Add-Drop is almost over and it can’t be denied any longer—school is back in session. To celebrate the start of the new year (or mourn the impending loss of the warm weather) the staff at the McGill Tribune has compiled 25 tracks that define what back to school means for them. Remeber to scroll down to the end to check out the Spotify playlist and happy listening!
Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment – “Wanna Be Cool”
The movies have always told us that university was the time when kids could reinvent themselves into something bigger and better than their pubescent high school selves. “Wanna Be Cool” is the ultimate anthem that reminds students that when high school is over, it is actually over, and no one needs to be defined by a set cultural standard. It’s a re-education of social prescription that is laid out in smooth yet peppy verses by Chance the Rapper, Big Sean, and KYLE, who neatly cinches up the message with the line: “If a cool guy’s cool in the middle of a forest / Man, nobody fucking cares.”
This track is so incredibly joyful that it’s hard to not want to bounce and smile along. As with many of Chance’s songs, you can hear his smile come through when he raps his opening lines. Big Sean’s verse oozes the honesty that has defined his sound, but he’s able to skillfully avoid the trap of seeming preachy and overdramatic, a necessity for making the lines “Spend all this time for you to say I’m fine / I really should have spent it tryna find myself” sound sincere. KYLE’s verse, as already mentioned, is where the moral of the song shines through over quick beats. The additional accompaniment of Jeremih on the intro and outro along with Donnie Trumpet’s horn provide a well-rounded and lighthearted romp into the often over-contrived theme of loving yourself. Start your day with this track and you’ll feel confident and positive all week.
Lana Del Rey – “Music To Watch Boys To”
Lana Del Rey is not one for sounding upbeat; however, she breaks from her relatively melancholic aesthetic on her fantastic new single, “Music To Watch Boys To” from her most recent album, Honeymoon. On the opening enigmatic line, Del Rey sings “Pink flamingos always fascinated me,” conjuring up images of a hot, tropical paradise. With summer coming to an end and the ever-growing chill of winter present in the air, this song offers a retreat into Del Rey’s warm and languid world.
It’s a summer anthem through-and-through, but it acknowledges the inevitable changing of the season with the lines “Nothing gold can stay / Like love or lemonade / Or sun or summer days.” The pulsing beats and multi-layered vocal tracks evoke a sense of warmth and tranquility but there’s also a definite air of sensuality about it as well. The track feeds to many emotions and moments, tying them all together with impeccably-crafted production and vocals. The song begins slow, but builds near the end, with all underlying beats, synths, and ethereal vocals coming together for a stunning final chorus before dreamily fading out. In fact, if there was a song that was the definition of “dreamy,” this would be it. Best of all, though, is the title of the song itself: “Music To Watch Boys To” provides a soundtrack for lounging, people watching, and enjoying the few sunny days that we have left.
R.E.M. – “Nightswimming”
As school begins, summer winds down, and the chill of autumn starts to creep into the air, it can help to find solace in memories of the past four months. R.E.M.’s “Nightswimming” lives in this space, looking back to a spontaneous evening of swimming on a quiet end-of-summer night. Realized in beautiful specificity, the lyrics follow the song’s protagonist through a remembrance of that night,from the lowness of the moon, to the “fear of getting caught / the recklessness in wate,r” and further to stolen laughs and whispers in the back of the car with someone close.
Musically, it perfectly captures that late-August wistfulness, with a simple piano melody playing under frontman Michael Stipe’s soft crooning. Towards the chorus, lush strings start to kick in, and the mind can’t help but turn to similar memories of driving home after an excursion, exhausted and exhilarated, making quiet conversation with friends who have shared the experience. What the song understands is that this type of memory is impossible to experience with the same mindset as the past. Naivety and innocence, by definition, are taken for granted and “replaced by everyday.” Life moves forward as people steer their gaze towards the future, getting caught up in the work and stress of the city. And that’s okay. Summer might be ending, but the memories it leaves behind can be enough to get you through the school year.