Notes on a Playlist: ‘cicada season’

Image courtesy of The Miscellany News.

Every 17 years in the greater Cincinnati area, something magically disgusting happens: the infamous Brood X cicadas emerge from their slumber as fully-matured adults, ready to take on the world and swarm the streets with their iconic shrieks. As cicada season overtook my hometown this past summer, I couldn’t help but notice the parallels between this insectile phenomenon and my own life: I was also 17, somewhere between being a child and an adult but not really feeling like either. The sickly heat added to my existential dread as I prepared for the transition to college. And even worse, a dead-end retail job had left me feeling disillusioned and depressed. I thought making a playlist would help me both put a name to this unique feeling and uneasily pass through it.

The playlist begins with two angsty songs: “good 4 u” by Olivia Rodrigo and “Zitti e buoni” by Måneskin. “good 4 u” represents the jealousy and FOMO I experienced as my friends worked fulfilling jobs and hung out all the time. Although I listened intently to one of my friends talk about the cute bunnies she got to work with on a farm, I couldn’t help but feel a little envious as I was mopping beer off the floor with paper towels at my job. “Zitti e buoni” is a little harder and sexier. The harsh, repetitive guitar in the background is reminiscent of a cicada, chirping its way into my brain. The lyrics are even more evocative: “I am out of my mind, but I’m not like the others.”

The following songs have a more positive tone, although “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” literally starts with the lyrics, “Jesus Christ, girl.” Father John Misty’s vocals are transcendental, like lemonade on the hottest day of the year. “Say Aha” by Santigold is one I stumbled across on Spotify, but now it’s one of my favorite songs. The lyrics are barely comprehensible, but full of fun and spirit. The song reminds me of the get-togethers I had with my friends in between work and ennui, sipping La Croix in our backyards and getting campfire smoke in our hair. 

I actually hate the next song (“Levitating” by Dua Lipa) with a burning passion because I heard it at every preppy, private school, horses-in-the-backyard grad party I attended this summer. However, I think it fits the playlist because it continues what the last two songs started by “Levitating” the vibe to something less angry. “Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood has good advice: “Don’t do it.” My love life was definitely moribund this summer, but what made me feel guilty about it was watching my entire friend group start dating each other. Even the cicadas were getting some. In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t jump into a relationship out of jealousy.

The last two songs are from my two favorite TV shows in the world, “Community” and “Gilmore Girls.” Both are a little wistful, yet sweet; a perfect way to wrap up the sluggish summer. Watching “Community” was how I bonded with my mom and sister over quarantine, so “At Least it Was Here” will always remind me of home and the nights we spent laughing together. As for “Gilmore Girls,” I still rewatch the first three seasons religiously. Seeing Rory often feels like staring into a mirror: we’re both shy bookworms who have complicated relationships with our mothers and aspire to become journalists. Her ambition and drive helped me metamorphosize out of my summer slump and focus on the future and college, rather than ruminating in doubt. However, no matter where I go or what I do, I’ll always have “My Little Corner of the World” in my family and friends back home.


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