My name is Kanchan, I’m 21 years old, and I’m confused.
Your twenties are an invigorating time. Fraught with twists and turns, fresh starts and restarts alike, and a never-ending string of existential crises. A time when the people you’re closest to now are people you didn’t speak to two years ago, and the people you were closest to two years ago are people you don’t speak to now. It’s common knowledge that us twenty-somethings are but a fraction of a way through the human lifespan, and yet social structures constantly pressure us to have every last detail of our lives figured out. As we enter 2024 I’m consumed with the reality that a year from now I have no idea where I’ll be geographically, what I’ll be doing for my career, who I’ll be living with, the list goes on.
But every time I’m faced with emotions I don’t quite know how to navigate, I turn to music. Over the years I’ve come across some songs that convince me there is no such thing as an original thought, because my God, they articulate my inner monologue so perfectly. The uncertainties of friendship, family, life direction– chances are if you’ve experienced it, someone has written a song about it. So I thought I’d share a few of those songs (in no particular order) and why they’ve resonated with me in the hopes of helping you, fellow twenty-something, feel a little less confused.
Coming Home Interlude – Kali Uchis
Kali Uchis’ Isolation has been a comfort album of mine for nearly four years, but this track always seems to be the one I come home to (see what I did there). The song conveys, rather intuitively, Kali’s longing for home and the feelings of lonely misplacement that come with navigating the music industry. I gravitate to this song for multiple reasons, firstly because it’s musically stunning and unlike anything I’ve heard before. The track is split into two distinct halves, each captivating in its own unique way. Allow me to nerd out a bit here– the chord progression in the first half is constantly modulating, as if refusing to settle on a key, and perhaps that lack of musical stability and commitment is a reflection of Kali’s own restlessness. The second half shifts from a tone of longing and desperation to coldness and acceptance, and here we get a new, and much grimmer, chromatically descending chord progression. This might be giving the same energy as 10th grade English teachers who over-analyze the color of a curtain, but either way, the production on this track is genius.
Music theory aside, I adore the writing in Coming Home because nothing about the lyrics feels polished. Kali adopts a stream-of-consciousness writing style that allows the listener to plunge into the depths of her psyche. It’s as if we’re hearing fragmented, unfiltered thoughts rather than cohesive emotions, and that to me makes the song even more beautiful in its fearless vulnerability.
I’m too this and I’m too that, I’m too skinny, I’m too fat
I’m the sweetest peach to fall, but some don’t like peaches at all
I’m too short and I’m too tall
Rollin’ Stone – Kyle Lux
I’ve never been skydiving before, but if I had to imagine what it feels like I would guess it’s similar to blasting the chorus of this song at full volume in my car. Rollin’ Stone is the debut single of singer/songwriter Kyle Lux who was a college freshman at the time, so you know he just gets the early adult experience. On the intentions behind the song, Kyle states:
“I feel like I’m growing a tremendous amount away from home, but I still miss home through that growth. It feels like I’m finally starting my musical life, so it felt fitting for my debut to be about those growing pains.”
This track is a gem to me because it manages to be musically ethereal and distant and yet lyrically relatable and intimate. The moment the resounding bass line and Kyle’s angelic vocals kick in on the chorus, I can’t help but close my eyes and belt the lyrics. Even though he writes about feeling confused and directionless in his journey of self-discovery, the tone of the song encourages us to embrace that uncertainty. For there’s something inexplicably liberating about being in a state of freefall, with infinitely many directions you could go and destinations you could land.
Go Boy – ODIE
Another track that perfectly captures that feeling of blissful freefall. ODIE’s most recent single is under three minutes long and lyrically scarce, and yet he manages to transport me to a state of other-wordly introspection every time I listen to it. That’s always what I’ve loved about ODIE– his mastery of “less is more” in his songwriting. The entire chorus comprises of one single sentence:
Doubtful, but I like to pretend I know that I’ll find you again
ODIE never makes it clear who exactly he’s had to let go in his life– whether it was a friend or a partner, whether it was a breakup or a passing, whether or not it was his choice. But I think the beauty of this song lies in its ambiguity, for regardless of your individual experiences you can probably relate to some part of his story. Everything about the production of this song feels like a psychedelic dream, and it never fails to leave me pondering.
Fair Chance – Thundercat ft. Ty Dolla $ign, Lil B
Anytime I’ve felt any form of grief in the past two years, I’ve turned to this song. Thundercat originally wrote this track as a tribute to late musician and dear friend Mac Miller, but its heart-wrenching lyrics can resonate in any moment of loss or sorrow. It tells the grueling tale of acceptance and moving forward after a tragedy, all while grappling with emotions that feel impossible to overcome.
So hard to get over it
I’ve tried to get under it
Stuck in between, it is what it is
Musically, the way this song comes together feels like a match made in heaven in every avenue. The delicate acoustic guitar melody that composes the beat feels like raindrops trickling down a window, melancholy yet comforting. Thundercat carries the song forward with yet another signature bass line, so melodic that it could pass for a song of its own. And of course, Thundercat and Ty Dolla $ign’s transcendent vocals and layered harmonies gel together in a heavenly synergy. I also love how they leave long pauses between each line, as if to allow breathing room for the listener to process the weight of their words.
Life – The Walters
I remember the exact moment I discovered this song: at 3AM in my bed on an unsuspecting night in summer 2020. This was during the peak of quarantine– a time when my senior year of high school had gone to oblivion and seeing my college campus was a distant dream at best. Spotify randomly recommended this song to me for the first time, and I listened and cried my eyes out. Although I was just a confused 18-year-old back then, the poetic lyricism in this song has continued to strike a chord with me in my twenties. Another lyrically sparse song, and yet it contains arguably my favorite song lyric ever:
Life moves so slow, makes me wonder where it goes
To me, no possible phrase could better describe being in a slump– when every day feels longer and more mundane than the last, and yet at the blink of an eye entire weeks or months of solitude can fly by.
What Once Was – Her’s
One of the greatest recurring themes of my twenties has been reminiscing– whether it’s a past relationship, a friendship, or merely the naivety of our high school selves, we twenty-somethings constantly find ourselves craving what once was. I love this song because it’s incredibly simplistic, but so tastefully executed– from the very first guitar riff it sounds like a 60s classic. The hollow, hazy production style feels as though the entire song was written with rose-colored goggles. And lead singer Stephen Fitzpatrick truly brings the track together with his one-of-a-kind old soul voice. My favorite lyric, predictably enough, is the namesake of the track:
I was at the end of every tether, waiting for what once was
Buying Time – Lucky Daye
I recognize that all of my choices so far have been on the depressing end, so let’s bring up the mood a little bit (never put me on aux because you’ll probably end up crying). This feel-good anthem from Lucky Daye paints the twenties in all their charm and glory– the sleepless nights, the reckless decisions, the fleeting euphoria, those special moments that can’t help but make you think: this, right now, is the prime of my life. This is the song you dedicate to that one person who adds color to your life, someone who brings this inexplicable infectious energy to every room they enter.
This track is so impressive to me because even though it’s really just guitar and vocals, it feels so whole and full of life. It’s the perfect song for when you need to step back, take a deep breath, and appreciate the finer things.
Little Bit – Lykke Li
Arguably the song for a confused twenty-something, emphasis on confused. This track details the inner monologue of someone who’s hopelessly in love but refuses to admit it to themselves. Lykke does a stunning job of transporting us to her stream of consciousness with her simple yet universally relatable lyrics. Whether or not you’ve been in the friendzone (honestly props to you if you haven’t), I think the sentiments behind this song can resonate with anyone who’s had to deny something for their own wellbeing.
I would do it, push a button, pull the trigger, climb a mountain, jump off a cliff ‘cause you know baby,
I love you a little bit
Meaning aside, the song itself is an all-around bop. The bouncy beat and addictive chord progression always bring me back to it, and Lykke’s expressive vocals are a treat to listen to.
Moment – Victoria Monet
I figured after the emotional roller coaster I just took you on, we should end on a positive note. This song never fails to leave me inspired, empowered, and just eager to tackle my day. Most songs of its kind tend to be a little cliche, but Victoria Monet conveys the message with elegance and subtlety. Her thoughtful lyrics feel like the words of a best friend giving you the gentle push to go chase your dreams.
So let me take away your pain
Give me all of your emotions
Land it like a plane on my back if you can’t hold it
The production on this track feels like the embodiment of running through a meadow in slow motion amidst the most spectacular sunset. The chord progression is majestic and like nothing I’ve heard before, and don’t even get me started on the violin outro. Genius.
I wanted to end on this (corny) note because every day of our twenties truly has the power to be our moment. It’s one of the only times in our life when we have the whole world in the palm of our hands, and that’s both beautiful and terrifying. We have the luxury to be independent and ambitious and yet the safety net to make mistakes along the way– what more could we ask for? Whichever trajectory you choose in your twenties, just know that music will be there for you every step of the way.