I grew up in the 90’s.
It was a dreary time. Everyone
was scared of getting HIV so no one was fooling around. We wore all black, or plaid shirts over baggy
jeans. Everyone’s hair was in his or her
faces. But probably the most defining
feature of the 90’s was the music. We
listened to what is now known of as Alternative Rock.
I’ve been thinking a lot about music lyrics and what they do once they’re on a loop in your head, attached as they are to a melody that you can’t ever seem to rinse out. I grew up singing songs like “Creep” by Radiohead, “Black” by Pearl Jam, and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. Oh, and the Cure! Which was technically an 80’s holdover into the 90’s, but definitely still a huge player in the music world pre y2k. I must have listened to the album “Disintegration” about a million times, and to this day I can’t hear Robert Smith’s plaintive voice singing “Pictures of You” without smiling.
Yes. I’ve got a screw loose. The Cure—the most manic-depressive band to ever hit the top ten—makes me smile.
Most 90’s lyrics ran in the direction of silent desperation, hopelessness, and self-loathing. By just singing along with my favorite songs, I must have told myself I was a loser a zillion times and that any endeavor was pointless because I was built to fail—or Built to Spill as one band poetically named themselves.
I believed it, too. It took me years to finally dare to write a book, though I always wanted to. I never thought I could even finish a book, let alone write one that would be worthy of being published because, without even trying first, I was already a failure.
I don’t blame the music I listened to for my self-defeating inner monologue, but lately I’ve been wondering how much what I listened to reinforced my own pre-existing condition. In the 90’s the only way to be cool was to understand that you were insignificant, and doubly so if you were a woman. The best you could hope for was to be some slacker’s manic pixie dream girl.
Music has changed a lot since then, both in sound and in message. Women have changed. Lilith Fest isn’t the only way to hear strong, confident women singing and performing and generally killing it. The notion of what is cool has changed.
I have a three-and-a-half-year-old daughter now. Currently, her favorite song is “Roar” by Katy Perry and we’ve been listening to it on repeat for weeks. She’s learned a lot of the lyrics. As I was taking her to preschool the other morning, I looked back in the rear-view mirror and watched my fearless, kind, and clever little girl as she howled, “I am a champion, and you’re going to hear me roar.”
I burst into tears. I’ve definitely got a screw loose. The Cure makes me smile, and Katy Perry makes me cry.