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The best graduation playlist

Olive Miller
Senior Broden Fulton caught dancing while listening to some of the songs on the playlist.

As the end of the year draws closer and closer and seniors begin to reach for their graduation caps, you may want some music to get you in the mood for graduation. Lucky for you, I’ve painstakingly spent a couple hours crafting the perfect playlist that allows for all the emotions. 

Here are some of my top picks for songs that revolve around change and high school graduation (the playlist progressively gets more depressing). 

The Spins – Mac Miller

The Spins is a fairly classic song that celebrates infinite youth and unadulterated joy. In the song, Miller even offers the line “Oh yeah, I just graduated high school”, which has become a famous line for most kids born between 2000-2007. In my opinion, this is one of if not the most perfect song to commemorate graduating high school and will most likely continue to be the top song for the foreseeable future.

Ain’t It Fun? – Paramore

Oh Paramore, my beloved. Ain’t It Fun offers a kind of sarcasm throughout the song and discusses how life gets harder when you move from childhood familiarity to adulthood. Paramore is well known for weaving in emotional lyrics with peppy beats, if you take a moment to listen to the lyrics they can actually be quite sad. All in all, Ain’t It Fun is a song that sums up the change from being a high schooler to stepping into adulthood.

Good Days – SZA 

Between the mystical instrumental and lyrics, there was no chance Good Days missed this playlist. Good Days follows the struggle of soul searching and feeling like you’re losing control of your life. SZA is a master of combining multiple genres from blues to pop to hip-hop and soul. While the lyrics of this song, like Ain’t It Fun, can be a bit more bittersweet, they fall on top of such an imposing instrumental that it’s hard to feel too sad.

Kids – MGMT

MGMT teaches the moderation and control that many teenagers feel as they try and branch into adulthood, however it’s also a nod to childhood. Like the past two songs, Kids skews to sadder nostalgic lyrics layered on top of a danceable electronic beat. However, this song begins to sound a bit sadder than the last two and helps bridge the transition into the sadder part of the playlist.

Telephones – Vacations

Vacations feels very reminiscent of the beginning of high school to myself and many other students. Vacations rose to fame in 2019 which is a bittersweet nostalgic time for many seniors of this and last year. Telephones specifically touches on phone addiction and wishing for a different time, person or location (it’s really left up for interpretation). This song represents more specifically our classes’ past rather than graduation, and serves as a call back to pre-COVID days. 

Don’t Delete the Kisses – Alice Wolf

If I had to give you one song on this playlist, it would be this song. Don’t Delete the Kisses follows a high school romance and an emotional battle against self doubt and stepping into your own life. The song is chalk full of naivety and swept up puppy love. In the song, the main character asks the question “What if it’s not meant for me; love?” The instrumentals in the song are nothing short of heart fluttering and to me feel very representative of many students’ high school journeys. 

Freaks – Surf Cruise

This song, much like Telephones, is a song that peaked back in 2019 allowing for a bittersweet nostalgic song. Freaks alludes to feeling trapped, out of place and wanting to be free along with traversing themes of growing up around people you know you may never be accepted by. However with the limited lyrics it’s hard to determine one specific theme. Mainly, this song serves as another nostalgia song for seniors. 

In My Life – The Beatles

Of course there had to be a Beatles song thrown in here. In My Life reflects back on past friendships and experiences that shape the experience of life. I think that most listeners will see it as a sweet song reminiscing on the past, and for that reason, I think it’s a good fit for a graduation playlist.

Yes, I’m Changing – Tame Impala

Yes, you are changing. If you couldn’t tell from the title, Yes, I’m Changing is a song about transforming into the person you want to become and learning to understand yourself better. The song talks about feeling that the world has opened up a plethora of opportunities and that the realization of that in and of itself is beautiful. For me, the ending of the song really stands out as the song repeats the words “It’s calling out for you” referring to the world of possibilities that lie beyond what you once thought was attainable — something that I think many seniors need to hear. 

Good Looking – Suki Waterhouse

While on the surface this song may be perceived as a love song, in actuality I think it also serves as a tribute to trying to find your place amidst the chaos. One of, if not the most influential lyrics in the song occurs in the main chorus, “The skyline falls as I try to make sense of it all”, which only further supports the notion of finding yourself through change. This song, whether viewed as a love song or a personal song, surrounds struggle and the wishy washy pulls of wanting change but not knowing how to make it happen.

 Need 2 – Pinegrove

Need 2 is where the songs takes an obvious skew to the saddest portion of the playlist. Need 2 takes on a beat and a lyric pattern that emulates boys as they grow into men. While the lyrics on this song are also limited, it serves as a song with a rhythm that can cause a twinge in just about anyone’s heart.

Scott Street – Phoebe Bridgers

I’m not a huge fan of Phoebe Bridgers, however, I recently listened to this song all the way through and I think it’s worth adding to the playlist. Scott Street surrounds the idea of visiting your hometown during college and running into someone you were once extremely close to, but since have drifted away from. The song ends with a haunting repetition of the line “anyway, don’t be a stranger”, something that many high school students can relate to as they part ways with friends that they’ve known for years. The lyrics in combination with the instrumentals make it a cry-worthy graduation song. 

Where’d All the Time Go? – Dr. Dog

This song is the personification of fleetingness of time and MY GOD is it heart wrenching. The song surrounds the main idea of reflection on time and a wish for time to turn back. Without a doubt in my mind, I can state that this song will probably be the saddest song for high school seniors to listen to, particularly due to the ever-growing popularity of this song throughout the senior class’s high school years. It’s a bright song about mourning people you’ve known all your life and watching as they slowly exit the frame.

Kids – Current Joys

While many will find Where’d All the Time Go the saddest song, for me personally, Kids will always be the most gut wrenching song. Kids follows a person as they grow into adulthood. Following the notion of “I’m just a kid” as it eventually transforms into “I’m no longer a kid,” Current Joys singer, Nick Rattigan, offers advice to his former self, encouraging him to follow his heart and take risks. The song’s composition has always left a mark on me and the theme of it makes it all the more bittersweet.

Don’t Look Back In Anger – Oasis

My final song for this playlist is Don’t Look Back In Anger. Don’t Look Back In Anger revolves around seeing the years pass and ‘raising a glass’ rather than looking back and regretting all that’s happened. To me, this is the perfect song to end the playlist with because it ends on a note of acknowledging the past, but choosing to turn your attention to the future instead. 

As you soak in the last moments of your high school journey, let this meticulously crafted (exactly one hour long) playlist accompany you in ensuring that your final month is marked by a soundtrack that reflects not only you, but the class of 2024 and all that lies ahead.

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About the Contributor
Olive Miller
Olive Miller, Howler Co-Editor In Chief
Hello! My name is Olive Miller and I'm a senior at Santa Fe. This is my third year on staff and my third year as Co-Editor-In-Chief! I love Vampire Weekend, traveling and I'm happy to be rejoining the staff for my final year!

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