A playlist for young people coming of age, bewildered time travelers, benevolent aliens*, and other new arrivals to human civilization.
1. “Gosh,” by Jamie xx — The calm before the storm. The 2016 edition of human civilization is awe-inspiring in all the right and wrong ways.
2. “B.O.B.” by OutKast — *Here’s* the storm. The things that make the world beautiful and interesting are usually the same things that make it chaotic and terrifying. If you learn how to ride the lightning, though, even the apocalypse can be an excuse to party.
3. “Cold War,” by Janelle Monáe — The world is 95% horrible and does not have your best interests at heart. Be one of the good guys. Try to make it better.
4. “Common People,” by Pulp — To reiterate: there are people out there who aren’t exactly like you, and they deserve your respect. Don’t be an asshole.
5. “Temptation,” by New Order — Once you’ve got your feet back under you, you get another opportunity to marvel at just how intoxicating the world (and everything in it) really is.
6. “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” by Whitney Houston — Now that you’re excited about everything, you want so badly to share it with somebody. Whitney Houston gets you.
7. “I Feel Love,” by Donna Summer — Hey! You get to dance with somebody!!!
8. “When Doves Cry,” by Prince — It turns out relationships can be complicated!!!! )-:
9. “Running Up That Hill,” by Kate Bush — You’re starting to learn that there are a lot of flipsides in life. For one, the infinite variety that makes people fascinating also makes it so that you’ll never totally understand anyone else, even someone you love. *Especially* someone you love. And no matter how much you want them to feel the way you do, no amount of hoping can guarantee that they will.
11. “Sloop John B,” by the Beach Boys — Sometimes you just want to go home. This is especially true after the world’s ripped your heart out and hired Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance, to riverdance on it.
12. “Everybody Plays the Fool,” by the Main Ingredient — You don’t completely understand other people, and they don’t completely understand you, but one thing everyone knows is how it feels to get your heart broken. Understanding that other people survived is your first step to getting up and over it.
13. “Untitled,” by R.E.M. — The next step? Looking out your window and realizing that the (beautiful, horrible) world didn’t end. And that maybe, just maybe, there are people out there who’ll love you and care about you no matter what.
14. “All My Friends,” by LCD Soundsystem — One of the things you’ll learn from your hard times is that you don’t have to go through them alone and never did. Good friends will save your life.
15. “Born to Run,” by Bruce Springsteen — Thanks to people who care about you, you’ll know by now that it’s risky to hope and riskier not to.
16. “Sally MacLennane,” by the Pogues — Being part of the world means you’re gonna lose a lot of people and things who are important to you along the way. Learn how to say goodbye.
17. “Favorite Thing,” by The Replacements — In a cruel world, love is an act of rebellion. Caring is cool. Being in love is cool.
18. “OK Pal,” by M83 — Being in love is really cool.
19. “You Send Me,” by Sam Cooke — It turns out relationships don’t have to be complicated!!!!
20. “Waterloo Sunset,” by the Kinks — Maybe for the first time, your sense of wonder extends to your everyday life. You’ll learn how to be kinder to other people, to appreciate the parts of them that are arbitrary and essential, and to be grateful for them.
21. “Once in a Lifetime,” by Talking Heads — The most important thing to remember is to stay awake. It could all end at any moment, and you don’t get any do-overs. Savor all of it. [Time travelers can disregard.]
22. “The Obvious Child,” by Paul Simon — You’ll grow up risking everything just by taking part in the world. You’ll win and you’ll lose, and as hard as growing older is, it’ll also give you the perspective you need to sift through the bullshit and the joy you need to heal. The world won’t be the same as it was when you first got here. It’ll be richer for everything you and your memories have added to it.
*The playlist for malevolent aliens is one song: “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue,” by Toby Keith