Monday, January 30, 2012

Here's to the Dance Anthems of the '90s

Back in December, back home in California and spending all of my time thinking about Disney movies, Disney music and Disneyland, I took a break one evening and decided to be nostalgic in other ways.

My friends and I, on our way back from Disneyland incidentally, were driving on Ball Road. I was sitting in the front seat flipping through a book of my friend's random CDs, when I stopped at something I hadn't seen in my own collection for years, *NSync's timeless classic No Strings Attached. I proceeded to jam the CD into the minivan player as fast as I could and was pleasantly surprised that the first track was "Bye Bye Bye," followed by my all-time favorite "It's Gonna Be Me" (or May, if you're pronouncing it correctly).

I couldn't help but be overwhelmed with my love for this silly little pop boy band that I had occasionally deigned to listen to in recent years. I recalled the memory of one excruciatingly hot day in the summer between second and third grades. Sitting at the summer camp lunch tables eating out of a disgusting Lunchables container and drinking a Capri Sun, I heard a familiar song.

This was no forbidden HitClips or small portable CD player. Someone had brought their boom box to camp and was blasting *NSync for the whole lunch area to hear. And hear, they did.

Everyone stood up and started dancing. It was like a scene out of a dorky kid's movie like Max Keeble's Big Move, Smart House or High School Musical. Everyone instantaneously knew that it was time to dance without any encouragement other than Justin Timberlake crooning "You might've been hurt, babe." And it was magical.

Since then, I've always craved the pop music kinship moments. I long to sit in the car and scream/sing (utterly indistinguishable in a minivan full of girls) "That's What Girls Do," putting on sunglasses and covering our lips with gloss.

So the evening of the *NSync car event (which was soon followed by some Backstreet Boys and Avril Lavigne), I decided to make a mix. Titled "Dance Anthems of the '90s" (a nod to Regina Spektor even though she had absolutely nothing to do with this mix), the CD consisted of such wonderful songs as Play's "Us Against the World," A*Teens' "Upside Down (Bouncing Off the Ceiling)," Smash Mouth's "All Star" and Nine Days' "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)."

The next day, I anxiously put the CD into the player, curious to see if my friends would know the songs I had put on it - even the more obscure titles.

To my enthusiastic surprise, they knew every song. And with few exceptions, they knew every word.

It's weird how you never forget these things and even moreso, how you never grow out of them.

Seven years ago I started listening to Green Day, trying to pry myself out of the preteen fandom and cheesy pop listening. I threw myself whole-heartedly into the world of (what I considered at the time) more sophisticated music. Stuff that had meaning behind it.

But looking back, I would be lying if I said I didn't equate my love of music from every stage of my life.

If someone were to turn on the radio and happen upon a station playing "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," I  would probably be singing just as loudly as I do when I put in "Dance Anthems of the '90s" and Track One ("So Yesterday" by Hilary Duff) starts playing.

There's something about music you listened to in a different stage of your life that continues to resonate years and years later.

Even the stuff that I would hate had I begun to listen to it now (see: Aaron Carter) I still happily play via YouTube. Perhaps it is for the sake of posterity, but it's also because, for some odd reason, I still like the stuff.

How many of us really grow out of the music we liked years ago? Going back even further and listening to Raffi's "Baby Beluga" has its charms.

We may decide to throw music off our "Likes" list on Facebook. Sometimes we look through our old CD collections and think "why did I buy that?" But even though we question our past decisions, somewhere deep inside they still make sense. I would never doubt that I made those choices because they are so inherently me, no matter how weird.

When I was a little older than the *NSync phase and a little younger than the Green Day phase, I bought the CD of this little-known and never really famous singer named Rose Falcon. She had this one song, "Up Up Up," that I just loved. I heard it once and I had to own her CD.

After buying Rose Falcon's album, I never got past the one track I knew. I would play it over and over again until I got sick of it (which never actually happened). Several years down the road, I don't regret that choice for a minute. Though I never took the time to really listen to Rose Falcon, that one song on her CD had such a tremendous effect on me that even now when I hear it I can imagine myself sitting in my living room dancing to the CD playing on my psychedelic CD player painted with orange paint and neon flowers.

Music preferences may pass, they may alter and change. But as Shakespeare said, "Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds." And as I listen to the music of yesteryear, I tend to believe him.

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