September 27, 2014 by NowhereButPop
These are the songs that have had the biggest impact on my life. They may not be my favorites or most listened to, but there’s no denying their impact. These are the songs that altered the status quo of my life. After listening to these songs there was no going back. And, yes this is completely egotistical and self-absorbed.
- “Take A Bow” (Madonna/1995)
It was after seeing the video to “Take a Bow” at four years old I realized that I liked girls. I also remember thinking to myself “I’m only four, I should NOT be watching this right now”. I don’t know what’s more alarming-The fact that Madonna could awaken the sexuality of a four year old, or that a four year old had a sense of sexuality to be awoken in the first place. Regardless, Madonna provided the first instance of self-disclosure. Nonetheless, it’s probably one of the reasons why I’ve always been more into older girls. For that “Take a Bow” gets extra Freudian points.
- “Kiss From a Rose” (Seal/1995)
I don’t know what was with me and adult contemporary pop music of the 90s, but there’s definitely a trend here. This was the first song I knew all the words too, and the first song that I remember actively enjoying….all because it was the lead single for Batman Forever. This song coincides with some of my earlier memories…most of which revolve around my eager anticipation of Batman Forever
- “Californication” (Red Hot Chili Peppers/1999)
Seeing the video debut on TRL, one of the best music videos of all time, “Californication” is the song that not only got me into the Chili Peppers, but also into music. It’d be a few more years before I started to explore music more fully, but the seeds were sown. From the very beginning of the song, John Frusciante’s riff gripped me, while Anthony Kiedis’ lyrics put me in a trance. I didn’t know what they were singing about, but I knew it meant something. It was the first time in my life that I came across a song that had a sense of grandeur, epic stakes, and a hint of apocalypticism. This is the song that awoke me from a state of musical deafness and dormancy. For this reason if no other, “Californication” is probably the most important song on this list.
- “Stand Up” (Ludacris/2003)
So, I…uh, went through a rap phase in junior high. I was a huge Ludacris fan, spurred on by his album Chicken-N-Beer and its hit single “Stand Up”, I knew all of the lyrics to the entire album at one point (which I’ve thankfully since forgotten). For a time it looked like I would immerse myself in shitty early 00s rap music. Regardless, no other song characterizes those awkward early teen years where you’re trying to figure yourself out, more for me than “Stand Up”. I was 13, gimme a break.
- “By the Time I Get to Arizona” (Public Enemy/2004)
A continuation of my rap phase. After I realized how terrible early 00s hip-hop was, I decided to dig into the past, and somehow Public Enemy, N.W.A., and Ice-T came up. Un-ironically listening to 80s gangsta rap is probably me at my most pretentious because I figured that by listening to that kind of music I would differentiate myself from all the other kids in school who were listening to whatever was popular at the time. It was a way for me to be myself in an atmosphere of a homogenous hegemony. Over the years I’ve realized that I still like songs about gang violence in Compton, or a firsthand account of the crack epidemic of the 80s plaguing the black community, just not as much as I forced myself back when I was a 13 year old trying to make my way through junior high.
- “Coma” (Guns N’ Roses/2006)
When I first heard “Coma” (and all of Use Your Illusion I and II for that matter) I could do nothing but stare at the computer screen with my mouth agape, for 15 minutes after the song had ended. Up until that point, I had never in my life heard anything so vitriol, so guttural, but also so philosophically enraged. There was anger (almost too much), but it was tempered by introspection and self-realization. Things that I didn’t know music could do, “Coma” introduced me to. It was the very first time in my life where I felt like a song wasn’t just music, but prophecy. I had always been a fan of rock music, but Guns N’ Roses was the first band I ever fully immersed myself in, mostly on the strength of “Coma”. It was the first step in truly discovering music, and my own personal preferences, with Guns N’ Roses, I had begun to find my niche.
- “How Many Friends” (The Who/2009)
It’s 11:30 on a Tuesday night, halfway through my first semester of college, and I’m bummed out. I haven’t met any of those lifelong friends that Syracuse has promised me, nor am I even surrounded by people I particularly like. I feel excluded, lonely, and depressed. My actual friends are miles away, and a friendly smile is impossible to come by. “How Many Friends” is the song that got me into The Who because it showed a more sensitive and vulnerable side to them that I never knew existed. It’s a song that perfectly matches feelings I felt for a good chunk of my college years. This is a song that gets lost among “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Pinball Wizard”, but “How Many Friends” is a song that means more to me than most songs on this list. It wasn’t until I listened to this song that I realized it’s not how many friends, but who your friends are that is most important.
- “I Know What I Know” (Paul Simon/2012)
From “I Know What I Know” I’ve discovered a weird love of world pop music infused with African tribal beats. From this song I’ve become a fan of Peter Gabriel, Talking Heads, and The Clash. Originally reminding me of a girl I had been with, now “I Know What I Know” has more substantial meaning. It’s the sound of me accepting that college was ending and that I was about to embark on a new chapter in my life. It helped to mark the end of one phase and the start of something new and incredibly different. I always thought there was this weird parallel between Paul Simon trying to put his life back together, back in 1986, with me trying to get my life together in 2012. Regardless, “I Know What I Know” helped me to let go of the three years of college and not get trapped in the past.
- “Here Comes the Night Time II” (Arcade Fire/2013)
Arcade Fire is what brought me into modern music, since for the most part, I only really listened to the classics. After being exposed to Reflektor and altering my stance about music being dead, I’ve gotten into Kanye West (ten years too late) Lorde, and Haim. The point is, there’s also new music to be discovered, even if it isn’t new. Limiting yourself to only a few bands, or one genre of music just doesn’t work; you’ll burn out whatever resources there are. Specifically, “Here Comes the Night Time” reminded me a lot of Achtung Baby and listening to Reflektor was like listening to Achtung Baby younger sibling, that’s how good it was. There’s always new music out there waiting to be explored, and by segmenting myself to one kind of music was incredibly foolish and stubborn of me.
- “Let It Be” (The Beatles/2014)
2013 had probably been the most difficult year of my life. With anxieties, uncertainties, and a litany of ailments and maladies attacking my loved ones, it seemed like the cards were stacked against me in every way. Then, in January of 2014 “Let It Be” came on the radio, and I just felt this rush of serenity and calmness pervade over me. It felt like somehow, things would be better this year than they were the year before. Obviously, I had always known “Let It Be” but hearing it that one time, merely by chance, I felt as if I had seen the light at the end of the tunnel. In a word, it seemed like I had heard the sound of hope itself at the time I most needed it.
There you have it, the ten most influential songs to my being. It’s a motley assortment of songs, but they are all small pieces in the puzzle of who I am. What’re your most influential songs?