Summer Sixteen Soundtrack

By Zac Miller

What is up? What’s the 411? What has everybody been up to? What's the hot gossip? Tell me everything. What have you guys been listening to? What are the cool jams?

Hey there! Hi! Hello! My name is Zac Miller and it’s nice to meet you. I was asked  to do a short piece on the music I’ve been listening to recently. I’m passionate about music’s ability to influence my mood and vice versa. Whether I’m in the studio shooting and editing or starring in my own music video on the way to class, I’m jamming. Bass so loud I can feel the beat. I have a playlist for every season and I’m always amazed how a song can bring me back to that beer pong tournament my freshman year, to my first heartbreak, to endless summer nights. So as I anticipate the new music this fall into winter let’s take a look at the soundtrack of my summer.

If you’re not listening to Sia, you’re wrong. On my beach specific playlist I have her two most recent albums 1000 Forms of Fear (2014) and This Is Acting (2016). On my theoretical hierarchy of favorite artists Sia and Taylor Swift are the two hottest contenders for the throne on which the latter has ultimately reigned since her eponymous album (2006). Simply, I am in awe of Sia. For someone to posses that much raw talent and to be able to cut herself a niche making records that are products of her vision ruled by an infinite creative genius is to achieve all that one could ever hope to as an artist. Her voice is both chilling and soothing; all at once I am empowered and humbled. “I don’t care if I sing off key,” she sings in “Bird Set Free” and I embrace the same self-confidence as I subject my roommates to shower solos. The best tracks on This is Acting have to be “Alive,” “Summer Rain,” and “Unstoppable.” In all honesty I could rattle off another three or four tracks that I adore. For serious, this is a great album. 1000 Forms of Fear is a couple years older and still on my beach playlist. 1000 Forms has a slightly more angsty vibe and while it doesn’t get me amped like Acting there is a more personal element and it makes me feel something. “Cellophane,” “Fire Meets Gasoline,” and “Elastic Heart” (feat. The Weeknd & Diplo) are particularly excellent tracks and well worth a listen.

It’s Britney, bitch. I hope everyone is freaking out about Glory as I am. A die-hard fan of course I bought and consumed Britney Jean, but in all honesty, it left a lot to be desired. Glory is all about Britney’s new sound and I couldn’t be happier. I remember hearing “Make Me” for the first time on the radio on a Friday leaving work and just cranking it. Man did she deliver! My pump songs while pregamming: “If I’m Dancing,” “Make Me,” and “Love Me Down.” When I’m feelin’ some type of way:  “Invitation,” “Slumber Party,” “Better.” Chin deep in a bubble bath with a bottle of merlot after losing 200 pounds of fucc boi: “Man On the Moon,” “Just Like Me,” “Liar.” Needless to say I love her new voice. She’s honest and confident,  with ever-present sass. S L A Y.

His voice is incredibly unique, he just celebrated a birthday in early August so I won’t sound (as) creepy calling him a total babe, and I’ve been listening to his EP and beginnings of Handwritten for years. Shawn Mendes is catching fire and I am so excited for what his future certainly holds. I listen to his albums when I’m in the studio working, when I’m waking up or winding down, or when I’m blue. He’s reminiscent of lyricist genius Ed Sheeran but has a more of relevant pop sound. I happen to like Handwritten (2014) considerably more than Illuminate (2016) and was a little disappointed after the release of the latter. The former better showcases Shawn’s unique voice: “Never Be Alone,” “Aftertaste,” “The Weight,” and my personal favorite “Imagination.” I’ll warn the more melancholy readers that his work is powerful and evokes considerable feeling that marks maturity well beyond his years. In Illuminate I am roused by the acoustic version of “Mercy.” “Ruin,” “Patience,” and “Treat You Better” sound incredible with a heavy dose of bass. Every successful artist possesses a bit of stardust that lends itself to attracting the spotlight. Shawn is a whole star; he is evergreen. I have so much respect and admiration for his music.

“Ain’t you ever seen a princess be a bad bitch,” basically sums up what Ariana Grande has done with Dangerous Woman. My first run in with her music, “The Way” featuring Mac Miller, was my ringtone for what must have been over a year. Ariana seems to have taken her own advice in My Everything, specifically from “Break Free,” to deliver and album that boasts of her confidence and creative energy. Her response to the prompt at the iHeartRadio Music Festival, “I heart music. Am I the only one who said that? Am I still a virgin?” absolutely killed me. Dangerous Woman is host to several of my “headphones in, volume up, commence walk to class” music videos. “Everyday,” “Bad Decisions,” and “Into You” are punchy, catchy, and energetic. The essence of Ariana’s skyscraper voice in “Moonlight” makes me want to fall in love and if it weren’t for the illustrative fate of heartbreak in “Thinking Bout You,” “Touch It,” and “Leave Me Lonely,” I’d be tempted. Side note: “Let Me Love You” was added to my sex playlist.

Okay, but seriously, where is Taylor Swift’s new album? The fabled, pallet cleansing, faux blissfulness that is summer love (jaded much?) inescapably burns out leaving you simply sun kissed, while autumn promises healing with new Taylor Swift (well, every other year). Fiercely passionate, tastefully honest, genuinely emotional, Taylor Swift has retained her sound despite cutting ties with her country roots she breaks new ground in 1989. Where Red brought me out of my worst break up 1989 feeds me the energy I crave and confidence I need to continually produce art that is new and engaging. As an artist Taylor Swift is a model of how to embrace change despite reservations or a fear of failure. That the varied pursuit of a craft can produce the same caliber of greatness in new work is self-evident in 1989. She represents the potential for change to stimulate new work on a continuum of greatness. If anything Taylor Swift has shown us that the strength of her voice isn’t restricted to a single genre. I anticipate the release of a new album.

What am I listening to this week? My current jam is Sia’s “The Greatest” featuring Kendrick Lamar. It’s so upbeat and motivating. I can’t get it out of my head. Can I have two jams? Hailee Steinfeld’s “Starving” featuring Zedd is amp, sex, and chill all at once.


Zac received his BA from Earlham College in 2015 where he majored in Fine Art with an emphasis in photography. He is now at the Savannah College of Art and Design working on his M.F.A. He s a horseman and avid equestrian with a passion for nature and the outdoors.  Zac loves hiking, the beach, and photography (esp sports and portraiture). Zac's greatest accomplishments include graduating with College Honors, Departmental Honors, and his college's annual award for outstanding photography student. He is People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive in Maine. Since graduating he has  exhibited in two shows in Damariscotta, ME at the River Arts Gallery, a show in Portland, ME at the Phopa Gallery. He is currently in a solo exhibition at the First Federal Savings Bank in Damariscotta, ME.

Zac can be found on Instagram @cazrellim