By Sumner Lewis

Every summer I’ve experienced has a soundtrack that goes with it. Whether it’s Dog Days Are Over during the summer of 2011 or Golden Boy during Summer 2017, there has always been a summer theme song. Pop radio also participates in the “song of the summer” phenomenon, anxiously waiting to see which song will go viral with the masses. 

Even though most of us in Summer 2020 aren’t doing what we originally planned, the summer still deserves an awesome soundtrack. I’ve discovered a new sound in my Spotify mixes during my time spent alone at home and, may I say, they’re all bops. Here are my picks:

Album:

~how i’m feeling~ by Lauv

Lauv’s sophomore album is the equivalent of a deep breath for your ears. The entire album is easy to listen to, fun, and hits those seldom discussed emotions everyone feels. He teams up with multiple artists for duets including Alessia Cara on Canada and Anne-Marie on fuck, i’m lonely

Two standout songs off the album are Modern Loneliness and Billy. Billy is a buoyant song where the protagonist leaves behind a past where he was bullied, taking that negative energy to fuel him to strive for better things in life. The beat behind it is infectious, and paired with the dual level of synths underneath, it makes for a song that is often stuck in one’s head.

Modern Loneliness is the final song on the album and serves as a thesis statement for the intersection of Lauv’s internal feelings and how the current generation interacts with each other. The song begins morosely, just Lauv and a piano reflecting on how he’s become the person he is. It gets an uplifting injection of guitar after the first chorus, opening up into an enveloping sound by the second. He, and the gang vocals behind him, very aptly state that the current generation is “never alone, but always depressed.” The song is comforting, reflective, and saddening for the listener and the artist alike.

Artist:

Quinn XCII

Quinn XCII has been a mainstay of my summer listening. His orchestrations are diverse: in a single song, he has soaring strings incorporated with a pan flute as the main percussive beat and even adds accents from a harp. The acoustic instruments blend seamlessly into the otherwise electronic landscape of Flare Guns

If musical experimentation isn’t your cup of tea, try Stacy, the lead single off his newest album A Letter To My Younger Self. The gentle keys draw you in for a peaceful yet intriguing listening experience. Notice the multiple guitar effects to create layers under the poppy drums and back vocals. The sound is enveloping and fun, as with the rest of Quinn XCII’s music. 

His music is beautiful. Above and below the surface, there is so much depth to his songs. One can listen actively or passively and still gain value because of how well constructed his songs are, but I suggest truly listening in to the extra touches that are meticulously placed throughout every song.

Song:

Level of Concern by Twenty One Pilots

Twenty One Pilots is pretty well-known across the radio waves. I haven’t been the largest fan of their music post-Blurryface, but Level of Concern is a certified quarantine bop. 

The song is written during and for the experience of quarantine. The overall story of the lyrics don’t seem cohesive, but separate bits make sense. Musically, each part of the song effortlessly melts into the next. The electric guitars set a static chord progression throughout except for the bridge. The piano leading the bridge into the final chorus is the aural version of twinkling stars. Listen for similar piano notes during the second chorus to tie the song together.

Playlist:

Playlist Radio

This playlist is Spotify specific because it’s automatically generated by them. It has the perfect spread of good summer vibes from Bryce Vine to AJR, The Band CAMINO, and PEABOD. 

The lead song the playlist is based off of, Playlist by Kid Quill, is a jubilant nod to the club music of the early 2000’s. If you need a theme song for your socially distant beach trip, this is the song you should be blasting. The three chord repetition in the keys keeps a peppy thread throughout the song, leading into the outro which samples OutKast’s So Fresh, So Clean and Nelly’s Ride Wit Me among others.

Other notable songs on the playlist include 100 Bad Days by AJR and La La Land by Bryce Vine. The throbbing bass uniquely creates almost a ‘negative soundscape’ during the verse of La La Land under the light guitars which is contrasted by the full sound of the chorus. The song is done with tact, ensuring the chorus does not accost the listener, then returning to the bass line of the verse in anticipation of the bridge.

If you’re wondering why a pop/rock band such as AJR belongs on a playlist with easy summer hip hop jams, look no further than the first fifteen seconds of 100 Bad Days. The synths throughout the song seamlessly integrate it with the rest of the playlist. The horns and the bass in the swell of the chorus remind the listener of the previous song on the playlist, La La Land, proving that good vibes are not confined to a single genre.

The playlist rounds itself out with the complex sound of Jon Bellion. Stupid Deep acts as an equalizer that calms the listener from some of the more sprightly songs, while still maintaining the simple, positive energy that this playlist invokes. 

Most of these songs aren’t within a genre I would normally listen to. My music taste mainly focuses around alternative rock, musicals, and male British singer/songwriters. However, I love all these new music finds, and I’ve discovered that they aren’t too far away from music I already listen to. It juxtaposes Summer 2020: even though I’m not doing what I originally planned, I’ve still found happiness in the different and unusual. With this new music, let’s all find the silver lining in our lives and listen to some good vibes.

By Sumner Lewis

Dating is, in the simplest term, weird. It’s exhausting, exhilarating, confusing, and so much more. I’m a freshly 21-year-old woman and I am filled with questions; it’s overwhelming.

Why does the world focus on the ideal romance instead of a solid partnership? The everyday love and respect that makes up a good partnership doesn’t sell books or movies. Therefore, all we are fed through the media is the thrill of a new relationship: the honeymoon period. 

It’s the all-encompassing bliss that lasts anywhere between 6 months and a year at the beginning of a relationship. Once it wears away, the real life of the relationship begins and people typically either fall into a routine or fight and part ways.

Romance stories still have an audience (myself included) even if they do not fully reflect reality. They keep us on the edge of our seats, comfort us, and give us something to aspire to. Those of us who haven’t experienced running into the love of our lives at a coffee shop eat it up. 

Why do people believe that the right person “fixes” someone? People don’t fix other people; people fix themselves. Maybe someone comes along who helps them or inadvertently teaches them a lesson, but it’s the person in question doing the work to better themselves. 

A good partner can inspire someone to be the best person they can be. They can question comfort zones or destructive behavior. But it is up to the person to change themselves, and only if they want to. It also isn’t only romantic partners who can inspire change. It could be a friend, boss, therapist, parent, or anyone. Romantic partners don’t have the monopoly on inspiring self-improvement.

What is up with the sentiment that people become “whole” when they are with the right person? Comedian Daniel Sloss has an incredible monologue during his Jigsaw stand-up special that has broken up multiple couples. It makes the viewer assess their relationships and where they want to be in life. He uses an analogy where the core of one’s being is a jigsaw puzzle. 

No one has the image of what the puzzle is supposed to look like, so we start out with the edges: simple things that make up who we are such as family, friends, hobbies, etc. Once the edges are in place, most people think that the missing middle piece is a partner. They’ll be complete once they get that perfect person.

People believe this so much that they try to jam just anyone into that middle spot when their piece is the wrong shape. When it doesn’t fit, one has to acquiesce and change some part of their edge pieces, the foundation of who they are as a person, in order to fit that ‘perfect’ partner into their lives and finally be whole.

I don’t necessarily buy into the idea that a partner will be the center of my jigsaw puzzle. My future spouse won’t define who I am as a person, nor will they ‘complete’ me. I am already whole.

What’s the goal of dating? Society dictates that dating leads to a relationship, which leads to marriage. Using the transitive property, the goal of dating must be to find someone to marry.

Choosing who you are going to legally tie yourself to is a huge life decision. It’s not just about love; you have to think about who would be a good parent to your possible future children, who you can stand to cohabitate with. Are they good with finances? That question answers whether or not you’ll get a joint account together. If you do get a joint account, do they have student debt that you’ll now be paying off too?

The first couple of dates can test compatibility through similar likes, dislikes, and how easily you settle on an activity or restaurant. After that, time together should obviously be enjoyable, but it should also be spent exploring shared values and how you could feasibly live life together.

What about casual dates and official relationships? I don’t see the point of dating someone I won’t marry, but I also want diverse dating experiences so I can form my own first-hand opinions of relationships. Also, going on dates is super fun. You get to know new people, share experiences, and learn about what you do and don’t want in a future partner.

I enjoy the casual date and getting to know a person. I just don’t think I want to be in an official relationship until I’m sure that I’m vetting them for marriage. 

Entering an official relationship is a big decision to make. You have to want a life with the person you’re entering it with, not just to have them in your life. You have to want to do the work with them, to be a team against the problems in the world. It’s significant to be committed to someone even if there isn’t a legal document binding you together. No matter your age, having a significant other should be treated with gravity.

Why am I asking these questions? I have unpopular opinions about how we view dating as a society. I prefer to be a realist about it: whoever you marry will set the course for the rest of your life, and who you date will wind up being who you marry. 

Date smart. Figure out what you do and don’t want in a relationship and then only date those who fit the bill. In my case, it’s important to me that my spouse is also Jewish, so I only seriously date Jewish guys. Remember that your values and who you are as a person should not be compromised for anyone. A spouse should complement you (and compliment you, because we all love some good positive reinforcement).

It does seem daunting to be looking for a spouse in your early twenties. But if you analyze your dating life early, there might be less heartbreak involved in the future. I hope you find what you’re looking for out there in the dating world. I know someday I will.

by Sumner Lewis

people at theater
Photo by Monica Silvestre on Pexels.com

(Spectators wait for a theatre show to begin).

The very first musical I ever saw was The Lion King. I was five and I can clearly remember the amazement I felt as I watched the performers on stage. My family and I sat in the first row of the mezzanine at the Bushnell Theater in Hartford, CT, right next to a little platform where actors would occasionally come and make beautiful birds dance in the air over the audience below. 

I fell in love that day with the concept of a musical, which I saw as an art form that enveloped me, inspired me, and made me want more. I didn’t just want to watch the show unfold before me; I wanted to be up there in the hoi polloi.

The next show that caught my attention was Wicked. I was seven when my mother saw it for the first time and brought back the cast album for me. I learned every word, note, and harmony on that CD. It became my dream to one day play the role of Elphaba. Idina Menzel’s voice spoke to me. Elphaba understood me.

Idina_Menzel_Defense.gov_Crop

(Idina Menzel gained prominence due to her role as Elphaba in Wicked).

If you’re into musical theater, you can’t deny that you’ve wanted to play every single character in your favorite show. I’ve gained a larger appreciation for Glinda as I’ve grown older and I want to challenge myself with playing different kinds of characters. But then I remember that she is blonde and I’m not. Where did anyone ever see a blonde Black girl in the late 2000s/early 2010s? Nowhere. So that also rules out ever being Elle Woods from Legally Blonde.

I inherently knew from a young age that race was everything in theater casting. Not as well as I know that fact now, but young girls need to see people who look like them inhabiting the spaces that they want to be in. Representation is everything. The more musicals I got into, the more I understood the subliminal message that there wasn’t a spot for me in a show except for playing a green witch that I love so much. Even in The Lion King, the performers are mostly darker-skinned, much darker than my tan, biracial skin.

In 2015, my discovery of Hamilton caused a revolution for me. I saw people on that stage who reflected me and my life experiences, a phenomenon which had not happened within the sixteen years that I was alive before that time. It didn’t matter what race you were as long as you were a person of color. Read that again. It didn’t JUST not matter what race you were, the casting directors WANTED people of color. That stage was a celebration of the skin tones that have historically been labeled ‘other.’ I finally saw a show I could actually be in.

The problem doesn’t solely lie on the shoulders of casting directors. There is simply a lack of characters being written for broader people of color. Sure, there are some Black characters, some Latinx characters, a couple Middle Eastern characters, but I, an ethnically ambiguous person of color, don’t get to play any of them because they have a distinct ethnic heritage to display. I’ll never be Nina from In the Heights (although I really, really want to be), Jasmine in Aladdin, or Nala in The Lion King. 

My most recent role was Ronette in Little Shop of Horrors. The show has four female roles; three are reserved for women of color. However, the leading female role is the single white woman in the cast. The other three women are the cast’s backup singers. We worked as a trio, three harmonies that would be lost without the others, but it meant that we were more of a conglomerate than we were individuals. 

Only two people of color showed up to audition for a show with three spots available for someone with that description, so it wasn’t even a competition to get a role. Sometimes I wonder if I got the part based on my own merits or if they didn’t have enough people to fill a historically Black role. We almost didn’t have enough people to fill all three spots and had to hold another round of auditions, to which only one person showed up. She got the role.

On top of that, the urchins are written as the stereotypical sassy Black girls. There are so many different ways to be Black. The only requirement is to wake up with your Black skin every day. Playing a sassy character can be loads of fun, but when it plays into racial stereotypes, one has to wonder why they were written that way.

I’ve always said that Hercules should be adapted into a stage musical just so I could play one of the Muses (and now it has, last year for a short run at The Public Theater). I love the strong, Black women with incredible harmonies and powerhouse voices. They are a Greek chorus, and they work as a nameless group behind the scenes. No one Muse exists without the others.

I want to see more diversity in the theatre community. We need to see characters on that stage that reflect who we are a society and the world we wish to be. Take Hadestown for example; it is written and cast in a way that any person, no matter the color of their skin, can play any character in the show. It is art used for a purpose. It encourages the dreamers, those of us who see a better world in our future. I see a better world where, even if my dream of performing in shows professionally doesn’t come true, I can share my love of theatre with my future children and they will see themselves represented on stage, celebrated, no matter the color of their skin.