In my seven semesters of college coursework, I have attempted to cure my dangerous blend of procrastination and perfectionism with a wide range of musical remedies. There’s no exact formula, but the right study music should energize you without stressing you out, relax you without sapping your work ethic and should absolutely not, under any circumstances, distract you with reminders of complicated heartbreaks. Picking study music is a delicate process of self-induced psychological manipulation.Some people prefer to push different mental buttons than others, but here are five strategies that have proven effective for me.
1. Let ladies who are equal parts awesome and terrifying inspire/scare you into getting your act together.
Best bets: Master of My Make-Believe Santigold, W H O K I L L Tune-Yards, MAYA M.I.A., Supa Dupa Fly Missy Elliott, 1991 EP Azealia Banks
These artists all exhibit the musical muscle of Amazonian warrior queens. I don’t know if it’s the feminine empowerment or just the sheer intimidation that motivates me, but these ladies have all been indispensable study buddies for me this semester. If M.I.A. can jump all over the stage at the 2009 VMAs spitting rap lyrics in a polka dot bikini while outrageously pregnant, anyone can do anything.
2. Regain your sense of joy and mischief with lively wordplay and spunky beats.
Best bets: Stereo Typical Rizzle Kicks, The Heist Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Mickey Avalon Mickey Avalon.
In the thick of finals week, things start to feel a bit too serious for my comfort – people’s faces take on a grayish tint, despair haunts their eyes and footnote formatting problems alone can provoke a nervous breakdown. At a certain point, anxiety and self-pity become extremely counterproductive, and it is time for the healing powers of comic relief. If you have time to watch a few episodes of “Arrested Development,” then by all means do that, but since lack of free time was probably one of the factors causing your grim condition in the first place, throw on one of the albums listed above while you hit the books. They will have the same enlivening effect on your study session that the class clown has on your history seminar.
3. Escape your cerebral prison with some heartfelt folk and bluegrass.
Best bets: A Little Bit Faster and a Little Bit Worse The Devil Makes Three, The Black Dirt Sessions Deer Tick, Palomino Trampled by Turtles
After a certain number of hours in a library cubicle, it can be easy to forget that you are an animal, a creature of the physical earth with the capacity for pain and desire and drunkenness. A few tracks from these albums with their raw, gritty lyrics and earnest instrumentalism will keep you grounded. A possible unintended side effect might be dropping out of college to work as a bartender on the North Shore or a cow wrangler in rural Tennessee.
4. Attack your eardrums with a relentless sonic machine gun of frantic positivity.
Best bets: Complete Greatest Hits The Cars, Ta Dah Scissor Sisters, Sidewalks Matt & Kim
Everything is great! Despite the fact that you have to write six pages in the three hours that remain until your morning class! Despite the fact that you don’t even remember what your bed looks like! Despite the fact that you just ate an entire box of Cheez-Its! Really, things couldn’t be better! It’s fine! Fine! Self-deception is a perfectly acceptable survival mechanism if implemented effectively.
5. Throw yourself an imaginary fiesta.
Best bets: Me Encanta la Vida Estilo Libre, The King of Dance Juan Magan, Meet the Orphans Don Omar.
Reggaeton is the most reliable method I know for deluding yourself into thinking that you’re at a fabulous party on a tropical island when, in fact, you are in the reference room. If you’re the type of person who gets distracted by lyrics while writing papers but you just can’t get into classical or techno, this could be the perfect fix. However, I feel I have a responsibility to warn you that these beats can be addictive; I start going through withdrawal if it’s been too long since I’ve heard “Danza Kuduro,” and given that the YouTube video has over 400 million views, countless others are fighting a similar battle.