Guys. Guys. Guys. This is important.
Did you know that Spotify is doing a Summer Rewind Playlist? Seriously, go look. It’s every song you ever listened to ON REPEAT during every summer since you sold out on your lofty ideals about how art has value and signed up for Spotify. It’s eye-opening! I have several thoughts! Several!
First: these songs are terrible. OK, not exclusively terrible - there are several really quality tunes on here. However, if I were attempting to impress someone with my musical knowledge I would not let them anywhere near this playlist. I wouldn’t be surprised if it employs an algorithm that specifically determines all of your Most Embarrassing Favs, plus one Janelle Monae song so you don't totally hate yourself. I refuse to believe that your list is any more refined than mine, by the way. Don’t sit there and try to tell me that your Summer Rewind Playlist is chock full of critical darlings. Summer is not for insightful lyrics and audacious chord progressions. Summer is for booze and sex and trouble, forever and ever amen. Please bear in mind that except for the booze I am not much known for partaking in these things. I am the most frightened of all the things all the time, which is what the booze is for. Summer is different though. Heat makes me want to make messes. It makes me feel fascinating.
Moving on. These songs are the wrong songs. There’s no way I listened to “You’ve Got The Love” more than “Drumming Song” - I was in love with a percussionist when that album came out. There’s no way I listened to “Dirty Love” more than “C’mon”. On my honor, I have never intentionally listened to the acoustic version of any pop punk song. Where’s “Somebody That I Used To Know”? Where’s all the Kasabian? And why isn’t “Hurricane J” by the Hold Steady on here? That song is about a listless waitress who can’t get her life together. I listen to it fucking constantly.
For better and for worse, these songs were given to me by my friends. Chris covered “Ready To Go” and insisted that I knew it, which I did not. I do now, but Chris’ version was my introduction. Michael appeared in a Ludo jukebox musical, in which he was very good, thank you very much. Haley introduced me to Mother Feather (literally - we’re in the music video for this song). Kayleigh’s drunken karaoke rendition of “Skyscraper” is not to be missed.
Most of all, I notice a theme at work here. These songs are about Powering Through. These are the songs that play under the trailers of come-back stories. These are the anthems of underdogs and fuckups. These are the songs that bring you back when you’ve hit rock bottom, the songs that you listen to when you are so drunk and downtrodden that you forget you hate Katy Perry. I am not going to throw up in this taxi. I’m gonna roooooooooooooooooar.
That feeling of possibility is what summer is all about for me. I’m from Minnesota, where winter frequently begins in September and lasts until the end of April. During the school year, I woke up before dawn to catch the bus and stayed after sunset with extracurriculars. Summer was the only time when I saw daylight and the only time when I wasn’t suffocating in parkas and boots. Summer meant warmth and light and freedom. When I was a kid, it was an escape from the bullies at school. When I was a teen, it was theater camp, two months out of twelve when I finally fit in. When I was in college it was a time to be myself, without pressure from the tiny, cliquey program where I got my degree. When I grew up and moved to New York, summer retained its mythic significance. The sun stays out late and the layers are shed. There are more hours in the day, and more possibilities within those hours.
Until last summer. 2016 was not kind to me - I traded off between selfish men and unemployment with a frequency I had previously never experienced. June started well enough, and I thought I had finally turned a corner, but when July came and I lost another job and another potential relationship crashed and burned I dropped deep. I slept in the air conditioning until late in the afternoon and watched the same YouTube videos on a loop. I ate trash and closed myself off from my friends. I got heavily into Pokemon Go because I needed some reason, any reason to leave the house. I stopped reaching for my guitar. I thought it would never get better. I thought I had ruined my life. The longer I went, the less I wanted. Summer always made me feel like everything was possible. Last summer it felt like nothing would ever happen to me again. I didn’t even want it to.
But here I am. A whole year later and while I still haven’t entirely regained the loudmouthed adolescent belting Sondheim with her bra straps hanging out of a tank top, she was never completely gone. Yes I’m in therapy. Yes I have a job now. No I have not recently sat sobbing quietly on my front porch at midnight because I didn’t want my roommates to hear. The phrase “I feel like myself again” feels trite and unearned, but I think it’s fair to say that this summer feels like Summer again. I want to make stuff and stay out late and drink fruity drinks in floaty dresses and talk to boys and play Kesha as loud as Kesha can get.
I’m back. I’m ready to go.