Culture Picks | Easy listening to manifest an easy semester

We’ve established that 2020 was not everything we wanted it to be. Here’s to a far better year.


It’s become apparent that some of the chaos of 2020 might have hitched a ride on to a year that some saw as a fresh start. 

So here’s a playlist curated by The Crimson White’s culture desk to help you get through the insurrection at the Capitol amid a ravaging pandemic, the storming of the Strip after the national championship and anything else the year has to offer.  

“Good Days,” SZA 

On Christmas Day, SZA released her single “Good Days” after giving her fans a taste of the track as an outro in her music video for “Hit Different” featuring Ty Dolla Sign. Since that day, the world seemed a little brighter. 

With her melodic vocals and a simple 808 accompanied by a complex background full of strings, chirping birds and the faintest sounds of kids at play, “Good Days” feels like the perfect song to get lost in. 

In her lyrics, SZA showcases her own need to distance herself from past negativity in the hope of finding a better future, which mirrors a universal move toward something better than the complete mayhem of 2020. 

“Get Well Soon,” Ariana Grande

Released in 2018 on her album, “Sweetener,” “Get Well Soon” stands out not only because of the impeccable vocals that Grande showcases but because of the track’s overall message. 

In this song, Grande openly discusses her own anxiety and offers this track to comfort people suffering from mental health issues. 

The song stands as a reminder that, yes, things will get dark, but you’re not alone, and it’s okay to ask for help because you can “work your way to the top.” It’s a message that seems needed now more than ever. 

“This Life,” Vampire Weekend

“This Life,” the third single from Vampire Weekend’s 2019 album, “Father of the Bride,” is an indie rock song reminiscent of two things every American dad seems to love: trips to the lake and Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl.” 

This track subdues the listener with toe-tapping verses and an even catchier repeating chorus, only for the lyrics to convey a stark contrast. 

Singer Ezra Koenig writes about a relationship clouded with uncertainty and apprehension, feelings all too familiar for most navigating life in a pandemic. 

As his voice shimmers against whipping guitar chords and synchronized handclaps, Koenig sings about him and his lover recognizing the pitfalls of their relationship. 

“Alive,” Pearl Jam

You’ll find this song on various easy listening radio stations, as it is the most radio-friendly of tracks from Seattle’s quintessential grunge band, Pearl Jam. But do not let this earworm fool you. 

Eddie Vedder opens the song with his mother notifying him of his father’s death. He realizes that the man he believed to be his father was not his father at all. 

The song had initial grim undertones for the singer, but in an episode of “VH1 Storytellers,” Vedder said the song has new meanings for him following its positive reception.

Vedder said the song was originally about a boy baffled by his own situation, but it now stands as a fight song for millions. 

Despite the album “Ten” being released in August 1991, Vedder has retold his tale for 30 years following its first demo in January of that year.

“Good Day,” Nappy Roots

Released in 2008 on rap group Nappy Roots’ album, “The Humdinger,” “Good Day” is a lighthearted song about positivity and how any day can be turned into a good day despite whatever is going on. 

“Good Day,” is a very upbeat song that only uses voices and a piano. Throughout the song, the same keys on the piano are played on repeat to make a consistent and optimistic song. 

And though the song was released in 2008, it still holds relevance. In fact, the song was featured in a Cincinnati Bengals promotional video in 2018. 

“Don’t Worry You Will,” lovelytheband

With over 11 million plays on Spotify, “Don’t Worry, You Will” was released on the native Los Angeles band lovelytheband’s first EP, “Everything I Could Never Say…,” in 2017. 

With all the hallmarks of a lovelytheband song – an electronic beat, a whistle instrumental and vocals that don’t try too hard – “Don’t Worry You Will” is exciting, yet easygoing. 

In fact, the song’s upbeat rhythm and carefree air might mislead you, but the lyrics speak of anxiety and insecurity, creating a divergence that’s magnetic. 

“Coloring Outside the Lines,” Misterwives    

“Coloring Outside The Lines” is a quintessential feel-good indie-pop track. 

The track feels right at home within Misterwives’ 2017 album, “Connect The Dots,” an album that is perfect for a long drive with the windows down, singing in the shower or getting ready to go out.

“Connect The Dots” is loud, colorful and fun – clearly shaped by the band’s lives in New York City. And with this bright collection of songs, it is easy to, for a moment, dance away the worries of the day. If you need another reason to listen, lead singer Mandy Lee’s powerful, distinctive sound will reel you in. 

“Reflecting Light,” Sam Phillips

If you need a feel-good folk song to dramatically walk across the Quad to, then look no further than “Reflecting Light” by Sam Phillips.

Released in 2004, “Reflecting Light” is just as much poetry as it is music. The lyrics are soft and filled with beautiful imagery about releasing sadness and finally romanticizing your life. The perfect song to listen to when life seems a bit overwhelming, “Reflecting Light” is calming and reassuring, especially with Phillips’s beautiful vocals over soft guitar strums.

“The Promise,” When in Rome

“The Promise” is the gift that keeps on giving. Released by one-hit-wonder band When In Rome in 1988, “The Promise” is an upbeat love ballad with the perfect eighties pop sound. 

“The Promise” is only for people who like that specific eighties pop synth sound, but if you can get past that, it’s the ideal upbeat, feel-good song. 

Featured in the hit movie “Napoleon Dynamite,” “The Promise” is about a man professing his promise to love and take care of his lover forever. It’s perfectly sweet, feel-good eighties music that’ll leave you with a little pep in your step.

“100 Bad Days,” AJR

“100 Bad Days” is a song that we all could use to remind us that there is light at the end of the struggle. 

Released in 2019 by pop band AJR, this upbeat anthem talks about broken bones and broken hearts over an electro-synth beat while reminding the listener that the trials and tribulations we all go through in life make for a better party story and better you. 

If you’re a fan of Jon Bellion or Zedd, AJR has a very similar new pop vibe. This song is great if you’re trying to power through a difficult workout or if you just need to scream-sing in your car.

“Invisible String,” Taylor Swift

This dreamy love song is included on Taylor Swift’s 2020 album, “Folklore,” which was one of the two albums the singer/songwriter released last year. 

The song plays over plucky guitar chords and has the overall feel of an acoustic version of a pop song performed for an NPR Tiny Desk concert. While it is about love, the song also holds a sentimentality for different periods and places we hold on to throughout our lives and eventually share with those we care about, which will make anyone feel warm and fuzzy. 

Even without listening to the lyrics, the melody and overall feel of the song is something that makes the listener take a second to be calm and bob their head to the beat.

Assistant Culture Editor Jeffrey Kelly, staff reporters Annabelle Blomeley and Tara Davenport and contributing writers Josh LeBerte, Claire Yates and Heather Gann contributed to this story.