Life Music

I first listened to Frank Ocean in 2016, when Blonde came out. It was the first full album I had listened to, and prior to Blonde, I was only familiar with whatever three-minute pop singles were on the charts. Listening to Blonde, then, was like seeing new colors. The significance of listening to sounds I had never heard or imagined before was what secured Blonde as a special work of art for me. I was obsessed with these new sounds–Frank’s engineered high-pitched voice, reverberating notes, hazy noises, and mysterious, fragmented lyrics. Blonde was my soundtrack for more than a year, and the more I listened to it, the more personal it became.

Through Blonde, I discovered other sounds and artists, and my musical landscape shifted to encompass a larger range of styles. Now when I listen to Blonde, it’s not as new and otherworldly, because I have listened to so much more. But the experience of enlightenment that it gave me isn’t forgotten or lost. The music means different things to me now, two years later, than it did when it first came out. I’m still discovering new things in the albumnew sounds that can only seem to be heard with the volume on full blast, sitting in otherwise absolute silence and peace.

Music intertwines so tightly with our lives that some music is unbearable to listen to after a moment in life has passed. It’s just like scent, taste, and touch. A single melody can bring up the most visceral feelings or memories. The personal possession and investment that we put into music is what makes it one of the easiest ways to reach back in time, to grasp the intangible. There are songs that we listen to during a time of heartbreak or a time of depression. There are songs reserved for every specific feeling. In some instances, the music that we listen to during an experience becomes the majority of the experience, compounded into a song. In others, music is a guiding light for realizations and our own selves.

I asked some Lithium team members what music came to mind with awakening and enlightenment, and what personal, special experiences they had with the music.

1. "Reborn" by KIDS SEE GHOSTS (Kid Cudi and Kanye West)

Yves Esapa: I had a deep experience with this specific song. When you listen to it, it makes you feel that there is always room for new beginnings and there’s hope that people can change. Once you know about the artist who made the song, it makes it much deeper. Both of these artists have dealt with drug abuse and mental issues. After they both got help, they looked at the world differently and were able to develop and become reborn. The line that resonates throughout the song is “I’m moving forward.” That specific line is why I’m so attached to the song. Because like Kanye and Kid Cudi, there “ain’t no stress on me, Lord, I’m moving forward.” I’ve come from a mundane place that I didn’t think I could get past, and look at me now, I’m moving forward.

2. Bon Iver by Bon Iver

Brígh Johnston: For me, Bon Iver’s self-titled album felt like something I still can’t explain. Justin Vernon’s songwriting is immaculate. Specifically songs such as "Wash," "Hinnom, TX," "Minnesota, WI," and "Holocene" were among my favorites and really expressed the feeling of “rebirth” or “awakening.” In "Holocene," there is a line that goes: “And at once I knew, I was not magnificent.” It’s like he is recognizing his role in the universe. We are not God, we are not magnificent, we are just humans, and that’s okay.

I am constantly having small epiphanies about my life’s purpose and I always resort to music and art to help me through. I find that while the Bon Iver album is one about rebirth and awakening, it is also about routine and the mundane. Sometimes I’ll just lay on the floor staring at the ceiling and have the album on repeat knowing that everyone, even the musician I’m listening to, has constant change in their life. If he can transform those emotions into art, then so can I. He and I have never met, but I feel so personal, we go through things together.

3. "Shake It Out" by Florence + the Machine

Ines Donfack: The song carries underlying themes of stripping off old habits and embracing the new. She talks about how she’s “done with her graceless heart. So tonight [I'm] gonna cut it off and restart.”

This song has resonated with me because of its powerful lyrics. I feel like I want to strip off the old habits, regret, pride, greed, and all the other flaws that peg me as human. I want to just cut that old heart and restart. The song propelled me into an understanding that the only thing standing between myself and a better version of myself is resolve and a decision to make the change.

4. "Ten Things" by Paul Baribeau

Dharma Gilley: It’s all about making sure you do everything you want to before you die and how death will come to us all one day, and all we can do is live our best lives. I have had a lot of really rough nights [during which] I haven’t been happy and I listen to “Ten Things” and I cry and I feel so much better because it reminds me that even if things get hard, I can try to live my life to the fullest and it gives me hope.

5. Melodrama by Lorde

Allison Barr: I think Melodrama by Lorde is a really good symbol of rebirth because it was only her second album, and released five years after her first. Her first album was about adolescence, and though her second is about that as well, it is explores themes of adulthood in a youthful way.

I listened to the first Lorde album throughout my high school years, and Melodrama came out after my first year of college right before I transferred to another school. The release day was while I was visiting New York for the first time, and I remember walking through the city at night listening to it in my headphones. I associate this album with my personal  fear of growing up, and the phenomenon of over-romanticizing those feelings because of the city.

6. "A Change of Heart" by The 1975

Charlotte Smith: What I love so much about this song is that it references lyrics to the song “Robbers” from The 1975’s previous album. In “Robbers,” Healy sings about a girl with “a face straight out of a magazine” with whom he is enamored. In “A Change of Heart," he references this, singing, “You used to have a face straight out of a magazine / Now you just look like anyone.” I always thought that was such a profound development: realizing you’ve been romanticizing someone and coming to terms with moving on.

I loved this song from the moment I heard it, probably because haunting, sad songs tend to be my favorites. This song has also helped me out when I’ve dealt with breakups or letting people go in my own life. Sometimes you have to let people go. Sometimes you need to have a change of heart.

Here are a few more from me.

7. "The Rose" - Bette Midler
8. "What Kind Of Love" - Childish Gambino
9. "Une Barque Sur L’océan" - Recorded by André Laplante (by Maurice Ravel)
10. "Green Arrow" - Yo La Tengo
11. "Purple Rain" - Prince
12. "Strawberry Swing" - Frank Ocean
13. "Coney Island Baby" - Lou Reed
14. "Sospetti e Tenerezze" - Ennio Morricone

Thanks to everyone who participated.

By Hannah Yang

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