An Ode to My Teenage Years: A Playlist

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By Iliana Ramirez
Music Journalist

The music we hear throughout our teenage years are the sounds that shape our youth. We remember these songs throughout the rest of lives because they hold so much sentiment. As April rolls around, I am in my last month of being a teenager. I’m already a pretty nostalgic person as it is, but during this last month of my teen years, I’ve been extra nostalgic. With this being said, the playlist below features songs all about those sometimes rough, but nevertheless defining, teenage years as well as some songs that are more personal to me. I wanted to make this playlist not only for myself, but also for all of the others who are entering their 20s. Below are some of the highlights from this playlist:

“Teenage Talk” by St. Vincent

This 2015 single from St. Vincent is one of my favorite songs. In the song, Annie Clark reminisces on her teenage years in the suburbs of her hometown, Dallas. She describes having conversations with her best friend, Katie, sneaking out, and running from sirens. One of my favorite lines in the song is when she and her friends got so drunk that they “carved the state of Texas in [their] forearms.” Not only is this one of my favorite songs because of how she so perfectly describes what being a teenager is like, but also how she refers to Texas. Being from Texas myself, this song will always hold a special place in my heart.

“Dancing Queen” by ABBA

When I turned 17, I could not wait to blast this song in my headphones and sing the line, “Young and sweet only 17.” The timeless song by the Swedish band paints a picture of a teenage girl, embracing the environment on the dance floor. To me, this song means truly embracing your youth. This song is one that you can put on anytime, anywhere and instantly be reminded of when you were 17.

“The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire

This song from the band’s 2010 album, The Suburbs, is all about the place in which you grew up. For Win Butler, the lead singer of the band, this was the suburbs of Texas. For Butler, the suburbs were such a defining place for him that he made a whole album about it. The suburbs shape the lives of many Americans, just like they did for Butler. This song is one of my favorites because Butler dives into suburbia in a way which many don’t think of. While I did not grow up in the suburbs myself, this song gives me a clear vision of what it is like to grow up in one. From the outside, suburban neighborhoods look simple. The patterns of identical houses and the nicely paved concrete create a vision on simplicity and boredom. But, the song reassures that the youth in these neighborhoods are what create unity and memories.

“I Don’t Want To Grow Up” by Descendents

This song by the California punk band is the sound of teen angst. Tony Lombardo, the writer of the song and bassist for the band at the time, was inspired by the adults in his life who weren’t exactly positive influences. “You’re grown up told what to do. Your suit can’t hide the truth. You’re a fool. And I refuse to be like you,” Lombardo writes. As a young adult, there is a certain societal pressure on you to be just like all of the adults you see around you. This song is just as much about individuality as it is about not wanting to grow up. Something I think our society lacks in teaching young adults to be individuals and grow into what they as individuals think is best, and not what everyone else believes.

“Seventeen” by Sharon Van Etten

Singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten reflects on her experience living in New York City at age 17. From an older perspective, Van Etten writes about what she was like at this age while describing how much the metropolitan city is rapidly changing. I grew up in Houston, a city which has also been quickly developing for a few years. Every time I go back home, I see change–a new restaurant or shopping center. Although it’s nice to see growth in where you grew up, it can also be heartbreaking to see small businesses wiped out.

I remember being 12 years old, just as I was about to turn 13, anxious and ready to become a teenager. Now that I am about to turn 20, I am in the same position as I was eight years ago, but this time a little less anxious. This time, I’m not as excited to enter a new phase in my life. I’ve associated turning 20 with more responsibilities, stress and less time. While all of this is true, I have to look at these new years as something positive: a time to make new experiences, meet new people and still continue to learn. Being in college, it’s refreshing to be surrounded by young individuals who are also figuring themselves out and their lives overall. If you’re a teen reading this, be present in everything that you are experiencing. Take in every second with your friends and family. In addition to this, know that mistakes are completely fine. Your teen years are the perfect time to make as many mistakes as you want, just as long as you are learning from them. If you’re an adult reading this, I hope this playlist was a way to bring some nostalgia into your day.

Check out the playlist here!

Featured image by Iliana Ramirez.

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