Alive Through Sound: Songs for Class of 2023

By: JoAnn Snavely 

I have experienced a good bit of change over the past few months. I entered my senior year full of hope with my sights set on a prosperous year full of peace, love, and happiness. Although that has not necessarily been an accurate depiction of the past school year, one thing has rang true: I’m growing up. Now, as we enter 2023,  I prepare to turn 18, graduate, and go to college. I figured what better way to begin the year than to give Class of 2023 the ultimate playlist to get existential to, cry to, and just cherish the adolescence we once overlooked. 

In this fashion, I will be listing 7 songs that are perfect for Class of 2023 as we depart our primary school education and relish upon our past, present, and future.

“17” – The Greeting Committee

What better way to open this “playlist” than a song about being 17. Although this song doesn’t truly share a bittersweet sentiment about being 17, it shares one thing every 17 year old goes through–being overlooked. The Greeting Committee tells this increasingly exciting story about being a teen and the exciting parts of it. We’re learning as we’re growing up, and we’re realizing life isn’t all that easy. As much as that may be true, we do know one thing, we are self-aware, we’re not stupid, and we’re most certainly capable of making our own decisions. This isn’t a coming-of-age movie; it’s dark, grimey, and painful. Sh*t happens, and we’re just learning and loving as we go on. We live as a generation of kids who had to grow up far too fast in an age of technology, politics, and a disastrous climate crisis. We deserve more credit than we’re given, and this song talks just about that:

“My God, there it goes

Another fight I couldn’t let go

My God, there it is, he’s saying I’m too young for this

Do my thoughts mean a thing if I never know what I mean

He says, ‘My God, you’re only 17’”

“Never Grow Up” – Taylor Swift

Now, we’re doing a very aggressive 360 and moving onto the one song that has been single-handedly breaking the hearts of the majority of the Class of 2023. “Never Grow Up” is by Taylor Swift and was written during a time where she was… growing up. The song depicts the beauty of being a child and the painless moments that felt so meaningless. It’s about how,in times like now, it’s hard to not look back and cry. It progresses to the more angsty parts of our childhood–our teen years. Those fights with mom or making her drop you off early because you were mortified of your parents dropping you off. The incessant need to be grown up and feel like you’re not a child. Now here we are a few years later, driving ourselves to school, work, and everything in between; but instead of yearning to be 20 and on your own, we’re terrified of growing up. It turns out those moments you wished would end became moments you wish you’d never leave. Being young was simple, it came easy to us, and we didn’t have a care in the world.  Taylor somehow puts all of those fears into words in one of the most beautiful acoustic songs of our time: 

“Oh, darlin’, don’t you ever grow up

Don’t you ever grow up

It could stay this simple

I won’t let nobody hurt you

Won’t let no one break your heart

And even though you want to

Please try to never grow up”

“Do Not Wait” – Wallows

Get ready for 6 minutes and 31 seconds of utter pain. This is the closing song from Wallows’ 2019 album Nothing Happens–it’s an album about adolescence and all of the pains going through it. This song, however, recognizes this time-honored, relatable experience in the best way possible. I broke this song and album down in depth in an article earlier this year, and I will be directly quoting it simply because “this song really embodies the teenage experience and is part of why this album defined my teenage years.” Lyrics like:

You will say you’re dreaming up a way

You’re dreaming up a way to explode

There’s a time you’ll seek out a disguise

When you think people hate you the most

And it gets worse before it gets better

That’s one thing that I have come to know

Just so you know

make it so personal to me because I spent a lot of my teenage years dreaming about when they’d be over and all of the ways I’d leave. The need to just go out and have those  moments that I can only experience away from my hometown. These lyrics also reflect on all the insecurities that are sprinkled throughout the album, the insecurities that this album brought me to terms with. In an interview with Coup De Main, Dylan Minnette tells the story of this song by explaining, “There’s going to be so many moments in your life and your teen years that feel like things are the end of the world and they feel like such a big deal and they can never get better, but everything does get better. Everything happens for a reason and everything is going to be ok.” Something so unique, yet understated about this song is the way the bridge goes back and forth by talking about experiences you have as a teenager that seem so world-changing and echoing the line Nothing Happens throughout. This is so symbolic because these experiences–as difficult as they may be now– are nothing. Nothing really matters in the long run, and every road bump leads to something new. This song plays as a reminder that although your teenage years are 9 grueling years of your life… Nothing Happens. 

Break a promise to your ex

(Nothing happens)

You are terrified of s**

(Nothing happens)

The first time is humiliating

(Nothing happens)

Something you’ll want to forget

(Nothing happens)

Your parents will eventually separate

(Nothing happens)

Dad’s stuff in trash bags and in the pool

(Nothing happens)

Oh guess what? You have a sister now

(Nothing happens)

And as you go on and s**t gets hard, don’t worry about me”

“Small Talk”  and “St. Augustine”- Briston Maroney

“Small Talk” is a bit different than the rest on this list. As the rest of these songs reflect on the presence of fleeting youth, this song reminisces on it a few years down the line. It’s about those simple moments where we run into an old friend or someone who meant everything in our past to only strike up “Small Talk” years later. These people who used to mean everything to us just drift away. And that’s ok. Although Maroney seems to be growing frustrated with this small talk, it’s a stark reflection of that childhood we’re leaving behind and how little it’ll mean to us in the future.

“St. Augustine” is off of the same EP as “Small Talk” and shares a similar sentiment about looking back on our childhood. Instead of the “small talk” being overdone and annoying, Maroney wishes he could live in those moments forever. He misses that childhood he once had; he tells stories about the friends he once knew and how hard it was to leave those chance meetings. The anxiety following those interactions and the complacency he feels in regards to it– so much pent up emotion is embedded in this song that I can’t simply address it all in this article. It is one that needs to be listened to in order to be experienced.

“And oh no, did I say too much?

And I don’t wanna seem like I was in a rush

And someday soon, the sun will shine

But until then, I’ll take my place in line”

“Junior Varsity” – Dayglow

This song is extra special to me. My freshman year, I was tasked with creating a poem about where I’m from, and where I’m going. Long story short, I used this song as the background music to tell the tale of how I was growing up and what I imagined my future would be like. Although, I pictured myself in a big city like NYC or LA and living a life away from NC, I used this song as the backbone for that childhood and the way I imagined it. There is one crucial factor of this song– change. This song compares growing up to changing like the seasons and reminds us that although we change, it’s all the same. We may go to college and feel alone but we’re not, we’re just swimming in a new sea. This is an important reminder for us as we move on… we’re not alone, we’re just changing. 

“Oh, it’s the same old fish

Swimming in a new sea

And times don’t change

But they can surely leave

Oh, everything here

Has pointed you this way

And I see it so clear

It’s the reason we were made 

Can you feel that change?”

“(If) the Book Doesn’t Sell” – Ritt Momney

I must say in any other context, this song wouldn’t make a ton of sense, so I will be contextualizing for you. This is a song all about learning to make up your own mind, as scary as it may be. Ritt Momney is the stage name belonging to Jack Rutter. Rutter uses this song as a way to explore a bunch of feelings he had as he grew up. He uses religion as a way to explain this. He talks about the past and the unknowing aspects of literally leaving the earth. There are so many layers to this song so I decided to annotate it:

Regardless of the way you interpret this song, it is an important message as we grow up and to remember to continue looking past the dark things we may experience.

Honorable Mention: “The Spins” – Mac Miller

This song isn’t sad at all, just fun. Being 17/18 is fun, and there are so many memories we get to make. We need to live in the moment and have fun while we can. We will look back on these memories when we’re old and gray… Just make sure we can look back and smile (i.e. don’t live regretfully). Because, as terrifying as the year 2023 may seem, we have our entire lives ahead of us. Be 18, be stupid, and live through your adolescence with every fleeting moment. As cheesy as it is, we have one life, we might as well live it.

‘Alive through Sound’ Series

This is the sixth installment of the ‘Alive through Sound’ series at the herald. Check out the last article in the series ‘Alive through Sound: ‘Midwestern Emo is Here to Stay’ where I break down the phenomenon that is Midwestern emo. Check out the playlist for the Class of 2023 (linked below) where I put a few additional songs that share the same sentiment about growing up.

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