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  • Gemma James

2023: A Playlist

As 2023 came to an end, I found myself reflecting on the year in multiple senses. From looking at old photos to recounting accomplishments, it’s always fun to take a look back at the past year.

One of my favorite ways to mark the end of a year is the release of Spotify Wrapped. I’ve always been an emotional listener, so the music that I listen to often reflects my feelings or the things going on in my life at the time. Looking at my top songs and artists always reminds me of the different feelings or events throughout the year.

In the same spirit, I’ve compiled a playlist of 12 songs, each picked from my most listened to playlist during that month, that sum up my 2023. As an emotional listener, these songs are tightly tied to my experiences at the time, making this playlist the quintessential summary of my year.

January: “Rich” by Lily Williams

In January, I moved in with my boyfriend. This was such an exciting time for me, as it felt like the start of the rest of our lives. At the same time, as excited as we were, it was also really difficult. We were two broke nineteen year olds trying to make it in one of the most expensive cities. Rich encapsulated all of those feelings – the excitement and acknowledgement that while things weren’t perfect then, one day, we’d have everything and look back on this time as incredibly special.

“And we might not have a table or a bed frame / We'll make do / No one's ever been as rich as me and you” - Rich, Lily Williams.

February: “Fight or Flight” by Conan Gray

A little known fact about me is that I started doing kendo in my first year of college. Since I was brand new, I started out my first few months just learning basics. By February, I finally started practicing in bogu and actually fighting people. Ironically enough, I found that my fight or flight reaction tended to swing towards flight far more than fight. During my first practice in bogu, “Fight or Flight” became an anthem that I would hum in my head whenever I got nervous.

I know, “Fight or Flight” is actually a heart wrenching song directed towards a messy romantic situation, but I personally just found irony in the title and what I was doing when this song came to mind. I also felt as though, despite not facing a lover who had wronged me, I still felt some of the same feelings presented in the song – in the face of an opponent, or under the pressure of school (which I definitely was, in February), I truly would rather die than crack in front of others.

March: “i saw you in a dream” by The Japanese House

As someone studying under the quarter system, March is a tough month. Not only was I under a lot of stress in school, but for anyone who knows anything about Seattle, March is the tail end of a long, dreary, rainy season here. As a result, I spent most of March dissociating, just trying to survive the quarter and make it to Spring. “i saw you in a dream” became my anthem because of the soothing tunes and the way it easily passed through my mind while I floated through my day-to-day life.

April: “Let the Sun In” by Wallows

As I’ve mentioned, Seattle is a dreary, cold, rainy place in the winter. As someone who suffers from seasonal depression, this can be a really hard few months. In April, some of this rain finally breaks and the first few sunny days show their head. “Let the Sun In” reminded me to open myself up to this warmth and look forward to the brighter days ahead, rather than succumbing to the dreariness that I had been fighting for months.

May: “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” by Tears For Fears

May was an exciting month for me. I turned 19 and I started writing for my school newspaper. Also approaching the end of my first year of college, I quickly became incredibly busy. “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” has an upbeat sound with a quick tempo that reminds me of the adrenaline, excitement, and nervousness that May was filled with. Additionally, this song became sort of like musical caffeine for me at the time – it was able to pump me up and motivate me in a very busy month.

June: “I Bet You Think About Me (feat. Chris Stapleton) (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)” by Taylor Swift and Chris Stapleton

In June, I was in full swing of preparing for the Eras Tour, which I would be attending the month after. I was listening to Taylor Swift on repeat, picking out my outfit, and talking about it with my friends nonstop. The reason “I Bet You Think About Me” was on repeat, however, was due to a tweet that I had seen, which pointed out that, as a swiftie, everyone who’s wronged me in the past now likely cannot stop thinking about me, given all the Taylor Swift news at the time. I found this humorous and it reminded me of this song, which led me to listen to “I Bet You Think About Me” on repeat.

July: “Foreverever” by Leanna Firestone

While July was also the month where I saw the Eras Tour, a couple weeks before that, I had the opportunity to see Leanna Firestone’s Least Favorite Only Child Tour. As a huge Leanna Firestone fan, I spent a lot of time listening to Leanna Firestone in the days before the concert, and after the concert. One of my favorite songs that Leanna performed was “Foreverever”, hence why I started listening to “Foreverever” so much more. Additionally, July was the month where I found myself saying “I’m just a girl” more than ever, and “Foreverever” truly captures that essence.

August: “Little Chains of Love” by Laundry Day

If I’m being honest, August was more or less a blur. I was working full time and, with most of my friends out of town, frankly, I wasn’t doing much except working. Laundry Day became one of my favorite bands to listen to at work and “Little Chains of Love” had a catchy, but repetitive set of lyrics, that reminded me exactly of the cycle of work I felt caught in.

September: “bad idea right?” by Olivia Rodrigo

September brought the return to school. Whenever a new school year begins, I feel the urge to completely reinvent myself in the weeks leading up to the return. This year, I decided that I was going to have a glow up and become “that girl”. “bad idea right?” became my anthem for this desired glow up; it served as a perfect pop punk manifestation of the hot badass that I was hoping to become. Even though I think that this transformation was more mental than physical, “bad idea right?” still served as a reminder that I was becoming “that girl”.

October: “Stick Season” by Noah Kahan

It’s cliche, I know. Noah Kahan is such a fall coded artist, in my opinion, and everyone starts listening to “Stick Season” as the weather turns cooler. Yet, I am nothing if not a sucker for the fall season. I love sipping pumpkin spice lattes while rewatching Gilmore Girls. Part of soaking in the fall vibes, of course, also meant turning to one of my favorite fall songs, “Stick Season”. Even if this makes me basic, it turned into one of my favorite songs that month (though, it’s not the only Noah Kahan song that I enjoy and listen to, so don’t come for me).

November: “The Ballad of Lucy Gray Baird - from The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” by Rachel Zegler

This is honestly a little embarrassing, but one of the highlights of my November was the release of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. As an avid Hunger Games fan, I really enjoyed the book and had spent weeks anxiously awaiting the movie. Finally, the movie arrived and I could not be more stoked to see it. While I could go on an entire rant about my thoughts and feelings towards the movie, all I’ll say here is that the soundtrack was full of bangers, in my opinion, and “The Ballad of Lucy Gray Baird” quickly became one of my favorite songs, played on repeat for weeks following.

December: “Underneath the Tree” by Kelly Clarkson

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. Last year, I spent the Christmas season feeling pretty sad. I was waiting for my boyfriend to move closer to me, I felt very alone at school, and of course, my first Seattle winter was getting me down. This year, however, everything felt different. Now living with my boyfriend, we got to decorate for Christmas together for the first time. We cut our own tree, bought our first ornaments, and picked out Christmas presents for our cats. We went to see local productions of The Nutcracker and Little Women, took a trip to a cabin in the woods. It's the perfect Christmas season. “Underneath the Tree” is not only my favorite Christmas song, but perfectly captures the magic that the Christmas season brings when you're with your person.


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