A lyrical guide to love, longing and loss

Sometimes when processing feelings gets too tough, music and my bed become my escapes. 

Shea Noland / Daily Trojan

I would describe myself as a dull person, to be blunt.

Growing up in an Asian immigrant household, my dad and uncles modeled to me how Vietnamese men aren’t supposed to show or feel many emotions and — even if tragedy were to strike — to stay mentally strong for the sake of other people’s feelings. I was shamed and questioned whenever I cried.

“You live such a good life, why are you sad? You shouldn’t be sad,” my family would say to me.

But as I passed through high school and eventually ended up at USC, this kind of prideful, emotionless rhetoric in toxic masculinity and Asian cultures made me believe I was only ever allowed to feel content — and any amount of despair would inconvenience the people around me.

I felt isolated. I had no role model or teacher to learn how to process my feelings.

Whenever school days got tough, and I could feel the weight of the world on my chest, music became my escape. All wrapped up in the safety of my bedsheets, music taught me how to process my own raging feelings when no one else did.

I hope to share these songs for all of those who don’t know what to think sometimes, and need music to guide them through feelings of love, longing and loss.


I never really experienced love during my adolescent years, but whenever I daydreamed in bed about what romance could feel like, it always seemed simple to me. When I first listened to “Congratulations” by Mac Miller featuring Bilal, the idea of being with someone through the lows of car troubles to the highs of job successes defined what true love meant for me.

Through Mac’s sweet, melodic piano and passionate lyrics, he paints a picture and cherishes all of the small moments that come with love, from cooking breakfast together to sharing laundry.

But, when I entered college, I realized love isn’t as easy as Mac made it out to be. After many confused feelings and failed love endeavors, I finally discovered “Petrified” by Omar Apollo. Listening to “Petrified” — for me — is what love feels like once you’re just starting out and trying to find your person. The soothing guitar contrasts the lyrics of self-doubt, emphasizing the hopeless feelings and worries of a lying partner who “sang me a song, but it didn’t exist.”

While I still believe in Miller’s vision of fancy cars and morning sex, Apollo gives me solace in my journey and reminds me that love is complex, and that is okay.


Processing feelings of longing and isolation was difficult for me during my teenage years. Any time I longed for a voice or felt ignored by the people around me, I just became frustrated by the fact I couldn’t resolve the feeling. So, listening to “ATTENTION” by Joji made me question if it was worth it to keep asking for attention when my calls go unanswered, and to just end the friendship while I had the chance. Plus, the song’s hard beats and slow piano make for a catchy juxtaposed tune.

But what I long for more than a voice, is home.

After moving to a big-city college in Los Angeles to get away from my small town, my friends and the suburban charm ended up being what I miss most about my home in Oregon. So whenever I listen to “parent song” by Jeremy Zucker and Chelsea Cutler, Zucker and Cutler’s indie style and comforting acoustics give me a sense of home away from home. But even if I’ve “changed the color of my hair,” the longing for Oregon and the people I call home don’t stop, because “I still need [them] like I always did.”


Being raised with a lot of strict cultural manners and stern faces, my relationship with loss has been exacerbating.

With my dad and uncles modeling strong mental values, I initially turned to acoustic artists like Clairo starting in high school — whose music made me feel normal to experience loss. Her song “White Flag” in her “Immunity” album especially taught me how accepting loss and allowing my emotions to flow can be transformative. Her message of “piecing it all back together again” and wishing the best for the people who have exited her life gave me more reasoning in processing my own feelings of loss.

But sometimes, loss just isn’t that easy.

For those days I just felt like crying in bed until I couldn’t take it anymore, and Clairo’s music couldn’t reason with me, Mac DeMarco’s “20191012 Fooled By Love” gave me solace. DeMarco’s slow acoustics and indie charm in the song speak from the heart. The sweet melody juxtaposes the feelings of being so excited to love someone, just to lose it all and wonder “what’s the use in crying?” and “why am I still crying?”

Listening to DeMarco’s music feels like reassurance and advice from a friend, something I have missed since I moved to college.

“Jam Journal” is a rotating column featuring a new Daily Trojan editor in each installment commenting on the music most important to them. “Jam Journal” runs every other Thursday. Jason Pham is the features & magazine editor at the Daily Trojan.

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