What Are You Listening To: A Playlist of ISU

By Sarah Levin

It was a boiling hot, sweaty, and excruciating day within the Illinois State University campus. White Noise editor Izzy Braico and White Noise music columnist Sarah Levin (me) hurdled towards the infamous Bone Student Center to ask people the most creative question on planet Earth … a question that has never been asked before on a college campus … 

What are you listening to?

I asked five students, each with an extremely similar taste. These were the results. 


This track off My Chemical Romances’ 2002 debut album “I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love” oozes with angst in the best way. As someone who, surprisingly, was never a huge MCR fan, I appreciate the gems hidden throughout their earlier works. Let’s be real here, MCR is arguably one of the most influential bands of the 2000s. Listen, I’m not going to write paragraphs about the impact MCR has had on music… just go to any social media platform ever made and they will do just that for you. Instead, I’ve decided to tear this song apart that an innocent ISU student was just listening to while doing their homework outside of The Bone Student Center. 

Infamously, this track was born after lead singer Gerard Way witnessed the 9/11 terrorist attacks firsthand. Way emphasized that he was inspired to create My Chemical Romance to spread a sense of togetherness after the tragedies. While also using music to cope with the mental scarring caused by the attacks, “Skylines and Turnstiles” expresses the process of collective grief and shock. 

The song begins with a powerful guitar riff that calls out to be heard. It pierces my headphones in the best way possible; as if it was made to be played in an arena. Way’s vocals supply the perfect mixture of anger masked within the music and energy that cannot be fully contained. The lyrics yearn to be known by the listener.

“We walk in single file, we light our rails, and punch our time / Ride escalators colder than a cell”

The subtle nature of this song creates the distinguished absence of performativity. This is not a 9/11 song that is meant to bring out toxic nationalism, like some music negatively accomplished after the attacks. “Skylines and Turnstiles” personalizes grief in such a way that connects with the listener and begs to be heard.

Although I’m still not a MCR “stan” by any means, I can appreciate that this 3 minute and 23 second song is relevant enough to cause people to jam out around their college campuses all while being pestered by random music columnists on a sweaty Tuesday afternoon. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.


Yes, this is the song that is blowing up on TikTok, and yes, it slays. As it’s known, trends stem from reworking the past decades in postmodern ways. A decade ago we saw the reimagining of the 1980’s aesthetic, with jean jackets coming back in full swing and 80’s inspired music swinging back into action with musicians like Bleachers, The Killers, The 1975. Around five years ago, 90’s inspired bubblegum pop formed a new wave hyperpop, which was caused by the resurgence of 90’s inspired fashion making a return. As we continue to remodel cultural trends, it is apparent that the “y2k” aesthetic is in full force, but this time with a maximalist twist.

However, the year 2000 feels like it was far too recent for music to use it as inspiration. Why make new y2k music when we can go to Spotify and listen to Britney Spears? “B.O.T.A” is so damn catchy because it is refurbished and polished in such a way that gives us the perfect amount of y2k nostalgia while still being fresh. This track gives listeners what they want – it feeds our daydreams of clubbing in the year 2003, solidifying our Myspace account, flipping our phones shut after use.

Ahhh, missing a time when I was literally a toddler

Artist Eliza Rose spoke to NME about the success of the track, saying “[B.O.T.A] was a bit too cutesy: I liked that element because I wanted that ‘90s nostalgia, but then I felt it needed some grittiness, too.” Rose explains exactly how I feel about this track. The grit and rebellion of the early 2000s mixed with the cuteness of the 90s comes together to produce a 2022 dance anthem that has stormed social media and enhances what hopes to be the newest, upcoming trend: fun music.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.


The rise of female rap in the last ten years is astonishing. Dallas rapper Asian Doll comes from a childhood of struggle, with poverty and parental figures in and out of prison. This struggle, along with overcoming it, makes her bad bitch energy even more encouraging. This specific song has the ongoing theme of having one’s eyes on the prize and prioritizing success, with verses recognizing the mindset that females have to go through within the music industry.

The new trope of emphasizing money and success over finding a man entertains the new wave of femininity that gives power back to women. Women, especially entertainers, can exist without pleasing a man’s ego. However, with this new wave comes the notion of women supporting women, which is extremely positive. The thing about this song that I dislike is the lack of lyricism about women support.

Any bitch got a problem, we can match off / Shorty said she was real, take that Mac off / Same city, same hood, bitch, you mad fraud”

Now here is where I draw the line. Ragging on other women because of the amount of “Mac” she wears goes against the entire revolution of new wave femininity. Bullying women based on the amount of makeup they wear is purely internalized misogyny. Instead of using energy to hate on other women, we can collectively hate on deserving men. Rappers like Megan Thee Stallion and Lizzo are great examples of making music that uplifts women without tearing others down. I understand that Asian Doll is a newer rapper, and she has to appease the patriarchy to make her mark. Yet, her potential is unmatched and she obviously has the talent to prove that.

Rating: 4 out of 5.


Look, I thought it would be funny to review a baseball podcast, but then I listened to exactly 2 minutes of a 2 hour long podcast and thought to myself, hell no. As someone who grew up with an older brother who was (and still is) obsessed with the White Sox, I’ve heard enough baseball statistics in the hallways of my childhood. I would fight over the FM radio while my brother would beg to listen to the game on the scratchy, hoarse AM channel covering some other ball game. Now as I listened to this podcast, I realized that I do not know jack shit about this sport. I know embarrassingly nothing about it, to be honest. The baseball podcast started speaking on the Yankees – original, right? They mentioned something about how the Yankees are good, or bad, or good, I don’t know, I really don’t know baseball. I think they started explaining their differing opinions or something. Then, they started explaining their similar opinions on the same team. Then, they differed again. This must’ve gone on for hours…. HOURS.

Rating: 3 out of 5.


This track on West’s “Jesus is King” is notably inspired by Christian themes of purity, honor, and respect for a higher deity. Sung by songwriter Ant Clemons, “Water” is simplistic and forward. With a smooth bassline clearly inspired by psychedelic rock and the overarching use of gospel music, this track metaphorically describes the nature of the liquid element and its power. 

Now, Kanye West is a public figure that causes people to have many, many differing opinions. His sudden and semi-unexpected religion fascination in 2019 with the album “Jesus Is King” sourced Christian values as a major inspiration for West. As for this song and my own personal opinion on it, it’s good! It’s good in the sense that it expresses a love for religion in a way that is respectful, catchy, and somewhat universal. However, knowing West has a radical past, it is hard to fully take the song “seriously.” West’s turn to religion seems hypocritical to me, at least, since he is a man who has many wildly secular beliefs, like materialism and consumerism. In an interview with Zane Lowe, reviewed by Joe Price of Complex Magazine, “[West] revealed that he asked people working on Jesus Is King with him to not have premartial sex while working on the project.” 

Just like that, West takes it too far. Yet, all radicalism aside, “Water” is a nice tune. It is calming due to its background noises of water flowing and the satisfying rhythm of West’s slow rap. I understand that most people listen to music for this exact reason; calmness. West makes music for this type of music consumption, good beats, nice rhythms, pleasant rhymes. I’m all for separating the art from the artist, and West is a prime example of that. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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