There’s a certain sense of irony when a twenty-something feels nostalgia for his youth. But, without waxing faux-poetic about how our current mediocre economy and overall zeitgeist might contribute to my hungering for halcyon days, I still find thinking of my youth comforting. Before bills and jobs and aging came into play, we had the excitement of firsts.
Everyone remembers their first everything, usually, unless it was singularly awful, painful, or just truly unmemorable. Your first bike, first video game, first kiss, first car, first love. But what really encapsulates my youth, and by youth I mean high school-ish days, is music. Millennials are a particularly musical generation, you will find. Most of us can give you a ‘soundtrack of our lives,’ as pretentious as that sounds.
I came to popular music later than most kids. I had never heard Pearl Jam orAce of Base when I was in grade school. (Guess my age.) Needless to say, I wasn’t the most popular kid at recess. This was mainly because my parents didn’t really want me listening to that type of music. To their credit, they acquiesced when they saw the encroaching tide wearing away at that beachhead.
But I still remember that first mix CD.
This mix CD came when I was about 15. I didn’t have a CD burner so I coaxed a friend into making it for me once day. I played it and played it and played it. There was a harmony to the selections I made; the order and the sound seemed to fit perfectly to me, and only me. Perhaps it was because 15 years worth of favorite musical taste actually became a physical playlist, but who knows? This mix CD would be, to most people (or at least, to most people above the age of 30), nonsensical in terms of taste. But Millennials are known to be eclectic in their tastes in music, predominantly because there is just so much music out there.
Even the way we receive music has changed drastically over the course of just the past twenty years.
The information age has seen a veritable glut of musical genres overwhelm our eardrums. AM and FM radio stations are the basic cable news of music, where the produced and paid go to sell oftentimes unappealing music. Millennials tend to avoid them. If they really wanted to speak to the most musically inclined generation, they would make eclectic mixes like we do on our iPods and laptops.
Like all generations, we are molded and changed by the times we live, just as much as we mold and change our times. Music is near and dear to us because it is ubiquitous. It’s on our computers, on our phones, in our cars. Technology and Millennials will be forever intertwined, much as war and Generation X were. Come to think of it, we’re the first generation in a long time to not be affected by the horrors and realities of war. But that’s another post altogether. We follow the trends of music without realizing it because long trends are typically only noticed on a subconscious level, if at all. As Millennials, we loved MTV, Nirvana, nu-metal, east vs. west coast rappers, the Beastie Boys, N*Sync and the Backstreet Boys, and Britney Spears.
Napster came along and changed how we received our music. We could download just the songs that we liked without buying the whole crap CD! And we didn’t have to pay for it! Sure, it took an hour to download one song over a 56K modem, and God-forbid anyone call the house phone. But, once we got that taste of freedom, we never wanted to let that go.
On to the brilliance of Steve Jobs and Apple, which created the iTunes store and the iPod, and made what we’d been doing for years awfully convenient and legal. Jobs’ genius was to be able to get nearly every major music label to agree that their artists’ songs were worth $.99 a pop. This quelled our fear of being imprisoned because the music industry was mad at us for downloading “Mambo #5” without paying them tribute.
Nowadays, Millennials are often at the source of the popularity of musicians. We tweet them, they tweet back. We help them go viral, land gigs, make money. We do things like crowdsource and crowdfund. Look at Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen and Psy and “Gangnam Style.” Music videos have become events now, as they once were when MTV debuted. But now, we skip that middleman-ness MTV brought to the table and get these four-minute musical shows right from the artist’s YouTube page. I couldn’t possibly prognosticate where it’s going to go from here. Which makes me nostalgic for the days when there were barriers between me and my music, when I felt like I was getting away with something when I downloaded the Pink Panther theme off of Napster.
But back to my wonderful mix, which I called Genesis Blue, because it was my first mix ever (how clever of me), and it was a blue Verbatim CD. And, while the CD is now too damaged to be played, I still have the playlist. The res of what made it… it. I listen to it not just when I’m feeling nostalgic. I listen to it when I’m sad and happy. I made that CD right around the time I got my first pet – a tabby cat named Virgil. He’s passed away since then, but it makes me wistful for him every time I play it. Another part of my childhood, gone. But never forgotten.
The Genesis Blue track list: