If My Life was a Mixtape: A Musical History Playlist
First off, I want to thank @galinda for tagging me in this challenge because I love making mixes for people. I actually used to have my own collaborative blog with fellow music nerds called 'Mixtapes For Mixed Tastes', where all we did was exchange monthly playlists with one another based on whatever theme we were going for that month. (Ask me about my Halloween playlists sometime. I can make a mean Halloween playlist at this point.)
Basically, if you didn't see the original post, the premise of the challenge is to assemble songs that pretty much tell the 'musical story' of your life, ie: which bands you were listening to at what time, which singles or music videos were influential for you, etc. Soooo... without further ado, here's mine. (And I'm totally dating myself with this one, but whatever. I'm old, and you'll be old one day too.)
1. My Elementary School Years: "Ironic" - Alanis Morissette
The year was 1995. I was in 4th grade and reaching the years where you stop doing everything your parents do and start making your own real opinions about things. I had my first group of friends - Ashley, Allison, Michelle, Jessica, and Emeline - and we shamelessly worshipped what we considered the Holy Trinity of Female Musicians, Gwen Stefani of No Doubt, Alanis Morissette, and Jewel Kilcher. (Okay, Fiona Apple eventually invited herself to the party too, but that was a little bit later.)
Alanis's "Jagged Little Pill" was the first cassette I ever bought (with Mom's money, of course). Followed by Jewel's "Pieces Of You" and No Doubt's "Tragic Kingdom". Most of my friends were mini Fairuza Balks. We wore JNCOs, watched Nirvana's episode of MTV Unplugged at every slumber party, and collectively agreed our spirit animal was Dawn Weiner from "Welcome to the Dollhouse" even though none of us were really old enough to watch "Welcome to the Dollhouse" in the theaters.
But as 'edgy' as my friends were, I secretly was the last friend who still played with her Barbie dolls after school. I liked making plays for them with little scripts I scribbled down in a notebook, and I vividly recall scripting my own Barbie musical based on the track sequence of "Jagged Little Pill", complete with a convenient intermission as I flipped from Side A to Side B.
2. Another Jersey Mall Rat: "Mable" - Goldfinger
By the time I was in 6th grade, I was fully immersed in 'alternative' culture. My best friend was a goth I met in art class named Janice, and every Friday night, we would go to a venue called Skater's World and spend hours making friends with high school kids and moshing to local bands. North Jersey, where I was from, actually had an amazing punk scene in the mid-90s. A lot of famous musicians today actually started off playing venues like Skater's World. We watched Jack Antonoff from fun.'s band Outline play a few shows. Pencey Prep, another popular local band, included a young Frank Iero, who eventually went on to play guitar for My Chemical Romance. My Skater's World friends were my life, and even though all of us went to completely different schools in completely different towns, we knew to expect to run into each other at all of the shows. At Skater's World, I read my first punk zine, learned about the Sex Pistols, and accidentally kicked my best guy friend in the nuts. (He spent the rest of the night hiding in the men's room. I still feel bad about it.)
3. Moving to California: "All My Fault" - Fenix TX
I moved to San Diego in the 8th grade, which was so entirely lame because when you have a Jersey accent and you're living on the west coast, everyone looks at you like you just got out of prison. I really tried hard to fit in, which meant I turned the JNCOs in for Guess bootcuts and started listening to a whole lot of Mandy Moore. Once pop-punk finally got big, I felt like I had a genre of music I could relate much more to that I wouldn't look 'uncool' for liking. I went to the Warped Tour every summer religiously. I listened to bands like New Found Glory, Fenix TX, Millencolin, Blink-182, and Saves The Day. Pop-punk wasn't nearly as raw as the music I had grown so used to at home, but the skateboarding guys used to think it was cool I knew who Op Ivy was, so I guess my old Skater's World roots came in handy.
4. High School Years: "Song for the Dumped" - Ben Folds Five
For some reason, I spent a lot of my high school years delving back into 90s music. I had originally gotten Ben Folds Five's debut album back in 1997, but it wasn't until several years later that I listened to it over and over and over again. I also started listening to a lot of Bjork's "Homogenic" album and Liz Phair's "Exile in Guyville". I let myself get fully immersed into the indie-pop scene, including Badly Drawn Boy, Spoon, the Dandy Warhols, and a few others. (These songs would always end up on an episode of "The OC". I remember getting really pissed Mischa Barton stole my jams.)
5. Getting My Driver's License: "Maybe" - N.E.R.D
Toward the end of junior year, I started getting heavily into N.E.R.D, a hip-hop group created by Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, two guys who were normally producers behind some of the biggest singles of the time. I loved the idea of two guys who were behind the scenes stepping into the studio and recording the songs that they felt truly represented themselves and their own personal tastes. What resulted was this huge mishmash of genres. It really turned me onto the idea of music production. From N.E.R.D came my love of other hip-hop producers like Rick Rubin and Dan the Automator. N.E.R.D's "In Search Of" album and Dan's "Deltron 3030" album (with rapper Del) both left serious impacts on me specifically.
6. High School Graduation: "Gettin' in the Way" - Jill Scott
My love of all things hip-hop and neo-soul were in full effect by the time I graduated high school. This was around the time Jill Scott first debuted, The Roots were at the height of their game, and Black Eyed Peas still didn't have a Fergie. I truly fell in love with the 'soul' of soul music, and I had so much respect for hip-hop producers working at the time. I remember first hearing Kanye West rap on "This Way" by Dilated Peoples and becoming instantly obsessed with his delivery and sense of humor. (Go watch that video sometime. He looks SO YOUNG.)
7. My Hip-Hop Sponge Years: "Drop" - The Pharcyde
My early college years were nothing but A Tribe Called Quest's "Midnight Maurauders" and The Pharcyde's "Bizarre Ride II". I was incredibly drawn into late 80s and early 90s hip-hop, and I basically went into it wanting to learn everything there was to know about it. These were the times when I first listened to Grandmaster Flash's "The Message", rapped along to Black Sheep's "The Choice is Yours" at my first hip-hop show (with a room full of strangers, might I add), and got really into the production work of J.Dilla, unfortunately a little too late.
8. Art School Years: "Shack Up" - A Certain Ratio
I spent my early 20s a little too obsessed with British post-punk. I also got really into the Factory Records school of New Order/Joy Division, A Certain Ratio, ESG, etc. I followed anything with a really strong bassline, and it usually led me to 80s no-wave, art rock of the late 70s, and Kurtis Blow's "The Breaks". I'm pretty sure my favorite song at the time was "Genius of Love" by the Tom Tom Club. This was back when everyone had MySpace, and every time someone landed on my MySpace page, they were greeted with "Genius of Love" super, super loud. I apologize to anyone who had to endure it, though it might be a little too late to now.
9. My DJ Years: "Happy House" - The Juan Maclean
By the time I was 22, I had my own radio show called "Remix Reuse Resample" on our local public radio station, KUCI. My DJ name was just 'Dani', and I wore gold chains, high tops, and funky colored leggings everywhere I went. My show was three hours every Tuesday - three hours where I could play anything I wanted, which usually meant three hours of underground hip-hop, electro-house music, and post-punk - or as it said in our programming flyer, 'eclectic beats to move your feets'. I loved being able to meet other DJs, all people in their 20s who were as equally enthusiastic about sharing the music that they listened to with other people. It was so fun being able to come home after a show to e-mails from listeners who really dug my playlists. The other DJs and I would go up to LA clubs to check out different house DJs we were obsessed with. We would move out the production equipment and play live sets on college campuses, in the middle of malls, and public events. I even went to Electric Daisy Carnival one year (though, seriously, I wouldn't recommend it).
After I left the radio station two years later, I began doing my own DJ production work at home. This was mostly for fun. I never really had the intention to become famous from it. I would make these hour long seamless tracks of house remixes of my friends' favorite songs and give it to them for birthdays or roadtrips or other special occasions. (Feel free to check out Jazzercise #6, for example. A track I made for my friend, Stephanie.)
I love DJing, but I haven't been able to really keep up with music as much as I used to, so I don't do it much anymore. I highly recommend trying it out though!
10. And Then There Was K-Pop: "Bad Boy" - Big Bang
Me listening to K-Pop was probably the last thing any of my friends expected - or anything I expected either for that matter. One day, my old music director showed me this music video, "Bad Boy" by Big Bang, and I was completely obsessed. G-Dragon reminded me of Rufio from the movie "Hook", but with a crazy modern 'Tokyo street' aesthetic and some globalized swag. Later on, I learned about how Big Bang had worked with many DJs I was particularly obsessed with back during my DJ years. Producers like Diplo, Boys Noize, and Baauer were artists I saw live so many times in my life, and to know that this group in particular were given those DJs' stamp of approval only made me like them more. (To this day, whenever my friends diss on me for liking K-Pop, I just go "Shut up. Diplo likes it too.")
I love K-Pop because it incorporates so much of what I loved about the other styles of music I listened to. I love how it fuses EDM and hip-hop together in a completely unique way. Maybe the K-Pop fandom isn't necessarily like the group of fans you'd find at one of my old middle school punk rock shows, but the love is there, the camaraderie is still there. And if there's one thing I love, it's being able to bond with someone over music.