Oxford's oldest student newspaper

Independent since 1920

Soundtrack to my degree

When I first came to Oxford, my Dad sent me the playlists he listened to for each year at university. His second-year playlist in particular made me think about the music that would be the soundtrack to my own time here: it hasn’t quite been the definitive era of Britpop my Dad experienced in 1995-6, but I’ve been looking back at my termly playlists to see which artists have popped up again and again. Of course, this is all at the mercy of my music taste, and there’s a lot of songs that belong more to my Dad’s era of music than ours… Every song reminds me of a specific time and place in Oxford, whether singing along to ‘As It Was’ by Harry Styles in Catz bar or being introduced to Sam Fender in my friend’s room in first year. I’m rarely seen without headphones if I’m by myself, whether that’s the walk to Tesco, wandering down Manor Road to a library or doing class reading; there’s always been music in the background of my time here.

Not to conform to stereotypes, but it may surprise no one that as a female English student, the only artist to appear on all of my playlists was… Taylor Swift! With the release of her first re-recording, Fearless (Taylor’s Version), six months before I started at Oxford, followed by Red (TV) in Michaelmas 2021, she is perhaps the artist of my degree, claiming my top artist spot for the last two years. A close second, only missing from one playlist, is Maisie Peters (she didn’t make it in my country music era of Hilary 2024). She is Taylor-adjacent in style, yes, but I saw her live in September 2021 and again in Trinity 2023, making Maisie’s music another constant. My first-year Trinity playlist began with her lyric, “I am twenty, and probably upset right now” (‘You Signed Up For This’); I saved ‘The Good Witch’ to start my final Trinity playlist, as she sings, “Still upset, but now I’m 22”, ageing with me and my degree in a way that really shows how much music has been in the background of it all. 

 New music from The 1975, Ed Sheeran, Olivia Rodrigo–  all big names of 2020s music – also appeared on my playlists. I couldn’t make this list without another favourite of the English student, boygenius, whose the record was a defining alternative sound of 2023, as well as one of my standout albums. ‘Not Strong Enough’ has to be one of my top songs of recent years. I may complain I haven’t got to live through the heydays of Oasis, Blur and Pulp – all frequent fliers on my own playlists, but upon reflection 2021-24 produced a lot of great indie or alternative music. Declan McKenna, Remi Wolf and Chappell Roan have also recently become big names. I’m sure everyone has their own equivalents of defining artists and genres, depending on your tastes but it has been interesting to reflect on my own musical leanings which have solidified over the last few years.

After I sat my last exam, one of the first things I did was add Blur’s ‘To the End’ to my Trinity 2024 playlist – ‘looks like we made it to the end’. The night before, I listened to ‘Don’t Look Down’ by Isaac Gracie and Chilli Chilton as I left the study room after my last revision session; the song I used to always play as I left the library in first year. Doing the same walk across Catz Old Quad now–  to the room next door to where I was introduced to Sam Fender and danced to ‘Not Nineteen Forever’ by the Courteeners in 2021, I had two thoughts: 1. I am far too much of a nostalgic person, and 2. I’ll always connect these songs to this place, and to these people. I hope so, at least. 

Check out our other content

Most Popular Articles