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Photo by Malte Wingen on Unsplash

I Still Know All The Words to “The Sign”

What I learned fixing my iTunes Library.

The other day I had a near disaster on my hands as 8,000 songs in iTunes disappeared. Luckily I saw the sign and when I opened up my eyes there was a backup on my wife’s computer.

In the process of copying over 60 GBs of music, I noticed some of the songs in the library and, well, they gave me pause. So walk with me down Memory Lane as I embarrass myself.

It was fall of 1993 and I was an awkward fifth grader. For my birthday I received a super-cool Sony AM/FM Clock Radio with CD Player! The thing probably weighed ten pounds and took up a cubic foot of shelf space, but for me, it was a ticket into the world of the cool kids!

I could listen to music!
I could buy my own music from Best Buy or even Columbia House!
I could become a real man!

Along with the clock radio, I received two albums that were atop my wishlist:

First, it’s bad enough that the Ace of Base album has been remastered for iTunes. I mean,

  1. I’m not that old, and
  2. Ace of Base?

Whatever.

Anyway, these were my first CDs and I swear I can sing every word of each song on them. These albums were my gateway drugs into the world of music.

My middle school alarm would be set daily to angsty songs from Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness album. There was something about Billy Corgan screaming about being a rat in a cage that really got twelve-year-old me going in the mornings.

My little 90’s punk brain expanded and led me into the baggie shorts and flannel shirt phase of life. I’d listen to Garbage and complain about stupid girls while playing pogs in the band room. You know what I’m talking about.

I was so cool.

This was also the point in life where my musical tastes hit a crossroads when MTV introduced Bone Thugs N Harmony, 2Pac, and Notorious B.I.G. I was on our eighth grade trip to Washington D.C. when Biggie died. We learned about it in a newspaper at the hotel. A girl in our class cried. It was snowing and strangely beautiful.

By high school my taste expanded as I discovered oldies from groups like Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band, Queen, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. There was a lady who worked at the grocery story with me who I only knew as Proud Mary. She might have had a bird living in her hair.

Probably not though.

Mixed in with these timeless treasures were selections from the pop revolution of the day. Yes, I was a fan of NSYNC (still am and if you don’t like you can go bye bye bye). I didn’t stop with JT and the boys, my bowl-cut brain had a love for the Backstreet Boys, too. But I drew the line with 98°. Sorry, Nick Lachey.

I wasn’t just into boy bands, my musical tastes included other former Disney stars, too. In the classic battle between Brittney and Christina, I sided with the genie in the bottle. Who wouldn’t? I was #TeamChristina before it was a real thing.

Pop music opened the doors for my California pop-rock obsession in college. I’d listen to Yellowcard and O.A.R. while playing our own crazy games of poker in the study rooms. My roommate introduced me to the fledgling Fueled by Ramen imprint and I couldn’t get enough of what they shipped.

As my musical tastes continued to expand, I discovered the ability to download music from other people’s computers connected to the dorm network. As a result, I began to siphon off anything I could get my hands on and discovered people like Ben Harper and John Mayer.

Over the last decade, my musical preference grew into a large mixture of all of the above, with a healthy dosage of Taylor Swift thrown into the mix. What’s not to love about catchy pop lyrics and brilliant marketing?

Despite my original hope, the music I listen to can never make me cool. Did I mention my first album was Ace of Base and I was a fan of the bowl cut? Instead, the music I consumed gave me ways to connect with like-minded friends and words to convey my teenage feelings.

I guess that’s what music is all about:

  • A way to connect us to others.
  • Or maybe it’s about creating a memory that we can always draw upon like I’m doing now.
  • Or maybe it’s just for us to enjoy?
  • Or maybe it’s a way for artists to pay the bills?

Who knows.

I’m starting to get introspective which means we’ve gotten to the end of the road and, as a result, I’m going to go blast some Boys II Men.

Written by

Co-Founder of The Writing Cooperative ➡️ Connect at JustinCox.com.

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