The Muppets Barbershop Quartet
This cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana was sung in The Muppets, and parts of the song’s inappropriate lyrics were conveniently sung by Beaker, who can only say “meemee.” The original song was Kurt Cobain’s commentary on how un-meaningful teenage/party culture had become. Ironically, the anthem that was meant to poke fun at the popular kids became a hit record and “meatheads” started to crowd Nirvana's show. All jokes aside, the reason I smacked this song as the midpoint of the playlist is because even when the world seems crazy, little pockets of weirdness can make you smile.
"My socks may not match, but my feet are always warm."
- Maureen McCullough
"Clay Pigeons" by Michael Cera
Everyone’s favorite geeky white boy, Michael Cera, sings a modern-day lullaby about catching a train to leave all of his worries behind. In his solitude, he surrounds himself with strangers who he admires and envies. Thrusting yourself into somewhere new can offer a needed break from the sorrows your used to. While Cera doesn’t have much with him on this journey, he makes time to “feed the pigeons come clay.” Even when we might feel lost, there’s an ounce of aid inside us all.
“I'm tired of runnin' 'round lookin' for answers to questions that I already know/ I could build me a castle of memories just to have somewhere to go”
- Michael Cera
"Gravity" (feat. Tyler, The Creator) by Brent Faiyaz & DJ Dahi
Brent Faiyaz and Tyler, The Creator, reflect on how their hectic travel schedules strain the relationships they leave behind. Yet, like gravity, both artists find themselves pulled towards the people and memories they thought they were over with. It is easy to feel like we are holding someone back because of our rendezvous, but it is ok to let people into our lives. Not everything we do is a burden. Some things can never let go of each other, which may not be so bad.
“No one is useless in the world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else.”
- Charles Dickens
"Heart of a Lion (Kid Cudi Theme Song)" by Kid Cudi
In an interview with Generations, Kid Cudi said he wanted this song to be the “millennium “Eye of the Tiger” because as soon as he heard the triumphant beat, he knew this could be his personal “theme song.” Every day, Cudi is fighting an evil bigger than himself, these inner demons destroying every ounce of confidence he has. But as the song goes on, the artist refuses to let the Devil attack his dreams and aspirations in life, grinding until the “25th hour” if he needs to. The bridge is Cudi’s internal monologue, with Cudi’s demons telling him “No” while he shouts out “Yeah!” We all have the heart of a lion. We just need to find it.
“I told you, no I'm not a loser, I'll see you in Hell”
- Kid Cudi
"I’m Looking Through You" by The Beatles
The only constant in life is change. Sometimes the person you thought you knew so well becomes unrecognizable — that person might even be yourself! Once you acknowledge that your feelings towards a specific subject have altered, new beginnings unfold from left and right. To let go is hard, but to become something new, we must try.
“Love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight.”
- Paul McCartney
"Through the Wire" by Kanye West
On October 23, 2002, Kanye West got into a car crash that nearly took his life. But since he was wearing his seatbelt, the only thing that broke was his jaw. Two days after being released from the hospital from reconstructive jaw surgery, Mr. West delivered “Through the Wire.” There are so many great lessons weaved into this 4-minute track (and killer rhymes, hello ?!), but my biggest takeaway is: perseverance is critical. Kanye West rapping about this insane accident while still recovering illustrates how important it is to be in the moment. If West can rap while his mouth is wired shut, I can do anything. Sometimes we have to take a step back, look at ourselves in the third person and make a crappy situation into a platinum single.
“The only thing this accident’s is saying is, “I am about to hand you the world, just know at any given time I can take it away from you.”
- Kanye West
"Hey Mama" by Kanye West
My mom means the world to me. Whenever I’m having a hard time in life or cruising through teenage blue’s, she never fails to remind me that my purpose on this Earth is more extensive than I can even imagine. “Hey Mama” is Kanye West’s similar love letter to his mother, Donda West, and encapsulates how all children want to make their parents smile. Even if you don’t have a relationship with your mother or father, this song also represents how one person in your life can make a huge difference in how you see yourself. We all deserve to have someone out there that understands us like no one else.
“I'm finna talk about my mama if y'all don't mind.”
- Kanye West
"Kyoto" by Phoebe Bridgers
Kyoto is all about impostor syndrome, the feeling of finding it difficult to accept your accomplishments or whatever good comes to you. "I just always want to be where I'm not, which I think is pretty not special of a thought, but it is true," Phoebe Bridgers told Apple Music. This song's cheerful fanfare contrasts with the sorrowful lyrics, yet it captures the essence of exploration beautifully. Whether you're exploring yourself, a new town, a new school, or the people you around, sometimes it feels like we are living someone else's life, and everything around us will vanish in a second. But there is something to appreciate in every new land we frolic, no matter how temporary it might seem.
“And you wrote me a letter/But I don't have to read it”
- Phoebe Bridgers
"It’s Not the Same Anymore" by Rex Orange County
I could write an entire thesis on this song, and one day I will, but today is not that day. On this track, Rex Orange County sings about his strange affection for the past. Whether it's self-doubt or feelings of suppression and depression, Rex understands that now his life is different. Similarly, sometimes I look back on younger pictures of myself and feel like I've disappointed little Sanai. This couldn't be farther from the truth because I run a successful blog, I'm a staff writer on two magazines, I'm healthy, and my grades are excellent! But sometimes, I get so caught up in my head that the reality of life gets warped into something unrecognizable. As the final verse rolls on, I realize that “different” doesn't need to mean bad. “Different” offers a chance that things can get better even if they aren't the same as before.
“It's not the same anymore/ It's better”
- Rex Orange County