Teen Vogue has a segment on their YouTube channel where they have celebrities come on and explain some of the songs that mean the most to them in a series called “Playlist of my Life.” As I have explained before, music has had a great impact on my life, and I continue to look toward music as a source of inspiration. As a ballet dancer, the music immediately affects my art and how I move, but beyond that music makes me feel emotions with a single note that I would have otherwise left unnoticed.
So what songs have shaped me thus far?
1. “King of Anything” by Sara Bareillis
Track number one on the Playlist of my Life has to be “King of Anything,” by Sara Bareillis. My dad was the one who introduced me to Sara, and he did so when I was only five years old. When I was eight years old, she released “King of Anything,” on her EP, Kaleidoscope Heart, and I remember it being the first time I had ever heard a song that was neither about the love and initial fireworks nor the sadness and longing after heartbreak. In the song, Sara talks about a toxic relationship in which the man feels as though he is the boss, and Sara shares the perspective of an opinionated woman who feels silenced and has had enough.
“So many things I'd say if only I were able
But I just keep quiet
And count the cars that pass by.”
The lyrics struck me like a match. I was young and opinionated and wanted to use my voice, but I was also shy and terrified of being misunderstood and treated like a little girl. Another favorite verse of mine sings;
“You've got opinions, man
We're all entitled to 'em
But I never asked”
I realize now, that it may seem as though I am forcing down my opinions on you through my blog, however, if you have your own opinions you wish to share, please feel free to tell me in the comments.
2. “Sonho Meu” by Maria Bethania
The next song on my playlist references my Brazilian childhood and takes me back to the lush green country that smells of vegetation and lots of love. I remember playing with my brother in the living room, with my mother cooking in the kitchen nearby. My father always played music on Saturdays throughout the house. It was his favorite way to pass the time when he did not have to work. He wanted to learn a song in Portuguese for my mom, and because he had always loved Brazilian music. She was not as big of a music person as he was, yet she eventually caved and told him she loved “Sonho Meu,” a Brazilian classic. “Sonho Meu,” translates to “dream of mine.” My dad learned the song quickly and the melody became as familiar as the back of my hand. Sometimes, if I strained my ears enough, I could hear my mom singing along to my father's guitar, at a volume that was about a notch louder than a whisper.
3. “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts
When driving in my dad’s big green truck, I would always ride in the front. There were two seats in the front and a little space in the supposed “back” where a chair would fold out from the side where the back door would have been if it had been a regular car. Confusing to explain, yet incredibly cool in real life, especially as a six-year-old who wanted desperately to be considered cool. While I sat in the front, and my dad drove, he would hand me one of his fifty CD cases that he kept in the car, and ask me to pick something. I would flip through all of the silver CDs and become overwhelmed at the options. One thing that helped my decision-making process, were the doodles and drawings he would have on the CDs that somewhat paired with the vibe of the music it contained. Without a doubt, I always went with the more elegantly presented CDs. My favorite of these was his Rascal Flatts CD, which contained their 2006 album; “Me and My Gang.” Rascal Flatts was my introduction to country music, and I fell headfirst. The song, Ellsworth made my dad cry. Backwards, and Me And My Gang, made my brother and I giddy and want to dance. My Wish, however, made me sit and ponder all of the beauty in its message. My dad was more of the emotional type, and as a child, any sort of display of emotion made me highly uncomfortable. My dad had to learn that lesson early on, as I would freak out if he said anything remotely sappy. When he first played me My Wish, it was as though he had written the lyrics himself, and it was his way of being sappy and telling me he loved me in a way he knew I could handle. At the age of six, I understood what the song meant, and what it meant for our relationship, and how we could communicate openly.
“I hope you always forgive, and you never regret
And you help somebody every chance you get
Oh, you find God's grace, in every mistake
And always give more than you take.”
4. “Lights” by Journey
“Lights” is a song written about my hometown of San Francisco, California, one of the most uniquely beautiful places in the whole world, and a little piece of my heart. This song also has a strong connection to my dad. His next favorite thing after music was baseball, and the San Francisco Giants were his religion. I remember going to Fan Fest in February, and preparing for the baseball season, collecting baseball cards while my friends and their brothers collected Pokemon cards. I quickly acquired a plethora of knowledge on the topic of baseball. I could give you a dozen differences between the National League and the American League, and could tell you all of the best players and their batting averages (but please do not ask me today). At every Giants game played at home at AT&T Stadium, around the seventh inning, when the city lights were on, and the sea sparkled brightly against the dark sky, they would play “Lights,” by Journey, and every time the song came on, my father would bow his head as if in prayer to his beloved San Francisco Giants.
My dad, brother, and I, at a baseball game around 2004.
5. “Happy and Sad” by Kacey Musgraves
“Happy and Sad,” by Kacey Musgraves, is a song that has been on the top of all my Spotify playlists for over two years. It’s a song I never skip and a song that never seems to get old. It’s both a comfort song and a song that I can sing all the lyrics to without a mess up. The song talks about the moment when things begin to seem a little too good to be true, and the fear that it won’t last forever creeps into your mind. As a hopelessly romantic realist, this song hits a little too close to home but is also accompanied by a catchy rhythm and a southern twang of country-pop, which reminds me of the love I found for the genre at a young age. The message also reminds me of Imposter Syndrome, a common phenomenon I have been crippled with far too many times. I have found that when we think too hard about being happy, it often makes us sad. Maybe Kacey is trying to say that the only way to truly be happy is to just soak it all up at the moment, and be grateful for the experiences being granted.
6. “Savior Complex” by Phoebe Bridgers
“Savior Complex” by Phoebe Bridgers, was the first song I sat and cried to. Whether I found the song on “New Music Weekly”, or if someone had put it on their Instagram story, I cannot remember. I do remember, however, needing to stop everything I was doing at the time to just sit down and let the melody bring up the emotions I stored just below my skin. As I mentioned before, I had typically been known as the strong-headed girl who acted first and thought later, in terms of being sensitive or emotional. Crying, and expressing sadness in this way opened a door for a vulnerability that I did not know I was capable of. When I first heard this song, I was going through a depressive state in my life. I was extremely lonely, and I hid it well. I thought nobody knew, and I felt like I was drowning with nobody there to save me. There was something about the opening notes and the tone in Phoebe’s voice that made it sound both mystical and eerie at the same time. The lyrics were something that never translated to make much literal sense to me, but I soon realized it was all metaphorical. In this case, it didn’t quite matter. In listening to the song, I could tell that the singer was invested and that this was a powerful story she felt she needed to share. People love what people love, and people relate to heartache, even if their stories are far from the same. To this day, this song makes me teary-eyed and want to curl up and bask in its beauty.
7. “Mirrorball” by Taylor Swift
Any one of the friends I have today can tell you that I am a huge Swiftie, but if you had met me in the 2000s or 2010’s nobody would say the same. My relationship with Taylor Swift was somewhat ironic, and personally beautiful at the same time. In elementary school, I wanted so desperately to be “different,” and “cool,” but only to the extent that I would be socially accepted by my peers. I could not be “too basic,” yet I had to attain some level of “basic-ness” to be part of the clique I desired. Ruling out Taylor Swift, and claiming my distaste for her music, however, was the “quirk” I chose to make me cooler. Spoiler alert: nobody cared. Did I truly hate Taylor’s music at that point? No. I had barely even listened to anything that was not on the radio, I just did not want to give her the chance. About ten years later, however, everything changed. I was living in Amsterdam, and one of my close friends who I had recently met was telling me how excited she was for the new Taylor Swift documentary to come out, as she explained she has been a Swiftie all her life. I played along and let her explain her love for the singer, as she continued to explain how she had recently begun to speak about politics and stand up against sexual assault and stand up for women and their rights. My friend’s enthusiasm sparked a curiosity in me, and shortly after, I was watching “Miss Americana,” on Netflix for the first time. Needless to say, I fell in love. Swift was funny, relatable, and honest in every way. I quickly became a fan and lived out my Debut, Fearless, Speak Now, Red, 1989, Reputation, and Lover Era all in one year. When “Folklore” came out, I was ready to soak it all in. There is nothing I love more than a singer’s return to their roots, and even though I had only really known Taylor for a year, “Folklore,” felt like her truest self.
Although I quickly saved every song on the album, the one that stood out to me lyrically was Mirrorball. It is about changing parts of yourself to be liked or appreciated by others. The irony was immaculate, as were the vibes of the song. I had been a mirrorball, I was reflecting the personalities around me, as I tried to be more like them.
“I'm a mirrorball
I can change everything about me to fit in”
8. “Way to Your Heart” by Persephone's Bees
For this song, we are traveling back to my dad’s old green truck. The year is 2008, I am six years old, and he is driving me to gymnastics. It’s Friday night, and we had just stopped at Safeway to get some dinner at the hot food bar. As we drive my dad blasts some music, making my fragile ears slightly uncomfortable, but also slightly ecstatic. The song being blasted; “Way to Your Heart,” by Persephone's Bees. Persephone’s Bees was a female Russian Pop Rock group that had moved to Oakland, California that my dad just so randomly found. He told me the production was executed perfectly, and I am positive he also had ulterior motives of hoping the music would loosen up my slightly rigid personality. Any one of their thirteen songs from “Notes From the Underworld,” brings me back to the old green truck and a blaring stereo.
9. “Canopee” by Polo and Pan
”Canopee” by Polo and Pan was found on a deep stalk of my friend of a friend, of a friend's Spotify playlists. Desperate for music, I clicked and clicked on various playlists other people had made, digging for gold. After a while, I found it, and “Canopee,” was that gold. Polo and Pan is known as an electro-pop duo composed of two men, Alexandre Grynszpan, and Paul Armand-Delille. Listening to the song instantly put me in a better mood, and the melody, as well as the cover art, mimicked bright colors that reminded me of a Dr. Seuss book. At every chance I got, I would show all of my friends Polo and Pan, proud of the discovery I had made, and when everybody shared the same opinions that I had made, my superiority complex began to grow inflamed.
10. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John
The last song on my playlist is “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” by Elton John. A classic, and one of my favorite songs of all time. I began listening to this song religiously in the summer of 2020, as I prepared for my move from Amsterdam to Zurich all by myself. This was an emotional move for me for many reasons. My move was brought about because of a job I would be pursuing in Switzerland as a professional ballet dancer. I had just finished my final year of high school online, and I was graduating from being a professional ballet student as well. My move to Zurich would be the beginning and end of everything all at once. I would finally be a professional ballet dancer that I had always dreamed of becoming, but I would also no longer be a kid, or a student (at least on paper). What’s more, this symbolic move was also in the middle of a global pandemic. So there I was, an 18-year-old girl, moving from one foreign country to another foreign country all by herself. As I packed my bags, and enjoyed the Amsterdam cafes, canals, and teases of sunlight, Elton John sang in my ears;
“Oh I've finally decided my future lies
Beyond the yellow brick road”
This was my view of choice as I listened to Elton John sing.