Remember When?: Music

I’m just going to come right out and say it: for the most part, I can’t stand our generation’s music. The songs are catchy, sure, but if you listen to the words, you’ll find that they lack meaning and depth. And isn’t that why we listen to music in the first place? To feel a connection, to relate to what’s being sung?

That’s why I listen to music. Willow Smith, the “I whip my hair back and forth” broken record? Nicki Minaj, who likes to go by the standard of “if it rhymes, it’s okay to sing it,” even if the lyrics make no sense? Sorry, but that’s not quality music.

It’s the times I turn on the radio and hear the same overplayed and overhyped tunes that I miss the ’90s and ’00s, back when pop was at its most upbeat and rap was at its most powerful. I don’t know if it’s the nostalgia that makes everything from the past sound better, but nostalgia or none, you can’t deny the musicians of our childhood set the bar high.

And some of those musicians weren’t even legal yet. The ’90s was the time of the teen pop sensations. Christina Aguilera, Aaron Carter and the Queen of Pop herself, Britney Spears, were just a few teenagers who won over adolescent crowds with their sugary voices and bare midriff (see my previous column on ’90s fashion).

Underaged kids all over the world could listen to Britney to help them heal their heartbreak or Aaron if they were crushing on someone in school — “I Want Candy,” anyone? Yeah, Britney went crazy, Christina became a diva and Aaron fell off the grid, but oh, those glory days. Mariah Carey was another young singer who dabbled in R&B and hip-hop, and one who managed to stay popular and relevant even in the 21st century.

The teen dream age wasn’t just about solo artists; enter the boy bands. The ’90s had two of the most famous competing boy bands of all time — Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC — and even though I was more of a Backstreet girl myself, I thought both of them were a little too hyped up; where were all the Hanson and Dream Street fans?

Hanson sung a capella in their early years and they were a trio of brothers, and Dream Street’s single “It Happens Every Time” was every young girl’s favorite song in fifth grade — not to mention one of their members was a very young Jesse McCartney.

Girl bands also brought a healthy dose of girl power to the entertainment industry.The Spice Girls were so popular in the U.K. that their sassy pop made its way over to the U.S., with songs like “Wannabe” and “Spice Up Your Life” making them the most successful British band since the Beatles. Member “Posh Spice,” aka Victoria Beckham is still widely recognized today as a fashion icon and the wife of soccer star David Beckham.

Destiny’s Child gained fame with their smooth R&B hits and still has the most recognizable line-up today: the trio includes Beyoncé Knowles, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, all of whom have gone on to pursue successful solo careers (and one of whom practically rules the world).

Rock bands worth mentioning include Smash Mouth, Green Day, Nirvana and No Doubt. Although rock was never my forte, all of these bands had breakout songs that people of all genres enjoyed: Smash Mouth’s “All Star,” Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and No Doubt’s “Hella Good,” to name a few. There haven’t been any decent rebellious or angsty songs since these bands made their mark.

And finally, the budding genre that is rap. Let’s face it, there’s only one rapper worth mentioning, and he’s the one who convinced the music industry to take rap seriously and inspired current rap artists like 50 Cent and Lil Wayne (though in my opinion, none of today’s rappers can even compare).

Tupac Shakur was not only the best-selling rap artist ever, but he was also one of the best-selling music artists in the world, representing for rap.What made Tupac’s music so attention-grabbing was that it was full of meaning, revolving around themes like violence, racism and other social problems. It’s been almost 17 years since his death but the man still reigns supreme in the rap world, especially since now all anyone raps about is money and sex.

Digging out old CDs and mixtapes is kind of surreal; you listen to the music you haven’t heard in years but you can remember every lyric. You can remember how old you were when you first heard it and what was going on in your life, and you especially remember why you loved listening to that one song so much.

For me, it was because I could relate, and I knew that if a bunch of other kids liked the same music, they could relate, too. Music today revolves around fame and money, which are topics that most of us can’t understand. Where is the universal relevance?

Who can we relate to today among the Ke$has and Katy Perrys?