Direct Your Attention: A more optimistic playlist

By Owen Mason-Hill

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Maybe it’s the recent afternoon sunshine or number of days over 60 degrees in the past week, but dammit, I’m feeling optimistic. I’ve spent the last year listening to (and writing about) music that reflects the distant and often lonely existence that quarantine forced us into. Looking into my Apple Music 2020 Replay, I found most of the playlist to be a reflection of a somber year — there wasn’t an exceptional amount to be excited for. But, every once in a while when the day was just right and aligned just so, I found myself jamming out to music that was entirely different; it was happy. 

I have assembled a somewhat random assortment of songs that reflect this newfound optimism. Maybe it’s the romantic in me, but springtime is in the air and so is the need for a good time. I’m not a music critic, but I’ve been inspired by the recent editions of “WRMC Radio Roundup” and wish to make a few picks of my own that I hope will offer you the same emotional jumpstart that they did for me. 

 

“Levitating” — Dua Lipa feat. DaBaby

This first pick is a two-for-one with a pair of easy selections for this list: Dua Lipa and DaBaby. There are few people in this world that seem more excited to perform than DaBaby. His happiness is palpable and every song he produces or appears on feels as though he couldn’t wait a moment longer to jump on the track. His excitement is infectious and pairs beautifully with his lyrical rhythm. There are few rappers — or musicians for that matter — that can create such movement with their voices that they seem to propel the beat forward, rather than the other way around. On this track, he is paired tremendously with perhaps the only other artist who can match his excitement and movement. Dua Lipa’s voice glides along like a pair of rollerskates, flowing back and forth with such ’70s groove that it is impossible not to admire. This song dominated the summer and with DaBaby’s additions, it has only improved tenfold. It is a match made in disco heaven. 

 

“Peaches” — Justin Bieber feat. Daniel Caesar & GIVĒON

I’ll be the first to say it: it’s not cool to hate Justin Bieber anymore. In the artist’s young but bright career, he has lived under the harsh, blinding lights that The Weeknd sings about and that flash from paparazzi cameras. Yet, after his marriage in 2018, Bieber seems to have found stable footing and is recreating his image. “Peaches” pairs Bieber’s love for his wife with an incredibly catchy hook that has been playing in my head nonstop since the song was released two weeks ago. The song is fun and its music video takes it up a notch. Along with Bieber, singular vocal talents Daniel Caesar and GIVĒON take part in the fun, reminiscing about their own affections and crooning about their love. I’m a fan of the new Justin Bieber and his happiness emanates throughout the track right into my ears. 

 

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“Peppers and Onions” — Tierra Whack

Tierra Whack’s style is as hard to pin down as it is eccentric. She is defining her own genre of music brought out by her lyrical tenacity, rap talent and abnormal beats. Though “Peppers and Onions” is a reconciliation with her newfound fame and public scrutiny, it ultimately lands on an optimistic tone of appreciating her own individuality. Coming off her eccentric and uniquely built album consisting of 15 one-minute songs, Whack released a pair of singles in late 2020 that proved an even deeper dive into her artistic distinction. “Peppers and Onions” draws its infectious beat from a combination of whistles and mouth clicks, whose strange combination is enrapturing. Whack inhabits a creative distinctiveness that demands attention. Her music is irreplicable. 

 

“13 Besties” — Henry Hall

This song is precisely what its title suggests: an ode to Hall’s 13 best friends. “I don’t see why I can’t show my love to you guys,” sings Hall in the chorus. “13 Besties” is clear in its premise and would otherwise be uninteresting if not for Hall’s patented pairing of humor and near-angelic falsetto. Hall is the son of acclaimed comedian and actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and his witty lyrics and lighthearted tones only seem to carry on the lineage. Hall boasts a wide array of best friends yet hints that not all know they’re a part of such a large group. “And despite what Amber says, there aren’t 12 other friends. Bill there’s only you,” insists Hall in his final verse. In a world where friends more easily gather on Zoom than in-person, I’ve had to overcome my jealousy of his 13 best friends in order to fully enjoy the song. It is witty, charming, playful and just well-executed to a point where it does not grow old after a listen or two. 

 

In addition to these songs, I recommend Anderson .Paak’s entire body of work, “If It Feels Good” by Leon Bridges, “New Light” by John Mayer, “No Ordinary” by Labrinth, “Good As Hell” (Remix) by Lizzo feat. Ariana Grande and “65th & Ingleside” by Chance the Rapper.