Going Under: Reese’s Party Playlist
The main characters of Going Under are college kids. And college kids like to have parties.
Well, no. Not all of them. I was a college kid once, and I didn’t do parties. (I was weird.) Gabriel, Going Under‘s MC is a bit like me. He’s introverted and completely focused on his goals. He doesn’t really have time for other people.
(I’ve gotten better. I can’t say if Gabby will or not.)
Enter the Frat Boy
Reese is probably closer to your quintessential frat boy than Gabriel is, even though Reese doesn’t actually belong to a fraternity. Nonetheless, he embodies more of the stereotypes associated with “frat culture.”
There’s a reason Brody suggests Reese should join him in dressing up as a frat boy for Halloween. It’s an idea the others quickly turn down, asking Brody if he isn’t already a frat boy. How would that costume be any different than his usual self?
Even though he’s not a pledge, Reese likes to party. He’s affable, outgoing, social, and friendly. He enjoys parties. He particularly likes playing host. He’s also got the ability to get his hands on some booze, despite being underage.
Please Don’t Stop the Music
One aspect of a great party is music. In Chapter Four, Irresponsible/Irrepressible, Gabriel helps Reese set up one of his bashes. As they’re preparing, Gabriel begins clicking through Reese’s playlist. He’s not too happy about what he finds. Earlier on, Reese mocked him for have a particular Britney Spears song on his iPod. Gabriel blamed it on his sister, but Reese wasn’t buying it.
Reese’s playlist has not only Ms. Spears, but a bunch of other pop artists considered a little “girly” or even “gay”: the Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry. When Gabriel calls Reese out on it, Reese laughs it off. He blames it on his sister Megan, saying he had her make it up so he had a playlist girls would like.
Do We Believe Him?
Both Reese and Gabriel try to blame their sisters for music that’s made its way onto their playlists. In Gabriel’s case, he’s embarrassed he’s caught with the song. Reese is more nonchalant, but similarly pins the blame on his sister. There’s a caveat, however: He claims he asked his sister, whereas Gabriel says his sister must have simply added the song without his permission.
The question is whether or not you should believe either of them. Gabriel goes on the defensive, suggesting he’s embarrassed to be caught with the song, but also that he likely knew about it. He doesn’t seem surprised. He then immediately blames a girl for the choice. Certainly, he wouldn’t have done that.
Reese claims he asked his sister to make a playlist girls would like, so he specifically asked her to add “girly” songs by artists popular with women. She did this at his behest. Reese indicates he asked for this so he could impress girls. Later on, it comes out that Reese identifies himself as gay, so one has to wonder why he’d want to impress girls.
The more likely answer is he added the music himself. He may have had some input; perhaps he and his sister worked together on the playlist for a joint party. Maybe she put it together for him, including his own favorites. Perhaps he put it together for her.
Music and Identity
Ultimately, we could see both characters’ reactions as part of the construction of masculinity. Gabriel doesn’t want to be perceived as girly or gay, so he categorically denies liking an artist like Britney Spears. The fact he blames his sister only points to the feminine/masculine dichotomy. As a girl, she’s allowed to like this kind of music and this artist. As a man, he’s not.
Reese’s reaction offers up another construction of masculinity. Yes, his playlist includes pop artists with overwhelmingly female fanbases. But he asked a woman to put his playlist together, so as to impress women. Here we see masculine ideals at work: He wants to impress women. Yet he has no idea what they’d like. He doesn’t listen to this kind of music himself. He has to enlist the help of a woman.
Of course, music is also a testament to other parts of a person’s identity. You might identify with a particular subculture if you like a certain kind of music. Most of us like music of a certain era as well–often the music we grow up hearing. Music we listened to with our parents might have particular meaning. What we listened to as teenagers is often influential on our identities.
Music can also speak to a larger, cultural identity: Reese’s playlist includes a few Spanish-language tracks. Most of these are mainstream. Going Under is set in 2012, however, before we got hits like “Despacito” taking over the airwaves.
Music and Writing
Like a lot of writers, I like to listen to music when I’m writing. I often find inspiration in certain tracks. I’ll listen to big, sweeping instrumental tracks when I’m writing action sequences. If the characters are in a club, you know I’m listening to club tracks.
So while I was writing the scenes in Going Under, I definitely had a playlist. I definitely did not need the entire length of this particular playlist, but I once I’d built the initial framework, I wondered what else Reese would have on his party playlist.
Anatomy of a Playlist
I looked at the final tally and wondered why it was so long. Yet I was reminded parties often run for hours. If everyone arrived at nine, a five-hour playlist would take them until two am. Nobody’s really paying attention to the music at that point, but it’s nice to have something you don’t need to worry about.
Chances are Reese turned on his party playlist early, however, for early arrivals and pre-drinkers, or even to get himself pumped up to party.
There’s a relatively wide-ranging mix, mostly mainstream tracks. There’s classic rock, reggae, pop and top 40, EDM, and rap and r&b in the mix. As mentioned, Reese has selected tracks from the Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry.
There’s an eclectic mix of current (as per the story) hit music and popular tracks from the 1990s and 2000s. There’s also a number of “classic” party anthems. Essentially, this playlist is meant to be a people-pleaser. Its mix of tracks “everyone knows” from a wide range of genres makes it a little “something for everyone.”
One thing noticeably missing is a ballad. Many DJs include a few ballad-type songs on their playlists. First, it allows couples (both newly minted and otherwise) to get close. The other thing it does is cool the party down a bit and give everyone a breather. Reese isn’t thinking much about that; he wants to party!
What You Actually Clicked in Here For
So, without further ado – the playlist itself.