Photo by Lauren Tepfer
Playlist for Growing Up
Our bodies sway with the music’s movement. Twirl with the change of key. It feels like that moment before the sky opens.
By Naava Guaraca
“Don’t Know Why” - Norah Jones
To set the scene as we get started on this journey together: we’re on a blue street. The twilight hangs low in the sky. These are what Joan Didion described as the blue nights: “The actual light is blue, and over the course of an hour or so this blue deepens, becomes more intense even as it darkens and fades.” Our bodies sway with the music’s movement. Twirl with the change of key. It feels like that moment before the sky opens.
The opening jazz piano notes to this song get me every time. An old coworker introduced me to this album—it felt sort of like a love letter at the time. Like she’d handed me a piece of her soul. I loved her for it. This entire album feels like a gently preserved piece of my childhood that got lost in the move. Norah’s voice, sweet and slow like honey: My heart is drenched in wine / But you’ll be on my mind forever. It’s the best-kept secret I’ve ever heard.
“Vienna” - Billy Joel
I’ve returned to “Vienna” over and over, whenever change is at the forefront of my life. This song holds so much comfort, creates so much space. The urging nature of it, the when will you realize, as though that’s all it takes and it doesn’t ever have to be simpler than that. Everything moves so quickly now, and the world appears to be ending, and sometimes it feels like there’s either multitudes of time left or none at all. But then you remember that Vienna waits for you. So in the end, it’s all okay.
“17” - Youth Lagoon
When I was seventeen / My mother said to me / ‘Don’t stop imagining, the day that you do’s the day that you die’
I’ll save the explanation for whenever I decide to finally write about what being a seventeen-year-old girl felt like. Know this: I tattooed the number 17 on my wrist when I was a junior in high school and had just heard this song for the first time. I’ll live and die by these lyrics for a long time to come.
“Strange” - Celeste
Isn’t it strange / How people can change / From strangers to friends / Friends into lovers / And strangers again
This song is languid and slow, full of meditations on what it means when it feels like life has passed us by and people have come and gone. It’s beautiful. It meshes wonderfully with what we’ve been given with “Vienna” and grows the existential dread. But not too much. It keeps us rooted in the knowledge that things will always be strange, but that doesn’t mean they have to be so scary.
“Time” - Pink Floyd
This is the moment during the playlist when everything breaks loose. It becomes clear what we’re doing here. There’s progression to this thing called “growing up.” You’re the furthest from childhood you’ve ever been. A bell rings. Clocks chime and clash. The two-minute-long crescendo. The suspense building and building until you’re unsure you’ll ever reach the other side. Finally, the story begins. The dust settles. Scenery appears in front of you and you squint to catch your bearings. Kicking around on a piece of ground in your hometown. Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.
The real hard-hitting line comes about halfway through. The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older. Ouch.
“Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” - Arcade Fire
If I was a Euphoria character, I’d blast this song through my wired headphones and go for a really long bike ride through that forest that takes Jules and Rue home, and then I’d drop my bike against the curb and dramatically dance through the middle of the street, spinning and spinning until the world around me looked like a mess of yellow and blue light.
This song is sweet, sweet intimacy neatly packed into your childhood home: Sometimes, we remember bedrooms / And our parents’ bedrooms / And the bedrooms of our friends.
And the real kicker: Since there’s no one else around / We let our hair grow long / And forget all we used to know / Then our skin gets thicker / From living out in the snow.
“jealousy, jealousy” - Olivia Rodrigo
Olivia picks us up right where Arcade Fire put us down to hit us with a little bit of 21st-century fear. In this song exist both the perpetual anger and endless desire that accompanies doomscrolling. Social media has created spaces that are inherently comparative. We watch the lives of others spin in circles as we ourselves feel stagnant. It’s not a generally fun place to be. It’s not the real world. It’s often the opposite. The feeling lives inside Olivia’s c-comparison. It’s 2021’s old-school, Paramore-style rage. HAPPIER. PRETTIER. JEALOUSY. JEALOUSY.
“TALES OF DOMINICA“ - Lil Nas X
A two-minute interjection, a special taste of Lil Nas X’s genius on his otherwise fantastic album that better win a Grammy this year or I may have to b*rn down the Recording Academy.
I’m finally grown, ain’t nothing like I hoped it would be / Out on my own, I’m floating in an oceanless sea.
“Godspeed” - Frank Ocean
Whenever things feel like too much, I just remember: there will be mountains you won’t move. Still, I’ll always be there for you. The James Blake cover hits as well, made even more special by his and Frank’s joint songwriting. Though when it comes to my mental wellbeing, I’m not sure these two should’ve ever been allowed into a studio together. But here we are. The table is prepared for you.
“All These Things That I’ve Done” - The Killers
[SCREAMING] I’M SO MUCH OLDER THAN I CAN TAKE!!!!!
“All My Friends” - LCD Soundsystem
Eight minutes of growing emotional suspense—this one speaks for itself. This song has defined a generation and it persists still. It’s the exact feeling of coming home in the early morning after a perfect night out and time spent with people you love. This song cradles you and holds you in its warmth. The melancholic nostalgia somehow feels useful rather than detrimental. It’s a perfect way to slow the existential rollercoaster we’ve been on for the past fifty minutes.
“23” - Wallice
I just can’t wait to be / All grown up and 23 / Tell me what is wrong with me / I miss my Ohio fake ID
And as a P.S. to officially close us out, this fantastic ditty about exactly what it feels like to one day wake up and realize you’re on the cusp of 23—especially when the last thing you remember is being 20 and living in your parents’ house. Love to the girl below. She gave it all she could.
Listen to the playlist here.