The times you lived through, the people you shared those times with — nothing brings it all to life like an old mix tape. It does a better job of storing up memories than actual brain tissue can do. Every mix tape tells a story. Put them together, and they can add up to the story of a life. – Rob Sheffield
Music is, by far, the most powerful entity in the world that causes feelings of nostalgia to instantly wash over me. It is like a time machine and can bring up feelings, memories, and even sensory information like scents that takes me back to a different time.
For instance, when I hear the bass line of Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?,” the opening drums from “Dance, Dance” by Fall Out Boy, or Panic!’s cello riff in “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies,” I can’t help but think back to middle school and all the awkward moments that I usually try to forget. And while I may look back at that time with little fondness, I still love those songs. They are a nice, four-minute snapshot into the past. A yearbook that I don’t have to find and can easily put away with a simple track skip on my iPhone.
When I was a boy, my mother always sang to me “Have I Told You Lately” by Rod Stewart. To me, it became a lullaby and whenever I hear it today, I can’t help thinking of her. Charles Aznavour’s “Yesterday When I Was Young” has a verse that goes: “The thousand dreams I dreamed, the splendid things I planned / I always built, alas, on weak and shifting sand. I lived by night and shunned the naked light of the day / And only now I see how the years ran away.” My heart always breaks when I hear it because it reminds me of my father. When I heard that song for the first time, it was in that moment that I began to see him in a way I never had before: someone with dreams and hopes for the future. I saw myself in who he used to be.
The song doesn’t always have to be poignant to leave a lasting memory. In fact, many times the most memorable songs are so for the corniest of reasons. When The Human League comes on the car radio, I crank it up and belt the lines “DON’T YOU WANT ME BABY? DON’T YOU WANT ME, OOH-AHH-OHH!” cause that’s precisely what me and my best friend used to do all the time when the song came on. If there was a song that defined our ridiculous, decade-long friendship, it is that song.
There are also “generational standards:” songs that define a generation and, in listening to them, you get a true glimpse into what that subculture was all about. “I Don’t Want To Wait” by Paula Cole, “Brick” by Ben Folds Five, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana, “…Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears, and “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang” by Dr. Dre are all quintessential 90’s songs, but each one could easily be considered an anthem of the decade to any number of people because they all add a piece to the changing mosaic of music during that time.
In the end, I will always have my “go-to songs.” If you hear me play “White Flag” by Dido, I just got my heart devastatingly broken. If I just want to be left alone, Counting Crows it is. And if you hear “Red Red Wine” by UB40 blaring out my bedroom… let’s just say beverages are about to be imbibed. That’s the beauty of music. It gives you the opportunity to do stupid things, like ask that girl you’ve had a crush on since the 10th grade to Senior Prom, or gets you on the dance floor and gives you the courage to ask that cute redhead you’ve been staring at all night for a dance. It’ll probably end with your tail between your legs, but it could also work out wonderfully and BAM! You and her have “your song,” the song you both tell your friends, family, and kids was the song that brought you two together.
Music brings back old memories and helps to make new ones. The list of songs that remind you of the most beautiful, depressing, and bittersweet moments are parts of the mixtape of your life. Take the time out and give it a listen.
The opinions on this page do not necessarily reflect those of The Sandspur, its staff or Rollins College.