Songs that remind me of being a kid
Photo credit: Font Meme.
Some songs bring me back to when I was first discovering music, myself, and a passion for anti-war causes. Music has always been a safe haven for me, whether it was listening to boy bands or Green Day. I felt at home in the notes, at times like someone knew what was going on in my head. As someone who felt isolated growing up, this was vital. Then there were other times that it gave me the connection to others I desperately needed. As a result, I’ve made some of my best friends through music. I thought I’d share some songs that have gotten me through tough times, that make me smile, or that first got me into the genre. I even still listen to a lot of them.
“Tearin’ Up My Heart”- *NSYNC
This one always makes me smile because it was the first time I remember getting really into a band. I’d gotten into Backstreet Boys, but there was something about *NSYNC: whether it was the snazzier outfits, tighter debut, and maybe even better dancing, I was all about them. I had posters, little biographical booklets, knew who their choreographer was and even convinced my mom to take me to see them live. It’s a song that always brings me back to that first moment. It helped that I thought Justin Timberlake was cute kneeling on that bed too. I still occasionally listen to it and the whole *NSYNC album and I can’t say that about all the boy bands I used to listen to.
“Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” - Backstreet Boys
The memory that pops up the most whenever I think about “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” is watching the music video at the field house where my younger brother had his baseball practices. I was often dragged along to these practices and once I tired of foosball (or couldn’t find anyone to play with), I would start looking for something to do.
The video was on quite frequently and I marveled at the video concept (the band ends up at a haunted mansion after their bus breaks down and turns into vampires, werewolves, etc.), and the dancing in the video (which I think the band still does). The volume was usually down though, so I didn’t hear the music until much later. The more times I heard it, though, the more I appreciated their singing and the introduction to the song. It’s still one of my favorites, along with “I Want It That Way”, which is off their “Millennium” album. The whole self-titled debut still holds up, so I recommend it if you’ve never listened to it.
“When The Lights Go Out” and “Slam Dunk (Da Funk)” – Five
I remember this as the bowling alley video (and boy did Five have an obsession with sports as their other U.S. hit was based around basketball but was decidedly not about basketball) as it literally takes place in a bowling alley. Used to come on a lot before and after school and reminds me of just being a kid and playing with my Barbies. I won’t say simpler time, for reasons I’ll explain later, but it’s definitely easier when you don’t, as Tommy Pickles from “Rugrats” says, “have any responibilieries [sic].” I was blissfully unaware of what the rap, which started with “Uh, it's a blackout, girl, the lights are off/I can feel you gettin' closer, now take your clothes off/your body looks so soft in between the sheets…” meant as a tween.
Speaking of those songs that are not subtle, remember that other hit I mentioned Five having? It’s called “Slam Dunk (Da Funk)” and while the song and video purport to be about basketball, the song features lyrics that go “push it in/pull it out to the beat” and “Do you want to get freaky/when the five of us make one?” Imagine my surprise when the realization dawned on me as an adult. Still, even this has fond memories attached to it. A friend of mine and I actually dissected the lyrics between college classes since she didn’t realize it either and I’ll never forget the surprise on her face when the realization dawned on her.
“Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)” by The Offspring
This reminds me of rushing home to catch “Total Request Live” (TRL), a music video countdown show that originally ran from 1998 until 2008, with a revival in 2017 (but cut short in 2019). This video was on often and it cracked me up. I didn’t get much out of the lyrics, which are about an oblivious guy riding through town during a typical day. The beginning of the song illustrates this: You know, it's kinda hard just to get along today/Our subject isn't cool, but he fakes it anyway/He may not have a clue and he may not have style/But everything he lacks, well, he makes up in denial…” but they really painted a picture so I was into it.
“ Crawling” and “By Myself” – Linkin Park
It was hard to pick just two songs for this as this whole album was quite influential on me. I was bullied from fourth grade to all through middle school. Stuff like having friends turn into bullies, people getting up from a table when I sat down, wiping their hands on a desk if they touched me, calling me “ugly” instead of my name, leaving voicemails that my mom deleted (I never heard them), asking if I talked, and saying that I walk funny (I have scoliosis), among other things. I was also at the beginnings of what has been a lifelong struggle with bipolar disorder type 2 (I’m stable on medication and have a regular therapist now). I was dealing with suicidal thoughts for the first time and what I recognize now as bipolar depression… but I didn’t know that in middle school. I’m not even sure I could have told you I was sad. I remember mostly being angry (anger’s not a symptom of bipolar disorder but it does commonly occur with it).
Then I had my younger brother giving me a hard time at home so it felt like I never got a break. I don’t remember where I first heard “Crawling”, probably MTV, but it introduced me to a whole new genre. From Mr. Hahn’s DJ skills in the opening to Chester’s haunting voice/screams to Mike Shinoda’s rapping, I was hooked on the emotion in the music. What they talked about drew me in further: “there’s something inside me/that pulls beneath the surface/consuming/confusing … Controlling/I can’t seem to find myself again/my walls are closing in/without a sense of confidence/I’m convinced that there’s too much pressure to take/I’ve felt this way before/so insecure…”
Then I got the album and listened to “By Myself”. It’s a special song also because of the emotion, especially the screams. But the lyrics are what really shine:
What do I do to ignore them behind me? follow my instincts blindly?/Do I
hide my pride from these bad dreams/And give in to sad thoughts that are
maddening?/Do I sit here and try to stand it?/Or do I try to catch them
red-handed?/Do I trust some and get fooled by phoniness?/Or do I trust
nobody and live in loneliness? (from “By Myself”),
Even if you’re not going through it, “Hybrid Theory” revolutionized nu metal and it’s worth a listen on that basis alone.
“All The Small Things” by Blink-182
This is another one that was on TRL often. The video made fun of the pop stars of the day: Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees, and Christina Aguilera. Blink took their videos and parodied them, the most enduring one being “I Want It That Way”. I loved all those singers/boy bands and I thought Blink’s parody was pretty funny despite that. In my 20s, this song was a popular cover song when I went out with friends so it also reminds me of good times.
“Liquid Dreams” by O-Town
Despite what this song is actually about (wet dreams), it reminds me of being 12 or 13 and chatting for about an hour every week with my best friend at the time about “Making the Band”, the show that created O-Town. It was coming to the end of the boy band craze and I’d been feeling a little lost as to what to listen to. It was the first time a show came on showing the whole process of making a boy band from start to finish and the struggles along the way. It was fascinating. In a way, I grew up with them and rooted for them and really liked their debut and career since. The debut is a little cheesy, but it has soulful hits like “All or Nothing”, hypnotizing songs like “Take Me Under”, and guitar driven songs like my favorite, “Love Should Be a Crime”.
“The Hardest Part of Breaking Up (Is Getting Back Your Stuff)” and “Every Minute, Every Hour” by 2gether
This one was influential on me because it was so unabashedly silly in its comedy. 2gether was a parody boy band that had its own show on MTV in 2000. It comprised of Noah Bastian as Chad Linus (“The Shy One”), Michael Cuccione as Jason “QT” McKnight (“The Cute One”), Evan Farmer as Jerry O’ Keefe (“The Heartthrob”), Alex Solowitz as Mickey Parke (“The Bad Boy”), and Kevin Farley as Doug Linus (“The Older Brother”).
To put it simply, I love them for giving me laughter. The first single I heard from them was "The Hardest Part of Breaking Up (Is Getting Back Your Stuff)", a silly but with a tinge of realness song. The chorus goes “(We're breaking up!)/breaking up is hard enough (oh oh oh oh)/say you had nothing but I called your bluff/you got my sweaters, my hat.../I can't find my cat! (meow)/the hardest part of breaking up/is getting back your stuff…”. It later merges into the seriousness of the girl in question being a kleptomaniac. I would sing along to this in the car (one of the few times my brother and I would get along) and looked forward to the days the show was on.
A clever one off the same album, “2gether Again”, is “Every Minute, Every Hour”. The sign of a good spoof is that it can stand alone as a song of the genre it’s spoofing. This is true of “Every Minute” as it spoofs ballads characteristic of *NSYNC or Backstreet Boys. The chorus of “Every Minute, Every Hour” goes: “Every minute, every hour/I just can't get you out of my mind/no matter how hard I try/every day, every night/I wish you were back in my life/can we give it just one more chance/this time…”
The show was filmed “Making the Band” style (that is, reality show like) and showed the ins and outs of being in a band on the rise with a humorous tint. Like the album, the show was silly with some questionable songs (“Awesum Luvr” and “Sister”. I didn’t realize the questionable stuff ‘til a recent re-listen) but good. Tragically, their future as a “band” was cut short when Cuccione unexpectedly passed away in 2001.
They weren’t without controversy, though. In the songs “Awesum Luvr” and “Sister”, they mention underage relationships. The lyrics in question are “Mary Kay Letorneau, she knew the truth,” “And who would've thought she's really that young,” and "What? How old is she anyway?". At least, in “Awesum Luvr”, they have Farley/Linus say “say what?” right after the actually underage Cuccione says the line about Letorneau. Unfortunately there is none of that in “Sister” and, even though they didn’t write it, they should have flat out refused to sing a song with such creepy lines. I can’t say I’ve listened to them a lot since I was a kid (I did for this post) and there were never any signs that life imitated art, but it was still creepy and I debated even having them on here.
“American Idiot” by Green Day
This song came out when I was 14 or 15 and really kept me inspired. I’d started paying attention to politics because of a school project my history teacher had assigned. The Iraq/Afghanistan War was about to start and we were supposed to clip articles about it from the newspaper and paste them in a notebook. Some of the articles were about hunting for weapons of mass destruction which was one of our reasons for invading Iraq. When they never found them, I was quite angry and felt lied to. I was already anti-war, but especially so when there seemed no valid reason for it. Add to the fact that George W. Bush was doing a terrible job and I’d tell anyone who’d listen, I promised myself when I was old enough to vote, I’d vote in every election (I have). “American Idiot” matched my passion from around that time and still gets me fired up. It still holds up today, with lyrics like “Don’t want to be an American idiot/don’t want a nation under the new mania/can you hear the sound of hysteria/the subliminal mind fuck America/welcome to a new kind of tension/all across the alienation/where everything isn’t meant to be okay… now everybody do the propaganda/and sing along in the age of paranoia…”. It’s gone on to be a successful Broadway musical (though it didn’t have a great stop when I saw it in a local theater).
What are some songs that remind you of being a kid? Tweet us @whenmusictweets! And check out the Spotify playlist I made of all these songs.