RELEVANT Roundtable is when we ask our slate of culture writers a question and compile their responses. This week’s question: What cringe-worthy music from your youth is still in your library?
Seth Tower Hurd: I’m going with “Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind. There’s so much wrong here. For one, I pirated the song off of Limewire, using dial-up internet. For two, the vocal delivery is a post-grunge sing rap, which only existed for about seven terrible months in the late 90’s, but managed to dominate pop radio like a supernova of stupid. The cherry on top is the subject matter–an ode to doing cocaine and meth as a hard-partying middle class suburbanite.
Tyler Daswick: I haven’t listened to a Linkin Park song in years, but those guys are stuck in my Apple Music like white rice in a dirty pot. They’ve been there for over a decade now, and I’m not sure they’ll ever leave. Cleaning out their horribly dated brand of nu-metal would certainly save my eardrums (and my self-esteem) on a shuffle, but at this point they’re such an artifact of my childhood that I can’t bring myself to do it. They were my first favorite band, and now that frontman Chester Bennington is dead, it feels significant in a small way to still have his voice close at hand, screaming out his (my) frustrations when life has me teetering on the edge.
Sharon McKeeman: This is where I lose any level of coolness that I possibly had. I have been trying to think of a different song to share, but it all comes back to Weezer’s Undone. It was the song my best friend and I would blast as we drove our parents’ sedans to youth group with our newly minted driver’s licenses. It was a rebellious choice, but what teenager doesn’t feel like they might just come undone? It’s definitely cringe worthy, but if Undone comes on I won’t ever turn it down, and I’ll be right back in that sedan full of freedom.
Lesley Crews: I might be showing my youth here, but the High School Musical Soundtrack is something that I’m not even ashamed of. There’s romance, there’s dancing, there’s Sharpay Evans being fabulous as ever. I mean, come on. Nothing gives you that extra pump like Zac Efron reminding you to “Getchya Head in the Game.” So yeah, if you see me bench pressing 200 pounds at the gym, there’s a solid chance you know what I’m listening to.
Tyler Huckabee: One artist in my collection that remains not so much cringe-y as mystifying is the inclusion of a huge amount of Amy Grant. I don’t say listening to Amy Grant is mystifying because her songs are bad. On the contrary, they absolutely whip. It’s mystifying because even in my very tender years, when my mom was dancing around the kitchen to “Baby, Baby” and “Good For Me,” I remember thinking I was too cool for Amy. I most certainly wasn’t, and I see that clearly now, because I’m listening to Amy Grant a lot. I’m listening to it right now! The hyper-produced late 90s/early 80s synth is definitely back, which makes it a great time to rediscover Amy’s earliest hits, but I really shouldn’t have needed an excuse. These songs are bonafide bops in any age.
Jesse Carey: Thanks to bands like Blink 182 and Green Day, pop punk made a rapid cultural ascension in the late ’90s, but looking back, all that sappy teenaged angst channeled into three chord, pedal-to-the-floor rock ‘n roll is kind of immature. But, that was also sort of the point. Years ago, I interviewed MXPX frontman Mike Herrera and asked him about the band’s fanbase, and he said something really intuitive, but also insightful: Punk rock is for the young. Sure, your own taste in music may get more complicated and the kind of lyrics you gravitative to might get darker or more complex, but there’s something really fun about revisiting a time where everything–including song structures–were a lot simpler.