The absurdity of being a white high school kid in the mid-2000s only became apparent to me recently. Millennials were between the ages of 5 and 20 when 9/11 happened and the internet started to take off. No big deal, just our formative years completely altered by a catastrophic national event and a culture change unlike anything seen in history. That’s a lot coming at you all at once. It was less than ideal, to say the least.
But for most of us, there was music. After all, who better to explain the feelings and give hope to a bunch of 16-year-olds than a group of 22-year-olds? Oh, shit, we really were set up, weren’t we?
Either way, a lot of us made it through some rough times because of that music. I’ve gone back several times through my 20s and listened to that music, and in some low points, it all felt very familiar. But I also realized that it was contributing to a lot of my problems at the time. I was listening to a lot of really sad, hopeless, and depressing music at that time. It fed into those feelings for sure.
Now that I’ve grown past a lot of those problems, I appreciate the positive, uplifting music more and how those songs remind me of the good things about being a teenager. First kisses, first loves, freedom from things like work, bills and heavyweight consequences. And again, I say all of this from a white kid in a midwest city perspective. If there’s one thing the internet has helped do, it makes people who are willing to listen more conscious of the plight of others. I was very privileged to have the experiences I did.
I don’t think the world has gotten easier since we were in high school. Actually, I’d argue that it’s gotten more complex, even if we have access to more information now. It’s the information overload that concerns me, combined with the spread of misinformation that has taken hold. It’s my hope that for the high schoolers out there now, they are finding music that speaks to them and helps them out through the tough shit.
Even if it depresses me now, when you’re a kid, you just want to know you’re not alone. And music provides that. Even as adults, that’s all we want. I think that’s why artists like Lizzo, Beyoncé, and Weezer (still) maintain their strong base of fans. They allow people to stay with them on the journey and continue to enjoy listening to their music.
Conversely, I think that’s why artists like My Chemical Romance, Blink-182, and Good Charlotte (all of whom I loved listening to in high school) don’t stay with us into adulthood for the most part. We grow out of that angst and frustration with the world and (generally) develop healthier ways of dealing with those problems when they come up. Music merely serves as that reminder: we are not alone.