Add This To Your Playlist: Week Twenty-Two- Set Sail

With vacation on everyone’s mind, it’s only natural that we look to the seas to fulfill our dreams of fancy cruises, cold piña coladas, and warm days spread out on white sand beaches. The ocean is not just our preferred destination for relaxation: it’s a place we go to clear our minds and find that much-needed clarity. Whatever your preferred method, these songs will help you set sail into a holiday state of mind.


  1. 1. "Smooth Sailin'" by Leon Bridges 

    If you like a voice that sounds as smooth as the water it sings about, look no further than Leon Bridges. The Texas-based soul singer first began his career after attracting the attention of Austin Jenkins and Joshua Block of White Denim when playing the title track of his first album, “Coming Home.” He first toured nationally in 2015 and played as support in a show for Sharon Van Etten in New York City. When “Coming Home” was officially released as a track under Atlantic Records, the song hit the top 10 Most Viral Tracks on Spotify. He went on to tour with Jenkins and Block as well as playing for the Sundance Film Festival. Most recently, Bridges released his second album, Good Thing, in 2018 and toured as the opening act for Harry Styles’s solo tour in South America and Mexico.


    Leon Bridges commented on his intentions behind “Smooth Sailin’” as a song that represented the ship metaphors often used in gospel. Bridges uses “Smooth Sailin’” not only to talk about a girl that he fancies, but also to tell the world that everything is going just fine in his life. Bridges sees the prospect of new love and knows that he just has to know her as he asks her to let him “be [her] cargo” so that he can be taken with her on her adventures. This girl is one that he seems to find intriguing and mysterious as he’s willing to drop just about everything to sail off with her. He sings, “I don’t really know her destination, but I gotta feeling I get to be your passenger.” Even though he hasn’t known this girl for long, he’s willing to bet that this relationship is going to work out. From there, I guess it’ll all just be “smooth sailin.’”


  2. 2. "Pirate of the Caribbean" by Christopher Martin

    The reggae and dancehall singer from St. Catherine, Jamaica, first got his start after winning the competition show Rising Stars in 2005. The American Idol equivalent set him up with a promising career with VP Records. Since then, he has been best known for his songs “Take My Wings,” “Giving It” and “I’ll Be Your Driver.” He became the first alumni from Rising Stars to have a single top the charts in Jamaica, winning that spot with his debut single “Love is All We Need.” Martin has gained prestige, working with top producers in reggae and dancehall music such as Big Yard and Jukeboxx as well as performing with talented artists like Michael Bolton. On May 17th of 2019, Martin released a new single titled “Glow” with Romain Virgo.


    This slow reggae tune outlines Martin’s behaviors as he goes around the Caribbean, spearing the hearts of women. Here he likens himself to a pirate because he isn’t someone who can be tied down to just one land. He says, “this is not my city I’m just visiting. I’m just pillaging the villages”  in order to establish this carefree image. Although, he’s not looking for lost treasure, he’s looking for beautiful women that he describes as “gems” and “emeralds.” He tells us that he’s “as sharp as a blade every time [he crusades]” because he is good at what he does. He wins many hearts, but he always eventually leaves. Though this behavior isn’t ideal, at least the man is self-aware.


  3. 3. "Dive In" by kwassa

    Previously known under the name KYKO, kwassa is a pop artist from South London. After signing with Warner Bros, he changed his stage name to kwassa, a style of dance originating from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2015, he debuted with his EP Animals that featured his title track of the same name. The song brought him attention as it has reigned in over 1.7 million plays on Spotify in its 3-year run time. His second EP, Wildlife, garnered him even more recognition with his single “Dive In” being his most played song with over 6 million streams on Spotify. His latest release, an EP titled fka kyko, features four new songs from kwassa embracing his re-branding.


    “Dive In” is said to be the song that came most organically to kwassa as he wrote it. He wasn’t so much focused on the message and just let the lyrics take on their own direction. As it stands, this track seems to reflect the idea of throwing caution aside and letting oneself finally experience one’s life. The song starts off with this important existential question, asking “Am I at my best or am I just here surviving?” Here kwassa channels the feeling of not doing enough or not being enough. He claims he’s been “waiting on [his] life too long” because he hasn’t really reflected on who he is or who he wants to be. Later, he laments that he “thought [he] found love, but [he] never knew how to keep her” because he didn’t allow himself any depth in his emotions towards other people. By finally telling himself to just “dive in,” he’s aiming to break the cycle of disinterest and to become invested in his life again.


  4. 4. "Oceans" by Seafret

    British music duo Seafret is made up of singer Jack Sedman and guitarist Harry Draper. The two started performing together in 2011 after they met at an open mic night in Bridlington, their hometown. They got their band name due to their affiliation to the coastal area and their passion for guitars (using “fret” to reference a fretboard). In 2014, the duo released their debut EP, Give Me Something. They began to gain more traction upon the release of their second EP, Oceans and the subsequent debut album Tell Me It’s Real which reached number 59 on the UK album charts. As of 2018, their latest release is their fourth EP, Monsters.


    The song “Oceans” was inspired by Seafret’s move from Bridlington to London and having to cope with leaving their friends and family behind. Through its lyrics, the song emphasizes the pain that comes with distance and the ways in which human connection becomes integral to our lives. In the first verse, the speaker sings, “I wish I can feel your skin” because he knows that he’s too far away to be with the people he loves. He had to sacrifice closeness in order to move forward in other aspects of his life. The song continues to draw upon how painful the experience of leaving someone behind is by saying “You know I’d rather drown than to go without you, but you’re pulling me down.” Ultimately, he knows that he needs to leave this chapter behind him so that he can grow, but that doesn’t negate the loss he feels for having to compromise the person he loved the most.

  5. 5. "Sailboat" by Ben Rector

    The American singer and songwriter grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but is now based in Nashville, Tennessee. He found his passion for music when he first started learning guitar in high school. In his first year studying at the University of Arkansas, Rector released his debut EP, Ben Rector. His featured single from the EP, “Conversation,” went on to win the 2006 Grand Prize for pop songs in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. In 2007, Rector’s first full-length album was released entitled Twenty Tomorrow. As of 2018, Rector has released his 7th studio album, Magic.


    “Sailboat” navigates the internal conflict of being lost to oneself. Rector channels the feeling of being left with no direction and having to struggle to anchor himself again. Although he's trying to change his course, he grapples with the fact that “you can’t make the wind blow from a sailboat.” He seems to be “waiting” on something better to come along and show him where he’s supposed to be. This lack of agency he has over his life makes him feel completely alone, seeing only an “empty horizon” before him. There have been times when we’ve all felt lost, but eventually, we find our way back to a middle ground.


  6. 6. "The Downeaster 'Alexa'" by Billy Joel

    If you’re looking for the song that perfectly captures the seaman’s lament, “The Downeaster 'Alexa'” is what you’ve been searching for. When it comes to artistry and songwriting, Billy Joel goes unmatched in his craft. The Long Island native is most known for his song “Piano Man” closely followed by “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” a track commenting on the headlining events from the 40s to the 80s. In the span of his career, he has released 12 studio albums and is considered one of the best-selling artists of all time. Joel is one of the most unique artists to hit the airwaves, producing 33 top 40s hits in his 20-year career, having written all of them himself. He has won 6 Grammy awards and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1992. Say whatever you will about his music, but there’s a reason he’s left his mark on history.


    As one of his lesser-known but still well-loved hits, “The Downeaster 'Alexa'” illustrates the life of a struggling fisherman who is just trying to make ends meet. Although it has been a hard time for people of his trade, he’s “worked [his] finger to the bone” in order to keep his beloved ship. He believes that a good catch might be just enough to turn things around for him, so much so that he keeps distancing himself from all of the other parts of his life. He says, “I got people back on land who count on me” because he is a working man trying to support his wife and children. While he clearly has his family’s best intentions at heart, his job drives him “more and more miles from shore every year.” Not only are there fewer fish in the sea, but he also has to struggle with not being able to see the people he loves. He keeps with it because this is all he knows, but what does it cost him to make a living?


  7. 7. "Neptune" by Sleeping At Last

    Sleeping At Last started as a band featuring singer and songwriter Ryan O’Neal, his brother and drummer Chad O’Neal and bassist Dan Perdue; however, after releasing four albums, Chad and Dan left to pursue other projects and Ryan O’Neal kept the name to further his solo career. Sleeping At Last released its first album, Capture, in 2000 and attracted the attention of Billy Corgan of Interscope Records. Sleeping At Last is best known for the Atlas project, a series of interconnected EPs that revolved around the solar system and drew on artwork in order to convey a stronger message. In fact, Geoff Benzing was commissioned to paint art for all of the 28+ songs in the project. The most notable song to come from Atlas was “Saturn,” as it has over 30 million views on YouTube.


    “Neptune” is about a man that cannot give the kind of love he wants to the person he cares about. This man is down on himself and weak, feeling as though he has nothing left to give. He tells us of his brokenness through his words: “You let me set sail with cheap wood, so I patched up every leak that I could.” This man has had to fix himself, but now that he’s finally standing on two feet again, he isn’t sure he can truly love someone else. Now, he has to grapple with allowing himself the space to be vulnerable. He says, “I'm only honest when it rains. If I time it right, the thunder breaks when I open my mouth.” He doesn’t want to hurt this other person by saying everything he needs to, but he also knows it will hurt more if he lies.


Whatever the ocean has to hold, it is clear that throughout time, artists have used it as a way to reflect and as a way to share their deepest desires. The next time you decide to take to the seas, take a song or two with you.

Listen to the full playlist here!