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Add This To Your Playlist: Week One- Earworms

For my first official playlist, I thought I would do something special and talk about everyone’s favorite type of songs: earworms. You know the kind of songs I’m talking about. They’re the ones that get stuck in your head. They seem to follow you around wherever you go, and then suddenly they show up in your “Heavy Rotation” on Spotify because you’ve had them on repeat for a week. As someone who, like many of you, is susceptible to the infamous earworm, I have decided to compile a few of my favorites that have been on my mind recently. Maybe I can infect you, too.

Song 1: “With A Little Help From My Friends” by The Beatles

I would like to assume that all of you are familiar with The Beatles, or have at least seen their name printed on a mock vintage t-shirt. For a period of time, I woke up to The Beatles playing in my house every morning. My mom had the song “Good Morning Good Morning” set as her alarm, and on weekends, she often let the entire Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album play. It became a familiar sound, one that reminded me of home and family. Eventually, it stopped once she moved from using her clock radio to a smartphone alarm. Until about two weeks ago, it had been years since I had listened to that album, and when I did, it felt like returning to childhood. 

“With A Little Help From My Friends” was always one of my favorites off of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, probably because of its bittersweet optimism that even I as a six-year-old was able to pick up on. I think what I connected with most in the song was its surprisingly self-aware quality. It begins with the line “What would you think if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and walk out on me?” For such a cheerful sounding song, this moment seems to come across as a desperate plea. It shows the speaker’s insecurity with the feeling of loneliness. This is only reinforced with the further lyrics in which there is a conversation between the main speaker and the chorus of other voices. In the first verse, the chorus asks the speaker the questions “Does it worry you to be alone?” and “Are you sad because you’re on your own?” Here, the chorus represents his own inner thoughts that are attempting to pull him further into his insecurity, but he ultimately rejects this feeling.  He instead asserts that even though his love is away, he is still able to “Get by with a little help from [his] friends.” Although he yearns for someone to love, he knows that in the meantime, his friends will be there to support him so that the weight of loneliness is not something he has to bear by himself. While I’d like to say that I picked up on the many layers of this song when I was younger, I think my six-year-old self was mainly addicted because it was short and fun to sing along to.

Song 2: “Crush Culture” by Conan Gray

I first heard this song a few weeks ago and was infatuated with its dynamic music video. In the video, Conan Gray watches all of these couples in the throws of love and proceeds to interject himself into their happiness and create havoc. What can I say? I love the cynicism. Conan first got his start as a vlogger on YouTube and has since been creating covers and original songs. His first song to receive an official music video was a single he released last year called “Grow.” At only age 19, he’s barely at the start of his music career.

This song became an earworm for me solely because of its humor and relatability. In “Crush Culture,” Conan expresses his speaker’s frustration with the process of falling in love. At the start of the song, he chastises himself by saying “My God don’t look at your phone. No one’s gonna call you.” This image perfectly emulates the experience of having a crush. When you like someone, you’re constantly checking to see if you’ll hear from them. Conan then goes on to refute this thought by singing “I don’t care if I’m forever alone. I’m not falling for you, ’cause this baby is loveproof.” This is an obvious sign of being denial of one’s own feelings, as he’s trying to convince himself that his crush doesn’t have as strong a hold on him as they really do. He refers to having a crush as being a “game of manipulation” in which his feelings are being toyed with, thus making him “want to spill [his] guts” to the other person. He refers to the happy couples he sees around him as the “kissing cult” because he doesn’t want to admit how left out he feels and therefore buries it in insults about love. It was refreshing to hear a song talk so unseriously about the crushing feeling of unrequited love.

Song 3: “Strangers in a Dream” by Phum Viphurit

    After hearing Phum’s song “Lover Boy,” I absolutely fell in love with his cheery and romantic style of music. “Strangers in a Dream” is no exception, instantly giving the listener a feeling of walking on clouds. Phum Viphurit is a 22-year-old singer/songwriter born to Thailand, raised in New Zealand, and is a current resident of Bangkok. He describes his music style as “alternative indie folk,” a genre that I feel should get much more attention.

“Strangers in a Dream” is the unique tale of two people calmly enjoying the bliss of domesticity and young love. In this song, Phum lists the several things that he and the girl of his affections both love and hate about each other, ultimately coming to the conclusion that despite their differences, they work well together. This idealized scene of love is represented in the lyrics of the chorus in which Phum sings “Let’s make out on the cover of magazines. We’ll be king and queen.” He wants to broadcast their love for the world to see and because of it, feels as though he is in control of all aspects of life. By calling himself and his lover “strangers in a dream” he refers to the euphoric daze that surrounds their relationship. One of my favorite lyrics to come out of this song is in the lines “You love your bags of potato chips, I love them too. Who’ll make the next refrigerator trip? It’s always you.” Although they are simple lyrics, they give a very particular glance into the lives of these two characters and show their comfort with each other. What makes this song so easy to listen to is that it reflects exactly what everyone wants out of love.

Song 4: “Waste It On Me (feat. BTS)” by Steve Aoki

    “Waste It On Me” marks Steve Aoki’s third collaboration with the South Korean boyband and global superstars, BTS. The twist is that it is BTS’s first song in which they sing and rap entirely in English. Aoki is known best for his original style of electro house music while BTS is known for their dynamic spread of genre over their discography as well as their surprisingly introspective lyrics. While the lyrics of “Waste It On Me” are certainly not the most evolved, it does make for an entertaining song and represents the evolution of their collaborative style.

    As someone who has been a fan of BTS since 2015, I was ecstatic to hear that they were coming out with an English song. While it certainly wasn’t what I was expecting, I am not surprised by the crazy amount of success its had as it reached No. 89 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and broke into the top 10 on the electronic dance charts. The story of this song follows someone who is pleading with another person to take a chance on them even though they don’t believe in love. I think what attracted me so much to this song was the main speaker’s assertion that they had no chance. In speaking to the object of their affections, they sing “And I know there’s no changing your mind,” acknowledging that their feelings are a lost cause, and yet the song still presents a startling amount of hope. The speaker begs “So if love is nothing more than just a waste of your time, waste it on me.” This is, in a sense, the speaker’s last stand. They are bearing all of themselves to this other person and casting away the possible pain that they might go through later to be in love with this person now. The speaker addresses their place as ephemeral in RM’s rap as he says “Treat me like a comma, I’ll take you to a new phrase.” In saying this, the speaker allows themself to become a transitional period within the span of this other person’s life, both painting themselves as unimportant, as they represent the pause between important life events, and also simultaneously presents themselves as highly important because they serve as the vessel with which the person gets from one stage in life to another. Although for the most part, “Waste It On Me” is just another generic pop song, it might not be quite as generic as it at first seems.

Song 5: “What Have You Done” by KWAYE

KWAYE has a soulful and calming quality to his songs that I can best relate to the works of Hozier and Leon Bridges. However, his style rests in its own unique genre that blends the styles of indie, electronica, synth-pop and soul. KWAYE actually got his start because he played a demo of one of his songs for his Uber driver, who just so happened to be a former executive of the “Artists and Repertoire” (A&R) record label.

“What Have You Done” appears on his newest EP Love & Affliction. The theme of the song reflects the speaker’s frustration with feeling as though he is the one putting more into the relationship than the other person. In the first verse, he tells his lover “I have loved you recklessly, giving you my days.” In other words, he has put all of himself into this relationship when maybe he should not have. Repeatedly throughout the chorus, the speaker asks “What have you done?” demanding to know if his feelings are really reciprocated. He fears that it may only be one-sided. In the second verse, he once again affirms his value by telling his love “I’m more than the things you heard in stories,” ultimately idealizing himself as the perfect image of what a loving partner should be. I think what really made this song stick for me was because it reflects one of my own tendencies to give more of myself to someone than they give to me. I could relate to this exhaustion with always having to be the one to make things work and this want for affirmation that he is in fact cared about by the other person. While this may not be your most typical earworm, the insistent nature of the lyrics lends itself to pressing the replay button.

Song 6: “Narcissist (feat. The 1975)” by No Rome

I think of all the songs on this list, this one is the one that infected me the most. I won’t sugar coat it, I kind of hate the lyrics of this song, but that’s precisely what makes it the perfect earworm. No Rome is an up and coming artist from Manila, known for his synthesized beats and prides himself on his honesty in his music. He surely spares no honesty in this song, bringing in The 1975, an English pop rock band, to feature as vocalists.

I’d like to argue that the song “Narcissist” is really not about narcissism at all, but more so about someone who simply has no regard for other people. A narcissist is defined as “a person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves,” however in the very first lines of the song, we are clued into the speaker’s own insecurities about himself. He says “Take a picture of all my flaws, or you can take a video on your phone.” Acknowledging that he has flaws doesn’t exactly sound like narcissism to me. However, it can be argued that the speaker is just a bad person. In the pre-chorus, No Rome sings a line saying “Now I’ve gotta tell her that I’m lovin’ her friends,” insinuating that he’s cheating on the girl he was involved with, or at the very least, interested in,  with all of her friends and is struggling with the fact that he needs to tell her he’s been “seeing somebody.” The speaker goes on to talk about how he’s now avoiding talking to her friends because he’s been sleeping around and tells the audience “Now Selena won’t be friends with me, I was kissing Emily. I love you, it was never your fault.” Clearly a great way to show a girl that you love her. It seems to me that he’s not narcissistic, but is simply using the stereotype of the damaged badboy to excuse his behaviors of self-medicating, promiscuity, unfaithfulness and deception. While all this may be true about the lyrics, it is a frustratingly catchy song that I am ashamed to admit I have been singing along to all week.

Song 7: “Kiss and Make Up” by Dua Lipa and BLACKPINK

I couldn’t talk about long-anticipated collaborations without bringing up Dua Lipa and BLACKPINK, who first publicized their collaboration back in September. After having listened to Dua Lipa’s entire debut album, I couldn’t have been more excited or surprised when she announced she would be teaming up with one of the most influential girl groups in the KPop scene right now. As I had expected, their resulting song is nothing short of a bop.

“Kiss and Make Up” revolves around exactly the theme you would expect. Essentially, the speaker is saying that she wants to have one last makeout session with the person she’s involved with before they inevitably break up. From what I can get out of it, it seems as though their relationship is based much more in physical attraction than compatibility. Dua affirms this as she sings “I’m tired of talking, feel myself saying the same old things.” Clearly, there is a lack of communication between them. In the chorus, she also brings up that she’s “tired of hearing sorry,” meaning that they are constantly in a state of fighting. Doesn’t exactly seem like a healthy relationship. In fact, in the second verse, sung in Korean by Jennie and Jisoo of BLACKPINK, the lyrics translate to, “You are still not able to leave.” This showcases a dependence that the two have on each other in which they know they aren’t in a good situation, but can’t seem to let go of each other even if it would be the best for both of them. While we should never glorify unhealthy codependency, this song is definitely one that I would dance to at the club. 

When I listen to music, substance is something that matters to me. I like to talk about songs that make me think critically or challenge me in different ways, but music is also something to be enjoyed. Earworms are songs that are both easy to like and easy to hate because of how much they rely on repetition, familiar beats and simple melodies. Sometimes, your brain just needs a break from overthinking, and that’s when the earworm gets you.

To listen to the full playlist, check it out here!

Junior English-Creative Writing Major at Hofstra University. Music and cat enthusiast.
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