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Swiftageddon and Abbathons

What is the St Andrews Anthem?

Take a stroll through the streets of St Andrews - around nine in the evening, decidedly the most social hour of the day - and your ears are met with an eclectic mix of music. On the side of the road a group of freshers blast Danza Kuduro through a mini speaker, whilst a dozen homes are in a Taylor Swift-induced trance. The furthest diversion from this theme — a specific balance between music that is terribly uncool and crowd pleasing — consists in an abundance of shared indie Spotify playlists, a suspiciously large jazz crowd, and those that listen to music entirely from the 20th century. And one cannot forget the reverence for all songs ABBA — a band that can only be expressed by the BBC as inexplicably operplayed.

But these groups are not mutually exclusive: the music taste of a St Andrews student is unreadable. As with every aspect of a high achiever in their young adulthood, we balance on the edge of pretentiousness — trench coats and crocs; The Smiths and Doja Cat; wine nights and the universal appreciation for a meal deal. There is every reason to think each student has been bred on a mixtape of music neither obscure nor expected for a twenty year old in the UK.

In a hilarious contrast to club music — best described as the music we are too proud to admit to liking sober — is jazz night. For those not accustomed to the drunken ritual that is the union’s Thursday jazz, either a gentle beginning to a weekend bender or a pit stop on the way to the Rule, it is one of few live music options in the town. Students cycle in and out throughout the three hour set list, playing a mixture of soul, funk, and jazz covers of popular songs. It’s near impossible to overinflate the wonders of Thursday jazz — a live music event that is free and hosted by students; every listener knows one or two on stage trying their hand at performing.

And there is little to criticise about quaint nights spent listening to live music at a pub, or even the oversaturation of a select few pop artists. However it can be considered embarrassing — and so obviously St Andrews – how few expected genres are appreciated by the student body. Hip hop and rap, the second most listened to genre in the UK, is given little recognition. Neither is electronic music, despite a surge in popularity at other universities in the country. Genres which are made by historical underbellies of societies are appreciated only in events perceived as ostentatious. This applies to not just the aforementioned jazz but also electronic music and alternative rock. The closest attempt at raves, renowned for their illegality — hosted freely, anonymously, and most definitely hazardously — is a £40 bus and a night at Kinkell Byre.

Yet the St Andrews music scene is more than the sum of its parts: individually a cult following for 80s Swedish pop or New Orleans soul is slightly baffling. What is not described is the scores of musical genres which are missing, and with this maybe an obsession with taste: music which is good not simply because it is enjoyable to listen to, but because it has been deemed objectively good. If the student body as a whole has decided to spend their Friday night belting Midnights or playing The Strokes on a loop, well maybe there is something special about these artists.

It is easy to admit music is heavily dependable on the environment: students are far less likely to listen to EDM in a town described by only brick buildings and beaches. After a long day of revision in a university heavily dominated by humanities students, artists with strong lyricism are more appreciated than the craft of heavy beats. A student studying in London or Glasgow will find themselves surrounded by not just a variety of architecture but a further diversity of events, cultures, and ethnicities.

The music taste of a St Andrews student is deceptively more homogenous than we like to think. Contentiously, there is a lack of house music — raves are hard to romanticise in a town unchanged in a century — and the rare crowd of those favouring music stereotypically non-white. Unsurprisingly the St Andrews scene, which I best picture as a smorgasbord of a father’s car tunes and your grandmother's radio in the 80s, is in need of an update.

Illustration: Lauren McAndrew

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