When the Duncan family donated millions of dollars to build their student center, I doubt they imagined that the building’s vibe would be solely determined by a student employee with a deep nostalgia for 2000s pop music. Forget the rock climbing wall, the great eateries and the stadium views: the most memorable thing about any trip to Duncan is the music. It’s impossible to eat your Modern Market in peace when you don’t know if you’re going to hear mid-2000s bangers, an endless loop of the Rudy soundtrack or string quartet covers of top-40 songs.
“My playlists cover the spectrum of human emotion so that you can live an entire life in one Friday afternoon,” DJ DuStu, the infamous author of the playlists, told me. The songs will transport you from summer days at the beach through your awkward middle school years into a Notre Dame dorm party, and to the feeling of carpet on your cheek as high-school you lies face down on your bedroom floor listening to “Cable Cars” and thinking “everyone DOES know I’m in over my head,” when in reality you just got a B+ on your AP Government test and your life is fine.
DJ DuStu talked us through a sampling of his typical Friday playlist, explaining the rationale behind each song choice, starting, of course, with another one of The Fray’s most depressing hits:
“You Found Me” by The Fray
“As I said, I want the music to take you through every emotion that a human can feel. We get sadness, anger, desperation and depression out of the way in this one song! It’s like killing four birds with one stone!”
“The Sweet Escape” by Gwen Stefani
“Now we get to move into something more fun. You’re sitting in Duncan finishing up that last bit of homework, and ‘The Sweet Escape’ lets your weekend fantasies start a day early. Gwen just has this uncanny ability to take you places with her music. One minute you’re on those big stairs in Duncan, and the next you’re in a world that’s just your own.”
A cover of “Work Song” by Hozier that’s somehow sadder than the original:
“I lower the mood with ‘Work Song’, so I can raise it with the next one…”
“Fireflies” by Owl City
“I want everyone to go into the weekend with the feeling of getting a thousand hugs from ten thousand lightning bugs. Can you argue with that?” No, I honestly cannot.
The clean version of “Country Grammar” by Nelly
“I have to throw something a little bit edgy in there.” I asked him if the clean version really makes this song okay for Duncan Student Center. “No, but an artist has to take risks,” he said. Once again, I guess I can’t argue with that.
The Cupid Shuffle
“Everyone needs a little middle school nostalgia on a Friday afternoon. You hear the Cupid Shuffle, your mind goes to a middle school dance, and you chuckle to yourself remembering that one kid who always got really sweaty from going too hard. You wonder where he is now. You find his LinkedIn, and he’s gonna be working at a tech startup after graduation! You leave feeling happy because everyone always questioned whether that kid would make it. See, that’s the power of the Cupid Shuffle.” I never thought of it like that, but he makes a good point!
When I pressed him about the questionable ethics of emotional regulation through music, he replied, “I’m a storyteller; dare I say, an artist. It’s all about capturing the highs and lows of the college experience.” Now, this time I could argue with him, but I’m too distracted — Taio Cruz’s 2009 masterpiece “Dynamite” just came on over the speakers, and there’s no way I’m going to be able to focus on anything else.