Songs you should hear: Graduation edition

Songs you should hear: Graduation edition

As the current academic year comes to a fairly unceremonious close, graduating students, who are exiting New College during an unprecedented economic recession, are left wondering what comes next. According to the most recent results of this year’s “First Destination Graduation Survey,” nearly half of the Class of 2020 answered “still looking” when questioned about post-graduation prospects. Commencement, previously scheduled for Friday, May 15, has been postponed until Saturday, December 5, a date that feels impossibly distant for many struggling to see beyond the ongoing global crisis. While Executive Assistant to the President Shelly Wilbur has encouraged graduating students to submit short, parting recordings of themselves to a video montage—which will be played on the 15th in lieu of a physical ceremony—the immediate closure of a timely commencement is no longer a possibility for those currently receiving their undergraduate degrees. Although the future remains unclear, this year’s graduating class, along with their fellow, lower year classmates, should feel proud of all they have accomplished in spite of Coronavirus-related complications. Celebrate the end of this emotional roller coaster of a year with the Class of 2020’s—and the Catalyst’s—handpicked graduation playlist.

“Graduation” by Kero Kero Bonito

Graduating philosophy student Leah Bender recommends “Graduation,” an appropriately named hit by British experimental pop band Kero Kero Bonito. The song, which is critical of the formalities of higher education, was born out of the band members’ shared experience of missing out on their own college graduation ceremonies. Bender intended to play the upbeat track at Graduation PCP, a long cancelled event, but feels that the song’s cheerful yet somewhat irreverent lyrics, “Today’s my graduation, I’ve done my dissertation / Even got a hat I can throw (but I’m not going) / Today’s my graduation, so long to education / Didn’t learn a thing anyway,” are more relatable now than ever to those wrapping up their New College journeys.

“Graduate” by OSHUN

Cabrini Austin, graduating social sciences student, feels that independent hip-hop and soul duo OSHUN’s “Graduate” is emblematic of their final year and upcoming graduation. “Senior thesis got me writin’ sixty pages / Don’t give a, because I’m famous / Psych, nah I’m playin’ / Clean every word I’m sayin’ / It will turn into a film and a book about our prayin’,” NYU graduates Thandiwe and Niambi Sala sing, recalling the ups and downs of keeping up with school and creating meaningful academic work all while touring the world. “This is the song that you sing with your friends at 2am in the final days of May,” Thandi and Niambi stated in an interview with Fader regarding the celebratory track. “This is the song that you play as you Milly Rock across the graduation stage. This is the song for necessary ends and new beginnings.”

“20 Something” by SZA

“It really encapsulates the feeling a lot of us have graduating and going into our 20s without the same direction and stability a lot of us have known in our lives,” graduating environmental studies and anthropology student Amaranth Sander said regarding R&B singer-songwriter SZA’s confessional track, “20 Something.” “Becoming an adult is kind of crazy and this song always makes me remember how sweet but also sad this time in our lives can be.” SZA’s poetic style lends itself to the emotionality of this song, the lyrics, “Hopin’ my 20 somethings won’t end / Hopin’ to keep the rest of my friends / Prayin’ the 20 somethings don’t kill me, don’t kill me,” existing as the perfect soundtrack to confusing, frustrating, and transient young adult life. 

“Garden Song” by Phoebe Bridgers

Indie rock artist Phoebe Bridgers’ “Garden Song,” my own personal graduation pick, has been on repeat for me since mid-March move outs. Bridgers’ work always carries an impactful sense of honesty, but “Garden Song” feels particularly and suffocatingly nostalgic, the song’s narrative lyrics easily finding a home within the listener’s own memories. “I don’t know how but I’m taller / It must be something in the water / Everything’s growing in our garden / You don’t have to know that it’s haunted,” Bridgers sings, reflecting on youth’s disappointments and the seemingly rapid progression of time. The song is undeniably sad yet comforting, acting as a reminder of how far we have all come while also offering some respite from the looming thought of how far we all still must go.

Check out the Spotify playlist for this column at

Listen to this semester’s comprehensive “Songs you should hear” playlist at

Leave a Reply