You can’t tell me you’ve never once walked down the street and never thought of a perfectly specific song for that moment and emotion. Or imagined a grand sweeping montage where people suddenly pop out of trash cans and behind trees to join in a conveniently synchronized flash mob (500) Days of Summer style. Weather it be celebrating with Hall & Oates, envisioning Heath Ledger serenading you with “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” on the bleachers of your high school football stadium, the synchronized sing a long of “Bohemian Rhapsody” in Wayne’s World or the ultimate montage of Ferris Bueller’s rendition of “Twist and Shout” we’ve all had a similar daydream.
It’s the typical cliche but there’s something about that perfect song that always seems to express how we’re feeling at the time more eloquently than our fumbling words can ever tell. As Fall Out Boy once sang, “I can write it better than you ever felt it. That one song or album that makes everything seem possible, impossible, substantial, insignificant. That one song or album that makes you stand up and scream “YES this is everything I’ve ever wanted to say” or have been too scared to say. This song or album is different, unique, and special to everyone. Someone may share the same favorite, but maybe the energy charged behind it is completely different. It could be that a specific person is attached to that particular song, bringing up warm nostalgia for 2 minutes and 35 seconds or perhaps it’s a single moment of teenage passion encompassed in the sweeping guitar solo or moaning of Robert Plant in the background, maybe even the type of song that hits you in the face with such fury it makes your stomach churn and your head ache just at the thought of the person it reminds you of. We all have that moment where no matter how much you want to delete that song from your “Summer 2009 Jamz” playlist, the thought of it being absent from your iTunes library leaves a scolding hole in your heart and you quickly move the cursor away from the recycle bin and back to the other 2,396 songs you are too guilty to delete.
For me, anyone who has known me for than 5 minutes, followed my Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr account knows my all time favorite and most influential album to my teenage life. Fall Out Boy’s first full length album Take This To Your Grave can play backwards and forwards in my mind at any given time. Fall Out Boy had defined and justified my existence from age 13 to my present day 19-year-old version. Although their other albums hold great importance to me, none can compare to Take This To Your Grave. The caliber of wit and vengeful prose that seethed through my headphones on the morning bus ride was always what I wish I myself had possessed in high school. With lyrical gems such as “Let’s play this game called “when you catch fire” I wouldn’t piss to put you out” or “Stop burning bridges and drive off of them, So I can forget about you” songs like “Tell That Mick He Just Made My List Of Things To Do Today” exemplified every ounce of my heartbroken angst. Even today after a bad day or a break up I can blast this album and feel comforted that it’s okay to feel like this, and all my vindictive adolescent agony is perfectly normal.
I was curious to see if there was one song, album, or artist that completely and utterly epitomized a certain time or moment in someone’s life so I asked around.
“Don’t laugh, but “Never Grow Up” by my girl TaySwift! It reminds me of my niece, Macie. It makes me smile.”
“Hunky Dory. Bowie. Hands down the exact essence of my life.”
“…don’t judge me but I really really like Coldplay. I don’t care what people say about them, their songs give me goosebumps ok.”
“Off of the top of my head..The Eagles. No one knows me better than The Eagles.”
“Sometimes I get calls from my dad when he’s on the road, it’s not even his voice, it’s just this song echoing in the background. “Bulls on Parade” by Rage Against the Machine. My dad calls me and plays this song every time it comes on the radio. He said it’s our song . Even if it isn’t a super sentimental song, it’s kinda a weird one for a father/daughter bonding moment, but I love that we can just jam out whenever it starts playing.”
“Linger, by The Cranberries. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to that song without crying.”
“Mexico, by Incubus. I start every Incubus listening sesh with that song first, I don’t know why.”
“The first time I got high, The Red Hot Chili Pepper’s were laying in the background. Every time I hear “By The Way” sober it just isn’t the same, but I still love it.”
“The song Landslide by Fleetwood Mac, I feel my mother’s presence whenever I hear that song, it’s like I can see her dancing around like Stevie Nicks every single time.”
“You know that scene in Almost Famous where everyone’s on the bus just cruising the open road and “Tiny Dancer” starts playing and suddenly everyone slowly joins in and it turns into this Elton John sing-a-long. Yeah that moment is everything that should be.”
I wasn’t surprised the amount of variety of everyone’s responses, but I was surprised that most couldn’t even explain really why that song, or artist had been able to effect them so deeply. However I realized with everyone I asked I could see this air of reminiscent revelry. Their voice’s had changed after they each paused to think about each answer. Each word was tender and highly intentional. Although somewhat vague, some of these short responses were all that were needed. We all load a specific artist and melody with our own amount of nostalgic baggage. We carry this with us through the years and maybe the meaning changed over time to explain and fit what we need at the moment or maybe it’s still just that exact reminder of your mother or father, your niece, your high school sweetheart, that first time you got high, or your first break up. All of us possess that song that will be gently or boisterously playing in the background as we walk down the street knowing the perfect moment to crescendo to full volume.