For this spring’s first official wellness day here at the University of South Carolina, I decided to sit down and reflect on a few songs that have been important to me and my personal wellness over the years. Take a quick read, maybe listen to a few of the songs, but most importantly, take care of yourself today.
1. Billy Joel - "Vienna"
This song really helped me get through high school, and it still rings true to me as I continue to grow up. I think we all get bogged down sometimes feeling like we’re not doing enough or achieving enough. There are a billion things to do and we all want to get them done as soon as possible so we can be as impressive as possible, but sometimes that’s just ridiculous. It’s great to dream big and hold high expectations for yourself, but it’s also okay when things don’t quite work out or things have to wait until later. You still have the whole world ahead of you (and Vienna waits for you). Keeping this in mind always helps me keep my head on straight. I also often feel like even though I’m technically an adult now, I still can’t always handle things perfectly all on my own or get things to work out the way that I want. The thing is, though, I’m really still just a child. I’m still learning and growing, and no one expects me to be perfect all the time. Even adults screw up or need help sometimes. "Vienna" has guided me through learning how to set big dreams and goals and hold myself accountable but still be nice to myself and be able to practice self-forgiveness when I need to. Whenever I get overwhelmed by the world’s and my own expectations for myself, I just sit back and let Mr. Joel talk me down.
2. Dixie Chicks - "Wide Open Spaces"
This was always a favorite of my mom’s, but it never meant a lot to me until I came to college. I genuinely love my hometown and there isn’t anywhere I would rather have grown up, but when you spend the better part of 18 years in any one place, chances are you’re going to be itching to leave. In my case, I spent just about all of high school with that incessant itch. I spent my entire life in that Maryland suburb growing, changing, and learning about myself and the world, but after I certain point I felt like I just hit a wall and there wasn’t much growth, change, or learning left to be done there. I felt held back. No person or thing was necessarily holding me, but there’s always going to be very little room for growth when you’re surrounded by the same faces you’ve seen daily for 13+ years, the same parks and paths you’ve strolled through since you were a toddler, and the same school halls you and everyone you know have wandered through for what feels like centuries. Coming down 500 miles for college felt like this huge weight I’d been holding on my chest for years had finally been lifted. When I came to Cola, the restaurants didn’t necessarily taste better than the ones back home, nor did the people seem more likeable or the attractions more exciting. The thing about this city, though, is it was new. It was different. And now it was all mine. All mine to grow in, to learn in, to love in, to live in. All mine to make mistakes in and learn from them. All mine to find myself in. "Wide Open Spaces" is essentially all about that feeling which has been so important for me in the past few months and has led to a point in my life where I’m infinitely happier than I have been in years. For my mama, that wide open space was D.C. For me, it’s Cola--at least until that itch gets to me again.
3. Cautious Clay - "Cold War"
"Cold War" has been my all-time favorite song since I first heard it back around my sophomore year of high school. In reality, that was just a few years ago, but I feel like I’ve held this song with me my entire life. I don’t think the lyrical content itself holds any super special meaning to me, but this is just a really beautiful song. I listen to this whenever I’m in a really good mood, but more importantly, I can listen to this whenever I’m in a bad place and it never fails to calm me down. Whether I’m crying over personal drama, stressed over school, or overwhelmed after a long night out, I can always turn on "Cold War" and it just soothes me in any situation. The vocals, the bass, everything just permeates my soul and makes everything feel a little bit better.
4. Coldplay - "Yellow"
When January began, I decided to make 2021 my year of self-love. That sounds corny enough, but self-love is something I really haven’t focused on in a healthy capacity for a lot of my life. When I was home this winter, reflecting on the end of some semi-recent relationships and situationships and such, I realized I’ve spent the vast majority of my young adulthood trying to give all of myself and all of my love to other people. Just recently was the first time in years I’ve been really truly alone, romantic relationship-wise, and it was pretty awful at first. It felt really shitty to realize that I didn’t quite know how to be happy by myself. After that, I decided this year would be all about me. Around this time, I rediscovered this song, and although Chris Martin wrote "Yellow" about some girl, I listen to it less as a love letter to or from anyone else, and more a profession of love to myself.
5. Queen - "I Want To Break Free"
Honestly, this is just a fun song. "I Want to Break Free" gives me a similar vibe to "Wide Open Spaces" meaning-wise, but really, this is just a groovy song that always puts me in a good mood. We all need that one song we can dance and sing along to alone in our room when we need to feel like a bad bitch, and this is that song for me.
6. Halsey - "Clementine"
This is a song I just recently fell in love with. I’ve spent just about all of my teen years struggling with my complicated mental health, and something I really love about Halsey is how open she is about her own personal struggles. You can find about a gazillion songs out there about being sad and depressed and whatever, but it’s not as easy to come across to music like Halsey’s, especially on her latest album Manic, which expresses all the ups and downs and all-arounds of mental illness. This is one of the few songs I’ve heard in my life where I can almost hear myself speaking. "Clementine" is about all of the beauty, the darkness, the confusion, the love, the alienation, the everything.
Check out Baby Z's Wellness Songs Spotify playlist below, and be sure to follow her on Instagram and tune in to The Block Party every Thursday from 10AM to noon on WUSC!
What's poppin y'all, it's me, Baby Z. This is my third year hosting The Block Party, a specialty show highlighting non-Top 40 artists of color. I've been a big music fan as long as I can remember; classic rock and southern rock were my first loves, but these days I listen mostly to alternative r&b and hip hop so you'll be hearing a lot of those on my show. Outside of DJing, I'm also the Associate Director of Event Planning for WUSC and host a music and culture podcast through Garnet Media called Culture Jam where you can hear some more of my takes on popular music.