Picture me, age nine. I don’t have a phone or an iPod. Far from the obsessive Spotify user I am now, my sole piece of technology is a Nintendo DS. My music taste is determined by what CDs my parents choose to buy for me at Target. I am about three to five years behind every trend. I wear out my CDs until they are too scratchy to play.
Today I’ll be revisiting three of my favorite albums from childhood and putting them to the test. Do they still hold up?
Taylor Swift – Self-Titled (2006)
This album came out when I was only five years old, but I don’t remember listening to it until I was probably about nine (by which time Taylor had already released another album). I think my dad heard that Taylor was a critically acclaimed young songwriter and decided to buy me this CD, which I soon became obsessed with. One of my best friends and I would spend countless car trips belting out the words to these songs (holding the tiny lyric sheet, of course) in the backseat. It was only the beginning of a years-long journey into Taylor Swift fandom which would culminate in my first concert, the Speak Now tour, in 2011.
So, is this album any good? My answer is an emphatic YES. While there are some low points on the album that show Taylor’s youth and immaturity (“Stay Beautiful,” “I’m Only Me When I’m With You,”) there is still nothing better than blasting this album’s more upbeat tracks while driving through the countryside with your friends. “Picture To Burn” and “Should’ve Said No” are clever and full of the kind of righteous anger only a teenage girl can possess. “Teardrops On My Guitar” STILL gets me feeling teary every time. “Our Song” makes me feel nostalgic for high school memories I never had. All in all, revisiting Taylor Swift is like opening an old photobook.
Miley Cyrus – Hannah Montana 2/Meet Miley Cyrus (2007)
I suppose you could call this a double album. How innovative! The first “side” was all Hannah Montana songs (e.g., they were about being famous or about things that happened on the show), while the second “side” was all Miley Cyrus songs (e.g., they were about the struggles of a normal teenage girl). I love using the word “side” because it makes me picture this album on vinyl. This was the first time we got to hear Miley Cyrus making music outside of the Hannah Montana identity, which felt like a huge deal in the moment.
I have to say, I probably wouldn’t listen to this album now. The first side feels pretty dated and overblown thirteen years later, and the second side is certainly better in terms of songwriting and instrumentation, but the entire album still has the feel of music made for children. Of course, there is a time and place for this, but as I’m nearing my twenties I think I’d like to listen to something that feels a bit more age-appropriate. That being said, “See You Again” and “Start All Over” still get me in the mood to head-bang. Perhaps I’m simply allowing society to ruin this album for me? I’ll think it over.
Shrek 2 Soundtrack (2004)
Shrek 2 was probably tied with Cars and Robin Hood for my favorite movie growing up (I know, I had weird taste), and even my parents agreed that the soundtrack was full of BANGERS. I can just picture my mom or dad pressing play on the stereo and the opening guitar riff of “Accidentally in Love” filling the car. My parents would skip around the album, though, usually heading to “Changes” after the opening track, then “Funkytown,” “Ever Fallen In Love,” “Little Drop of Poison,” and “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” Pretty much every song on this soundtrack still goes hard today. And I have to give the Shrek franchise credit for introducing me to a range of musicians including David Bowie, John Cale, Joan Jett, The Buzzcocks, Tom Waits, and Nick Cave.
Though we don’t always have control over it, I think the music that a person listens to in their childhood has the ability to make a big impact on their life later. It can teach us which qualities make music good or fun to listen to. But more importantly, in my opinion, the memories we associate with this music will stick with us forever, only strengthened by the melodies and lyrics playing in the background. Even if I eventually grow to hate the music I like now, I’ll always cherish the memories made while discovering and appreciating it.