To tell the truth, this could be the last time: Scene-ior Selections
No matter what the denizens of Scene past will tell you, the class of 2017 is a special one. Notoriously banned for writing music reviews during their freshman year in an attempt to publish articles on someone besides Kanye West, this year’s Scene-iors are perhaps the most in-tune in the section’s history. They can be found complaining about the playlist at the local bar, throwing a dance party in the WVFI broadcasting studio and holding concerts in their own houses whenever possible. The only sensible goodbye is a musical one.
For this week’s Scene Selections, we present a set of tracks that, in one way or another, represent our time here at Notre Dame. These are tracks we have great love for. We hope that in either our stories or our songs, you can share in the love we have for this wonderful section. Maybe you’ll even be inspired to write about a song you love, something that you just have to submit to Scene, something that leads you to find and fall in love with a community that has added so much to our lives. Go ahead — put on your headphones and open a word document. As any Scene-ior can tell you: that’s how it starts.
David Bowie — “Changes”
By Erin McAuliffe
And there I was, jumping on a bare mattress in a living room. Tears wet my face, trickling further down my cheeks every time my feet sunk into the cushioned springs. I was wailing the lyrics to “Changes” by David Bowie with a Papa John’s pizza crust in my fist.
I was a junior and it was May. My friends from WVFI were graduating. Bowie had died back in January, only a few months after I returned from study abroad. I had taken a Music In London class overseas and been deeply engaged in Bowie’s discography and evolution in the months before his death. It was a death that occurred too soon after I was effectively introduced to him.
So there I was, listening to a now-dead artist surrounded by people I also seemed to have met too close to their departure. College is hard that way. You meet friends but some relationships seem to have expiration dates. I hated that the friends I made were taken away from me in waves every May.
Thankfully, my niche Notre Dame communities at the radio and newspaper somehow managed to corral a new wave of friends with every one that dispersed into the sand, gathering new people to talk about Kanye and Death Grips with from all corners of campus every year.
To my fellow Scene kids with a few years left: “Oh, look out you (lil) rock ‘n rollers / Pretty soon you’re gonna get older.” If you’re looking for musical accompaniment throughout your college evolution, Bowie was the king of phases and changes.
Chance The Rapper — “Angels”
By Jack Riedy
Acid Rap dropped in the twilight of high school, soundtracking the following summer. Arriving on campus, I was astonished that fellow freshmen from across the country knew a mixtape that at the time was a distinctly regional sensation. “Juice” and “Favorite Song” were dorm party favorites and each new collaboration garnered at least a few plays. At the time, his underground following and proximity to South Bend made him perfect for a spring concert. Now he’s headlining Lollapalooza. Alas.
Chano released “Angels” in the fall of 2015. It appeared unceremoniously on his Soundcloud on an October Tuesday. I was in the midst of a semester in Europe, and I desperately missed home and all that came with it. Chance devoted a whole bar of his first verse to four straight “igh igh igh igh”s for his fans, and it felt like he had flown transatlantic to give me a hug. I played the track on loop for an hour straight. All semester, I never stopped. With closing shout-outs to Chicago rap radio playing in my earbuds, I could fool myself into thinking the Thames was just another part of Lake Shore Drive. The chorus was all the affirmation I needed, that I had angels waiting for me across the ocean.
Back on campus, the song never echoed out of windows like “No Problem” or “All Night” did. Maybe the beat is too fast to dance, the lyrics too earnest to yell. It’s not the “blueprint for a real man,” but it’s the closest I’ve got. “Angels” has always been there, at my lowest moments and my happiest. It just feels like home, wherever that is.
Nujabes feat. Shing02 — “Luv(sic) pt. 3”
By John Darr
When I came into Notre Dame, I brought an expectation that my growth in high school would make for an easy transition into college. I knew that I wanted to use college as a time to continue doing what I loved — sharing and creating art. Halfway through freshman year, I felt helpless to achieve this goal as my grades, relationships and moral center tanked. I had mistaken the strength I drew from the support of my family and old friends as my own.
Over the course of my time at Notre Dame, I slowly found myself learning to reach out for help. The love of my peers and parents eventually lifted me out of a deep hole until I could stand on my own. As I regained love for myself, I again found the will to share it through my music and teaching. As I prepare to leave Notre Dame, I look back on my time here and can see so clearly how much I owe others for the happiness I feel now. The communities I have found through my fellow Dublin study abroad students, Saint Mary’s teacher candidates, Carroll Hall residents and Observer Scene writers held me up when I felt I couldn’t stand on my own.
It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that music was my rock during my hardest experiences. I often leaned on hyper-joyful Owl City tracks to drag me out of my anxiety over the years; more recently, I turned to Bladee and Sun Kil Moon for musical companionship during times of intense sadness. Yet my favorite discovery during my senior year is the unabashedly compassionate “Luv(sic) pt.3” by Japanese producer Nujabes (Jun Seba) and Japanese-American emcee Shing02 (Shingo Annen).
Seba’s gorgeously organic melodies and delightfully smooth drum tracks provide the perfect bedrock for Annen’s fluent, reflective lyrics on love. Each bar passes with bittersweet beauty reminiscent of a Notre Dame spring or the farewell embrace of a friend. “It’s funny how music puts times in perspective / add a soundtrack to your life and perfect it / whenever you are feeling blue keep walking and we can get far / wherever you are,” rhymes Annen at the beginning of the track. There have been months, even years, in college where I doubted that companionship and love of music would be able to keep me moving forward. Yet given the emotional power of “Luv(sic) pt.3” and the unflagging support of my friends here, I can’t help but believe that Annen has been right all along.
Beyonce — “Formation”
By Kelly McGarry
In my time in college, my music tastes haven’t exactly aligned with many of my friends’. The soundtrack to memories like dorm room dance parties and laying out on the quad on a cherished sunny day is quite different than what’s blasting in my earbuds late at night in the library.
But during junior year there was one exception: “Lemonade.” All my closest friends anxiously awaited its release and when it came out, it was more than we could have imagined. The same song I listened to alone on repeat was the pump-up song for a night out.
This mainstream artist, whose previous themes fit the pop music norms, was suddenly making an important statement with her work. Acknowledging race in her music made people uncomfortable, especially in her performance at the Superbowl 50 halftime show.
The statement Beyonce made with “Formation” seems somehow fitting of my own experience; trying to figure out who I am in a college experience was seemingly so entrenched in conformity.
“Formation” is an anthem for standing up for yourself when you’re knocked down, saying what needs to be said even when it makes people uncomfortable. It’s an anthem to the people I’ve met here who empower each other. All my ladies who have lifted me up will always be an important part of these past four years.
In a few weeks we’ll get in formation at commencement, powerful and ready to stand up for what really matters to us. The people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had here have prepared me for that.
Kanye West — “Ultralight Beam”
By Jimmy Kemper
Kanye West, more than any other artist, has been fundamental to my experience here at Scene. I can’t count the number of articles, group texts, conversations, podcasts and arguments that he’s been a part of over the past four years. Whether we’re talking about our wildly different (yet equally valid) album rankings or our various accumulations of Yeezy merchandise, both real and knockoff, Kanye continues to be the glue that holds the ever-changing Scene together.
“Ultralight Beam” holds a particularly special place in my heart because it is the highlight of the only Kanye release during my time here. It captures all the highs and lows of the Notre Dame experience, the moments when you’re down on your luck struggling through finals as well as the times when you’re surrounded by your friends, yelling at the Finni’s DJ to put on some Kanye.
As the song says, “this is a god dream, this is everything.” Scene is everything, and I’m sure going to miss it next year.