Turning 20 isn’t a big deal. Assuming that you’re skimming through this article on the date of its release, I’m currently “celebrating” my 20th.
Birthdays in general are a weird tradition. What exactly are we celebrating? Surviving the world and all of its increasingly strenuous hurdles? Whatever, as long as I get that sweet, sweet ice cream cake. Since this is a music column, I figured I’d highlight some important musical moments in my life thus far.
The new millennium brought with it many bizarre and makeshift ideas, one of them being five dudes in space suits with hoverboards. The night that 1999 morphed into 2000, I was with my cousins watching music videos on Zoog Disney in their basement. Right before the clock struck, all of the kids were supposed to run upstairs in time for the countdown. Roughly a minute before that happened, the Backstreet Boys’ “Larger Than Life” video came on and I was completely transfixed.
It was like nothing I had ever seen. My cousins shouted my name to trudge up the stairs – I didn’t want to go. That video represented every new and strange idea that I thought the new millennium held. I thought the video was a literal representation, as if Howie, Kevin, A.J., Brian and Nick were given the tools to present an advance screening of what the future had in store. When I awoke the next morning, I knew I was mistaken – it wouldn’t be the last time.
It all started with Smash Mouth – kind of. On my 10th birthday, my mom got me probably the best gifts I could’ve wanted: “NOW 8,” Smash Mouth’s eponymous album and my very own CD player to play them on. I was ecstatic. I’d like to say that I tore into the genre-hopping “NOW” CD, featuring such luminaries as Destiny’s Child, Gorillaz and, uh, Fuel, but I was obsessed with that Smash Mouth CD. I memorized tracks with names like “Sister Psychic” and “Shoes N’ Hats” willingly.
It was a golden age. It started off the obsessive relationship I still have with music. There’s this intrinsic value I put on physically owning my music, to hold it and find out why it exists and why it deserves to exist.
What a year. Not only was I journeying from sixth to seventh grade, but I was also traveling to a new school in a different district, and with that came all of the dramatic emotions you might assume a transplanted 13-year-old would have. I looked all over the place for a song that would describe what I was feeling at the time. Somewhat tragically, my brain latched onto Switchfoot’s seminal “Dare You To Move,” which I also took 100 percent literally at the time. I was moving and I didn’t want to, but darn it, Switchfoot dared me to. How could I not?
During the summer of my 16th year, I officially joined the work force in the form of being a janitor at my junior high. I would ride my bike to the school most days at 7 a.m., and then ride back home at 3:30 p.m. It was a terrible, time-consuming job, but I was allowed to listen to music the whole time so I suppose it evened out. I decided I’d kickstart a project where I would try to listen to 500 albums before summer ended and keep track of all of them. It made every work day seem worthwhile, even though every work day was usually a steaming pile of things I can’t say in this newspaper. I’d clean the library to the White Stripes, watch the sun rise to Sufjan Stevens, and weird out my co-workers by blasting Tom Waits. I did it the next two summers with 100 (collective) more albums, but it didn’t feel the same as how good I felt at the end of the first summer.
I want to know the music I listen to on a molecular level. And that’s where I am today, 20 years to the day of my falling onto the world. It might sound dumb, but I’ve heard a lot of music thus far and I honestly can’t wait to hear whatever comes up next.
I’m not asking you to be the same way. All I ask is that you appreciate the truly weird sensation that music brings with it, the longing you feel for specific songs or bands you love and the silence that follows the next song you hear.
5 Songs I’ll Probably Listen To Today:
“Mean Streets” -Van Halen
“Playing In A Band” -The
“Simon Smith And The
Amazing Dancing Bear”
“Dancing With Tears In My
“Unhappy Birthday” -The Smiths
Kevin Stairiker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.