Ever since I was little, I was the kind of person who would get guitar solos stuck in my head. I could pick up on the songs playing in crowded restaurants when no one else realized they had music on. I would even get more excited about a particular song coming on the radio than about winning my soccer game. Music made a huge impact in my life from a young age and it quickly became clear that my taste in music differed significantly from almost everyone I knew. My parents always used to say that they didn’t know where I got my taste, but looking back I can point to 10 songs that have shaped my love for music over the years.
“I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” – Elvis Presley
That’s right, the first song on my list comes from the King of Rock and Roll himself: Elvis Presley. I grew up listening to him every single day for at least the first 10 years of my life. Elvis was my grandmother’s favorite artist, and naturally, her love for him rubbed off on me pretty quickly. I love this song especially because it’s more upbeat and it showcases his vocal range. This song was my first exposure to rock and roll and definitely influenced my music taste from an early age.
“Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” – Green Day
This song was released just a few years after I was born and it was all over the radio when I was little. I grew to love everything about it – Billie Joe Armstrong’s voice, the lyrics, the message, the overall sound. It’s the staple nostalgic “parting of ways” song and has helped me get through a lot of transitions in life. This song also led me to check out Green Day’s other work. To this day, Dookie, Nimrod, and American Idiot are some of my favorite albums.
“The Remedy (I Won’t Worry)” – Jason Mraz
This is another one that I got used to hearing on the radio when I was young. It’s catchy and it quickly became my favorite song to sing along to. I always enjoyed trying (and failing) to imitate all the tricks Jason Mraz could do with his voice and it was different from anything else on the radio during that time. Most of all, it gives off such a contagious positive vibe that everyone needs to hear at one point or another.
“For a Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic” – Paramore
Paramore’s Riot! was the first rock album I bought on my own when I was in eighth grade. I walked into the store looking for the new Jordin Sparks album, but Riot! caught my eye before I got to it. I bought it on a whim, remembering just two songs of theirs I had heard on the radio, and it became the album I blasted in my room every day. This particular song is the album opener and its energy hooked me right away, thanks to Hayley Williams’ powerhouse vocals and well-written lyrics. Paramore has been my all-time favorite ever since and they are the ones who introduced me to the wonderful world of pop punk.
“I Will Not Bow” – Breaking Benjamin
Breaking Benjamin was my first rock concert during high school. This song’s fairly tame mix of clean and harsh vocals and guitar riffs was the perfect introduction into the hardcore world for me. The message of strength and not losing yourself when times get hard was an important one for me during my teenage years.
“Anthem Part 2” – Blink-182
I got into Blink-182 after hearing “I Miss You” all over the radio when I was younger, but this song is what really hooked me on the band. The angsty tone and the idea that no one understood young people resonated with me during a time in my life when I was struggling between doing what was expected of me and becoming my own person. I felt that this song spoke for teens like me at the time and when no one else got it, Blink-182 did. Cue my mom shaking her head.
“Three Cheers for Five Years” (Acoustic Version) – Mayday Parade
This one was shown to me by my roommate during my first year of college and it caught my attention more than any other acoustic song had before. This beautiful and heartbreaking piano ballad is one of my favorite songs of all time and really showcases the vocal talents of Derek Sanders and Jason Lancaster. Their harmonies throughout this track are among the most beautiful I have ever heard. This song convinced me to occasionally take a break from the headbanging and appreciate a good ballad.
“Haters Gonna Hate” – Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!
Fast forward to sophomore year of college and I’m keeping an eye on the Warped Tour weekly lineup announcements. I was combing through the list when I stumbled upon this video and I was intrigued. The video for “Haters Gonna Hate” features the band in a nerds vs. cool kids battle that ends with paint balloons being thrown everywhere. The opening guitar breakdown and the perfect mix of clean and harsh vocals pulled me in and a new fan of easycore pop punk was born.
“Settle Down” – The 1975
Shortly after I discovered Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!, I discovered The 1975. This was the first song I had ever heard by them and given my heavier music taste around that time, I was surprised to find myself singing along to a more alternative rock track. The upbeat tune and the well-written and clever lyrics about a forbidden love won me over. It was different from anything I had ever heard before and I found the band’s style refreshing.
“Fat Lip” – Sum 41
I know this one is older than most of the songs on this list and I was a fan at the very beginning, but I didn’t fully appreciate it until I was almost finished with college. I rediscovered this song and it brought me back to my roots. The lyrics “I’ll never fall in line, become another victim of your conformity and back down” gave me the support I needed to block out all the societal expectations of what a “successful” life should be. At a time when I was making big decisions about my future, this song refocused me and reminded me what I love about music, about pop punk, and about life.