City DJ: A London Listener's Guide

Headshot of Isabella Reilly
Isabella Reilly
July 20, 2023

Plato was right, you know, about music being medicine for the soul. My days always begin and end with music. Sometimes my music comes from my car radio or my boyfriend’s vinyl record player. Sometimes it comes from my Bluetooth speaker, shuffling Spotify playlist after Spotify playlist. And when I’m lucky, it comes from my favorite artist or band live, as I sing their lyrics back to them in the audience. 

It’s fair to say I love music. My vast collection of CDs, vinyl records and tendency to wander toward the music section of any big-name store I enter would undoubtedly agree with that statement. 

But my first few weeks abroad, I realized I hadn’t sat down and listened to nearly anything at all. I lost my routine of starting and ending each day with my favorite songs. I longed to have that back, to keep that sense of familiarity while simultaneously embarking on something very unfamiliar. Music, to me, feels like home. 

So, I had to do something I’d never really had to do before: carve out time to listen to my favorite songs again. Sometimes this meant going for a walk by myself or purposely taking the tube back from class solo. Sometimes this meant singing in my room like no one could hear me while my roommate wasn’t home (apologies if anyone did hear me). And sometimes, this meant listening to the same songs in the same places. Associating music with my memories. 

This experience has taught me that wherever you study abroad or travel, it's beautiful to attach songs to specific moments in time. 

Here’s a list of my top five London go-to's— and where I recommend you take a listen. 

London Boy | Taylor Swift 

This is an obvious one— London’s in the title! Swift’s anthem is a perfect way to get in the mood if you've just touched ground in the big city. Follow in the pop star’s footsteps and listen while strolling through Camden Market. If you love high tea and stories from the West End, take the Piccadilly line and get off at the Piccadilly Circus underground station. Hungry? Watch rugby with your school friends and enjoy a traditional Sunday roast at The Dean Swift, near the picturesque Tower Bridge. And I recommend visiting Shoreditch in the afternoon— especially on weekends. BOXPARK Shoreditch offers a selection of lifestyle stores and delicious cultural cuisine.

The Good Witch | Maisie Peters 

An English singer-songwriter, I fell in love with Peters only this summer. From her emotionally-charged ballads, London references, and this song's British accents, Peters made me feel at home this summer. Slip in your earbuds on the Northern or Piccadilly lines and smile as she sings, “Still King’s Cross.” Better yet, be a good witch with your tea and have a traditional British afternoon tea with Brigit’s Bakery, which offers in-house teas and afternoon bus sightseeing tours. 

Nonsense | Sabrina Carpenter 

Carpenter’s lovesick ballad doesn’t necessarily have to do with the city— but the actress-turned-musician did perform the song in London this past June, touring for her 2022 album, “Emails I Can’t Send.” Wake up in the morning and stroll past city landmark Big Ben, or indulge in Carpenter’s self-proclaimed comfort food pleasure, Nando's

Beautiful Stranger | Laufey 

Come abroad, looking for love? As she recounts in her reminiscent tune, Icelandic jazz singer Laufey looks for love on the tube. Like Laufey’s beautiful stranger, it may be a good idea to hop off at the Ladbroke Grove underground station and visit Portobello Road Market. It’s home to the famous blue door featured in Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts’ “Notting Hill,” as well as The Notting Hill Bookshop, inspired by Grant’s character, William Thacker, who owns a similar shop in the movie. 

End Game | Taylor Swift 

Starting and ending this list with Swift, but it’s safe to say the singer spent quite a bit of time in the city with her former British beau, actor Joe Alwyn. If you’re still in Camden listening to “London Boy,” take a 20-minute walk up to Kentish Delight, a small kebab shop where Swift shot this track’s music video back in 2017. Some scenes were filmed at the Bull & Gate, just next door. If you’re heading more into the city, stop for a photo-op on Millennium Bridge. Swift is also seen here in the “End Game” music video with St. Paul’s Cathedral acting as the singer’s grand midnight backdrop. 

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Headshot of Isabella Reilly

Isabella Reilly

Hi! I'm a third-year student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, studying journalism and creative writing. I consider myself a storyteller. My favorite book is "Jane Eyre," and my favorite song is "Getaway Car" by Taylor Swift!

2023 Summer 1
Home University:
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
Boynton Beach, FL
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