Author: SHELBY JOY LEONE
I once read that somewhere around the age of 13, we begin to define ourselves by the music we listen to. Now, most of us have changed our tastes since then (I know I sure have, if I hadn’t, I would still be in my room crying to Sum 41), but the fact remains that the music we listen to says a lot about us.
Annually, the music streaming service Spotify creates a playlist of its users’ 100 most listened to songs of the past year. These playlists serve as snapshots into the lives of their owners. When Spotify sent us all the notification that our playlists were available, my friends and I giddily exchanged playlists and personal stats of our activities that year. It was so much fun getting to see what my friends had been listening to, and I thought I’d share the fun. So, below are the Spotify top 100’s of a couple of willing participants. Enjoy, listen to, or simply scroll through the playlists, then scroll down to see its owner and read how they feel about their Top 100.
Occupation: Full time student, part time a**hole (Communications major at Seattle University)
2017 was a year filled with change: moving to a new city, making (and losing) friends, and figuring out how to fill out a W-4. Within all of that personal evolution, though, the music of this year was among the most grounding forces I had at hand. Returning artists, sounds, and songs I’ve loved since I figured out how to download YouTube audio was a recurring theme in my Top 100 this year (I’m looking at you Wavves and Winehouse). Along with embracing my “musical roots” of sorts, this playlist also unabashedly exposes my California beach-crust identity—The Growlers, Chicano Batman, Miniature Tigers, and Wrip (my friends’ surf rock band, shameless promo) all make frequent cameos. Although 2017 has come to a long awaited close, its musical impact seems as though it will stick around for quite some time. I’m pretty thankful for that — the frequency songs from Lorde’s Melodrama and Tyler, The Creator’s Flower Boy probably betray that. It was a beautiful year for music discovery and rediscovery alike, and I can’t wait to see what defines my 2018 playlist (spoiler alert, it will definitely be the 2018 Arctic Monkeys album).
Age: Probably your dad’s age
Occupation: Radio Station Manager at KXSU
The first thing I noticed looking at the top 100 songs on my Spotify playlist from 2017 is the way I use Spotify. Unlike radio, where I am constantly discovering new music on KXSU that students are playing, streaming Spotify is tool I use for emotional transportation. With notable exceptions (the new Afghan Whigs album In Spades – more on that later), the songs on my 2017 playlist are mostly well-worn favorites that instantly take me to a specific time, place, or feeling.
Songs by American Music Club (“I’ve Been A Mess”), Merle Haggard (“I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink”), and the Connells (“New Boy”) were there to wrap me in comfort during heartbreak; they served as candles when things seemed dark. Blues Traveler (“Conquer Me”), Holly Cole (“Cry If You Want To”), and Cowboy Mouth (“I Believe”) reminded me that love doesn’t always need to be hard and elusive either and sometimes it will come out of nowhere like a supernova.
Songs by Eric Church (“Springsteen”), Teenage Fanclub (“What You Do to Me”), R.E.M. (“Country Feedback”), and Big Star (“The Ballad of El Goodo”) helped me recapture the reckless exuberance of my younger days when questionable decision-making powered friendships and the music I made. These songs keep me in check – they don’t let me stumble with my eyes closed too far into jaded deep-adulthood. They remind me to have grace when people screw up because I was there, and somebody offered it to me; that your youth is for self-discovery, making mistakes, and celebrating your successes.
Songs by Metallica (“Moth into Flame”), Godsmack (“Something Different”), and Shinedown (“Enemies”) fueled me when I dragged in 2017. They gave me motivation to run just… 10… more… minutes on the treadmill when all I wanted to do was nap. And some songs on my 2017 playlist are simply outliers. White Zombie (“Thunder Kiss ’65”), House of Pain (“Jump Around”), and Poison (“Fallen Angel”) I simply can’t explain. Don’t judge. Let’s just move on… This list highlights what I think is the best album of the year: In Spades by the Afghan Whigs. In Spades is about as close to a perfect album as has come out in over a decade in any genre. Songs like “Demon in Profile” and “Toy Automatic” perfectly capture the Afghan Whig’s raw energy and vulnerability that they bring to their best music as well as to their live shows. “Oriole” is a rich, emotional rollercoaster ride into passion and destruction that demands you experience it, not just hear it. Though not included originally on In Spades and instead released at the same time as a single, “You Want Love” is an anthem for anybody who has had their heart unexplainably broken by somebody who is emotionally unavailable or immature. And those songs just scratch the surface of In Spades, an album I encourage you to take for a spin in 2018. So, what does my 2017 Spotify playlist say about me? I think it says that I believe music isn’t just background noise, it is the active soundtrack of my day-to-day experiences that build the story of me. And just like the year itself, my playlist has highlights, embarrassments, sadness, pain, joy, and love.
Occupation: Directing Major at Pace University
2017 was a year of discovering and refining my music tastes in such a way that left me with a bizarre, eclectic, and fundamentally personal Top 100. The major music event of the year for me was the release of alt-J’s third studio album RELAXER in June, as reflected by four of the eight songs on that album making it into my top 100 playlist. alt-J has long been my favorite band and their new album was a uniquely strange and intense experience. I’m without doubt that the dissonant and sublime tones of RELAXER will forever remain synonymous with 2017 in my mind. My music tastes have long been resistant to the ebb and flow of the popular music scene—more reflective of my own idiosyncrasies than a statement of the state of popular music—and 2017 was characterized by my developing taste for opera and classical music, as well as the jazz standards sung by Billie Holliday, two categories of music that would not find their way into a version of this playlist compiled from music I listened to in 2016. As always, musical theatre songs managed to make their way mostly into the bottom half of my top 100 (symptomatic of the fact that I listen to such music in a large playlist on shuffle). Also appearing on the list was a very strange recording of an old Early Shaker Spirituals song entitled “We Will All Go Home With You” (although that managed to find its way into my most listened songs due to its usage in a play I wrote this year). It was a nice surprise to be reminded of this life event in such an unexpected place. Ultimately, 2017 was a year of growth rather than change, with my Spotify Top 100 playlist rather eerily and perfectly reflecting this.
Age: 53 (Spotify has me at 30 since I love synthpop and post-teen pop…hmmm…)
Occupation: The author of this article’s favorite human of all time (also an English teacher)
Not sure if Lorde’s “Greenlight” actually captures who I am except when wanting to hear catchy smart pop. But in loving music, Spotify did get right about always being up for learning about a new genre (31 sampled last year). In fact, seeing Odesza’s “Higher Ground”, Haim’s “Want Your Back” and Frank Ocean’s “Nikes” in the top ten makes me smile knowing my continual thirst for a new sound gets satisfied in a variety of ways. And really that is big part of it, finding music that pushes me into a new perspective. I’d also add The xx’s I See You, Sampha’s Process, Overcoats’ Young, and Tinariwen’s Elwan were albums that expanded that view. It’s a perennial view of the world captured in music.
Occupation: Music reporter, English major, walking stereotype.
Yes, my friends, this Top 100 belongs to the garbage fire that is yours truly!
The first thing I noticed are the songs I played once I had finally passed my driver’s test, and my Honda HR-V with its little sunroof felt like a shiny new convertible. I blasted the Beach Boys and The Growlers while cruising down Highway 1 (Oh yes, I am that Californian). I was particularly addicted to bopping to the carefree slaps of Sick Sad World’s “Skateboarding Girl” during my final months of high school. I may have still been stuck in my stats class, but my mind was in full summer mode. My friends from high school all knew that if they were in my car, they would have no choice but to listen to it on a perpetual repeat until they were forced to throw themselves out the window.
At the same time, my list is filled with folk tunes; from folk legend Pete Seeger to Rupaul’s Drag Race queen Trixie Mattel, I love, love, love the way folk music makes me feel. My list highlights my deep-rooted obsession with alt-folk bands like AJJ and the Mountain Goats, especially with their album Beat the Champ, which is all about growing old, failures, and… wrestling. “Heel Turn 2” is my personal favorite song to thrash alone in my room to, and I would highly recommend anyone to play this song through your headphones and start your own one person mosh pit. The chorus is simply the poignant phrase “I don’t wanna die in here”, which I would like tattooed on my forehead (only slightly joking). Other notable folk highlights include “Tell Me Why” by Neil Young and, of course, it would not be a playlist that represents me without the queen of all things: Dolly-effing-Parton.
The final big player in this list is punk music. Punk helps me get out a lot of the energy that piles up inside of me throughout the week. Going to a punk show gives me the same feeling as going to church. I go to worship with people who are like me. There is just nothing like getting punched in the jaw in a mosh pit by someone you love. It makes me feel a part of something bigger than myself. Black Flag’s “Rise Above” and Bikini Kill’s “New Radio” both serve as fight songs that get me through the roughest of times. FIDLAR, though overplayed to some, makes me miss driving to the beach with my best friends.
Music obviously means a lot to me. I am a music reporter, a DJ, a musician (not a good one… but I try…) and at my core I am just a super fan of music and the way that it affects those who listen to it. There are years of my life that have been defined by the bands and songs I listened to. My nine-year-old self would be nothing without her obsessive knowledge of The Beatles. My 13-year-old self got through her rough middle school years thanks to the lyrics of Billie Joe Armstrong, specifically in the song “She” by Green Day. My high school self made some of her best friends thanks to a mutual love of punk bands like Bikini Kill. Reading my friends’ descriptions of the music that has meant so much to them this year was such a beautiful experience for me, because it allowed me to look into the minds of some of my favorite people and understand how their music guides their lives in various ways. I purposefully asked people from different aspects of my life, with different life experiences, and of course different music taste, yet in each of their writings I found a commonality. All of the playlists, and their owner’s descriptions of them, highlight the exact parts of the authors that I care for so dearly: Quincey’s varied tastes and hilarious commentary show the sweetness I adore; Randy’s in-depth analysis lets readers into the mind of a true music nerd (in the best possible way); Mark is very obviously a talented reviewer (check out his theatre reviews!) as well as a thoughtful and active listener who can pick up on the little things that make music wonderful; and of course, Carl, who showed how his music keeps him young at heart.
You are what you listen to, so take some time and listen to yourself today.
SHELBY JOY LEONE | Go forth and thrash | KXSU Music Reporter