Published on January 26th, 2012 | by Shelby Mongan0
My Embarrassing Music Yearbook
I was a strange child in middle school.
Like so many of my pop culture obsessed friends, the roots of my current interests grew early. I had all the form and grace of a quarter Japanese potato who was far too interested in classes. While the other seventh grade girls were dipping their toes into the dating pool for the first time, I was bonding with the Prince and rolling my Katamari around like my twelve year old life depended on it. (If you don’t get that reference, your childhood had a PlayStation 2 sized hole in it.) Needless to say I didn’t exactly fit in, and I felt it was only right for me to look at alternative culture for somewhere I belonged.
In suburban mall culture, if you are looking for alternative, look no further than Hot Topic. I wish I could say that the dimly lit chain store ushered in a period of devotion to The Clash, The Sex Pistols, and The Ramones. Unfortunately it actually meant the growth of my obsessions with bands like Good Charlotte and Yellowcard. (Green Day was my only saving grace at this point.) My fixation on these bands was in no way ironic. Their liberty spikes and male eyeliner spoke to me, and I loved them for it.
Running parallel to my love for all things Warped Tour and studded belts was my love for musical theatre. Seeing professional theatre was a religious experience for me. There was a period in my life where I listened to the soundtrack of Rent at least once all the way through daily. Combine these two worlds and you get a remarkably strange thirteen year old.
I will offer a disclaimer here that there were good foundations at work at that time in my life. Thanks to my parents, my two biggest influences when I was a kid were James Taylor and Frank Zappa. One of the first dates my parents went on was to see Little Feat live, and my dad has been attending blues festivals regularly as long as I can remember.
Nevertheless I dove into a combination of cheesy musical theatre and what can only be considered bad pop-punk. This was a hefty chunk of my foundation as a tween.
I spent many years ashamed of my musical heritage. I could willingly admit to being a Spice Girl fan when I was eight, but any reference to my pseudo-punk phase was spit with distinct scorn. I was not proud. I’ve recently gone so far as to turn off my last.fm while taking a trip down memory lane and listening to Fall Out Boy.
But why? Where does my shame come from? Why do we feel ashamed of the things we loved, and even of the apparently shameful things we love now? I’ll come out and say it. I’ve listened to Ke$ha more times than I’m necessarily proud of. I’m a sucker for the pop beats. Why do I feel embarrassed about that? I don’t think my love for deliciously awful music takes way from the so-called good music that I love too.
There seems to me to be a perpetual need to validate my tastes. Listening to good music is more than just statement; it serves as my credentials. Appearance is more important than the preference itself. In the world of carefully crafted internet profiles taking the place of real life first impressions, it all makes sense. The prepackaged list of my favorite bands is carefully crafted not just to reflect what I love, but to act as a perfect snapshot of my personality. It’s meant to clue you into to who I am and to whether or not I’m worth your time. God forbid I commit a faux pas and admit loving Hellogoodbye to a music snob.
Honestly, though, I’m finding it more and more exhausting. I’m much more interesting and certainly more complicated than my iTunes play count. Yes, it’s more difficult to explain, and yes, it may be a challenge to see how I blend deep love for Bon Iver and LMFAO, but I’m sick of apologizing. I’m proud of the Riot Girl tank top I wore in support of those good ol’ Maryland punks. I’m proud of still knowing all the words to all of A Chorus Line by heart.
Shame and irony are so 2011.