Many of you who don’t know me outside of this humble blog may not realize a very interesting aspect of my personality and childhood: I’m a former emo kid. Ah, yes. The 2000s. So many questionable style choices. I loved everything the post-punk, punk and pop-emo crowd had to offer because again, some of you may know this, I do like my coffee black; just like my metal (I’m sorry, I’m just kidding. I really just wanted to use this lyric line. I take my coffee with lots of cream and sugar.)
But as a former emo kid, a lot of the music I listened to 10 or so years ago (shudders) has seemed to lose some of its punch. But let’s back up. Let’s talk about my musical history, shall we?
I was raised by a mother who loved R&B and soul. My father was a jack of all trades. He loved rock, pop, and just about anything but country: NO COUNTRY MUSIC. But he especially loved classic rock and some punk. So I grew up listening to Motown and Queen almost equally. Green Day and Tupac. Pink Floyd and Outkast. I lived in that cultural duality in music for years until my father died.
After my father’s death and a not so grand departure from living with my mom to living with my more conservative aunts I found and fell in love with punk music. And I mean pop punk, Blink 182, Green Day, Simple Plan, Linkin Park, Good Charlotte and Panic! At the Disco were bands I listened to daily. I used to fall asleep to the Blink 182 self-titled album, starting with Feeling This and ending with I’m Lost Without You (which is still a beautiful song if you haven’t heard it or it’s just been a while). What attracted me to this kind of music? Message. I was an angry kid with a family that didn’t understand me and I couldn’t force the happiness me peers seemed to languish in. So lyrics like “I’m talking to the ceiling, my life’s just lost all meaning” struck me and I carried those songs in my heart, in my clothes and in my attitude. I hung out with the goth kids despite being the bright pink spot in a sea of black and returned home to a mix of anime soundtracks and emo music.
So much of my musical history has come from being an anime fan. Some of the earliest anime I ever watched struck me because the music was damn amazing. I was just re-watching InuYasha and while I have very few positive things to say about the first episodes of that bloated series, My Will is still one of the best animated musical themes in my opinion. I learned some Japanese pretty quickly just from picking up and parroting the songs that I had to listen to muted while I watched anime as my aunts slept (shhhh, don’t tell them). And if you get Real Folk Blues playing in the car, I will stop and sing.
So what was the allure to the dark side of music? Well, it’s two-fold as far as I see it. Comfort and community. Let’s tackle comfort first, because I want to.
As I mentioned before, my childhood and teen years were less than ideal. I had just lost a parent, my aunts were somewhat strict and mostly disapproving of their niece that had a pension for violent backwards-reading comic books and I was a well-performing but stressed out honors student with a bright future but a bleak attitude. I found comfort from Tom Delonge, who seemed to understand my anger and frustration with the world. I felt at ease hearing Benji Madden talk about issues with his father and mother and his worries about death, life and abandonment. It was wonderful hearing Billie Joe Armstrong talk about substance abuse, misery and even thinking about why we’re even here and to have those idols as an emotional, confused and vocal young lady.
The second is community, so let’s dive into that.
When I was in junior high, I went to a private Catholic school. I had uniforms and aunts that kept a close eye on my clothing choices. I got to rebel every so slightly through bracelets and my Converse. In high school, I got to go to public school and that finally meant some self-expression through clothing: just kidding, my aunt is Catholic and I was an honors student and president of many extracurricular activities, I had a reputation to maintain. But I was happy being the bright pink dot in a sea of goth kids who would all sing Helena if prompted. We all felt the same. We all knew what it felt like to be misunderstood. To be bullied. To be the bully. Many of us faced similarly dissatisfied and disappointed parents and felt crushed near to death by the expectations placed upon by us ourselves, our families and society. We found community within our shared angst and made families out of our mutual concerns, fears and tainted hopes and dreams. We were each other’s family and listening to the same music, feeling the same way, all made us feel a little less alone.
We’ve gone from my angsty teen years to the Amanda many of you know now. What am I listening to nowadays? Well, a lot of EDM. I’ve always been a bit of a trance kid and for sure a bass bunny. I’m a former rave girl, too (did I not mention that earlier?). Lots of Madeon and Calvin Harris. But at the same time, I’m also listening to tons of alternative like Fitz and the Tantrums. And like still lots of anime music. C’mon guys, I’m a lifelong otaku. So what changed? How did I go from a emo prince of darkness to a indie hipster with musical choices so underground that Facebook and Google can’t always recognize them? Well, the short answer out of the many longs ones is this: I grew up. So despite my glowing praise of some of the emo hits of the early 2000s, not all of this music aged well. I’m closer to 30 than ever now and I have a hard time going back and listening to all of the music Younger Amanda used to hold dear. Some songs didn’t hold up because once you move out, once you leave the disapproving guardians, once you accept a job and make money and realize that the biggest enemy in your life is often yourself, it’s difficult to find anything else to rebel to. And once you take off the eyeliner and remove the fishnets from your hands, sometimes, just sometimes, it’s a little difficult to think about a group of other 30+ individuals ranting about how rude Mommy and Daddy are while complaining and glorifying self-mutilation and mental illness (we’re gonna talk about that next time, I promise.).
But sometimes, every once in awhile, after a long day. Or after a particularly heated conversation with my friends or aunts it’s nice to be able to vent by cranking up the bass and thrash out to St. Jimmy or Shut Me Up. In an upcoming post, we will talk about the pains of listening to echo chamber music and the misleading nature of just sitting in misery and the complex portrait of the tortured youth.