I was a sophomore at an all-girls Catholic school, acting in my school's production of Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None." Because it was an all-girls school, our director had adapted the script to make as many characters female as possible. Or, at least as possible as a Catholic imagination could manage in 1990. Only 4 boys' parts were left after the adaptation, and we acquired the boys from our brother school across the neighborhood. One of them became my literal favorite person. We talked *all the time.* Everyone else in the cast decided we were married. He introduced me to both REM and They Might Be Giants, which, if you know me, pretty much sums up the core of my musical DNA.
He was also, as he finally managed to figure out some time later, thoroughly gay.
When we were 15? This was not remotely a problem. There is a closeness that happens quickly when you are working on a performance. There is a level of trust that much be built up, and an intensity that can't really be simulated. We talked, we bantered, we hugged, we stood too close to each other. The whole time we considered ourselves "going out," (about 9 months) we saw each other outside of school functions and meeting up at the bus transfer our schools shared a total of maybe 3 times. That was fine. We talked on the phone almost every day.
And we made mixtapes.
If you were a teen in the '90s, you know already the power of mixtapes. But let me see if I can articulate it. Before iTunes, before Spotify, before Pandora, before fucking *Napster*, the only way the average kid had to create their own personal playlist was to record their songs of choice to a cassette tape. And the only really effective way to do this was to own a stereo with dual cassettes and manually hit record when the song you wanted began on one side, recording it to the blank tape on the other side. And you tried like hell to get the songs to blend smoothly, maybe rewinding a smidge when you got a couple notes of the next song accidentally recorded onto the blank.
What I'm saying is that it was a long, arduous process. It wasn't what we do now with today's playlists, adding a song with a click of a button, rearranging as we go. It was deliberate. It was thoughtful. If you weren't going to think it through, you weren't going to do it at all.
Every song meant something.
I mean, at least the way I did it. You couldn't make a mixtape without also listening to the song as you recorded it. I think at some point, the technology existed to speed up the recorded song as it was taped by like 2X or 5X, but why bother? Listening to each song as you placed it in its order like a string of beads that you would then present to your love with a smile? The entire fucking point.
I still have the tape John made me, somewhere. The same way I have the notes he wrote me, the card attached the to the rose he gave me, and the pictures of us at one school dance and the trip to the local amusement park that both our schools went to on the same day at the end of the year.
That tape introduced me to Erasure, and Tori Amos (so much makes sense in retrospect, you guys. I digress.)
All of this is to say that the narrative trope of pining characters speaking to each other through songs? Touches me at a deep, deep level. I like songfic a lot in general, but when it's done exceptionally well? I fall, hard.
This is all to say that right now I am deeply in love with Setting Sun, by LittleLostStar.
But let me back up for a minute.
When I got super fannish about Yuri On Ice!!!, I started by reading the big fandom hits, like you do. Then I got obsessed for Otayuri, and found not only fic, but playlists based on that ship, and I poked through them, found my favorites, curated my own playlist out of my individual favorite songs on different playlists, etc. Like you do.
A lot of the stuff that would pop up on Otayuri playlists was appropriate, but also obvious. Like, it started to feel like most of it was just made up of whatever songs were already popular right now--the stuff that shows up on Pandora's Teen Radio station all the time. I enjoyed it, and I started writing some songfic for them based on the ones I thought *really* fit best (which I should totally finish one of these days, whatever), but I also got occasionally annoyed at how US-centric the song choices always were. But my critique/celebration of cultural translation in YOI is an entirely SEPARATE POST.
The thing that is special about Setting Sun isn't just that it's the story of Yuuri and Victor literally speaking to each other only through song lyrics, and each song has very pointed and specific meaning (I mean, that's obviously A LOT of what I love about it, see above re: mixtapes), but it's also a playlist with a narrative attached. It's not a pile of songs with a certain aesthetic (which the Otayuri playlists generally are, and that is fine and good and I enjoy the thing). I've re-read Setting Sun several times, and listened to the playlist at the same time every time so that now I can just listen to the playlist and relive the story, deep in my feelings. And that is also what listening to a mixtape was like. You relive the feelings that a person makes you feel, anytime you want, by listening to the music they send you.
Not all of the songs in Setting Sun are explicitly romantic. A ton of them are sassy. Some of them are pissed off. A bunch of them express Yuuri's anxiety, or Victor's depression. And then a bunch of them are just pure sex. And it's alllllll good. The narrative, and the songs that go with it, earn the sexy songs, which you know makes them that much better.
And the songs themselves? Some of them I already knew (Savage Garden, Fiona Apple, natch). Some of them were new songs from bands I knew but hadn't followed closely in a while (Pompeii, Tegan and Sara, Lucius). There's not as much European or International pop as I'd realistically expect from Victor and Yuuri, but there's enough, and at least not every song is in English (Latin counts, okay?) And enough of the music is both new to me and also deeply moving and very good that I've also just started diving into the back catalog of some of these new-to-me artists.
And I've started just sharing individual new fave songs with people (hi kass!) and had to explain that, yeah, I got this from a YOI fic.
It doesn't matter how you feel about Yuri On Ice!!! Seriously, listen to this song.
This means you, heresluck.
For the past year, I've been listening to music more and NPR and podcasts less. It was partly because I wasn't commuting an hour anymore (more like 2 minutes, seriously) and partly because I just desperately need to not listen to the news and to, just, stick an IV of joy into my veins. YOI was part of that IV of joy, but now the music I've been acquiring because of YOI has also taken up this job, and it's much more portable. I bought a bluetooth shower speaker so I can start every day with the right mood. I wear headphones at my desk while I compose assignments. I wear headphones at home while I read fic on my laptop in the living room and the kids watch Dan and Phil on Youtube, or Jay watches trail runners. And I always, always listen to playlists in the car.
It isn't always Setting Sun, but it often is. And sometimes it's the offshoot playlist I made of just the fuck jams. Because sometimes you don't need the full narrative. Especially if you've already internalized it.
Playing those on my way to and from UMass to submit my final PhD paperwork worked pretty well, I'll tell you what.
This is all to say that, if you like Yuri on Ice!!! OR mixtapes, or just great music, maybe check out some combination of the fic and the playlist. I bet you'd be glad you did.
I can't remember, sanj, if I dropped this one into my stream-of-consciousness-on-hangouts-
(Oh, also. It's still a WIP, and it updates slowly, but it's canon-parallel, and already over 80K, and the author is still clearly working. And even if it ends now, it's thoroughly satisfying at this point, so no worries.)