Megan Rebecca Coates revisits the Radio Four “Desert Island Discs” premise and discusses her top three songs that helped her survive lockdown.
In 1942 BBC Radio Four released a brand-new broadcast, Desert Island Discs, which proposed a very simple premise; what eight songs would you take with you to a desert island? Though this feat provides no known benefits for survival (and it is unknown how you will have the resources to play these songs) the show still exists on the radio to this day and continues to be popular amongst listeners. Perhaps this show would be better branded nowadays asking what songs got you through lockdown? I tried to narrow mine down to three, which was not quite as easy as I thought it'd be.
Hello from The Other Side
I was staying in Chester for the first couple months of lockdown, working on my final third year assignments, determined to graduate and begin my Master’s course, meanwhile my family were all back home in North Yorkshire. This led to various phone calls and Facetimes with family members and friends checking to make sure I was alright and that me and my housemates hadn’t descended into anarchy. To everyone’s surprise, including our own, we never did.
One of them ended up being an unexpected call from my Uncle, the majority of which was spent checking in and talking about how life was for each of us now – he was an essential worker doing rounds for Yorkshire Water, and I was doing my best to finish my Creative Writing Project (the CW equivalent to a dissertation) alongside five other academic assignments. Then (after hanging up and calling me back) he proposes a question to me “What are your Desert Island Disc tracks?”.
I will admit now that I had no idea what he was talking about but he explained that it involved choosing some of your favourite songs (in this case three) and sending my reasons over to him. I’d completely forgotten about this conversation until the other day when I was scrolling through the notes on my phone.
Music is very personal to a lot of people (I’m sure you’ve all seen the stereotypical pictures of crying fan girls at concerts) and art is often a medium that we turn to in times of stress - I know I do. With that in mind, and the ever-changing climate, I wanted to re-visit the three songs that I chose and shed some light on why I chose them.
Sleepovers in my Bed
My first choice was almost instinctive. As a young queer woman, I often find it very hard to find stories that tell my narrative as, despite the fact that LGBTQ+ content is slowly becoming easier to find and indulge in, these stories are still typically rare. This is especially the case with pop music.
Hayley Kiyoko, who has long been proclaimed the “Lesbian Jesus” of pop music, is perhaps one of the few LGBTQ+ artists who may occasionally chart on the top 100. The first song I’d heard by her was the classic anthem Girls Like Girls. Hearing that song on the radio was very exciting to me - the first time I’d heard anyone express very plainly that it was okay to be queer, that girls liked girls, and that it was all perfectly normal. However, it was another song of hers – Sleepover – that really made its mark.
When Sleepover was released in 2017, I listened to it on repeat. It was different to a lot of her previous releases; it was very mellow and sombre, with less of the fiery angst that I’d come to associate with her. The song described Kiyoko’s longing for her best friend and
how she wished that their relationship was deeper. When I first heard it, I was just coming to terms with my feelings for one of my best friends. I knew that the way in which we saw each other was becoming different. There were a lot of nights spent confused and frustrated with myself over how I was feeling and it wasn’t until I heard Sleepover that the pieces fell into place. Since then it has been a comfort blanket, to remind me that I’m not the only one who’s felt this way and even though those feelings can be frustrating, they’re not wrong or invalid.
I’ll Stop The World and Melt With You
When I originally told my uncle this list, my second choice was Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems by Lana Del Rey. But since then my second choice has changed to I Melt with You by Modern English. This classic 80’s one hit wonder has been a staple feature of
many a teen or coming of age movie, so even if you don’t recognise the song title, there is a good chance you’ve actually already heard it. It was originally featured on the 80’s film Valley Girl, but in more recent years has been featured in Netflix’s Stranger Things, been covered by Glee and, for all you Disney Nerds out there, a cover by Bowling for Soup was played during the film Sky High. The new-wave song is an up-lifting bop that never fails to make me feel the urge to dance. If I had to compare it to a modern song, I would say it reminds me of Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance”, the kind of song that gets you excited to fall in love. For a more in-depth review of this song check out this wonderful and insightful review by YouTube creator Tod In The Shadows: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpIWsaI6hCg
You Have to be Soft to be Strong
For my final choice (and I’m going to cheat a little here) there was only ever one artist option – Marina (and The Diamonds). However, as her music speaks to me (and to society on a whole), it wasn’t easy to narrow down exactly which of her songs I wanted to put here; my most listened to lockdown album was her most recent: Love & Fear, filled with songs about embracing life and learning to forgive and let go. Eventually, I narrowed my choice down to two, Fear and Loathing and Soft to be Strong. Now before you all go rushing to the comments to reprimand me for choosing four songs not three, firstly, I did warn you I was going to cheat, and secondly, they might as well be the same song – both about learning to love yourself and being able to lower your guard to accept other people.
When I first came to Uni in 2017 I was very lonely. I’d moved across the country (from east to west), I hadn’t known about online Facebook groups and communities that were set up for freshers, and my accommodation didn’t have any social areas for me to meet people. I’d often walk around and not see anyone and once I finally started to meet people, I was none too confident either. I had a lot of negative feelings towards myself and a lot of fear about other people being able to accept me (I was not very open in my queerness at the time). Whenever I felt this way I would play Fear and Loathing (Soft to be Strong wasn’t released until 2019) to remind myself it was okay to trust people and let your guards down. To this day, it’s something I still struggle with though I have become more loving and accepting of myself. But nowadays when I’m feeling this way, you’re more likely to hear me listening to Soft to be Strong. Musically it sounds more hopeful than Fear and Loathing which has some very dark and broody undertones to it. However, that doesn’t mean the latter doesn’t have a special place in my heart.
Is It Too Late to Apologise?
I’ve consistently used music to connect with myself and my emotions. Nowadays, I write my own music and poetry, as a way to share experiences with people and hopefully help someone the same way in which these artists helped me.
Finally, to my uncle, if you’re reading this? These are the in-depth explanations you asked for. Sorry they took so long to get to you.
Written by Megan Rebecca Coates
Post Graduate. Masters Student. Creative Writing.