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On Repeat: Soundtrack to the second half of the semester

Throwback tracks to help you overcome any obstacle

October is over and the temperature has dipped. As students navigate this transitional mid-semester stage, having a solid soundtrack can help transform stress into the confidence needed to overcome any obstacle. 

These throwback tracks offer themes of encouragement set to blissful beats and are best enjoyed while strutting around Grounds with purpose, pretending the chill is invigorating and not depressing. 

“Move On Up” by Curtis Mayfield

Curtis Mayfield’s agile vocals in this 1970 release encourage his listeners to stay positive. He offers support, singing, “With just a little faith / If you put your mind to it, you can surely do it.” Bolstered by a soulful tune and an energetic horn section, “Move On Up” is hard not to love. 

Mayfield’s discography was linked to the civil rights movement throughout the late sixties and early seventies, representing the pride and tenacity of those fighting for their freedom. The galvanizing power of his music manifests itself in “Move On Up.” Throughout the song, Mayfield shows that he is undeterred by life’s troubles — “Just move on up / Toward your destination / though you may find, from time to time, complication” — making this the perfect track for facing down difficulties, no matter their size. 

“Changes” by David Bowie

“Changes” was released on David Bowie’s 1971 album “Hunky Dory,” and represents an evolutionary stage for Bowie as an artist. At the time of release, Bowie was still in the process of experimenting with his musical style and he had yet to gain the recognition that was coming down the line. 

Bowie touches on the growth and acceptance he relied on in this uncertain phase of his career, singing, “Just gonna have to be a different man / Time may change me / But I can’t trace time.” The song was not an instant hit, but Bowie’s persistence would ultimately pay off — his next album brought him international fame, and “Changes” is now widely cited as one of his best songs. 

His vocals on the propulsive chorus — “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes” — reflect the song’s focus on reinvention. Even the most anxious listeners can trust that, while it can be scary, change brings with it exciting new possibilities, just as it did for Bowie. 

“Love Is All Around” by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

“Love Is All Around” is fast-paced and fun. Jett’s vocals and invigorating lead guitar carry this upbeat track on independence and perseverance, as she sings, “Who can take a nothing day / and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile? / Well, it’s you, girl, and you should know it.” 

This 1996 release is a cover of Sonny Curtis’s far gentler 1970 theme song for “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Its message of motivation shines through in this pumped-up update, as it reassures that “you’re gonna make it after all.” 

The lyrics are straightforward and so sweet they could easily feel cloying, but Jett’s growling voice gives the song an appealing punk sensibility and lends listeners the guts to stand their ground through challenges. 

“Lovely Day” by Bill Withers

In his 1977 song “Lovely Day,” Bill Withers reflects on a partner who helps him to pull through hardships. He sings that “When the day that lies ahead of me / seems impossible to face … Then I look at you / And the world’s alright with me / Just one look at you / And I know it’s gonna be / A lovely day.”

Withers’ smooth voice and the soothing repetition of the backing vocals — “Lovely day, lovely day, lovely day, lovely day” — create a sense of comfort, while a gentle, memorable bass line sets a relaxed rhythm. In fact, near the end of “Lovely Day,” Withers holds the note on the word “day” long enough to become one of the longest sustained notes to ever make the charts in the United States or United Kingdom, a manifestation of its languid pace.

Still, Withers notes that “Something without warning, love / Bears heavy on my mind.” His optimistic lyrics are offset by understated heartache, making “Lovely Day” a touching track for those searching for the motivation to push through. 

It’s easy to experience a dip in energy in the middle of a semester, especially as winter creeps in and finals loom. Tune into this soundtrack to lift your mood and to remind yourself that you’re totally capable of dealing with any roadblock you might face. 

On Repeat is a column from the Arts and Entertainment Desk that provides readers with songs related to the University student experience, from toughing it through finals season to walking around Grounds and more. 

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