Notes on a Playlist: “Soundtrack to Young Love”

I fell for Frank Ocean in November 2018, around the same time I struck up my first romance. Gazing pensively out of the window as I drove to the airport for the winter break of my junior year of high school, I listened to “Ivy” by Frank Ocean and the breath caught in my throat when he sang “I thought that I was dreaming when you said you loved me.” I remembered the flurry of excitement, uncertainty and disbelief that rushed through my head when he said those words to me just a few weeks prior, after I’d spent a month dreaming of him and passing glances I imagined he would never return.

I heard something different after New Year’s, when my romance crumbled as quickly as it had begun. “The start of nothing,” another “Ivy” lyric, described my new perspective on this fleeting relationship; it had been nothing significant from the start. I spent many nights around this time sitting awake in bed, writing poems until I could barely keep my eyes open, romanticizing memories of moments with my first love, and eventually processing his emotional manipulation. I used “Ivy” as a jumping-off point, using the aforementioned lyrics as the opening lines of my poems. 

I sought out music that encapsulated my emotions as life granted me more relationships, lusts and unrequited feelings. I wrote more poems inspired by the lyrics that resonated with me most. In retrospect, I created a soundtrack to my love life.

The story begins with “Get You” by Daniel Caesar, remarking upon the awe of knowing someone returned my feelings, and how, instantly, everything felt right. Next comes “Dark Red” by Steve Lacy, seductive and lustful tones accompanied by the feeling that something dark is ahead. The darker times are represented by Frank Ocean’s “Ivy,” while Donna Missal’s “Hurt By You” finds strength in moving beyond painful memories.

The playlist shifts in tone over time, evolving from dark, lusty RnB to Mitski and Snail Mail’s gentle sapphic yearning. It ends with “White Ferrari” by Frank Ocean, which contains the simple but provocative lyric “I care for you still,” evoking memories of the sweet, romantic relationship I left prematurely to come to Vassar. It brings to mind one particularly vivid memory of the day my significant other and I thought was our last together, in which we sat in traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway, hand in hand, with the windows rolled down, silently swaying to “GONE, GONE / THANK YOU” by Tyler, the Creator as I realized my feelings weren’t yet gone. 

In recent years, music and writing have allowed me to make sense of my feelings on a deeper level, as I’ve learned to love and allow myself to be loved. I carefully curated this playlist to embody the range of emotions I’ve felt over the whirlwind that has been my early adolescence. Listen to the intoxicating musings of Frank Ocean, Steve Lacy, Hozier, Mitski and more to feel desire, romance, empowerment, sorrow and yearning.

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