To my surprise, I have managed to graduate. While high school has been hard (like, really hard), I survived. Naturally, I couldn’t have done it on my own. While obviously I had friends, God, books, TV shows, movies, and of course my family, I wanted to focus on the one thing that I know for a fact every other teen used as a coping mechanism. That thing, of course, is music. In my interview with my best friend, I talked about childhood music. In this article, on the other hand, I’ll talk about everything else.
1. Is There Life on Mars?- David Bowie. David Bowie, in general, just means so much to me. The way he carried himself, his style, his characters, and his body (I was and am a skinny kid, and so seeing someone who was thin and awkward and yet so beautiful meant a lot to me) were a huge inspiration for me. It was hard to choose just one, but this one is heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. I have countless memories of playing this on the way to school, in study hall, or in my room; essentially any time I felt low. Bowie, I was certain, understood my loneliness. Because of all the moody memories, sometimes it’s a bit hard to return to, but not too long ago my brother started blasting it from his room. Instead of fighting the feelings, I just sit back and let myself remember.
2. Blister in the Sun- The Violent Femmes. How many times have I put this on and danced like an angry, deranged bird? Too many. It’s obnoxious and unpleasant. It’s from the perspective of someone who undoubtedly needs psychiatric help. It’s a bit repetitive. It’s perfect. After all, when dancing in the aforementioned way, you need something extremely angsty. You need something that feels as gross and messed up as possible, to embody your teenagerness. While it’s not therapy, like everything else on this list, it’s somehow better (That was a joke, please get therapy if you can).
3. Jane Cum- Japanese Breakfast. I have a distinct memory of hearing this song for the first time on a playlist. Once the chorus hit, I stopped what I was doing and began to listen intently. I loved it’s melancholy instrumentals and Michelle Zauner’s haunting vocal performance. In social isolation, when everything felt hopeless, I’d put it on and just sort of think. I think I found solace in it because it is loud and emotional, undeniably vulnerable yet dignified. It’s the perfect song to listen to in the shower, at night, or while driving. Basically any time thoughts seem too loud and unbearable, put it on and allow yourself to be immersed.
4. Buttercup- Jack Stauber. I am positive that everyone and their mom have heard this one, seeing how many TikToks and Instagram edits it was featured in. It’s probably considered “overplayed”, but who cares. Jack Stauber is a genius and this song is a blessing. Like Is There Life On Mars, I listened to it every chance I got, especially in study hall. However, unlike Is There Life on Mars, it didn’t amplify my desire to disappear forever. I could be in the worst mood ever, and this song would at least help me think reasonably. Needless to say, I probably owe Jack Stauber about the same amount I pay my therapist, because at that point in my life he was mine (I can’t say I actually recommend using Jack Stauber as a surrogate therapist, though. Again, just get a real one).
5. Kitty Girl- RuPaul (Allstars Season 3 version). There is something extremely comforting about a chorus of glamorous queens telling you that it’s your world. I can’t even describe it. All I really know is that on my way to and from SAT prep, I’d put on my queer power playlist as a reward for going at all, and this song was the one that managed to encourage me the most. I’d rap along Trixie’s verse as I resisted the urge to swerve the car away from that godforsaken hellhole, and I’m almost positive that those wise words (“and if you call me kitty girl I can handle ya!”) are what kept me from going insane. I am proud to report that for the entirety of that class, I only cried once, and I know I owe it to RuPaul and the girls.
6. June- Florence and the Machine. Similar to Bowie, Florence has been a huge inspiration of mine over the years. While I love all her songs, this song stands out to me the most. Written about the Pulse Nightclub shooting, Florence implores the members of the LGBTQ community to hold onto each other in times of pain and sadness. I rediscovered this song when I was 17. At the time, I had just come to terms with my queer identity and I felt more alone than I ever had in my entire life. When I was feeling it the hardest, I would put on this song. Somehow, it soothed me. I can’t really listen to it anymore because of the trauma it takes me back to, but I am infinitely grateful that Florence Welch wrote it for people like me.