The notorious meme compels us all to ask ourselves: Why am I crying in the club right now? Maybe it’s a Saturday night, you’re fist pumping to whatever song you wish the DJ had skipped over. You find yourself in a philosophical daze, thinking, “Wow, why is my life like this? Who am I? Am I who my younger, high school self wanted to be? And wow, in a hop, skip and a jump away, I’m deadass going to be 30.” Such were thoughts that sloshed around in my Soju logged brain as I danced away at Club Octagon in Seoul, South Korea—an affair that saw me through the dark of a Friday night to the dawn of a Saturday morning (not to mention a trip to the police station and an impromptu sleepover at a bathhouse). But moving on—so you’re in a space where you’re supposed to be having a ball, and then all of a sudden, you just want to sit down and sob because you’re swirling down the drain of intense self-reflection; it’s a brutal battle in which your mind says “weep” but your body says “dance!” It’s a discourse we’ve probably all experienced at some point; it’s confusing and I wish I could “make it make sense” for you—but I can’t, so here are a few tunes that can!
So if you’re in the mood to get the party started but can’t shake off the weight of whatever it is that is making you kind of emo on an irregular basis, look no further! Get up, grab some tissues, and get ready to bust a cry to these five songs that, in my opinion, are crazy fly.
Lady Gaga, “Free Woman” [TW: mention(s) of sexual assault]
“Free Woman” is the fifth track of Lady Gaga’s “Chromatica,” an album that will undoubtedly force you to reflect upon and celebrate life through the art of dance. The lyrics detail Lady Gaga’s growth in her journey toward becoming an artist who not only creates, but overcomes. In “Free Woman”, she recounts her experience of being sexually assaulted. In an interview for Apple Music, Lady Gaga said, “It’s me going, ‘I‘m no longer going to define myself as a survivor, or a victim of sexual assault. I just am a person that is free, who went through some fucked-up shit.” Unlike the other songs on this list, “Free Woman” is rhythmically steady; the consistent and bright punch of the piano melody, paired with an enveloping house-like drum beat, embraces and emboldens Gaga’s vocals. As you listen, you are urged to break free from whatever is weighing you down—emotionally and physically. I am very much unfamiliar with dance, but “Chromatica” still managed to reimagine and color my understanding of its practice. When I hear “Free Woman,” I find myself envisioning the ways in which dance can allow you to transcend the limits of the body and give your soul the chance to burst from the confines of a heart drunk on newfound freedom—one that Lady Gaga pushes her listeners to discover and tailor for themselves.
Fletcher, “Forever (SOPHIE REMIX)”
SOPHIE, the renowned Scottish DJ and singer-songwriter (not to mention Grammy nominee), works her eclectic magic on Fletcher’s “Forever.” It’s in one fell swoop that SOPHIE overcomes the original version’s trite lyrics, slow pace and awkward electric guitar riff. In order to give the remix a particularly melancholy spin, SOPHIE continually pans the unique sound of each instrument from ear to ear in an almost ghostly pendulum-like motion (first-time listeners, grab your earbuds or headphones for the full effect). By blending the bouncy kick drum, pulsating synths and ethereal bell chimes, SOPHIE thoroughly explores the different textures of each instrument while adding dimension to an originally lackluster song. In the midst of that harmony, you might hear a sudden squeak or crack; some of the samples she uses make a single appearance and have ambiguous sources, but this confusion largely speaks to SOPHIE’s characteristically experimental and eccentric techniques, which are relatively toned down in this track. Note: although I ragged on the non-remixed version, I will say that the message of the lyrics are relatable and will definitely bum you out while you’re out on the town.
New Order, “Bizarre Love Triangle (’94 version)”
“Bizarre Love Triangle” is peak 1980s electronic dance club culture and will, without a doubt, get you moving, whether in the club or on your commute from Skinner to Kenyon. What makes the ’94 version so cool is its efficient instrumentation: the electronic instruments whose sounds are repurposed from the original redefine the overall mood of the song to better fit the surprisingly heartbreaking lyrics. This version masterfully highlights the touch of sadness while also maintaining the upbeat, ecstatic liberties of the resplendent synth, bass and strings. Furthermore, if you really keep your ears open, you might hear the cheerful and beloved ding of a wild cow bell. The melody is gripping, especially near the end at the 2:45 mark, right after the start of the instrumental break. It fades in and out with a deep, nostalgic resonance that makes you want to reminisce about the moments in life that you can’t help but miss, but are glad to have moved on from.It’s like a soothing syrup for my ears—I won’t waste your time trying to explain why. It seriously makes me want to bawl.. But all praise should go to the bassline. Bottom line, the bass is the glue that unites the chippy, glitch-like synth with the up-and-down glide of the virtual strings. Note: I’ve only managed to find this on YouTube, so if you’re feeling rebellious, you can just convert the video into an audio file and load it up on your phone (which I did, to the disappointment of my FBI agent).
Charli XCX & Troye Sivan, “1999 [Alphalove Remix]”
While the chances of you being both a current Vassar student and a ’99 baby are pretty decent, the chances of you being able to remember the year 1999 are likely less so. But rest assured, the title of this track doesn’t tell the whole story. The Alphalove Remix of Charli XCX’s “1999” plunges full throttle into the world of Eurodance and disco as it takes the listener on a galactic journey into the ’90s. In this version, the piano takes center stage with a newfound clarity and energy that is a bit less present in the original; it jumps, it leaps, and it throws itself against your listening ear with abundant joy. As I sing my praises for the piano, I also cannot deny the power of its marriage with the hand claps that bounce through the song. Hand claps, while a commonly used sample across all electronic dance music subgenres, add a special atmosphere that one should always be able to find in a club (the good ones, anyway). I don’t know about you, but I feel like clapping during a song drags you into the vibe of a room, whether you like it or not—and then, all of a sudden, you become a part of a tightly-packed throng in the middle of the dance floor, where shyness and hesitation are replaced with camaraderie and liberation. This song celebrates the experience of remembering the past while encouraging you to have a great time in the present. Anyway, who knows? At least in my opinion, I think it could be pretty cool if our current selves could go back—that is, back to 1999.
070 Shake, “Guilty Conscience”
For those of you who are looking to change up the pace, I present to you 070 Shake’s “Guilty Conscience.” Guilty Conscience is the fifth track of Shake’s debut album, “Modus Vivendi,” and it is a slow, ’80s prom-night-esque romantic bop that will fold you into its velvety flow. The introduction’s opening synths continue dreamily throughout the song and work in tandem with Shake’s vocals which are beautifully layered. Shake leans into her voice as she sings, and its gravitational pull creates a notable contrast against the seemingly airy and pixelesque instruments that sound how I imagine glitter would if it could make a sound. Altogether, they conjure the emotion one might feel after being left alone in a basketball gym, under a spinning disco ball, because your prom date ran off with their ex to get ice cream at McDonald’s. I also found the song reminiscent of classic 80’s hits, like Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” and Spandau “Ballet’s True.” Ultimately, this song is super pleasing to the ear and—because of how slow it is—it also makes for a perfect end to a long night out.