Memoir Mixtapes Vol.1 / Track 33

On “World Spins Madly On” by Brianna Rae Olsen

I found “World Spins Madly On” by The Weepies when scrolling through my sister’s iPod Classic, which I stole from her (she always got better birthday presents). The music video was one of the first things I ever searched on YouTube and I remember waiting patiently for my dial-up to load the whole thing before pressing play so I wouldn’t have to hear the sound of myself crying whenever it paused to buffer.

If you haven’t seen the video – just imagine a depressed little claymation monster. That’s me. A little seventh grade monster who half-assed made my bed in the morning and avoided eye contact with my reflection while brushing my teeth. Headphones permanently installed into my ears, never said more than two words a day to my family if I didn’t have to, and was best friends with my bedroom carpet and the way my ceiling looked at sunset.

I would listen to “World Spins Madly On” on repeat until I fell asleep or until the iPod died—the latter usually came first. I spent most middle school nights that way and I also spent most of middle school finding new and creative ways to hate myself. I eventually came to a point where I felt I needed to pull myself together somehow and I made myself stop listening to the song as frequently, as sort of a diet. I stored it high up in the top cabinet of my brain labeled “Do Not Open Unless Already Sad.”

But I climbed up on the counter to reach it quite often—all the way through high school and well into college. My first breakup, all the times I had to pack up my room and stare at the empty walls before moving again, the days I skipped school and hung out with my anxiety at home, my first time seeing a psychologist, the first time I ever really recognized the face behind my trauma, any time I hurt and needed something to coddle me. I was probably so attached to the song because the lyrics made up my first vocabulary around what it’s like to have a mental illness. And also because The Weepies truly are “subtly intoxicating folk-pop” (Wiki never lies).

I think that’s an apt way to describe any song obsession, honestly, because it fucks you up in a way that you don’t realize until you suddenly wake up on the floor wearing the same clothes as yesterday, and the song is still playing. Binging on songs that fuck you up is surely self-medicating—a proper dose can relieve pain, but too much can also set you into a self-inflicted coma of nostalgia and regret, and the pictures you should really have deleted by now, and the act of prying open all your past heartbreak to put some of that pretty pink himalayan salt in your wounds so it hurts in a more palatable way.

I guess that’s the thing about sad music. It puts something beautiful behind all your ugly: the snot that drips onto your shirt when you’re sobbing, the unwashed dishes and stacks of laundry you don’t have the energy for, your swollen eyes and frizzy hair and purple trembling lips and the dumb sound your voice makes when you’re still choking back tears. Having a soundtrack almost makes it seem curated, like maybe all these things naturally occur together and maybe it’s okay to temporarily indulge in the validation of your aching. So long as you eventually muster the courage to pause your Sad Song and start a new one.

About the Author:

Brianna Rae Olsen is a writer, editor, and photographer from the swampy woods of Central Florida. She now resides in San Diego where she’s currently working on a collection of DIY literary art ranging from broadsides to chapbooks to zines. In addition to writing, you can also expect Brianna to show up with home-cooked Southern food and a detailed report of your horoscope.

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