Across majors, social circles and backgrounds, one thing remains common in the music tastes of University of Dallas students: a love for thoughtful lyrics.
“For me, lyrics are really important to the art that is music,” senior Blake Palmer said. “And for me, hip-hop and rap really face cultural issues, maybe help put you in their shoes. The beat is fundamental — that’s what makes good music. But for it to be great, the lyrics have to complement the beat.”
Seniors Kerry Kennedy and Nathan Swope both said that while they appreciate the tunes of songs, they don’t enjoy songs that have shallow lyrics.
Senior Mary Grace Quinlan, who plays acoustic guitar, mandolin, piano and ukulele and sings, said that she has a preferred process for listening to new albums.
“I like to sit down and listen to an entire album at least three times,” Mary Grace Quinlan said. “First, for initial impression, and then the second time, I’m listening for lyrics, and then the third time is when I focus on the music.”
Eclecticism is another hallmark of UD music preferences.
“People don’t usually know about the bands I really like,” Kennedy said. “I’d describe the types of music I listen to as folk, Irish and then primarily singer-songwriter. I have great memories of my grandfather playing [the] accordion while my sisters and I danced. I even went through a punk pop phrase, which is pretty funny now.”
Swope said that he enjoys dabbling in different genres as well.
“There’s a couple spheres I occupy, so definitely heavy metal, rock and alternative, plus EDM, and then classical music is really what I grew up on,” Swope said. “I also love rap and hip-hop, from the right artists, and then there’s a little bit of jazz sprinkled in there.”
While Mary Grace Quinlan initially liked music that she knew she could play, her brother, Joseph Quinlan (’15), introduced her to new bands and genres.
“I originally liked almost exclusively music that I felt like I could sing or play: Angels & Airwaves, Channel Orange, Sara Bareilles,” Mary Grace Quinlan said. “My brother really helped me open up to a lot of different things. When we drove to UD [from St. Louis], we would just listen to random albums — whatever he had in the car, from Kendrick Lamar to Dave Matthews Band.”
Of course, UD students have their own philosophies of music.
“There’s a line I live by: Music is worthless unless it can make a complete stranger cry,” Mary Grace Quinlan said.
Junior Mary Kate Elfelt spoke about the importance of the experience of music, taking perhaps a more phenomenological perspective.
“One really cool concert for me was Alt-J,” Elfelt said. “I don’t want to say it was a religious experience, but everyone really felt so extended and involved in what they were doing. It was such an amazing, connective experience, and yet we weren’t actually interacting.”
Guilty pleasures for students at the university mostly include pop artists — Ariana Grande for Mary Grace Quinlan, 3OH!3 for Elfelt and Justin Bieber for Swope, especially Bieber’s latest album.
“Except I don’t feel guilty,” Swope said. “There is no shame in the Biebs.”
Favorite songs of the moment include Ingrid Michaelson’s “Hell No” for Kerry, Bastille’s “Shame” for Mary Grace Quinlan and Logic’s “Flexicution” for Palmer.
“He just steps up to the plate and says, ‘Here I am,’ ” Palmer said.
He added that if he had to pick an album to take to a deserted island, it would be:
“ ‘Ready to Die’ by Notorious B.I.G. because I think he and Tupac really changed the landscape of hip-hop and rap in the ’90s.”
Palmer identified some artists who have influenced his taste in music.
“If we’re naming names, I’d say Outkast, Prince and then Earth, Wind and Fire,” Palmer said. “My mom has definitely been a big influence.”