10:44 AM

If you’re like the editor-in-chief Stephanie, you compile songs into playlists based on mood. Every song follows a theme, a vague feeling that is captured by a brief playlist title. But what makes a song sad or happy, winter or summer, laid-back or upbeat on a technical level? 

By guest writer, Anne Tsai

Today we’ll be looking at Stephanie’s HIGH FA$HUN BABY playlist, which she has personally described as a mix of runway music and women’s empowerment. Some songs are straight European house, some are rap, and some are tragically terrible songs one can only enjoy ironically.

Kitana - Princess Nokia: Princess Nokia starts off the playlist with intense rapping, aligning herself with badass Kitana from Mortal Kombat. As “Kitana” is repeated so much throughout the song, the word sort of becomes a vocal percussion of triplets (except the emphasis is on the second syllable). Princess Nokia isn’t afraid to paint herself as a nerd, and her strong character is a symbol of empowering women.

Tomboy - Princess Nokia: A straw sucking the last bits of a drink, a marching band snare drum, a high whistle, and motorcycle noises. Then 3 minutes of Princess Nokia challenging the social norms of beauty. The chorus’s simple repetition gets the point across on the first listen, but I guarantee that it will stay in your head all day.

Brujas - Princess Nokia: As you can tell, Stephanie really loves Princess Nokia. Here, the princess pays homage to her Puerto Rican and Yoruban roots, addressing European stereotypes about African witchcraft. The four-note vibraphone motif creates an enchanting feeling, switching between low and high octaves.

212 - Azealia Banks, Lazy Jay: The toms hit so hard that I had to look up an instrumental version of this song. This is, unashamedly, a 2011 club hit. The trumpet samples catch our attention until they subside during the breakdown, and suddenly Azealia Banks is singing? And suddenly she’s not. A well-played debut single, Ms. Banks.

I Feel Love - 12” Version - Donna Summer: The best word I can use to describe this is “hypnotic.” Spanning a whopping 8 minutes, ‘70s disco queen Donna Summer creates an art piece that is suitable for study time. At about 3 minutes, all of the instruments except the kick drum and synthesizer disappear, and that is when my brain falls into a static jumble. 

Replay (PM 01:27) - NCT 127: NCT claims that the title alludes to the best time of day to listen to the song, but the song is actually the counterpart to Back 2 U (AM 01:27) from their Limitless mini-album. However, the 2 songs could not be more different. Replay’s house sound makes sense: it is written by SM Entertainment’s fan-favorite British songwriting duo, LDN Noise. The Europop influence is apparent in the vocal chops, the heavy reverb, and most prominently, the funky synthesized bass that enters in the prechorus and takes over during the chorus.

WTP - Teyana Taylor: This song is GENIUS. Like Kitana, the sampled “Work this pussy” blends into the percussion, becoming a backdrop for the main melody. I was so surprised when Teyana Taylor started singing in a major key over what sounds like a minor key bassline. The spoken word interludes take us back to the 1980s Harlem ballroom scene, which is the origin of voguing.

100 Bad - Tommy Genesis: I don’t have much to say musically about this song, but I’d like to note that these lyrics are extremely sexually explicit.

Red Light - f(x): Red Light is arguably f(x)’s best title track; it is on a level that I would boldly label as “ahead of its time.” Released in 2014, the song’s unforgiving bassline starts the song like a slap in the face and recedes into a slower, ominous prechorus. The song then enters an uncalled for modulation. For all of you who don’t speak music, modulation is when a song switches gears often without warning, making the listener feel like they’re listening to a new song. The chorus is hectic and fast-paced, but f(x) manages to continue singing tight vocal harmonies. As expected from the coolest girls in Kpop.

Blow Your Mind (Mwah) - Dua Lipa: At the beginning of this number, the echoing drums and electric guitar screams majestic pop anthem. However, Dua pulls a switcheroo with a funky chorus that belongs on Calvin Harris’s Funk Wav Bounces Vol I. Then she transitions into the post-chorus with some sassy talk-singing. The song is on the short side at 2:58, but it does not lack in energy.

Stronger - Kanye West: This piece is the love child of hip-hop and electronica. Some of you may disagree, but for me, the rapping takes second place to the instrumentals on this track: the jarring “harder, better, faster, stronger” sample shoved through a vocoder, the bass drum that hits every single beat, the layered synths all form the backbone of a unique club hit.

4 Walls - f(x): Hello, f(x) again. While Red Light follows the “powerful women” theme with its fierce concept, 4 Walls aligns more with the “runway” theme because of its distinct house sound. The girls sing most of the song in falsetto, adding to the laid-back but mysterious vibe (watch the music video for horses and shattering porcelain). Amber’s rap shows off the synth bass underlying the entire piece, giving a tell-tale sign that it was written by none other than LDN Noise. I sense a pattern here.

Anna Wintour - Azealia Banks: The genre is all in the name. Other than the vogue beat, however, none of the song has to do with Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue. But Azealia Banks once again surprises me with her power vocals and bass guitar licks. 

Bad Girls - M.I.A.: This song stands out because of its Middle Eastern mode and instruments. For ears accustomed to Western music, the chord progressions of Bad Girls sound unfamiliar and thus never get old. M.I.A. also incorporates a theme of sexual freedom by including many unsubtle references to car sex. Fun fact: M.I.A. was 38 years old when this song was released!

Jam (Turn It Up) - Kim Kardashian: We’ve reached the first camp song on this playlist, and it is sung by the vocalist of the century, Kim K. Here is where I turn off the analysis and simply allow the words “turn me up” to infiltrate my brain. I will comment that I have never heard somebody say “five more shots of tequila” with less enthusiasm.

Flashing Lights - Kanye West: Text painting is key here; you can’t help but picture a fashion show with blinking lights even if Kanye is talking about an ex. The synthesizer in the track is so cheesy, but it works, and it makes the song sound almost futuristic.

Artificial Love - EXO: What’s unique about this house song is the hook; “artificial love” is an earworm phrase, and it is sung in descending minor notes, making it impossible for listeners to get comfortable. The song makes good use of silence, often removing instruments completely for anticipatory effect. Chanyeol’s rap is a playful section as his voice switches between your left and right earphones. If you’re looking for a sensual performance, look to Artificial Love for a you-wouldn’t-let-your-mom-see-this stage.

Bodak Yellow - Cardi B: Once upon a time, we all sort of liked this song. But Cardi proves that arrogance is addictive, whether it be for the huge female audience she has amassed or the general public.

6 Figures - Justin Roberts: The popularity of this song soared after Shane Dawson’s 7 part docu-series on Jake Paul, but the reason why 6 Figures sticks is because it pretty much repeats the same 3 notes in the E major scale: B, G sharp, and C sharp. Personally, I think Justin Roberts’s voice sounds like Bert from Sesame Street, especially at the very beginning as the song fades in.

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