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A Playlist for Stranger Strands

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Manhattan chapter.

I sit on the third floor of O’Malley, surrounded by various highlighted packets of critical scholarship and the giant textbook of The Riverside Chaucer; a book I have aptly renamed “The Chaucer Bible.” A couple is arguing behind me; I may have spilled my coffee all over my cubicle. It’s fine–everything is fine. My mind refuses to function properly– the Middle English on the page starting to look like modern English. But really, I’m dreaming of sunny mountainsides, several different kinds of pasta dishes, attractive Italian men and that gorgeous Mediterranean.

Let me put it this way: I’m going abroad this summer, and certainly, I’m not the only Manhattan College student jetting across the Atlantic for stranger strands.

Look, America, I’m sorry. You’re not going to cut it this summer. I’m over hot Long Island summers, toiling away in a fluorescently-lit supermarket covered in raw meat juices. I’m over running into everyone I went to high school with at the local bagel place. I need change. It just so happens that this change exists eight hours away by plane and speaks an entirely different language.

It’s fine.

No matter where I go, I make sure that I have a list of tunes that will make the sitting for “x” amount of hours bearable. In honor of the Jaspers who are going abroad this summer, I have created a playlist featuring several different languages. Listen away to ten lovely tracks that you have little to no hope of understanding!

“Bad Boy” by Bigbang, off of their album, Still Alive.

Most people are embarrassed to admit that they like K-Pop. I am not one of these people. If you’re going to start off a playlist in a different language, you do it right, namely, you start it off with one of South Korea’s biggest boy bands.

“Bad Boy” is a song that isn’t overly-flashy nor does it force you dance. It knows that you’re wary of enjoying a K-Pop song, and it’s totally okay with that. Let the thumping drums and bass ease you into the extravagant world of K-Pop. The tempo of this song is perfect for effortlessly strolling down to where you’ll be taking your final exams. Listen to the subtle strings in this track and let them break your heart. At least it isn’t a bad grade doing it this time.

“Erdbeer Mund” by Franz Ferdinand, off of their single, “Fresh Strawberries.”

Franz Ferdinand is a band who sing sings in both English and German and has a shit load of fun doing so (they originate from Glasgow, Scotland).

This song screams 80s new wave, what more could you ask for? Listen to that synth; the bass that challenges you to not dance to it. It’s impossible. You don’t know what the words mean? Whatever. It’s more fun trying to sing along with the song, fumbling over the words you don’t know in a language you never learned.

Put it this way: you needed a song to walk around the streets of Munich to. “Erdbeer Mund” isn’t going to have to you casually walking to class–it’s going to have you banging your head down the block, repeating “strawberry mouth” over and over again.

I’m not responsible for what the locals think of you. That’s your problem.

“La Prima Estate” by Erlend Øye.

What better way to introduce yourself to the Italian language than to be serenaded in Italian by a Norwegian man? Look, if he can become fluent in a year, you can certainly become fluent in like a month.

A gross overstatement? Maybe, but I believe in you.

All you need to know about this song is that the flute and the guitar immediately transports you to a world where you’re lying on a beach, sun in your face and the wind in your hair. You might have sunglasses on, but who wants that weird sunglasses tan, anyway? Taking inspiration from the bossa nova genre, Erlend Øye created a song that teaches you basic Italian as easily as it hypnotizes you to dance.

If you suddenly decide that you don’t know how to dance, let Mr. Øye show you how it’s done.

“Chiiko Chinotinetsa” by Thomas Mapfumo, off of the album, African Classics: Thomas Mapfumo.

Thomas Mapfumo is a Zimbabwean musician who sings in the Shona language. All right, you’re officially cooler than your friends.

Mapfumo doesn’t come into sing for at least a minute and twenty seconds, jamming out proper on his island-style guitar. He utilizes random flourishes on the instrument to break the monotony of the rhythm guitar to keep your attention; to keep your inner, shoegazing hipster content. His voice whines at the ends of his lyrics, but in the best way possible. He’s having fun, doing what he wants. Shouldn’t you be, too?

“You Just Decided” by Shintaro Sakamoto, off of his album, How to Live with a Phantom.

Last year, I walked into Other Music down in Manhattan, heard this song, cursed and then walked over to the store’s jukebox and took the song’s title down.

It’s almost better if you don’t know what the song is saying. It’s certainly a bigger testament to the songwriter’s skills if you can still feel what the person is saying without him or her conveying a story to you. Shintaro Sakamoto knows he’s cooler than you, so you best just accept it and listen to this song. He doesn’t have to show off his singing talents or his guitar expertise; he knows you’re going to chill hardcore to “You Just Decided.”

And that surprise saxophone in the middle of the track? You ever see or hear something and you’re like, “That’s what my life has been missing!”

Yep, you’ve been missing the saxophone this entire time.

“Costa Rica” by Ex-Otogo, off of their record, Mezze Stagioni.

Why are there two songs in Italian on this playlist? One: I’m going to Florence, Italy. Two: It’s not appropriate to represent the Italian language with a Norwegian singer. Three: It has high-repeatability—I’m talking DAYS of just this song on loop.

So clearly, an Italian song written about Costa Rica is the answer.

The acoustic guitar paired with the piano is simple, but loaded with sadness. The singer’s voice is relentless with his mournful tone, insisting that you cry for some foreign land. The Italian monologue in the middle of the song takes your immersion level deeper, as if there is a man on your left or right talking about Costa Rica in Italian. Sit on a short concrete wall overlooking the Mediterranean and watch the sun set to this song.

It’s all about the cultural experience, is it not?

“Drø Sø” by Kakkmaddafakka, off of their album, Hest.

Ignore the band’s name, I don’t get it either. But, hell, if it isn’t fun.

The opening piano screams beach party, don’t even try to tell me otherwise. Kakkmaddafakka is here to have fun and you’re going to have fun, dammit. So, get off of your feet and sing along (Surprise! You can’t–unless you’re fluent in Norwegian).

The leader singer makes an immediate switch to Norwegian in the chorus, an extremely frustrating time to discover that this band is bilingual. Are you not going to tell me what “boosted your self-confidence?” This is cruel! And their casual reference to “Halo” by Beyonce?

Can you ever really casually mention Beyonce?

“Clavado En Un Bar” by Maná, off of their album, Suenos Liquidos.

I took Spanish for eight f*ckin’ years and I can only pick up a couple words of this song.

Thanks, Garden City High School, you really did me wonders.

The lead singer, Fher Olvera, sounds a bit like Sting from The Police. So, if you’re looking for a reason to practice your Spanish listening comprehension but you don’t want to turn off The Police, boy, do I have the track for you!

This song is vitalizing. It’s a rock song and a reggae track at the same time. So whip out your basic Spanish and jump along with the solid drum and bass pairing.

“Sexy Boy” by Air, off of their record, Moon Safari.

Whatever a moon safari is, I want to go on one.

“Sexy Boy” is a track by the French eletronic duo Air that uses the synthesizer in the most aggressive way possible. It is simple, but unabashedly sexy. Paired with the atmospheric voices of Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel singing in French? Well, it’s a bit overstimulating to say the least.

I’m particularly fond of the sliding guitar and synth in the background during the chorus. I think it’s a pretty apt representation of how any girl’s mind must sound like when she sees a hot guy.

Okay? Just me?

You’re all a bunch of f*cking liars.

“Wrapped Up In Books” by Belle & Sebastian, off of their album, Dear Catastrophe Waitress.

It’s no secret that I really like Belle & Sebastian and the Glaswegian music scene. Whatever, I digress.

So, maybe you’re not going to Norway, Italy, Korea, Spain, Zimbabwe, Japan, or Germany. Maybe you’re hanging out with the English-speaking people. That’s cool, too. This is why this song is here.

You’re spending a significant amount of time outside of your home country in a land that will attempt to claim you as its own. Yes, “I’ve been unfaithful / I’ve been traveling abroad,” but you’ll be back, under the hot American sun, back at sweltering away at your summer job in no time.

Listen to the summer-stained bass and kick back and smile. You’re in for the ride of your life in a couple of weeks. Embrace your inner-European, forget that English is your first language for a little bit. Live it up.

On that note, I’ll see you next year, Jaspers.


I am currently a senior at Manhattan College double majoring in English and Communication with a concentration in advertising. When I'm not writing about music, I'm usually eating soup dumplings or petting dogs - ideally at the same time. I'm proudly American with a half-Chinese and half-Italian heritage. You can follow me on Twitter at @ChuChuTrain. I'm funny sometimes.