As Friedrich Nietzsche so eloquently summed it up: “Without music, life would be a mistake.” It is the soundtrack to human existence, the enriching force that can take a person’s mind back to a specific place or time, and the creatively inspiring force that fits any emotion. I couldn’t live without music in my life.
Over my 30 years of life thus far, I’ve listened to enough music to fill a large museum and I own hundreds of albums, but I never took the time to look at my musical history according to each year of life and appreciate each song in its proper time context.
Today, I’ve decided to go through every year of my life until my 18th birthday and pick out a particular popular top 100 song that holds personal meaning, calls forth a specific memory, or has inspired me as a person over the years. Some years, it was hard to choose just one, but the best choices always eventually surfaced.
Feel free to listen along while you read the article via this Spotify playlist:
Eddie Murphy – “Party All The Time”
There’s nothing quite like actors turned singers, and Eddie Murphy does not disappoint with his Rick James collaboration. The video is nothing short of amazing and makes me so glad to have been born the year it was released. There’s so much cheesy charm to love about the 80s.
Whitney Houston – “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”
Rest in peace you beautiful, tortured woman. I remember having to sing “The Greatest Love of All” in elementary school as well as learn the sign language accompaniment. I’ll still request this song at any bar jukebox I find myself standing next to.
Bobby McFerrin – “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”
This song ranks up there with “Hakuna Matata” for life advice songs. I hope to someday give my children a “Life Advice” music mix and this song will certainly be featured as one of the top tracks.
Milli Vanilli – “Girl You Know It’s True”
The song that ruined Milli Vanilli via a lip synching fiasco remains my favorite of their short-lived worldwide success.
New Kids on the Block – “Step By Step”
No one can deny the annoying-but-somehow-insanely-addictive nature of this song. Donnie Wahlberg just looks so out of place in this group. Also, bonus points for the Mark Wahlberg cameo toward the end of the video.
DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – “Summertime”
This song still reigns as my summertime anthem and is present on every summer-themed mix I’ve ever made. Will Smith can do no wrong, in my eyes.
The Cure – “Friday I’m In Love”
Although I’ve been a lifelong fan of the Cure, this song is the first I’ve heard from them and still remains a nice, bubbly gum pop love song. While not indicative whatsoever of their overall goth-y music style, it’s nice for Robert Smith and the gang to find a place on the US pop charts.
The Proclaimers – “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”
Such a simple, sweet song about being a beta male and begging a woman for sex. The thick Scottish accents of the vocalists only accent this 90s classic.
Ace of Base – “The Sign”
Chalk this up in the “specific memory” category because not only do I remember singing along with this song on the radio, but I also associate it directly with the cringe-inducing performance of this song by Stephanie Tanner, Gia, and Kimmy Gibbler as “Girl Talk” in Uncle Jesse’s famed Smash Club. There’s nothing like hearing teenage girls butcher a classic. This song also marked the height of the Europop invasion and I thank my lucky stars I was alive to embrace it.
Coolio – “Gangsta’s Paradise”
The “Dangerous Minds” soundtrack was the first rap album I ever purchased and I can still recite all the lyrics to Coolio’s masterpiece. Although the Weird Al Yankovic version is just as memorable, this one introduced me to the world of hip hop and I am forever grateful.
Mariah Carey – “Always Be My Baby”
I’m not ashamed to admit that I am still in love with Mariah Carey. This particular song is the perfect blend of her heavenly vocals and that carefree, tire swinging romantic fantasy she is so good at creating.
Jewel – “You Were Meant For Me”
Another embarrassing fact is that this was one of the first CDs I ever purchased. I always had a thing for female artists and Jewel was no exception.
Leann Rimes – “How Do I Live”
This is another song with a very specific memory tacked to it. I had my first kiss (you know, the kind with tongue) at the Warrington Skating Rink while this song was being played, so I’ll always have a magical connection to this somewhat generic love song.
Lauryn Hill – “Doo-Wop (That Thing)”
Although most of her songs are about empowering young black girls, I always found myself drawn to Lauryn Hill. Her soulful lyrics and hip hop sensibilities made for some great music that nerdy white teens could blast in their bedrooms.
Sisqo – “Thong Song”
How could you not love a song devoted entirely to thongs? They make women’s butts look great and they make excellent sling shots. What’s not to love? Sisqo flew too high, much like Icarus, and faded almost immediately into obscurity after the success of this song, but for a moment he was a golden thong god.
Trick Daddy – “I’m A Thug”
An underrated rap gem that was playing in the car the first time I smoked a blunt.
Kylie Minogue – “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head”
An addictive dance song by a woman whose claim to fame is being the hot red head in Biodome.
Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz – “Get Low”
For some reason, this Lil Jon album became the anthemic piece of music that defined my entire senior year of high school. It was so laughably bad, but the songs really grew on you. This is another song I love to request at bars because it never fails at getting everyone to chant “To the window! To the wall!”
Kanye West – “Through The Wire”
This song reminds me of my first year of college when Kanye’s debut album was released. It takes me so quickly back to those days of underage drinking and questionable decisions and living carefree on government subsidized loan money. Those were the days.
Looking back, I don’t know if this article was so much about exploring my musical life as it was about finding a way to admit to loving Mariah Carey.