Revisiting albums that shaped my early 2000s childhood
Disclaimer: Particular album choices in this article should in no way reflect my current taste in music.
It is both a blessing and a curse to be able to easily access songs through a few clicks of a mouse. We’ve gone from the bulky Walkman and shelves of dusty cassette tapes to virtual libraries that store much more than just literature. Listening to an album from start to finish has become just as rare as going out and purchasing a physical CD.
So, while imagining a future where I have to tell my unborn children that my Blink 182 CDs cannot be used as a Frisbees, or why the current Ariana Grande-inspired pop star will never be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I decided to take a look through my own musical archives from my younger days.
My goals in mind? To reminisce on what exactly I remembered about that album, why it resonates with me now and if listening to the full album evokes the same feelings as when I was a pre-pubescent girl trying replicate Britney Spears’ choreography in “I’m a Slave 4 U.”
Christina Aguilera: “Stripped”
Although Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle” days were groundbreaking, it was her reinvention rebellion against her wholesome image that, even as a 10 year old, stuck with me. What I remember about her music video for “Dirrty” was not that she was basically half naked the entire time and surrounded by shirtless men egging her on to fight another woman, but how empowered she was. With songs like “Fighter” and “Beautiful,” it was refreshing to be exposed to ideas at a young age that no longer involved Disney princesses finding themselves in distress and at the drop of a hat having their prince swoop in to save them. Even though I obviously could not make such connections at the time, this album definitely played an integral role in shaping my belief that women can do it all on their own. I remember idolizing Christina for her confidence and bravery to break out in such an industry.
Listening to the album now, I do have to admit the particular genre is not my first choice, and the raunchy lyrics are definitely ones that I now question my second-grade-self listening to. Not to mention how weird it is that my parents personally bought me this CD as a Hanukkah gift to begin with, and I clearly remember unwrapping it in front of them to reveal a topless Christina on the cover. Overall, I think that the album’s content and message was ahead of its time. I applaud the fact that Christina dedicated songs to recognizing the fact that women can actually fend for themselves and should not be ashamed to be themselves. Today, I’m proud to see that we’re pushing for equality and raising younger females to not judge one another based on how they dress, act or appear. Even if “Mean Girls” has forever satirized “Beautiful,” songs like “Fighter,” “Loving Me 4 Me,” and “The Voice Within” speak of pushing through hardships and recognizing that it’s OK to look in the mirror and like what you see. “Fighter” is also one of those songs that will definitely push you through those awful last five minutes on the treadmill.
Ashlee Simpson: “Autobiography”
If there was an album that I listened to without skipping a song, it was Ashlee Simpson’s “Autobiography.” I already adored Jessica Simpson for making me realize that being a dumb blonde could actually result in making you extremely rich, so why wouldn’t I support another Simpson sister? This album was angry, dark and fun all wrapped into one. It felt like reading her diary cover to cover, and as a fourth grader, this diary was filled with stories of scenarios I had yet to learn about — topics like love, heartbreak and suffering from a love/hate relationship with your ex-boyfriend. With lyrics like “got stains on my T-shirt and I’m the biggest flirt” or “got bruises on my heart and sometimes I get dark,” she basically made looking like a grungy mess appealing and made it acceptable to feel and act a little psychotic sometimes. She always had a new guy to kick to the curb and was basically a bad ass. Let’s just say Ashlee Simpson made my breakup with N*SYNC and the Backstreet Boys a little bit easier.
Revisiting “Autobiography” in 2015, I realize that Ashlee Simpson, unfortunately, should probably not have assumed that just because her sister has a great voice, she automatically does too. For most of the songs, it sounds more like she’s just screaming words than actually feeling out the music. The songs themselves have absolutely no depth lyrically and she complains about boys being difficult, but also brags about breaking up with them the minute they want to take her seriously. I also can’t help but start to label her as a whiny rich kid who had nothing else to do but attempt to make a music career out of her connections. Either way, I have to thank Ashlee for leading me toward even darker music and to bands that actually play their own instruments. The songs “Autobiography” and “La La” will always be my jams.
Good Charlotte: “The Young and The Hopeless”
I remember receiving this album for my birthday drooling over Benji Madden, crazy Mohawk and all. I remember this album being catchy and the lyrics being easy to sing along. They definitely seemed kind of angry, but the hyped-up instrumentals made it sound fun to not care about authority or the rules. I might have also been a little too obsessed with “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” and “The Anthem” to really take in the rest of the album. All I knew was that I could sing both songs without ever messing up one lyric and loved showing off to my Barbie-crazed, Britney Spears-loving, bow-wearing classmates.
After replaying “The Young and The Hopeless” for so long, I can’t help but sit here with a huge grin on my face. More importantly, I could still genuinely enjoy the album even after 11 years. I will admit the lyrics are a little corny, and they do harp on the typical “young, rebellious musician whose parents are against their music” stereotype, but the songs do touch on subjects that deal with common hardships in terms of family, love and trying to keep moving forward.
Going through each song now, it was interesting to pick apart situations that made me interested in the artist understand the album more deeply. However, one main critique I do have was that they mainly masked these tougher topics with instrumentals that were too upbeat and that didn’t properly match the tone of the song.