There’s something really magical about the nighttime and the way music just hits different past midnight.
One of my favorite things/worst habits I picked up in high school was writing essays throughout an entire night. What I mean by that is I would start brainstorming the structure of an AP English essay while I was still somewhat coherent between 10 and 11pm and then cycle between writing a paragraph and dozing off between midnight and 6am. Mind you, I normally got up to get ready for school at 6am. I know it’s insane, but didn’t we all do stupid things in high school? Also, you can call me a nerd for that being one of the stupidest things I did in high school…I don’t care. The crazier thing about this ridiculous routine was that those late night essays never got below a B+. Am I a genius? Absolutely not. But I guess it’s cool that I knew what worked for me.
The thing that made those late night writing sessions so special though were that I was almost always listening to my local oldies station, K-EARTH 101. If you’re reading this, please go back and read the previous sentence but make sure you sing the jingle — it’s too iconic not to.
K-EARTH was playing a lot of fantastic 60s-early 80s rock, pop, soul, and Motown at the time and it provided the perfect balance of focus for writing, jamming for energy to keep going, and exploring new music to keep my mind sharp. I ended up thinking it was the best time to listen to the radio because there were fewer ads and more deep cuts. There was something so comforting about it.
I was reminded of this buried memory a few months ago. My first in-person concert since the pandemic started was the 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular at the Hollywood Bowl featuring the LA Phil and Kool and the Gang. It was so much fun and the endorphins kept me up later than normal after getting a late night snack. Ok, I was also up because of the strongly brewed iced black tea with lemon I had. On the midnight drive home, I listened to a bunch of the amazing songs I would listen to in those nights where I switched between a peaceful presence and a frantic battle with myself to stay focused on writing essays on books I’d half read. Yeah, I’m calling myself out on that because I’ve kept it a secret too long.
But back to the music. These songs make me nostalgic both for that time in high school (weirdly enough) and for the time when so many genres were evolving. In high school, I was lowkey a snob about oldies music…ok, high key. I was that annoying kid spouting out the lie that “tHeY jUsT dON’t mAkE mUsIC LiKe tHeY uSeD tO.” I promise you I will own up to that in a blog post soon. Obviously, I’ve changed my ways, but it was such a sweet thing for me to have learned to appreciate such iconic music at that age. It’s made me want to keep it alive in some way.
So, with all that said, I want you to carve out a late night and just vibe to this playlist. Yeah these songs sound good at any time of the day, but I want you to experience these songs in a new way. If you have work to do past midnight, try giving this a listen while you work. If you don’t have work to do past midnight, go on a late night drive or light a candle and clean your space by yourself, that works perfectly too!
Wishing on a Star by Rose Royce
When I think of a song that captures the spirit of this playlist the best, this one immediately comes to mind. This one was the perfect focus song for me with its swelling strings, wah-wah effects, and Rose’s gorgeously soft vocals. If I wasn’t typing away at an essay, low key it would be the one I’d find myself comfortably dozing off to. It’s just such a gorgeous song.
Time is On My Side by The Rolling Stones
The way I would sing this song at 3am with one paragraph written is honestly the most brazen display of high schooler hubris I’ve ever committed. Thank God no one was awake to see that. This song has always given me the vibe of being in a lonely diner at 3am with a steaming cup of coffee. Do you know what you’re doing there? Not really, but you’re just sitting there thinking about life, the choices you’ve made, and the passage of time. Nothing like a 3am existential crisis, am I right?
Fresh by Kool and the Gang
This song is a sonic masterpiece. It’s disco, it’s romantic, it’s funky, it’s a perfect late night jam. I’m obsessed the riff in the chorus after the band sings “She’s fresh, fresh! Exciting…” The instrumentation to this one is mesmerizing, upbeat and calming all at the same time. I highly recommend grooving to this one for a mental break. Also seeing this one live really took me back to the image of me sprawled on my bed with my laptop open, various paper handouts scattered, and a copy of The Awakening by Kate Chopin opened to a random halfway point.
She’s Gone by Hall and Oates
I need to give my love for Hall and Oates its own post, but I’ll start with mentioning this absolute beautiful late night bop. John Oates, specifically, really shines in both the verses and the lower harmony of the chorus. The verses are sung in a comparatively hushed tone, contrasting with the passion in the chorus. The part at the end when Daryl Hall goes “SHE’S GOOOOOOOOOONE OOOH-I” is the perfect release from the built up musical tension in the song. Musically, there’s a lot of layers at varying intensities so if you really listen closely you’ll get lost but in a way that helps you maintain focus. Also nothing says late night bop like a saxophone solo mid-song.
No More Lonely Nights by Paul McCartney
Have I talked about how Paul McCartney is my musical grandfather yet? I haven’t?! Oh man, this is gonna warrant a Musical Loves of My Life post soon. Well, I’ll mention here that while going through a “Beatles-only” phase in high school, I discovered the joys of each Beatle’s solo career. This song from Paul is cinematic and for me, perfect focus music because of the intricate instrumental breaks. It also has these late night 80s synths that just feel perfect for getting into a pensive mood.
What’s your favorite kind of music to listen to at night?