We’re finally at the halfway mark of the quarter, which means you’re working hard and deserve a good cry between weeks five and six. In honor of midterms season, Artsweek has compiled a playlist of songs that are the perfect catalyst for emotional release.
“All I Want” – Kodaline
It was a Saturday afternoon when I played this song for my friend Stella. It was a beautiful 73°F out, and we were lounging around making plans for the night. It was only 30 seconds into the song and we were both already blinking back tears. If this song can hit you with the feels when the sun is shining on your shoulders and there’s not a thing weighing on your mind, listening to this song as you’re huddled in the library at 3 a.m. contemplating every single life decision equals instant heartbreak.
“Runaway” – Kanye West
There’s something about Kanye being real and raw about his weaknesses that gets me on that crying-about-midterms wave. “Runaway” is the perfect song to plug in your headphones and take a respite from the world; it’s nine minutes of pure reflection. “Runaway” echoes regret (in my case, the regret of not starting to study for midterms earlier). The last three minutes of pure instrumental leaves space to to pick yourself up after shedding some tears. Even though I want to “runaway as fast as [I] can” from midterms, if Kanye can push through his struggle, so can I.
“Vienna” – Billy Joel
“Slow down, you crazy child,” the Piano Man cautions us in these times of chaos. Beginning with a soft piano intro, Billy Joel mimics the feeling of drinking a glass of Chardonnay in the vineyards of Vienna, Austria. In an environment of complete confusion, where it seems like we are one midterm away from pursuing a career as a fitness model that advertises protein shakes on Instagram, the song reminds us to enjoy the here and now. Considering the fact that we are never guaranteed success, the only constant we can really rely on is that place, person or activity that inspires the energy we need to get through the many stressful days. So why not partake in a little bit of self-care and just enjoy life rather than speeding through its daily motions? “Vienna” waits for you.
“Ex-Factor” – Lauryn Hill
With breakup season on the way, this classic bop is a certified cry. There’s something especially poignant about Lauryn Hill’s voice that makes her words carry enormous weight. Her croonings of lost love on this track are just as powerful 20 years later as they were then, and the soulful backdrop remains a timeless classic. “Ex-Factor” expresses feelings that we have all felt to some degree, whether it’s minor rejection or a world-crushing heartbreak. It’s also a bit ironic that Drake sampled this song shortly before getting exposed for hiding his child and abandoning the mother.
“Eleanor Rigby” – The Beatles
The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” still haunts me and has ever since I was five, when my dad first played it for me. Even then, before I could understand the beautiful lyrics and the heartbreaking story they tell, I could feel the sorrow in this iconic Beatles song. After hours of self-imposed isolation, studying alone in the library for your first midterms of the year, you’ll be sobbing along when Paul McCartney asks where all the lonely people come from. A lament to the hardships of the elderly and dying alone, “Eleanor Rigby” will help you let out all those stress tears when you just need to simp during stressful midterm season.
“My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars” – Mitski
“I wanna see the whole world / I don’t know how I’m gonna pay rent / I wanna to see the whole world.” Was wide-eyed mortal panic was ever felt, or said, so simply? In a panic bender of less than two minutes, Mitski pins everything from interview anxiety to ideal locations for death (Jerusalem, please). Her voice is frantic, carried by an instrumental that sounds less like guitar shredding and more like a guitar literally being shredded. It’s an experience accessible only after five shots of espresso.
Also, if my body really is made of crushed little stars (which it is, according to popular consensus), remind me why I’m stuck memorizing solubility charts at 3 a.m.
“Three Little Birds” – Bob Marley
Because this song is filled with encouraging lyrics, it’s perfect for that moment during midterm studying when you’re about to tap out from exhaustion and frustration, but keep telling yourself to pull through because it’ll all be over soon. In that moment, you feel like every little thing is not gonna be alright, as Bob Marley says, since your test is tomorrow and you’re still up at 2 a.m. studying (and crying). However, once “Three Little Birds” engulfs your ears through the speakers in your headphones and Marley advises you to not worry about a thing, the tears once shed out of pure misery now emerge from a place of hope.
“Doomed” – Moses Sumney
Somber and haunting, “Doomed” by Moses Sumney is the perfect track for your pre-midterm breakdown (or your post-midterm GPA funeral). Questioning the possibility of being doomed to live a life without love, Sumney’s existential crisis can easily translate to a college student’s eternal pondering of whether or not one can live without good grades, a degree or a job. Lean into Sumney’s mournful lyrics and breathtaking falsetto and supplement its lack of percussion with the steady sound of slamming your head into the library table.
“Needle In the Hay” – Elliott Smith
As you press play and the grim chords of “Needle In the Hay” lead into Elliott Smith’s somber tone of voice, you can predict where the song is about to transport you. The track is quick in being applicable to the plethora of feelings a college student will likely experience during midterm season, meaning that it’s perfect to sob into the night before your dreaded exam. As Smith sings, we experience feeling “strung out and thin” as we attempt to cram in material before exam day, somehow not remembering anything from the past few weeks.
“Tears Dry On Their Own” (Original Version) – Amy Winehouse
Winehouse sings of her despair and feelings of regret as she begins to walk away from a lover. The pain she feels from trying to move on is especially felt in her vocals in this original version. The songstress’s vivid lyrics bring listeners back to a time when they, too, had to close a sentimental affair. The backup vocalists singing “tears dry on their own” at the end of each chorus resemble a heartbreak song from the Motown era.This song is guaranteed to leave you crying as you cope with the end of your social life during midterms.
“Rock Bottom Riser” – Smog
Sometimes you get a lead feeling in your bones, or you feel empty after the stress of exams. As I inch toward my first college midterms, I am reminded, once again, of the feeling of home — the warmth of my mother, or even my cat — and I am whole again. This song encapsulates this as I realize that this isn’t the end, that midterms won’t be the death of me and that I, too, am a rock-bottom riser.
“Come Back to Earth” – Mac Miller
Mac Miller’s “Come Back to Earth” from his final album Swimming is a great song to cry to when stressing out over midterms. “Come Back to Earth” has poignant lyrics that focus on mental health. Miller maintains, “My regrets look just like texts I shouldn’t send … I just need a way out of my head.” I think we can all relate to sending a risky text to a friend or significant other and overthinking it, or having an endless cycle of negative thoughts. UCSB students can also relate to the lyric, “And don’t you know that sunshine don’t feel right, when you inside all day.” Who wants to be inside studying all day at the library when you could be out soaking in the sunshine or surfing at the beach?
In the heat of the summer I had no papers to write, midterms to take or TAs who won’t email me back. At this point in fall quarter, I know the one thing we all want more than a 4.0 GPA is to go back to irresponsibly basking in the Isla Vista summer sun with all of our friends on an oceanside deck. Go ahead and give “SUMMER” by BROCKHAMPTON a listen and let that summer nostalgia sink in to the sound of wistful piano chords and guitar runs.
“The Middle” – Jimmy Eat World
It’s that time of the quarter again. Your brain feels like that microwaved mashed potato you forgot about after all your doze-offs snowballed into two-hour naps. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll find that the best remedy for midterm melancholia is some nice, wholesome 2001 pop-punk. Still don’t understand the confusing way your calculus professor teaches u-substitution? “Just do your best, try everything you can!” Hand cramping from all the bubbling and writing? “It just takes some time!” Feeling like this class is dragging on way longer than you’d like? “You’re in the middle of the ride, everything will be just fine, everything will be alright!”
“No Hard Feelings” – The Avett Brothers