Spring '21 Mixtape: My Fire Shining Through

Songs to thaw out the winter ice and our aching hearts. We aren't over the dark days, but we'll keep putting one step in front of the other. It's a season for hope.

Spring '21 Mixtape: My Fire Shining Through
Photo by TOMOKO UJI on Unsplash

Do you create playlists? How often?

I tend to create one every season.

A season is enough time to build a lineup of songs to listen to over and over again. But it's not so long that you get sick of them.

Once the weather starts to warm up and days get brighter—or, the opposite, depending on the time of year—it's time for something new.

Sometimes, it feels like I'm curating a soundtrack for my life. Other times, it has fuck all to do with anything. I just dig the vibes.


This past winter was a long one. Let's be real, this past year has felt like an eternity. Well, mostly March and April last year. The rest of this pandemic year feels like it passed by in a flash in hindsight, while being dreadfully slow in the moment at times.

For Americans, it felt like a year where every moment was filled with dread. We lived the year with knowing that the worst of the pandemic was still on the horizon. That’s not even taking into account the election and the constant instances of police brutality on Black people.

Then, the weather started to get colder, and the cases rose and rose. The worst had arrived.

Even now, as the western world seems to have tamped down the virus, there is no respite. COVID-19 rages on in the rest of the world (blame capitalism, the west, and rich people). American democracy is still on the verge of collapse.

Regardless, spring is here. It's a season associated with hope and renewal.

I tried to play around with those themes in this mixtape along with heartbreak, nostalgia, melancholy, and self-love.


ATEEZ - Answer

We're starting this one off with a celebratory anthem, one that acknowledges the challenges faced along the way.

I love the layers in this song. The slow build up. The beat drop. The soaring vocals (Jongho!).

ATEEZ captured my attention when I heard their song, "Say My Name." They're a relatively new group in K-pop, debuting in 2018, and are considered a "fourth generation" group. Despite being less than three years old, they have already released three studio albums and seven EPs. (Talk about prolific!) Their live performances are out of this world—three of the members are in the "demon line" because they're simply that intense on stage. I'm not sure how many times I've watched their MAMA 2020 performance of "INCEPTION" and "Answer."

A toast... Here's to you!

Nikbo - Without You

This next one is a song from an artist, Nikbo, who's doing things differently, imagining and building a generative creative oasis because there are alternatives to our society's exploitative capitalist ways.

"Without You" honors our loved ones and ancestors. The ones who raised us, held us, and made us the people we are today.

You raised me to whisper to flowers
Showed us how to fight for what’s ours
The night is longer, the morning colder without you
It burns inside, but I’ll let that guide me without you

Excuse me, I need a tissue.

Check out Nikbo's whole EP on Bandcamp.

Griff - Black Hole

Personally, I'm don't feel the heartache of breakup anthems like I used to when I was younger. The first time you feel emotions, they're potent because they're novel. Nowadays, these songs are still powerful—they just hit a bit differently than they did when I was a teenager and young adult. Songs like "Black Hole" are colored with a tinge of bittersweet nostalgia these days, a suggestion of days long gone.

I'm not one to dwell on the "good ol' days." If anything, my eyes are always looking towards the future. Even so, I do like to feel the melancholy of a past I can never return to. Is it possible to enjoy melancholy?

Anyway, here's a bop from Griff...

(G)I-DLE - HWAA

Another break up song. Where "Black Hole" leaned into the melodramatic, "HWAA" is flowery, telling of "the pain of love using the burning fire and colourful flowers in the cold winter sensibility as a metaphor."

This is such a beautiful song. Written and produced by (G)I-DLE member, Soyeon, it's a song brimming with hope even as the subject is heartbroken, trapped in winter. The night will pass, and spring will come.

All the memories I'll burn to ashes
From which brilliant flowers bloom

I wish I understood Korean so that I could experience it in its original. (There's an English version of "HWAA" as well.)

GFRIEND - MAGO

You know the feeling when you discover a band you like, and they happen to be at the top of their game? You can't help being excited for their next comeback. Then, you find out they've (GFRIEND) disbanded.

It's a bummer. Hopefully, it was just a business decision on either side and not the result of something more insidious. All we can do is wish these women the best of luck on the next stage of their careers.

They went out on top.

回:Walpurgis Night, their final album, was one of my favorites of 2020. Walpurgis Night is a holiday in Europe, which kind of sounds like a sister holiday to Halloween. It marks the beginning of spring and people set bonfires to ward off witches.

MAGO, the disco-pop lead single, sets the tone for this record with an ode to modern witches.

I'm pairing this one with HWAA as it feels like a natural follow up. Like the holiday, this song helps us welcome spring, not by repelling spirits, but by urging us to be the unapologetic magical divine beings we are.

Dua Lipa - Hallucinate

Future Nostalgia was my album of the pandemic. It got me dancing, literally and figuratively, during an otherwise somber year.

The tracks are so strong, top to bottom, that at various points throughout the last year I had an "it" song from the album that I'd play on repeat. It started with "Physical" in the early days of the pandemic.

Nowadays, I'm feeling the "Hallucinate" vibes. It's pure fun, and I maybe someday I'll get to bop along to Dua Lipa performing this live.

Gia Woods - ALL I KNOW

Sometimes, we're so intoxicated by someone, we're "hallucinating." But relationships aren't always smooth sailing. Love is about making the journey of life with somebody, through all the peaks and troughs.

Somehow, someway, someday
I'll be standing here with you
We'll make mistakes, but hey
At least I'll make 'em with you
Whеn life's no great, that's okay
Cause no mattеr what we do
A little bit of me, a little bit of you
And a little bit of love will get us through

"ALL I KNOW" is the final song of a brilliant debut EP, CUT SEASON, a reflection on toxic people and emotions, and how, sometimes, we need to cut them out.

Spring cleaning, if you will.

Epilogue: BTS - Butter

To mark the waning spring, what better way to finish things off with this sure-to-be contender for "Song of the Summer"?