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SVA Made You a Mixtape

Students, alumni, faculty and staff recommend some of their favorite songs.

May 8, 2020
A color photograph of two warped candy cassette tapes.
Credit: Sweet Saba / Maayan Zilberman

Few art forms are as transportable, or as immediate, as music. With nearly all of our acts of community and goodwill necessarily long-distance for the time being, the time-honored tradition of making a mixtape—or, these days, a playlist—for a friend, loved one, or just anyone who cares to listen may be more popular than ever. (Check that last link for a playlist by SVA alumnus and photographer Justine Kurland.)

In that spirit, we've created this SVA community mixtape—a collection of songs recommended by various students, alumni, faculty and staff, and sequenced by Jen Fahey, a BFA Computer Art, Computer Animation and Visual Effects student and station manager at WSVA, the College's radio station, which continues to broadcast via wsvalive.com. To listen to the mix, visit WSVA's Spotify account, stream the playlist below or click the links after each title in the text.

Queen, "Don't Stop Me Now" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube)

I would nominate any song by Queen. The lyrics are often related to fairy-tale or intense feelings, which are helpful for art students like us to get inspiration from it. ... You will never get bored, even if you listen to them all day.

Siqi Wu (student, BFA Animation)

Rupert Holmes, "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube)

This song gives me the feeling like I am on a vacation and I think that's what everyone needs right now!

Jen Fahey (student, BFA Computer Art, Computer Animation and Visual Effects), station manager, WSVA 

Sam Smith, "Money on My Mind" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube)

I believe its lyrics represent Sam's attitude towards music-making and I can really relate to it, especially this:

I don't have

Money on my mind

Money on my mind

I do it for

I do it for the love

When I was down and troubled, this song cheered me up.

Taizhi Chen (student, BFA Illustration)

Shakira, "Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube)

This song always lifts my mood and makes me get up and dance and just be in the present. During these uncertain moments we are moving through, it's been a regular on my playlist.

Nika Lopez, manager of marketing and outreach, SVA Continuing Education

Post Malone, featuring Ozzy Osbourne and Travis Scott, "Take What You Want" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube)

The guitar sound is so sick, it's crazy. And it's Ozzy Osbourne—like, who's not going to listen to this song?

Jazlyn Kendrick (student, BFA Cartooning), assistant manager, WSVA

Jack Johnson, "Banana Pancakes" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube)

The songwriter urges his lover, with everything in his power, to stay at home with him. ... I think it’s a timely and lovely song, to think of staying as an act of love and emotional support.

Grace Kwon (student, MFA Design for Social Innovation)

Stoop Kids, "Quit You" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube)

Carved in the concrete just outside of 209 East 23rd Street is something along the lines of, "Stoop Kids were here." I assume it's these guys, and this whole album is one cohesive jam worth the listen.

Sydney Burns (student, BFA Illustration), website coordinator, WSVA

Rose Cousins, "The Benefits of Being Alone" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube)

It's bright, catchy and clever, and I feel like it's perfect for anyone who doesn't have a quarantine partner right now (and is totally fine with it).

Jason Koth, SVA registrar

Carly Rae Jepsen, "For Sure" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube) 

The best songs for me tell an entire story, and this one is so evocative. It gives me goosebumps every time I listen.

Molly Knox Ostertag (BFA 2014 Cartooning), graphic novelist (The Midwinter Witch) and staff writer, The Owl House

Morgan Delt, "Some Sunsick Day" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube) 

It makes me feel like the sun outside is waiting on us to go out there and feel it. Even though we can't go out now, we can dream about how great it's gonna be when we’re all together again with a tiny speaker on a blanket on the beach, holding hands and passing drinks. This feels hopeful and warm, so I listen to it.

Dasha Belikov (student, BFA Film), event coordinator, WSVA

A color photograph of five candy cassette tapes.
Credit: Sweet Saba / Maayan Zilberman

Caroline Rose, "Soul No. 5" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube)

It's super-catchy, upbeat and playful. The lyrics are funny; the song gives me a happy summertime vibe.

Jen Liang, assistant director, Visual Arts Press

John Prine, "Hello in There" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube)

John Prine, a great singer-songwriter who died from COVID-19 complications, wrote this heartbreaking song about the invisibility of the old among us.

David A. Ross, writer/curator and chair, MFA Art Practice

Steve Lacy, "Ryd" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube)

It's been hard to find music that makes sense in this moment of quarantine. It's music like this that reminds me of what the warm weather can be, that keeps me high.

Hunter Vasquez (student, BFA Photography and Video), DJ, WSVA

Buddy Holly, "Everyday" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube)

It's entirely possible that I've heard this song a thousand times over the course of my life. And yet, each and every time I listen to it, whatever my mood, I still react the same way, with a smile that simply cannot be denied. Brimming with energy and optimism, it represents the thrill and promise of love—and thus, life itself. 

Billy Altman, music critic/historian and faculty, Humanities and Sciences

Stevie Wonder, "Tomorrow Robins Will Sing" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube)

Right now I'm all about survival songs. Something uplifting and inspirational. Plus it's Stevie!

Jerry Craft (BFA 1984 Media Arts), graphic novelist (New Kid; read SVA's Q&A with Craft here)

Fiona Apple, "For Her" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube)

I listen to it as I take my daily neighborhood stroll and it reminds me of the all-night studio sessions I did at SVA when her first album came out and I had the songs on repeat.

Maayan Zilberman (BFA 2001 Fine Arts), artist and founder, Sweet Saba

Chet Baker, "Let's Get Lost" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube)

Although most of his songs are very melancholy, this one is uptempo and feels like an escape!

Kenny Scharf (BFA 1981 Fine Arts), artist (see Scharf's SVA video interview here)

Peggy Lee, "Fever" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube)

Everyone should hear it once.

Paula Scher, graphic designer, partner at Pentagram and faculty, BFA Design (see Scher's SVA video interview here)

Stevie Wonder, "Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I'm Yours)" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube)

I have a "happy-making" playlist that I started compiling way back in in the fall of 2016 (no particular reason why then in particular, ahem), and I turn to it when I need a little lift. Usually I'll do it simultaneously when I'm about to climb into a very hot bath.

Lynn Shelton (MFA 1995 Photography and Related Media), executive producer/director, Little Fires Everywhere

Nada, "Senza Un Perché" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube)

This is one of my favorite tracks, like, ever. I came on this from watching the HBO series The Young Pope. (The show has a terrific soundtrack.) It's just a wonderful mix of old school and modern. It feels like an updated '60s song.

Chris Stein (1973 Fine Arts), co-founder and guitarist, Blondie, photographer and author (Point of View: Me, New York City, and the Punk Scene; read SVA's Q&A with Stein here)

A color photograph of four candy cassette tapes.
Credit: Sweet Saba / Maayan Zilberman

India.Arie, "Headed in the Right Direction" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube)

I listen to it whenever I'm feeling anxious or need a reminder that no matter what happens, my life is on track and everything will be okay.

Rayon Richards (BFA 2004 Photography), photographer

Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile, "Attaboy" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube)

Urgent and tender; chaotic and melodic at the same time—it's art. I put it on, especially when I'm stuck—sonic Claritin for seasonal writing fog. "Attaboy" is from the great 2011 album The Goat Rodeo Sessions. The term "goat rodeo," by the way, is a rousing sentiment for the times. According to Urban Dictionary, it's "about the most polite term used by aviation people (and others in higher-risk situations) to describe a scenario that requires about 100 things to go right at once if you intend to walk away from it."

Anne Quito (MFA 2014 Design Criticism), journalist, design critic and staff reporter, Quartz

Brian Eno and John Cale, "Spinning Away" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube)

I first heard this a few years ago and have loved it ever since. It seems, at least in part, to be about how art can be a mystery even to the artists who make it. But the song itself is so beautiful and transfixing that what it's "about" doesn't really matter. (Just like art!)

Greg Herbowy, associate director, SVA Communication

Babyface, "Whip Appeal" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube) 

This song reminds me of my last year at SVA—a very cold winter and I listened to this all the time on the radio ... WBLS, of course.

Jennifer Steinhauer (BFA 1990 Communication Arts), author (The Firsts: The Inside Story of the Women Reshaping Congress) and staff reporter, The New York Times

John Carroll Kirby, "Socotra" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube)

This song is titled after an island in Yemen, but I think it has more to do with the feeling of travel and escape than any specific place.

Dash Shaw (BFA 2005 Illustration), graphic novelist (Clue: Candlestick) and director/animator (My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea)

Pharrell Williams, "Happy" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube)

This song is uplifting and, with social distancing occurring, it's fitting to have something that brings us together in spirit.

William Berrios, director, SVA Financial Aid

DJ Shadow, "Rosie" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube)

I've been a fan of DJ Shadow since high school, which was many moons ago. Shadow's latest album is a return to form, and reminds me of when I would zone out at my desk and draw for hours. Seems like that's particularly relevant now.

Rich Tu (MFA 2009 Illustration as Visual Essay), vice president of digital design at MTV, VH1, CMT and Logo

Henryk Górecki, "Three Pieces in Olden Style for String Orchestra: Second Piece" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube)

You could choose any Górecki song. He's just amazing.

Beth B (BFA 1976 Fine Arts), visual artist/filmmaker (Lydia Lunch: The War Is Never Over) and faculty member, MFA Art Practice and BFA Fine Arts

Max Richter featuring Grace Davidson, "whose name is written on water (Pt. 4)" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube)

I find myself in repose while listening to Max Richter's Sleep. The entire album—eight hours and 204 songs long—is worth a listen, for as long as it takes you. Richter conceived of an album that could be listened to while asleep, and I think this is the perfect soundtrack for taming our disquiet.

Emmanuel Iduma (MFA 2015 Art Criticism and Writing), writer/editor and faculty, MFA Art WritingMA Curatorial Practice and MFA Photography, Video and Related Media

Rostam, "Wood" (Amazon Music / Apple Music / Spotify / YouTube)

When I listen to this song, I feel I am in nature, without a sense of the time of day. This song gives me a feeling of relaxation, but at the same time, it gives me passion. It makes me very balanced in a creative way in this quarantine.

Tatsunori Hosoi (student, BFA Photography and Video)


For information on SVA community resources during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, visit sva.edu/coronavirus.