Music has been a prominent aspect of my life ever since I was born. Its longevity continually impacts my outlook on the world, myself and the things around me. Without music, I’m unsure of how my life would be. It’s a new decade, a perfect time to reflect on the music that has been an integral part of my life as a whole.
If That’s True - Esperanza Spalding
Jazz is a genre of music often surpassed by the common teenager. For me, however, it’s totally different. I grew up with jazz being a dominant force in my household; every year, my family would go to the Monterrey Jazz Festival in Monterrey, California. From there, I began to listen to various jazz artists like Vijay Iyer, Esperanza Spalding and Leo Genovese. This song specifically reminds me of my family and our musical background, giving me warmth when I’m away from them for long periods at a time.
Thinkin Bout You - Frank Ocean
Frank Ocean is one of my all-time favorite artists. This particular song is a staple in his entire repertoire, and I know literally every lyric, word for word. When this song initially came out, I was in middle school. This was the first song that allowed me to really understand the value of music and how it affects me. Frank Ocean continuously releases music unmatched by other artists, this being one of my favorites.
Cranes in the Sky - Solange
I vividly remember the first time I heard this song. It was 2017, a couple of days before I moved from California to Georgia. My friends took me out to dinner, and one of them introduced me to the song. She was driving me home and played Solange’s album, “A Seat at the Table,” which I quickly fell in love with. By the time I got to Georgia, I played the song so recursively that it was almost therapy, especially with everything going on politically and socially in the United States. “Cranes in the Sky” allows me to breathe and truly heed the things around me.
LNT - Stevan
If you love to just dance, this song is definitely for you. There are times in everyone’s life where you really need to just let go. When I listen to this, I put everything away, and make myself completely loose. I jump and spin around my room, and let the groovy tones take control of me. I love this song because it reminds me to just take a break. It’s good to work hard, but don’t stretch yourself too thin.
Hate CD - Steve Lacy
This song is a really good depiction of my feelings when I fell in love for the first time. Lacy sings a “love is a drug” narrative, which directly related to how love was coming into me. It’s so intense but addicting, like a drug. In some ways I couldn’t explain how I felt for this person, I just knew it was completely different than previous feelings I had for other people. This song ultimately reminds me of love and how powerful it is.
Pretty Wings - Maxwell
“Pretty Wings” is a song that I connect to my mother. In elementary school, she played this song on our rides home. It’s one of her favorite songs, and the vivacious joy she emitted while listening to it quickly made it one of my favorites as well. This song makes me smile when I hear it because I think of my mother and the moments we shared when we first listened to the song. It’s liberating.
Sweetener - Ariana Grande
When I first came to college, I was all over the place and honestly didn’t have myself together. I first heard “Sweetener” from one of my best friends during my freshman year. This was a song that we played profusely, and soon it became an anthem for us and our friend group. Keep your friends close, there’s nothing like them.
Things I Imagined - Solange
Solange again? No, this isn’t a mistake. This song, on her “When I Get Home” album, speaks unimaginable volumes. I had a really rough summer after my freshman year, and this song helped me get through it. It taught me the importance of repetition and intention. Solange repeats herself saying “I saw things I imagined” over and over again, which reaffirmed me in the things that I was doing. It reminded me to act on what I wanted and manifest what I wanted out of everything to get to where I wanted to be. Believing in myself and getting to a point of seeing what I have manifested is so powerful to me.
I Ain’t Got Time! - Tyler, The Creator
Sometimes it’s good to fill your ears with creative nonsense. To the naked ear, Tyler Okonma’s music may seem like gibberish and without any meaning but in actuality, it does, in fact, have tons of lyrical excellence. From bass bumping bangs and synthesized sounds, Tyler, The Creator makes me want to just have fun.
Open Your Eyes, You Can Fly - Lizz Wright
Lizz Wright was an artist I first listened to on a plane. I was flying from California to Georgia, and I was truly sadder than I’d ever been before. Randomly, I chose the song to listen to as I sat in between my mother and a stranger. I remember the song was really soothing to me. I fell asleep to it, and it was all I had listened to while I was on the plane. A year later when I went back to California to visit, I made sure that it was the first thing I listened to on the plane. Similar to “Cranes in the Sky,” I take to this song as therapy.
These 10 songs all have a special place in my heart, and I take them wherever I go. My life has had its ups and downs, but I can definitely say that without the music that comprise the soundtrack to it, I wouldn’t be who I am today.