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Beyond ‘Sweet Caroline’

October 23, 2020

This piece represents the opinion of the authors.
Lily Anna Fullam

“Sweet Caroline, BUM BUM BUM!” Hearing this line belt through the speakers as sweaty students push against each other, fighting for dancefloor space, is an average Friday night at Bowdoin College (Pre-COVID, of course). This scene leaves much to be desired. We’re fans of the occasional throwback/dad-rock song, but Bowdoin simply cannot, in 2020, listen to “Sweet Caroline” and “Mr. Brightside” on repeat. Don’t get us wrong—they’re not bad songs, but hearing them played repeatedly every weekend? It starts to get a bit stale. A bit bland. A bit white.

JAYNA: There’s nothing that gets me more excited for the weekend than a Black Student Union (BSU) or Latin American Student Organization (LASO) event. In my opinion, all of the affinity groups on campus work so incredibly hard to create events and in turn host some of the most memorable ones. No doubt, this is most likely my bias speaking. The effort that is put in is extraordinary, but the people who attend are what really distinguishes these experiences from others. And it is the people, and the host, who have the most power. They determine the music lineup.

So, let’s be real, would you ever hear Sweet Caroline in Ladd basement during an affinity event? Short answer—no. And would you ever hear Afrobeats or Popcaan in Reed basement? Short answer—hell no. Music is what ultimately defines events as it sets the mood and the tone of the party. So when the same three Beatles songs are being played every weekend, the space itself is noticeably only catering to one group of people—and these people are usually white students. Music is a beautiful art that is able to capture so many cultures and ideas in such a short span of time.* So why are the same songs being repeated to please only one crowd?

JAIDA: I breathe a sigh of relief when I hear someone’s dad’s road trip playlist during a night out. Sure, the vibe is stale, and the sweaty first years start to smell like wet dogs when they get to jumping around aimlessly, but it’s familiar. It’s wholesome: the “frat-boy-gone-sentimental” vibe is nothing but compelling. It’s even kind of fun! I’d be lying through my teeth if I said that “Mr. Brightside” at 11:30 p.m. on a Saturday night isn’t a riot. But it’s not my riot. The very first time I heard that song was on a school bus in middle school. The second time was on campus. It’s great to have music that I can associate with my time here. Perhaps the college house DJs are trying to condition us to start flop-sweating when we hear 2000s rock music. Perhaps it’s working—maybe The Killers will never leave my Apple Music playlist. I’m happy to indulge in a little bit of the world many of you grew up in. But I wonder if you’re willing to do the same. Why not switch it up? Throw a function. I’d kill to hear Red Nose in Bax Basement. Diversify your playlists. Reach out to new people, find new genres. Not every decision made to close the gap between white students and students of color has to be couched in rhetoric, or made into an organization, or put on a resume. Some barriers are small. Breaking them down is simple. Let’s make the effort.

You know the drill: when we say slavery, you say sorry. J&J

*Please reach out to me if you want to discuss favorite artists/songs. Top 5 in my own rotation right now: Brent Faiyaz, Lauryn Hill, Victoria Monet, Amine, and Lil Yachty.

P.S. This week you should check out the podcast “BLKGRLMGC.” It’s a platform similar to ours in which two awesome Black women, Megan and Destini, delve into navigating Middlebury. Each episode focuses on a different aspect of their experience, and they have a variety of peer and guest speakers.

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