iEdit: Gavin Zhang’s Playlist Takes Listeners on a Motorcycle Ride Across Oceans

Associate metro editor Gavin Zhang’s playlist took me on a trip to China, France, Sweden, Germany, and the United States. Despite the oceans between, it feels like I got to the final destination without hopping off the back of his Kawasaki motorcycle.

Yup, Gavin drives a black-and-green Kawasaki. It’s the sporty kind of two-wheeler that the hero of a blockbuster movie would use to zigzag across a city. It’s not the vintage Harley Davidson kind that would fling up a tumbleweed in its wake. His preference makes sense.

Gavin’s 10 tracks move with quick, building tempos and optimistic melodies. Every song protests the vintage, slower beats prioritized by alternative artists and favored by large swaths of college students. Despite the songs’ speed and layers of instrumentation, their lyrics warn against over-complexity in life and point listeners toward one essential experience: love. 

The trip takes off in China. The playlist begins with “Piu Syut (Falling Snow),” where Priscilla Chan sings in Cantonese about an interrupted connection between two lovers. The song moves from a low moment—when the singer regrets losing passion for her lover—to a moment of hope at the end when she professes her love again. 

Then, the playlist takes us to France. “Quand on n’a que l’amour” sounds like it’s riling up a revolution. Jacques Brel’s voice stands almost alone at the beginning, yet it ends surrounded by a royal team of brass instruments. 

Brel’s lyrics make love a basic human need. This song is my favorite on the playlist.

After Brel’s track, the playlist turns to the United States—actually, the classically American parts of the States—with Luke Combs’ “Does to Me” featuring Eric Church.

The Who’s hit song “Baba O’Riley” talks about a trip south across the land. It makes sense that Gavin likes the song: He took a trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway this summer and stopped in cities across the south. 

The playlist then takes its most abrupt turn. The last four songs feature hard rock and metal. 

The melody of “Bismarck,” by Swedish metal band Sabaton, matches the mighty and monstrous size of the warship its lyrics seem to describe. The song reminds me of the theme music you might find behind an online Battleship game. 

Judas Priest’s “Night Crawler” seems to be the only of the four metal tunes to carry on the theme of the playlist’s earlier songs. It reduces life to a simple human endurance: People just want to have fun until they can’t. 

You probably don’t want to listen to the last two songs on Gavin’s playlist when you’re studying for that organic chemistry midterm. Both Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and German band Rammstein’s “Ich Will” feel tormenting. But Rammstein’s song reckons with the individual’s unstoppable urge to get noticed in society. It’s an ending to a playlist that values the simple life. 

Gavin seems to like that life. We talk a lot about barbeque and cooking. He reminds me of the type of person that I got to know pretty well living in St. Louis—one who can invite anyone in at any time. 

But, through that simplicity, Gavin seems to build something great for the world. I think it’s why he puts a motorcycle helmet on a desk in the office of a student newspaper and nobody bats an eye. And It’s why he can write a breaking news story on deadline in a Northeastern community thousands of miles away from his birthplace and be nothing but affable the next morning. 

Gavin doesn’t let the pressure of a world that asks him to do so many conflicting things bog down his swagger.  

October 23, 2022