The Undertow: It’s getting hot in here

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Three of my favorite songs about climate change 

Winter was my favorite season growing up. Philadelphia has a slightly calmer winter than this fridge we call a state, and it rarely got to what I’d call “aggressively” cold levels. There were always a handful of major snowfalls a year, which weren’t nuisances to me yet, outside of the occasional shoveling duty. To this day, there are not many better feelings than being a kid and looking out your window to a blanket of white, knowing you won’t have to go to school.  

Once I got to UConn, winter melted away to make summer my favorite time of the year, like a normal person. All it really took was three frigid months of walking through the TLS wind tunnel for me to come to my senses. Still, even though my preferences shifted, I still loved walking through campus in the snow. There’s a good reason half of UConn’s promotional photos are dusted over.  

Unfortunately, my last winter here has been an enormous disappointment. The only “sizable” snowfall happened in January during the first weekend of the semester, and that was maybe only four inches. I’m still hopeful for a fluke snowstorm later this month, but it really looks like this is it. A winter without snow is one thing, but we had to endure at least 10 days of freezing 35 degree rain. This might be an anomaly in a recent historical perspective, but I’m incredibly worried that it may become the new normal. Here’s some songs about climate change! 

Weyes Blood – “A Lot’s Gonna Change” 

The opening song to one of 2019’s best pop triumphs, “A Lot’s Gonna Change” is a gorgeous, serene anthem about nostalgia and evolution, but a single lyric from its second verse brings in a new perspective. “Born in a century lost to memories/Falling trees, get off your knees.” As some of my friends and I lurch closer to graduation this May, we’re all dealing with waves of nostalgia. Weyes Blood weaves this sense of looking back to simpler times with the very real knowledge that things were better when we didn’t know that there’s a chance we have a worse chance of dying of age-related illness than our parents. As the world gets worse, nostalgia becomes inseparable from the unconscionable realities we have to deal with now as all-but-adults. 

Joni Mitchell – “Big Yellow Taxi” 

The relationship between continued industrialization and the destruction of the global environment doesn’t just exist (despite what so many want you to believe), it’s something that needs to shift en masse in order to ensure the survival of humanity. Joni Mitchell knew this years prior to our modern understanding of climate change, as told in her 1970 song later covered by Counting Crows.  

“They paved paradise/And put up a parking lot,” Mitchell sings. “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”  

Although the chorus’s refrain might be famous, the song’s third verse is particularly powerful in its own right, bringing in animal rights in the fray of environmental consciousness.  

“Hey farmer, farmer, put away the DDT now/Give me spots on my apples/But leave me the birds and the bees, please,” Mitchell pleads.  

Samsa – “anthropocene” 

Samsa’s 2017 bop features a cute drawing of Earth on fire as its album cover, and its lyrics fit its art. By playing tune to the “Hey Ya” model of “a song that sounds cheerful from a melodic standpoint but is actually about something sad,” the Queens rapper spits bars about spending the impending climate apocalypse with your boo.  

“Yeah, our climate’s fucked/We might as well enjoy the weather/Our time is up/And I’d be satisfied if we died together,” the chorus rings.  

Samsa’s impressive wordplay finds light at the end of humanity’s tunnel, as he shares romantic date ideas for the end of days.  

 “We could linger on the boardwalk, watch tsunamis from the turf shore,” he spits, or perhaps, “We could sing a Christmas carol like a little chorus choir 

By a thousand Christmas trees lit up from a forest fire.”  

At the end of the day, there is some existential nihilism involved with climate change, especially for young people like me and Samsa. Those in power seem hesitant at best in terms of mass action, and we’re running out of time to do something. Unfortunately, there’s no other option than to rage against the dying of the light, and so we must. At least we have a soundtrack for it.  


Daniel Cohn is the associate managing editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at daniel.cohn@uconn.edu.   

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