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The stories behind our all-time favorite songs

By Team YS Published Dec 04, 2019 6:00 am

Music is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Need a motivation to finish your 5k run? Play Formation by Beyoncé. Crying your heart out after a heartbreak? Play Supercut by Lorde. Feeling warm and cozy on a summer afternoon? Play Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves.

Music is that one thing that will always be there for us, and will make our favorite moments more meaningful. 

As 20-somethings whose daily lives would often feel incomplete in the untimely event that we accidentally leave our earphones at home, music, suffice to say, is a big part of our lives. Picking a favorite song among all good releases and artists was surprisingly difficult.

And thanks to all the Karpos Live shows that we went to this year, the list of good music was never ending. It took us quite some time to round up our all-time faves, but here’s what we’ve got, and we’re sharing the stories behind them:

The Modern Age by The Strokes

When I came to recognize The Modern Age as a favorite song, I was in the middle of a four-month summer (what was supposed to be my last in university) and questioning where my life was headed. I had no idea which way anything would end up. But at least I had this song, which captures not only the listless frenzy of youth, but also how lost we feel during it and what it’s like to spend so much of it in your head.

You can hear it in the riffs, how they start off with this frantic energy that builds up as the chorus approaches, and when it comes, instead of a bang, the band slows down and evens out, everything turning careful and pensive: Leaving just in time, stay there for a while…

I listened to it while journaling or fixing my bookshelf, on night drives, in bed when I couldn’t sleep, any time everything got to be too much and I needed to get a hold of myself. It got me through to the other side. When I hear it now, I get this rare inkling that everything will be alright — and for once I feel like I can trust it, because it’s never let me down before. — Fiel, copy editor

Angel on my Shoulder by The Cascades

As a kid, my Saturday mornings often started with waking up to either Bee Gees or The Cascades. We always had very chill weekends at home — no alarm clocks and school meant that we could do whatever we want with our day.

My Dad would play songs while he cooked, while my sister and I watched him work his way in the kitchen with ease. He loved music, and would play the piano for us a lot, but those Saturdays when we had nothing else to do but talk about anything we wanted to, holds a special place in my heart.

When I was about 11 or 12, I asked my dad to teach me how to play the guitar, and Angel on my Shoulder was the first song that he taught me. While my interest in learning to play only lasted for about a month, and I never really got the hang of it, this song will always be special to me because of the lazy afternoons when my dad would patiently teach me how to press on the chords and strum the strings.

When my dad died, the song held a deeper meaning to me. I play this song on days when I miss him more than usual, thinking about how music will always remind me of his life, and how it will always keep us together, in one way or another. — Bea, editorial assistant

Can’t Take My Eyes Off You by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons

I’ve always been one to attach songs to people, but I’ve always saved Can’t Take My Eyes Off You for the one. It starts with absolute sincerity, imagining how wonderful life would be with that one person, and then it shifts. The brass comes in, the euphoria shortly follows. It’s overwhelming, almost consuming, but isn’t that what love is supposed to be at the start?

The way the song is, it’s how I imagine what a perfect love story is: a slow build to a gushing, unguarded profession of love — almost shouting at the top of your lungs, to everyone in the world: I love you baby, now that I find you stay. If a song made in 1967 still endures today, then the feeling it sings about must be true, still, too.  —Gian, editorial assistant

Oh No! by Marina 

I first heard Oh No! at my little cousin’s house in 2013  we had just finished our usual Sunday lunch and were trying out the newest version of Just Dance on her X Box. As someone who completely lacked any kind of coordination, I found the dance pretty fun, the beat catchy. That’s all I saw it as at first  just another pop song to ugly dance to. 

A year later, I found one of those Just Dance compilation playlists on YouTube and liked the song enough to download it and listen to it on the way to school. One afternoon, I started really listening to the lyrics and was completely blown away by how Marina was able to fit in all that symbolism into what I’d thought was a happy tune.

“TV taught me how to feel, now real life has no appeal”? 17-year-old Gaby felt that. Hard. Oh No! Is just one of those songs that makes you realize new things every time you listen to them. 

While I’ve grown quite a bit since that period of uncertainty, it’s funny how the lyrics still hit the same for me today. I mean, “I know exactly what I want and who I wanna be/I know exactly why I walk and talk like a machine/ I’m now becoming my old self-fulfilled prophecy/ Oh! Oh no, oh no, oh no”? That’s one big oof for ya. — Gaby, online editor

Dancing On My Own by Robyn

Robyn’s Dancing On My Own is many things: The perfect post-break-up song, the perfect longing-for-love song, the perfect sprinting-away-from-love song. It is the perfect pop song for those reasons; a song that captures a spectrum of deep emotions, packaged in a club-thumping beat and swirling melody. It allows you to let loose and lose yourself anywhere, or at least take you back to a memory of when or where you once did. 

I first heard this track early in college when I first started going out (which I might add is the perfect time to first hear this), when I had no clue who Robyn was. The first guy I ever dated told me about it, and in a serendipitous twist of fate, I heard it for the first time a few days later blasting on the famed dance floor of Future.

Almost every time I’ve heard it play there since then, it’s been accompanied by a chorus of people in every shade of drunk, singing about dancing by themselves and going home alone (“I’m giving it my all / but I’m not the girl you’re taking home”), but never singing or dancing alone. — Neal, art director