Only on a burnt disc named “Nat 2” could Basement Jaxx follow “House of the Rising Sun.” Only on another named “Come Ride in My Car” (I still don’t have a full driver’s license) could DMX set-up the Beatles. Needless to say, the process of reminding myself what I listened to in high school has been pretty humiliating. I know I had better music taste than the evidence in these piled-up CDs suggests. At least, I am fairly sure that’s the case…
An Origin Story Playlist
Read of refresh yourself: Side A – Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon
Side B – Anthems For A Teen Feeling The Burn
Backstreet Boys – “I Want it That Way”
Like every girl who grew up in the early/mid-90’s, I became absolutely infatuated with pop bands. At the age of 12 I had two close friends that shared my love and had access to Quebec’s only English-speaking music video channel, Muchmusic. Emelia introduced me to all sorts and we’d sit for hours in her room listening to NSYNC, Spice Girls, O-Town, S Club 7 and, of course, Backstreet Boys. My other friend, Dania, would spend hours sandwiched between long bike rides and Pokemon working out some pretty intense choreography routines.
The reason that Backstreet Boys specifically resonated with me was because of my upbringing around a capella groups. The five members always sounded perfect without any musical instruments. Despite each of them having their own unique voice, it was when they were all together that they really sounded great. They didn’t have a clear star that outshined the others (ie. Justin Timberlake in NSYNC), which is the reason, I believe, they’re still together and making music as a team. Throughout the years, I have made many long-term girlfriends with whom my friendships were based on loving these five men and their music. Shout out to Alex!
Eminem – “Without Me”
Emelia didn’t just give me a solid introduction into the pop music genre. More importantly, she set me down a path towards a deep love and appreciation of hip hop. The first time she played me Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill I was floored by the power. Lauryn Hill was so much more than the rap I was hearing at the time, music that seemed to showcase a decadent lifestyle that, at the age of 12, I couldn’t fathom anyone wanting. Listening to “Doo-Wop (That Thing)” was like having an older sibling pass on some wisdom that I wouldn’t hear from anyone else. She was a real and long-lasting influence. But if Lauryn Hill was my older sister, Eminem was my mischievous older brother.
I loved how singing/rapping alongside him and his deep beats was a sweet release of anger and frustration. I bought The Eminem Show when I was 13 behind my mother’s back, knowing full well how much trouble I’d be in once she saw the giant Parental Advisory Sticker on the front. I was right. When she found it and asked where I got it, like a deer in the headlights I lied and told her I borrowed it from Emelia. This is my public apology to Emelia, particularly if I got her into any serious trouble at the time.
OutKast – “Ms Jackson”
Before I ever learned to burn a CD or download music I would sit for hours next to my radio, waiting patiently for the songs I’d heard once or twice to come back through the rotation so I could record them on my cassette tapes for future listening. I waited days for OutKast to play. I called the radio station numerous times, begging them to play “Ms Jackson” instead of Coldplay’s “Yellow” or Santana’s “Smooth” (both artists that I still loathe to this day).
Eve – “Who’s That Girl?”
My first burnt CD was a gift from my friend, Vanity. I didn’t understand the concept of downloading and organizing my own playlist but for my birthday she told me to write down my ideal set list in order. She then worked her magic. “Who’s That Girl” was the first track on said disc. It was pretty much a compilation of who I perceived to be the strongest female figures in hip hop and pop, a list that included Pink, Missy Elliott, and the ladies of TLC.
Good Charlotte – “The Anthem”
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my good friend Kayla’s slight obsession with Good Charlotte. Like most of the pop-punk that came out in the early 2000s – The All American Rejects, Sum 41, all the other one-hit wonders like Treble Charger, and anything on the Freaky Friday soundtrack – there was something independent and rebellious that was able to resonate amongst many different friends. That these guys and girls in our age range were able to be so creatively free and talented was inspiring.
Kayla’s taste evolved as we got older, but what I took away most from those pop-punk days was her ability to go out and hunt down the music she loved. She didn’t wait for it to come on the radio or for someone to introduce her to her new favorite band. She went to live shows, moshed hard, and acquainted me with the concept of being a self-sufficient fan.
Dashboard Confessional – “Hands Down”
While Kayla was teaching me the proper headbanging techniques, our mutual friend Mark was listening to the indie/folk of the time, music like Gavin DeGraw and most of The OC Soundtrack. I loved the gentle yet raw emotion that surrounded these new and experimental bands. They all seemed so different from one another and the subject matter was always more relatable than the hip hop, pop, or rap at the time.
Simple Minds – “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”
I’ve always said that I was born in the wrong year: I should have been a teenager in the 80s. I still dress like I’m from that decade and my music taste is usually drawn to the synthesizer and very femme sounding/looking men. My friend Christina certainly never shared that exact taste but the two of us devoured 80s movies and music. The Dirty Dancing soundtrack alone will forever be associated with her.
My high school friends and I were told from age 13+ that we should enjoy our time together now because we’d all separate and never see each other again once we graduated. We saw ourselves a bit like the characters from The Breakfast Club. Maybe not as such clear-cut stereotypes, but definitely as misfits. We loved each other. I’m happy to say that over a decade later we are still as close as ever despite how different we’ve grown up to be, and a strong constant in our relationships is music. You should hear our karaoke nights.
Cake – “Italian Leather Sofa”
For a few years in and around 2007 I dated and lived with one of my best friends, Trevor, with whom I had a lot in common. Music wasn’t one of them. We had to come to a truce, especially living together. In the end there were three albums that we could agree on: The Batman Forever Soundtrack, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and Cake’s Fashion Nugget.
I was not a ska fan in any way shape or form but for the good of our relationship I put up with the most overplayed CD of my life so far. A few years ago, I re-listened to a few of the tracks from the album and was shocked to find I still knew every lyric and instrumental breakdown. “Italian Leather Sofa” has grown on me, though it helped that it was the theme song to one of my favorite television shows, Mission Hill. In my basket of CDs, I found a disc that Trevor burnt with music that I most certainly associate with him, like System of A Down, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Bob Sinclair’s “Rock This Party”.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show – “I’m Going Home”
The summer after graduating from high school was like going back in time to the early 80s hand-in-hand with Wayne Campbell.
My boyfriend and I listened to every vinyl we could get our hands on and would regularly shop at a local used book store for anything and everything. That entire summer revolved around Elton John, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Three Dog Night, Prince, David Bowie, Queen, and soundtracks from movies we’d never even heard of before. Essentially, if it was classic rock we were all over it. That summer was like a scene out of Dazed and Confused as we broke into public swimming pools in the middle of the night, got drunk in childrens’ playgrounds, and tried to go on as many adventures as possible, all the while having the best summer soundtrack. When I was upset one day, my man helped me smash as many scratched 25-cent records as possible. When he found an old 8-Track player in the garbage he was the happiest person I’d ever seen.
It was when he introduced me to The Rocky Horror Picture Show that everything changed. A rock and roll drag musical with an interactive Halloween experience was a game changer, able to fully embody my fears and hopes as an artist. A lot of really important life lessons came out of that relationship, but it was well worth it when I think of how much I learned – especially through music.
Nat Yorski is the effervescent and unapologetic female voice of The Coost. With her love of music and her second love of telling people what’s what, she spends most of her time playing with puppets and signing karaoke to her dog.