Songs to get through an essay crisis

This article first appeared in The Oxford Student on 8 May 2015.

You’ve got a deadline to hit, about twelve hours in which to hit it, and you haven’t even planned your essay yet. You sigh. You know it’s going to be a long night. You put on some coffee, open your word processor, and slip on a few tunes. This list of songs will get you through yet another essay crisis with your sanity intact (ish).

You start: Imagine Dragons – ‘It’s Time’. You play this as you finish your incredibly rough and hazily-drawn plan. Right. Time to begin the essay… In a minute. Maybe you should listen to this song just one more time.

Now you’ve finally begun, you know you’re in it for the long haul. You turn on the Proclaimers’ ‘500 Miles’. The going may get tough, but damn it, this essay will not beat you. ‘Cause I would write five hundred words, and I would write 1,500 more! After your neighbour yells at you to stop signing, you change the track and get back to work.

Time for something classical. What else? Pachelbel – ‘Canon in D’. Ah, something soothing and relaxing. So soothing and relaxing that you get nothing done for the next seven minutes.

Quick, energy. Need energy. Anything to get that second paragraph flowing. Who’s got the energy of an excited puppy? Ed Sheeran. The song: ‘Sing’. Try not to get distracted by how much Ed sounds like a nine year old asking to leave the dinner table when he says “Maybe we can get down now”. Although figuring out how this dweeb managed to make such a fun party song is an intellectual exercise that deserves an essay of its own.

Up next, The Rolling Stones –‘(I can’t get no) Satisfaction’. An excellent one to listen to after several irritating minutes spent trying to untangle the various rhetorical knots you’ve managed to tie yourself up in. Nothing alleviates frustration quite like hearing it shouted by rock gods.

It’s getting really late. You need a real pick-me-up, and there’s nothing like the ‘00s falsetto of the Scissor Sisters. ‘I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’’. It is scientifically impossible for people not to get at least a bit more of a spring in their step after listening to this one. A perfect pick-me-up as you struggle to the end of your half-baked point about quantitative easing.

And so you reach the 1,000 word mark. You’re ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’, and Bon Jovi will help you out. Take a few minutes off and listen to this hard rock classic. You’re halfway there, after all (note: this works particularly well for theology essays).

You turn to your old friend, David Bowie with ‘Starman’. You ponder the effectiveness of ‘I’d like to hand in this essay, but I think I’d blow your mind’ as an excuse. You decide it is not feasible, sigh, and get back to work. You know it’s all worthwhile, after all.

It’s time for an ego boost with the single most egotistical song ever recorded: ‘Mirrors’ by Justin Timberlake. Its core message boils down to: ‘I love you because you remind me of me’. This is exactly the kind of self-esteem boost you needs while staring at a screen at 3am and questioning your life choices. Especially useful if writing about Lacanian theory.

You need anything to stop you resorting to that ever-more-tempting three quid bottle of wine you’ve got in the fridge. ‘We Are Young’ by fun is a song that consists of the kind of bollocks you would drunk-text to your ex at four in the morning, and thus serves as an excellent warning against hitting the drink. Plus Janelle Monáe turns up for three seconds on that wonderful bridge.

Next, an overlong, incoherent mess of half-formed, disjointed sentences, with occasional outbreaks of terrifying noises suits ‘Revolution 9’ by The Beatles.

You stumble, bleary-eyed, to a conclusion at long last. You save your document, shut down the computer, and stick on one of the most relaxing songs in the world, before you collapse into bed, exhausted. Art Garfunkel sounds like the angel of sleep on Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’. You try not to think about all the edits you’re going to have to make in the morning. For now, the waters are calm.

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