Saturday, October 9, 2010

Care Package to My 13-year-old Self

NPR had the right idea. Suggesting songs or albums that would help a 13-year-old get through her adolescence is a great way to connect with and guide the next generation, but I don't know many 13-year-old girls raised on a steady diet of Katy Perry and Ke$ha who could really get into King Crimson's In the Court of the Crimson King or Neil Young's After the Goldrush. Any chance one would have to drive a teenage girl away from pop music's message that she has to be thin, sexy, and available to boys, take it. But Neil Young isn't going to cut it. At 13, I would have dismissed it as "dad rock."(If you have to go the Bob/Neil/Bruce route, I'd suggesting buying her a guitar to go along with cds.)

Truth be told, I wasn't listening to much of anything at 13. My neighborhood didn't have MTV yet, and my parents kept the radio tuned to talk or country. What little music I listened to had to be so ubiquitous that it was unavoidable. The trifecta of Cyndi Lauper's She's So Unusual, Culture Club's Colour By Numbers, and Thriller made up the entirety of my record collection. I didn't really start getting into music until my late teens or early twenties. Fortunately for me, a lot of great music came out during the latter part of the 80s and into the 90s with the rise of commercial "alternative" rock. (Biggest oxymoron in the world, I know, but it did shake up the music industry for a few years, and dealt the final blow to hairspray rock.) However, by then I was a little too old to really enjoy it. I wish some of it was around when I was younger. If I could send a care package to my 13-year-old self, this is what it would include:

Queen Latifah's "Ladies First" and "U.N.I.T.Y"
My earliest taste of feminism came courtesy of hip hop, and both these songs left a huge impression on me. Hearing Queen Latifah in "U.N.I.T.Y" threaten to punch her harassers "dead in the eye" planted the seed in my head that, "Wow. I can do that?" I never had to, but I used to play that song on a loop in my brain whenever I'm walking home alone.

Patti Smith's "Gloria"
Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine... Truer words have never been spoken, especially to a budding atheist like myself. I kind of wish someone would have pointed me toward this song when, at age eleven, I asked my dad how I could become excommunicated from the church. I actually got to see Patti Smith a few years ago, and it was the closest I've ever been to a true religious experience.

Le Tigre's Feminist Sweepstakes
Going with the entire album here, as there are few artists these days calling themselves feminists, and even fewer records that make the word sound not scary or antiquated.

TLC's "No Scrubs"
What I've always loved about this song, though it was a huge pop hit, was that it was completely free of the victimization of street harassment. Many times "message" songs make me feel more powerless than I did before. This one doesn't, and puts the onus on the creepy guy "hanging out the passenger side."

So, what songs are albums would you recommend to a girl just entering her teens?

1 comment:

  1. Hi! Love, love, love this post. I actually yelled aloud when I saw that the first one you recommended was Queen Latifah U.N.I.T.Y! What a terrific song and album (that I wish I had discovered earlier!) Also Patti Smith, one of my heroes!

    In response, here's 3 albums I would recommend to any 13 year old girl:

    Lauryn Hill: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

    Is this really obvious? Oh well. I know I benefited from hearing it at an early age. In Every Ghetto, Every City, she talks about things that kids do and I remember thinking "hey I write on my jeans too!" So many great lines: "Lauryn is only human, don't think I haven't been through the same predicament" Now that I think about it, this album may have been my feminist awakening.

    The Pixies: Doolittle

    Okay, maybe a bit older than 13 for this one. But maybe not. Kim Deal, another awesome woman of rock, features heavily on vocals (ok, backup vocals, but do you ever hear her.) And the Pixies are the one of the freakiest, creepiest, most intense rock bands ever and here's this woman in the band! And it's my favorite of theirs. Plus from here she could get to the Breeders and that's a happy story.

    Blondie: Blondie

    I mean... it's just such a great album. Debbie Harry. (I had to hit my holy trifecta: Kim Deal, Debbie Harry, and you got Patti Smith already.) The lyrics are sexually charged with a power that's totally feminine. And playful, and smart, and at times terrifying. Plus the tunes sound so fun. I remember hearing a few as a kid and loving them, not understanding the lyrics at all of course.

    A friend just sent me your link, and I'm so happy to have found you! Gonna go check out your other writing!