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Graduation is upon us: Here are some playlists that helped me get through college

College can be a tumultuous, emotional roller coaster. But for every high and low, there's a song that can capture exactly how you're feeling.  – Photo by

For my last article of my last year in college, I thought it would be only fitting for me to write about the music that got me through these last four years.

No matter what anyone tells you, college isn’t really all that easy. It’s definitely fun, a little messy, can get wacky and insanely entertaining, but it’s also a lot of work and stress and anxiety. In all that craziness, it was enough for me to turn up the volume on my earbuds and sit on the Rutgers bus for one extra stop, just to center myself and find some stability amid the chaos.

These songs represent the pieces of my memory in college and, hopefully, will serve as guiding posts for your own experiences. Take them or leave them. Music ends up finding the people it should find regardless. Now, on to the suggestions:

Happy to laugh with you, happy to be here

You’re going to think I’m sappy, but I’ve been following the “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” series since I was in middle school and to see the series on Netflix was seriously fun and heartwarming. Even better, these movies came out during my time in college.

That’s probably why I like the soundtrack so much — not necessarily for the romance, but more for the heart.

From Anna of the North’s “Lovers'' in the first movie to “Dream Girl” on the soundtrack for “To All the Boys: Always and Forever,” these tracks just make me feel bubbly and warm inside. The vocals of Anna of the North, a Norwegian singer-songwriter, have the exact wispy nature that evokes a feeling of nostalgia and joyfulness that I always need to pick me up.

Then, there’s Loote, an American pop duo, whose albums “lost” and “single.,” featuring the track, “Your Side Of The Bed,” never fail to get my feet tapping and my mood up.

On “Your Side Of The Bed,” Eric Nam, an American singer-songwriter who doubles as a Korean pop star, knocks it out of the park in his feature, which also leads me to suggest his songs, “Congratulations” and “Love Die Young,” both off of his album, “Before We Begin.”

And, speaking of happiness, I suggest listening to the kings on the subject: BTS. While their whole album, “BE,” is full of electronic bops and soulful lyricism, I think “Life Goes On” is probably the song I am most thankful for as it is one that understands the pandemic’s effect on everyone’s lives today but reminds us there's always the light at the end of the tunnel.

Powerful, bad b*tch vibes

There are just those tracks — you know, the tracks that make you feel like you’re in Beyoncé’s “Hold Up” video swinging the bat yourself.

I suggest “Sorry” off Queen Bey’s album, "Lemonade," to anyone looking for that perfect catharsis of getting rid of dead weight in your life, and yes, technically this song came out in 2016, but the documentary, “Homecoming,” of her 2018 Coachella performance came out in 2019, so it’s more relevant now than ever.

Also, I like blackbear, who might not completely fit into the “bad b*tch” category, but his songs sure do. “do re mi” and “hot girl bummer” are just so catchy. Who doesn’t want to just scream the first line of “hot girl bummer” at every single thing that pisses them off?

And then, of course, NIKI could not be left out of this category. Her track “Vintage” and “Indigo,” which she featured on with 88rising (a record label and mass media company with a large variety of Asian artists), are both such bangers that can make any girl feel like she’s the best dancer and bopper on the planet.

Sitting in the rain, crying

This was perhaps the easiest playlist to create, but you can’t blame me. I don’t exactly listen to a Meghan Trainor or Lizzo pop beat during test days as I walk into the lecture hall of impending doom.

I’m sure everyone recognizes Jeremy Zucker, a Franklin Lakes, New Jersey native, and his track “comethru,” which granted isn’t that sad, but he makes up for them in his tracks, “all the kids are depressed” and “always, i’ll care.”

It might be the crystal-clear acoustics that accompany his mellowed, hoarse vocals or the fact that all his lyrics are morale-crushingly relatable, but I always find myself getting just a little — okay, very — introspective whenever I listen to his tracks.

Then, there’s the artists whom I think must have never known joy. Specifically, NF, the American rapper and singer. His tracks “Time” from the album “The Search” and “Let You Down,” from the album “Perception,” are probably the most indicative of NF’s vocal abilities and range of talent.

It’s easy to see a young Eminem, like the one featured on Rihanna’s “Love the Way You Lie,” in NF’s insane ability to tell stories with his lyrics, but NF may actually fit our generation even more than Slim Shady. Just take a look at “LOST,” featuring Hopsin, and “STORY,” on “CLOUDS (THE MIXTAPE)."

Enjoy it while it lasts

I think it’s apt to suggest Kanye West’s “Graduation” album, specifically “Champion,” now that graduation is nearly upon us. The track is enough of a reminder that we did it — we graduated, with this one line: “So if you gon' do it, do it just like this.” The whole album is just one defiant declaration to any of the people who ever doubted you’d make it, so play it up a little.

Regardless if you walk across a stage to accept your diploma or open it unceremoniously by your mailbox, you still beat the odds and graduated. And for now, that’s good enough.

Finally, the one track to sum up senior year is from one of the scenes that has stuck with me to this day from “Glee” called, “You Get What You Give,” originally sung by the New Radicals. In the scene, the old Glee club members pass the torch to their protégés in a shot where the older members simply switch seats with the members left in high school.

Now, I know we are in college, and “Glee” has never really served as the best representation of reality, but this one scene speaks so much to the experience of a senior, watching everyone else take on the roles that you leave behind once you graduate. But what’s more poetic than giving a little shove of encouragement to the next class?

As we seniors leave this school, hopefully better than when we found it (but at least not worse off), the very last piece of advice I could give is this: “Don't let go, you've got the music in you/One dance left, this world is gonna pull through.”


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