For Your Consideration: Repeat One

for your consideration

Welcome to For Your Consideration, a new series about things we love and love to do — and we’d like to give you permission to embrace your authentic self and love them too.


A strange thing happened driving home from Connecticut with my girlfriend this summer. Listening to St. Vincent on shuffle, “Smoking Section,” the final track on her pretty much perfect album Masseduction, started playing. We were both quiet. She said it first: Why do I feel like I’ve never heard this song before?

It was, frankly, impossible, and yet she had snatched the words right out of my own brain. But still… impossible. We both had listened to this album over and over — together and individually. We went to the Masseduction tour, sat four rows back as Annie Clark absolutely melted us with her queer rockstar power. There is no way we had never heard this song. But here we were, listening to it as if it were the very first time, the low growl of St. Vincent’s vocals in the beginning new and surprising, the slow drum vibrating. This is not a forgettable song, and yet somehow, we had both forgotten it, together, a shared memory lapse that unnerved me.

Maybe it’s one of those situations where you hear music differently because of the place you’re in in your life, she suggested. Maybe we weren’t literally hearing it for the first time — which was, again, impossible — but just hearing it anew.

The song ended, and I immediate played it again. And again. Without really thinking about it, I hit the repeat button twice to set it to Repeat One. I listened to it on repeat for at least four days.

The best way to listen to a song is to listen to it over and over and over again on a very long, incessant loop. Listening to “Smoking Section” in this way was nothing new; it merely interrupted the loop that came before it: Chvrches’ “Miracle,” which I listened to when visiting the Heavenly Bodies exhibit at the Met and then kept listening to for days on end, falling asleep to it, looped, at night. Of course, I don’t only listen to music this way. There’s room for more than one song at a time in my life. But looped listening is intensely satisfying, a way to let a song really sink into your bones and become marrow.

On my parents’ clunky stereo system in the first house I lived in, I loved to listen to three songs on repeat from a soundtrack for a movie I hadn’t even seen yet. I must have been seven years old, cranking the volume as high as I could get away with as I scream-sang along to three covers from the (extremely underrated) My Best Friend’s Wedding soundtrack: “I Say a Little Prayer (For You)” by Diana King, “Wishin’ and Hopin’” by Ani DiFranco, and “Tell Him” by The Exciters.

“Tell Him” was featured on the Ally McBeal official soundtrack, too; I can still remember it was track number nine, because that’s where I’d hurriedly skip to and then hit repeat.

There isn’t an exact playcount for when this happens. Sometimes it’s at listen #7, sometimes listen #25. But at a certain point, the song merges with me. It never becomes white noise exactly. It’s still itself, still a song. The ceaselessness doesn’t feel like monotony. It’s more like it becomes as constant and latent as my internal monologue.

I can find new things to focus on within the song, strip it all the way down to its most basic parts, zero in on the way that one chord sounds or the breath between lyrics I hadn’t noticed before. Or I can just let it play and not really think about it too hard, just let it score the world around me. Looped but never unchanging. It’s like a weighted blanket, enveloping and comforting.

Select songs I’ve looped at various points in life:

  • 1999: “Totally Hot” by Olivia Newton-John (this was a vinyl, so I had to lift and move the needle every time to loop it manually)
  • 2001: “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett (…from the Shrek soundtrack)
  • 2003: “Bring Me To Life” by Evanescence
  • 2004: “Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson
  • 2008: “Defying Gravity” from Wicked
  • 2008: “Seasons of Love” from Rent
  • 2010, 2014, 2016: “Not Ready To Make Nice” by the Dixie Chicks

Select songs I’ve looped in the past month:

  • “Miracle” by Chvrches
  • “Smoking Section” by St. Vincent
  • “Mamma Mia” by Lily James
  • “Shallow” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
  • “Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson
  • “Smoking Section – piano version” by St. Vincent
  • “Hang On Me – piano version” by St. Vincent
  • “Young Lover – piano version” by St. Vincent

(I basically can’t fall asleep these days unless Annie Clark is haunting me with her sexy-scary soprano.)

What song do you think you’ve listened to the most times in your life? For me, I think it’s “Hopelessly Devoted To You,” as sung by Olivia Newton-John in Grease. Either that or the hymn we sang at the end of every church service growing up. But that’s one that repeated even if I didn’t want it to.

Standing on a street I’d never been on in Astoria, preoccupied by social anxiety and also by the way the sunset threw a pink haze over everything, I didn’t notice I’d been listening to Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own” repeatedly for at least 20 minutes. Robyn is the kind of artist who loops almost seamlessly. A lot of pop music does. But her brand of emotions-laced dancefloor music is particularly soothing in repetition, an aural tessellation of sad disco.

Repetition is underrated. Listen, repeat, listen, repeat. It’s comforting because it’s the same. It’s comforting because the end isn’t really the end — the beginning’s coming again. And it can still come back anew, somehow sound like something you’ve never heard before. Even though that’s impossible.

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is a Brooklyn-based writer, television critic, and comedian who spends most of her time over-analyzing queer subtext on television, singing "Take Me Or Leave Me" in public places, and assembling cheese platters. She has a cat named after Piper Halliwell from Charmed, and her go-to karaoke song is "Everywhere" by Michelle Branch. Her writing can also be found at The A.V. Club and The Hollywood Reporter, and she wrote the webseries Sidetrack. You can catch her screaming in all-caps about Kalinda Sharma, Jennifer Lopez, and oysters on Twitter and Instagram.

Kayla has written 188 articles for us.

63 Comments

  1. As I’m in my honeymoon stage of what’s going to go down at least as my first serious lady relationship, I had Jazzanova’s Now There Is We on repeat.

    Now there was business involved in that I might license the instrumental for my podcast, but I couldn’t help but think about my girl and also put it on the special Spotify playlist I created that’s she’s admitted to listening to daily.

    I was always more of a play a whole tape over and now, I’ll wake up and play a song or a sequence of one-three well-paired songs together.

    Janelle’s opener to the ArchAndroid (after the orchestral and sometimes with the orchestral opening), as well as the openings to the last couple of St. Paul and the Broken Bones records, are like this for me.

  2. My 2018 repeat ones:
    Satisfied from Hamilton’s original broadway cast
    Corashe by Nathy Peluso
    I Like That by Janelle Monáe
    Thinkin Bout You by Frank Ocean
    Redbone by Childish Gambino

  3. Life long Serial Song repeater here.
    “Crush” Tessa Violet
    “Go to town” Doja Cat
    anything Kacey Musgraves or hayley kiyoko
    From under the cork tree
    “Kings of Summer” ayokay and quinn xcii

  4. I do this a lot. One time at college, while writing a 15 page paper about prisons due the next day, I listened to a mix of just “Judas” by Lady Gaga and “We’re all to Blame” by Sum 41 for hours and hours…

    Currently though, I’ve also just been listening to the Boygenius EP on endless repeat.

    • Actually, I’ve essentially been listening to “stay down” by boygenius, on repeat. specifically.

      Thank you for this article! I’m now stuck trying to think of every song I did this with.

  5. “The ceaselessness doesn’t feel like monotony. It’s more like it becomes as constant and latent as my internal monologue.”

    What a perfect description! I’ve found that looping a song can amplify or completely change my mood, as well. Specific songs can comfort while still pushing me into a dark place.

    Some of my recent-ish faves:
    “Knots,” “Roses,” and “Theories” by Watsky
    “Jolene” by the goddess herself, Dolly
    “Scott Street” by Phoebe Bridgers
    “Night Shift” by Lucy Dacus
    “Million Reasons” by Lady Gaga
    “Delicate, Petite, & Other Things I’ll Never Be” by Against Me
    “Never Going Back Again” by Fleetwood Mac
    “NFWMB” by Hozier
    “Nazi White Trash” by Leftöver Crack

    Award for song most often looped goes to “Radio” by Alkaline Trio.

    • I get things stuck in my head ALL THE TIME. I’m not even going to try to list any of them because then I will guaranteed get one stuck. If it’s something I like, it’s not bad. But sometimes it’s…not. The only thing I can do at that point is pick something else and get it deliberately stuck. I don’t actually spend that much time with literal out-loud physical music playing around me, but I’ve nearly always got something in my brain.

  6. I tend to listen to short playlists on repeat instead of single songs, but I’ve noticed myself hitting repeat one more often during the past year.

    Most recently it’s been Passacaille in Barcelona, an instrumental piece for cello and piano from the Yuri on Ice soundtrack. It’s peaceful and bit sad, in 3/4 time, and features my two favorite instruments, so there was pretty much no hope for me from the second I first heard it.

    Before that:

    Waving to You – Rebecca Sugar
    Talia – King Princess
    Your Text – Sundial
    Wait a Minute – Willow
    Rear View – Foti and Thomas Sanders
    My My My! – Troye Sivan

  7. I’ve definitely found comfort in the repeat one. One song that encapsulates a feeling of a moment, or just helps keep me balanced in an unbalanced world. At times I’ve used:

    “I Really Like You” by Carly Rae Jepsen
    “Love You to Death” by Type O Negative
    “Girls Like Girls” by Haley Kiyoko
    “Electric Machine” by Acid King
    “All I Wanna Do” by Sheryl Crow
    “Pynk” by Janelle Monáe

  8. Today my brain is looping “Paradis Perdus” by Christine and the Queens and “Sky full of Song” by Florence and The Machine whilst I mentally sink into the ocean, strands of algae waving above me.

  9. I love this.

    Tell That Devil by Jill Andrews (first heard on Wynonna Earp, natch, but the whole song is so damn good and so satisfying to sing along with)

    Every single Neko Case album has at least one song on it that I will listen to on repeat for a while. Same for Florence + the Machine.

    The Chain by Fleetwood Mac was in recent repeat rotation.
    Hell’s Bells by Cary Ann Hearst (now of the duo Shovels & Rope).
    Freedom by Beyonce.

    Basically, if it’s dramatic/melancholy/haunting and also in my vocal range, it’ll likely end up on a loop at some point. But sometimes an upbeat dance song that makes me wanna shake it will end up on a loop, too, like Le1f’s Wut or The Coup’s Magic Clap. Or most things by Missy Elliott.

  10. I’m sitting in a chemistry lecture with “Wanna Be Missed”-Hayley Kiyoko on repeat.
    “Undercover” and “Get Like”-Kehlani have been in repeat rotation lately.
    “Pynk” and “Screwed”-Janelle Monáe have been in repeat rotation since Dirty Computer dropped last spring.

  11. My most recent song on repeat is, “Phantoms” by Say Lou Lou.

    Their new album just came out last week and I was listening to it on my way home one night and as I got to my house, it wasn’t over yet so I just kept driving. When it was over, I replayed “Phantoms” and I got so caught up in it, I missed my turn for my street on the way back. I think I ended up listening to it three more times before I got home and then several more once I did finally go home.

  12. Yeah same hit repeat 1 on iTunes and I’m in it for the emotional response.
    I’ve cried to
    ‘The Letting Go’ by Melissa Etheridge.
    Bawled about depression
    ‘Fire Away’ Chris Stapleton
    Really felt hopeless at
    ‘When I’m gone’ Aaron Lewis
    Felt hopeful to
    ‘Collide’ by Howie Day.

    It’s Eclectic music taste all throughout many genres. Any song that connects to my emotional state gets played in a hard loop.

    MAYBE WE’RE ALL LOOPY!!

  13. I will loop a song for days on end until I honestly don’t want to hear it anymore, but some part of my brain is still getting satisfaction and so it continues… latest one was Recite Remorse by Waxahatchee. Still not quite over it.

  14. I do this with Taylor, Beyonce, Gospel and boys with a lot of feelings.

    Dress by Taylor Swift
    Don’t Hurt Yourself by Beyonce
    Take Me to the King by Tamela Mann
    How To Save A Life by The Fray
    I’m Free by Rev. Milton Brunson
    7 Years by Lukas Graham
    Too Good At Goodbye by Sam Smith
    All of Me by John Legend

  15. I need to stop making this list…I could go on and on and on and on.

    Some random earlier in life heavy rotations:
    All time
    Grease Soundtrack (esp. Summer Loving and Greased Lightning)
    Really Rosie Soundtrack
    Carpenters Greatest Hits (Rainy Days and Mondays 4 EVAH)
    Help! – Beatles
    Groove is in the Heart- Dee-lite
    It’s a Good Day- Peggy Lee
    Damn, I Wish I was your lover- Sophie B. Hawkins

    Songs o’ the almost-all-queer ladies I’ve been heavy listening in the last few months (I am very susceptible to earworms):

    Nameless, Faceless- Courtney Barnett
    New York- St. Vincent
    Robyn- Dancing on my own
    Fuck Was I- Jenny Owen Youngs
    Just one of the Guys- Jenny Lewis
    Someone Tell the Boys- Samia
    Lost on You- LP
    Dreams- Brandi Carlile
    Suddenly I See- KT Tunstall
    Whispering Your Name- Alison Moyet
    Make Me Feel- Janelle Monae
    I’m Alive- Beth Ditto
    Bad at Love- Halsey
    Girls- Beatrice Eli
    Sorry, Not Sorry- Demi Lovato
    Goodbye- Asobi Seksu
    All I Want is to Be your Girl- Holly Miranda
    I Didn’t Just Kiss Her- Jen Foster
    Gold- Ria Mae
    Bend- Ria Mae
    The Best of It- Whyte Horses (feat. La Roux)
    Right Down the Line- Lucius
    1950- King Princess
    Summertime Sadness- Lana Del Rey
    Corrine- Black Honey
    Drive- Melissa Ferrick
    Rude- Madilyn Bailey, Flula
    Who We Are- A.W.

  16. I was on the verge of a panic attack at work today.

    Which I successfully prevented by listening to Vi Hart and Dave Lens’ Scale of The Universe on repeat for the final 2 hours of my day.

    Partly because the expanding scope of the universe and the feeling of being a tiny and yet also vast thing in a landscape of unimaginable scope is just so good for taking me out of my emotional spirals, but also partly because Yes Repetition Good.

    To be fair I have also spent half a work day listening to an endless loop of Badger Mushroom Snake so maybe I’m just Like That.

  17. Oh I’m a repeat song offender believe me!
    Lately on repeat it’s been:
    – Lead Me Into The Night by The Cardigans
    – Hey Boy in the Pines by Public Domain
    – Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me by She & Him
    – I’m Moving On by Chyvonne Scott
    – Saving Mr. Banks soundtrack (not a song but this soundtrack has been on repeat a lot lately)

  18. Oh my god I’ve done this since I was a child. I actually made a tape of only Annie Lennox’s Walking On Broken Glass for my Walkman.

    My repeats (old and current)
    Anywhere Is – Enya
    Walking on Broken Glass – Annie Lennox
    This Years Love – David Grey
    My Number – Tegan and Sara
    Pulse – Ani Difranco
    Are You Out There – Dar Williams
    Downtown Train – Tom Waits
    Afterlife – Arcade Fire
    Rebellion (Lies) – Arcade Fire
    Follow Your Arrow – Kacey Musgraves
    The Things I Regret – Brandi Carlile

    I’m sure there are others but those are what stand out to me.

  19. I do this all the time and my poor college roommate would get so sick of me.

    In heavy rotation right now (today) are:
    1950 – King Princess
    Texas – Mallrat

    Some previous ones:
    I Can’t Tell You Why – Eagles
    Upper West Side – King Princess
    Summer Sun – Few Bits
    Paris – Fickle Friends
    19 in Mexico – Sofi de la Torre
    Overlap – Ani DiFranco
    Shadow – Wild Nothing
    Sick of Losing Soulmates – dodie
    Take Me Apart – Kelela
    Supermoon – case/lang/veirs

  20. I do a version of this, but instead of repeating the same song I look for as many covers of the song as possible and listen to those. I remember doing this for fun’s We Are Young, ABBA’s Gimme Gimme Gimme, Bronski Beat’s Smalltown Boy, and White Town’s Your Woman.

    With some songs I also look for mashups that incorporate it – the Artic Monkey’s Do I Wanna Know was a recent one of these.

  21. In the past three days, I have played Atmosphere – Jerome probably 50-60 times(half that in my head). I tried, but it’s really stuck. I’ve so far head the song today 3 times and stuck in my head half the time. I also have All Hands On The Bad One album by Sleater Kinney on permanent repeat in my car.

  22. okay MAYBE this is out of tone with most of the other comments here but I DO love to loop songs, specifically, “Sorry” by Justin Bieber (Latino Remix)(AND NO I AM NOT SORRY ABOUT IT)

  23. Yes to all of this. If I listen to a song on repeat long enough it starts to acquire color and texture, like drops of water streaming down a pane of glass or the gauzy ribbons of color you sometimes see inside a stone or a shell. There’s nothing quite like listening to piano or orchestral arrangements on public transit late at night to turn the ordinary world into a glittering chasm of weird. I’ve got it narrowed down to a top three:

    Oltremare – Ludovico Einaudi
    The Sixth Station – Spirited Away soundtrack
    Thelma (rulletekst) – Thelma soundtrack

    But I also have to mention the piano version of Sia’s Chandelier (if you think you’ve ever felt feelings, that vocal fry will teach you otherwise), and Josef Salvat’s cover of Diamonds. And how about a shout-out to Grease: You’re the One That I Want, covered by Lo-Fang.

  24. I’m not sure what I’ve listened to most in my life – maybe “The Ballad of Mona Lisa” by Panic! at the Disco? – but lately I can’t stop listening to “Baby Britain” by Elliott Smith.

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