Music just hits different during puberty

The 7 most influential albums on teenage me.

Looking back, is there a time other than puberty when you’re more open to impressions, feelings and experiences? Thinking of the period when I was 14 to 24 years old fills me with all sorts of strange emotions, a strange mixture of melancholy and “glad I survived that without too much damage” being the main ones.

If there’s one aspect that I truly miss, it’s the gigantic impact music had on me.

As a young kid, I already listened to music a lot, but it was heavily influenced by my parents. It’s no coincidence that I’m still into classic rock. My mom always had the radio on in our house (Radio 2, for Dutch people), so I heard a lot from that genre. Six-year-old me was a big fan of the Dire Straits and Electric Light Orchestra. I kept pressing the repeat button on our CD-player for Mr. Blue Sky. I loved that song so much, especially the epic ending.

But puberty is where it’s at, folks!

That’s when you start to develop your own taste in music, moving away from what your parents listen to. My music taste at early puberty was influenced by two people, and they both don’t know how much they influenced my life.

First, there was this girl at a campsite in Switzerland that I looked up to. I think it was the summer I almost turned 14 years old and puberty was starting to get hold of me. The girl was 16 or 17, and I thought she was so cool. She was into the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Scar Tissue was a hit in Europe at the time, and we listened to it with a group of kids at the campsite. I decided if I wanted to be cool, I had to listen to this band. I bought the album Californication when we got back home from that summer holiday.

I kid you not, RHCP is what got me into metal, eventually. The song Parallel Universe goes hard. The ending goes especially hard. I couldn’t take it, at first. But when it clicked, my god, the feeling is hard to describe. I think this was my first experience of a wall of sound hitting that sweet spot in my brain. Do you know that feeling of your brain being tickled by music in just the right places?

When music hits the right spot, it just makes you let go of something, don’t you agree? No feeling compares to it, it’s unique. I feel sad for people who don’t know this feeling.

For me, it requires heavy guitars (or classical music!), but it can be something totally different for you. I’m just very happy that I discovered that at an early age.

I played Californication so much, that I can still sing along all the lyrics perfectly. The album is etched into my brain. I don’t remember what the girl in Switzerland’s name was, I only vaguely remember how she looks and how effortlessly cool she was. She doesn’t know what kind of impact she had on me. Thank you, Swiss girl!

Then, when I was a little older (15 or 16) a friend from orchestra, Steven, lent me some of his CD’s. I think there were about 10 CDs in total, and some of them totally transformed my taste in music.

The most influential one of the bunch was without a doubt Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by the Smashing Pumpkins. I picked that one first because of the beautiful cover art. I remember putting the CD in my slick HIFI Tower, laying on my bed and absorbing the music.

It starts innocently, with a beautiful piano melody and straight into Tonight, Tonight. Billy’s voice was….something to get used to. I was mesmerized by how he could effortlessly switch from “pleasant voice” to “drilling-into-your-skull” voice. There were also songs on this album that one could classify as metal, so I guess this was my first encounter with heavy metal1. Other than heavy songs, this double album also boasts gentle songs. I really appreciated the variety!

Other CDs from Steven that had a great impact on me were: Muse – Origin of Symmetry, Incubus – Morning View, Korn – Issues, Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory and System of a Down – Toxicity. (The link leads to a Spotify Playlist with all the albums)

I still miss the old Muse, man. It was such a great blend of heavy rock with crazy piano shenanigans! The song Space Dementia is still one of my all-time favorites. This album as a whole had the intensity of emotion that I really craved as a 15-year-old kid in the midst of puberty. The flair for drama was much appreciated.

Incubus had the same effect, but in a different way. The music was….sexy, I guess? The lyrics were often about love, missing your significant other, wallowing in your own feelings. Great stuff for angsty teenagers. My favorite song was actually Aqueous Transmission because it sounded so new age-y.

Korn, Linkin Park and System of a Down were all leads into getting into heavy metal. Nu-metal was such a thing in the early 2000s. Back then, MTV still played actual music video’s and these bands were on TV a lot (and I watched MTV a lot). I think everyone from my age remembers the video clip from Korn – Freak on a Leash. It was so sick!

I brought my Discman to school every day and listened to music every chance I got, often sharing one earbud with my best friend. We didn’t even have the same taste in music, but she listened anyway. And I listened to her hip-hop every now and again, too.

Music was such an escape for me as a teenager. It made me feel so alive. Nu-metal was the thing for me at the time, even though many people consider the genre “cringe” nowadays. In my defense, I was never into Limp Bizkit 💩.

It’s true that the older you get, the less truly new things you can discover. It’s much rarer for music to hit the same spot as it did when I was a teenager. Music still has a huge place in my life and I enjoy it a lot, but I mean those rare moments when music overwhelms you with emotions. It happened constantly when I was discovering genres that were wildly different from what I heard as a young kid.

At one point, Steven wanted his CD’s back, so there was one thing left to do that was very popular at the time. Make a copy of the CD’s via your computer, baby! I still have some of them!

If you like, please share the albums that influenced you the most during your years of puberty.

When inspiration strikes, I will write a more detailed account of how I got into real heavy metal (wow, sounding like a snob, but I don’t mean it like that). Listen to my peak puberty choices on Spotify.

1 Songs I think classify as heavy metal from the Smashing Pumpkins album: Jellybelly, Zero, Here Is No Why, Where Boys Fear to Tread, Porcelina of the Vast Oceans, Bodies, Tales of a Scorched Earth, Thru The Eyes of Ruby, X.Y.U.

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