Arts

Playlists capture personal connection in a time of separation

I, Anupras, came into this semester facing a new responsibility. This was my first semester taking on the mantle of Opinion Editor, hoping this role would add color to my life. Lucky for me, my co-editor Sam Jones turned out to be an effervescent breath of fresh air — any apprehensions I had about working together with another person had been put to ease. The very first thing I noticed about her, way back in January (which now feels like 10 years ago) was that we had the exact same headphones. Months down the line, it would stand for a lot more than just mere coincidence. 

I, Sam, came back in the spring as an editor for the fourth semester in a row. I felt comfortable in my responsibilities, and was mainly focused on looking forward — what I wanted to do before I left The Daily Cardinal, my sights set for graduation. I have been co-editors with a few very different types of people, and genuinely had no idea how things with Anupras would go. One thing I did know, however, by listening to him chime in when we talked about music or our other interests in the office, was that Anupras was really into Coldplay, a band I had once religiously listened to, but had since replaced. 

Seeing music artists, celebrities and even UW Senior Class Office sharing playlists these days, we felt it was only right we looked back at how we made playlists for each other, to show the world just how powerful music can be — especially during these unprecedented times.

It only makes sense that we start this off by looking at when and why we made playlists for each other. 

As COVID-19 wreaked havoc in early March, it had become clear that drastic measures would be taken by the university in response to the pandemic. On March 11, 2020, a historic announcement was made. In-person classes were to be suspended and we would be shifting to a virtual experience, with residence halls shutting down for everyone except international students like me. This also naturally spelled the end of print publication of The Daily Cardinal for the semester. That fateful Wednesday turned out to be our Last Night Of Print, which we coined "LNOP."

On an emotionally charged day, as Sam and I waited for a free computer to lay out our page on, I decided to talk about Pink Floyd. I had decided to do some discovering of my own, listening to some of their chart-toppers as I wanted to know what made Sam such a big fan of their music. Of course, I was met with unbridled enthusiasm. Sam decided then and there that she would make me a playlist on Spotify. 

On a day where many heartfelt goodbyes and “see you later”s were exchanged, the playlist was among the most precious things I took back with me. A few days later, I made her a playlist too. I had to — I loved her playlist and I thought she should be able to glimpse into my world too.

After making Anupras a playlist, I knew it was inevitable that one would be coming my way. And being the pretentious person that I am, I mentally prepared myself for music that I thought I was going to absolutely hate — sorry, Anupras — and would have to pretend to enjoy it. I was sorely mistaken. Classics by The White Stripes and Lynyrd Skynyrd slated between the unknowns certainly piqued excitement — and thus, the playlists lived on.  

As lockdowns extended from days to weeks to months, the playlists grew. The expansion of playlists almost served as a metaphor for our advancing friendship in these testing times. COVID-19 could not stop us from doing our duties for the Opinion Desk and it most certainly could not stop us from being us, as we continued to talk about the mundane, the funny and the deep, adding songs to the playlists and discussing music along the way as well. 

The playlist Sam made for me largely reflected my existing taste — alternative, indie rock stuff usually laden with meaningful lyrics, although some songs — like “Zombies” by Childish Gambino and “Tennis Court” by Lorde — thrown into the mix were certainly not the kind I would ordinarily find myself listening to. Groups like Dr. Dog, Hippo Campus, Ritt Momney and Vacationer, to name a few, would probably never have come to my attention had Sam not made the playlist. As a non-American, it is great being introduced to niche, American groups with limited followings that make some great music. 

On the other hand, I was surprised by how much the playlist Anupras made for me aligned with my own tastes. The remastered version of “Don’t Look Back In Anger” by Oasis tugged my nostalgic heart strings, while I’m pissed Spotify never included “The Runner” by Foals and “Comeback Kid” by Kasabian in my highly-valued Discover Weekly. Perhaps the most interesting part about this playlist is its international influences, however. Despite the fact that neither of us speak German or Spanish, “Endlich ein Grund zur Panik” by Wir Sind Helden and “El Microfono” by Mexican Institute of Sound creeped onto the playlist — and will stay — serving cool vibes and some groovy chaotic energy. These inclusions, in addition to some emotionally-driven tracks, pushed me out of my garage punk comfort zone, reminding me of the importance of genre diversity. 

Now that we’ve gone on and on about ourselves, it is time we made a case for why more people should make playlists for the people they care about.

Firstly, it is a great way of showing someone how much you care about them. Curating a collection of songs you love, but also keeping the other person’s interests in mind, is certainly an activity that can help easily establish how much you care about someone.

Keeping curation in mind, the songs picked for a playlist could be used to communicate in a way. Throw in an energetic song for when the person you care about needs a boost, or toss in an emotional tear-jerker for when they need to cry. Songs can establish a myriad of sentiments and emotions. When used wisely, you’re bound to advance in your relationships.

Similarly, music is a sort of placeholder for in-person interaction. During social distancing we all may be texting or Snapchatting more often, but this is not the same as face-to-face time. Rather, music creates an ambience — a mood, a tone, a general sense of belonging. While we are unsure as to when we will be back to seeing folks regularly in real life, these playlists ensure we are always around, living rent-free in the minds of the other person. 

Music, in general, holds memories of places we’ve been to and things we’ve done with someone, almost like a time capsule, empowering us to keep moving forward. Our playlists will always serve as a reminder of how this pandemic impacted us, but we will emerge out of it stronger than before. It will serve as a beacon of history, reminding us of how the world turned upside down in a matter of days and our response to it.

So while our time together within Vilas Hall may be over, regardless of where we end up (and what we decide to listen to along the way), we still have these playlists — and the same headphones to listen to them with. 

Anupras is a freshman studying Computer Science. Sam is a senior studying Journalism with certificates in Development Economics and Environmental Studies. 

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