It’s the time of the year that I begin putting together my summer mix. As I’ve begun work on 2017, I figured it’s time to write about Summer Mix 2016.
Distance gives you clarity, and even almost a year out from that summer, I find my take on the events swirling and shifting, the meaning becoming clear then muddy again. If you’d asked me at the beginning of 2016’s summer, I would’ve told you that the almost belligerent tone of certain choices—Drake’s “Back to Back” and Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money,” for example—were targeted toward one person, one event, one feeling. There is a decided don’t-mess-with-me tone to the first half of my mix.
But now, seeing these songs next to Dessa’s “Fighting Fish” and Conway’s “Big Talk,” my take changes. What if the cocky song selections weren’t born from anger or resentment? What if they were just the beginning of a reemergence of independence and confidence? Dessa’s song in particular resonated with me all summer and beyond: “I don’t want to walk, rather swing and miss/I’m not above apologies, but I don’t ask permissions/Got a lot of imperfections, but I don’t count my ambition in them.” Sprinkled throughout “Fighting Fish” are poignant one liners that relate immensely to my past year: “I didn’t come to pick a fight/I didn’t come to wave or take pictures/Pander to some benefactor, ring on every broken finger/Won’t extend my wings to be clipped.”
On many levels, the song is an ode to shrugging off the cultural doublethink that praises the practice of pretending not to have ambition while still somehow succeeding at everything. The more I examined the songs I chose, the more I saw that spirit. Hamilton’s “Wait for It,” especially has that undercurrent. “I’m not standing still/I am lying in wait” very clearly means the opposite. Burr is in fact stagnant while pacifying himself that there’s a greater purpose that will just come to him. He doesn’t have to look for it or seize it.
Back to Back – Drake
Only When I Walk Away – Justin Timberlake
Win Again – Nicki Minaj
Bitch Better Have My Money – Rihanna
Big Talk – Conway
Soy Yo – Bomba Estereo
Work from Home – Fifth Harmony
Trying to Find a Balance – Atmosphere
It Will Come Back – Hozier
Don’t Save Me – Haim
Emily – San Fermin
Chandelier – Sia
Drove Me Wild – Tegan and Sara
Right to be Wrong – Joss Stone
Wait for It – Hamilton
This World – Selah Sue
Grounds for Divorce – Elbow
Fighting Fish – Dessa
Breath – Sheila Nicholls
Formation – Beyonce
In 2016, I took a few road trips. I relaxed in the sun. I went to concerts and took Bentley on long walks. It was a typical summer in so many ways. I also began working harder to establish myself at work, my ambition and boredom coinciding to give me more confidence in expanding my role. I expanded my social circles, working harder to connect with friends—through long email exchanges, phone calls, and renewed effort to make plans with those who live in town—and finding avenues to make new friends. I joined foreign language classes and went to book clubs.
While I expanded my world and embraced my interests, I lost something else—a relationship. (If you’re interested in my take on the correlation between becoming emotionally and spiritually stronger and the demise of relationships, check out my piece on why it’s important to know how you like your eggs.)
Should I have been surprised by the end of the relationship? Not according to my summer mix. Right up front we have Justin Timberlake singing, “She loves me now, but only when I walk away.” Hell, I put a song titled “Grounds for Divorce” on the mix.
Summer Mix 2016 Highlights
The two songs I came back to over and over were “Wait for It,” from Hamilton and Dessa’s “Fighting Fish.”
*Back to Back isn’t on the YouTube playlist because it’s impossible to find.