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The Music That Kept Me Going

by Natasha Penn about a year ago in list
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And still does to this day.

The Music That Kept Me Going
Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash

We've all been through that phase; those crucial developmental years when nothing holds meaning and our hormones drive our parents to the brink of shipping you off somewhere. I myself was a bit of a trouble child in middle and high school, but the latter institution was when things took a turn.

I had moved to a new city and entered into a completely different school than the ones I was hoping for--the one where my friends would be. Surprisingly, I was able to push past my social awkwardness and make friends who were just as weird as me. Skaters, anime fanatics, art nerds, the works--and with this eclectic group of friends came new perspectives on music.

A little backstory on my music experience growing up: my parents were both into rock and country, which shocked many of my friends when we first met. They couldn't believe that Latinos would listen to American music, when radio stations back in Miami (where I was raised) boasted mostly reggaetón and remixes of old salsa and merengue tunes. That didn't stop my parents from branching out; my father was a fan of AC/DC and Guns N' Roses, while my mother favored Queen, Pearl Jam, Led Zeppelin, and even Eminem. Not to mention that my older brother, an 80s baby, was a metalhead, and my two older sisters were dancers who loved anything they could move their body to. Music, in my mind, seemed to define who a person was, and who they were meant to be.

Even now, as a writer and blogger, I listen to music as I work. Sometimes, I have to switch over to pink noise or lo-fi in order to get things done, but that's only because some songs take me back to a time when I torn my jeans, cut thumbholes in my hoodie sleeves, and doodled cute monsters all over my arms. Since there would be far too many songs to choose from, I've decided to share the top five artists that help me rekindle my emo youth. Let's take that trip together, shall we?

5. Simple Plan

There's a band name you may not have heard for a few years!

Their first album, Still Not Getting Any, brings back sooo many memories. I used to listen to this album while I cleaned my room, did homework, even when I worked on writing projects with friends. Shut Up! was the perfect song to get your angsty teen vibes rolling, and I bet everyone cried at least one time listening to Welcome To My Life. My home life was a bit troubling, so Me Against the World spoke to the little voice inside who wanted to run away from home.

We won't let them change how we feel in our hearts

We're not gonna let them control us

We won't let them shove all their thoughts in our heads

And we'll never be like them

This album is timeless. Prove me wrong.

4. My Chemical Romance

Admit it--you knew this band would be on here.

I was a little late to the game; I was introduced to them by a friend in high school, so they had already put out three albums by then and were working on their fourth. I love when musicians tell a story through their music, when they have a concept album and stick to it. For those unaware, the concept of MCR's first album, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, follows a couple akin to Bonnie & Clyde as they commit crimes and atrocities, and it ends in their deaths. My personal favorite song from this album is Headfirst for Halos, though that may not have been an appropriate tune to listen to.

The sequel album to that is Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, an album in which the male counterpart of the "partners in love and crime" returns from hell to collect souls in the hopes of saving the woman he loves from eternal damnation. Both albums explore ideas such as immortality, love, hate, and death--you know, all the staple obsessions of a teenager with no life experience.

My Chemical Romance's second album also brought us the emo teen anthem I'm Not Okay (I Promise), only to replace it with Welcome To The Black Parade in 2006.

A world that sends you reelin'

From decimated dreams

Your misery and hate will kill us all

So paint it black and take it back

Let's shout it loud and clear

Defiant to the end, we hear the call

To carry on, we'll carry on

I can already hear the G note...

3. Sum 41

Oof, we're really going back, aren't we!

I'll be honest--with Sum 41, I never heard any of their full albums until I was older. Instead, I was introduced to random songs of theirs across a few albums. Makes No Difference, Fat Lip, and In Too Deep come to mind as their earlier songs that were favorites of mine. I still remember seeing the music video for With Me, a softer ballad from their album Underclass Hero, on Vevo when it first came out. It was such a contrast to what I had come to expect from them, but it was a welcome change. It filled me with a sense of, "I want that--I want love."

Thoughts read unspoken, forever in vow

And pieces of memories fall to the ground

I know what I didn't have, so I won't let this go

'Cause it's true, I am nothing without you

It's certainly a song you hug a plush toy and cry while listening to as the memories of lost love wash over you.

2. Evanescence

What, you thought I only let male voices dictate my angsty teenage years?

The female-led band was known for its vocalist, Amy Lee, and her gorgeous singing voice. While the band itself was defined as goth rock or metal, I still recall hearing songs like Bring Me To Life and Call Me When You're Sober on popular radio stations in Miami. It wasn't until high school when I actually dove into the well of Evanescence music and allowed myself to get lost in her smooth timbre and orchestral backgrounds. It honestly felt like listening to a rock opera--and as someone who was privileged enough to see a few operas as a child thanks to an eccentric elementary school principal, I can appreciate a beautifully coordinated live performance.

I probably spent more time listening to Fallen than any other album. Haunted still takes me to this dark otherworld where anything is possible. It's actually the inspiration behind Weird: Book of Secrets, a series I'm currently working on. Imaginary is another that transports me to another realm with its blend of heavy guitar, soft piano, and killer vocals. It was a welcome escape from my own reality, a reprieve from religious and spiritual abuse on top of emotional neglect.

Don't say I'm out of touch

With this rampant chaos, your reality

I know well what lies beyond my sleeping refuge

The nightmare I build my own world to escape

Evanescence will always hold a special place in my cold, black heart. 🖤

1. The Used

To this day, I'm still astonished to learn that not many people know about this band. This is the one--the band that got me through the worst, that talked me down from self-harm and running away. They not only spoke to the angsty teen that I was, but they helped to placate me, to pull me back from the edge.

Blue and Yellow, Greener With the Scenery, and Noise and Kisses were my ultimate faves, and it helped to hear one right after the other in The Used's self-titled first album. There were other albums that I listened to on repeat, such as In Love and Death, Artwork, and Vulnerable, but none came close to Lies for the Liars. I would listen to that album on repeat, volume as high as I could manage without getting in trouble, and I would sing. Interesting fact about me: I can't sing when others are around, and sometimes I'm so embarrassed by my own singing that I can't even sing when I'm alone, no matter how much I want to. The Used pulled me out of my shell, and in the comfort of my room with my laptop raised to maximum volume, I sang their lyrics to my heart's content. Smother Me was a big one, with Earthquake and Find a Way as runners up to "songs I played on repeat and ignored my parents with."

She had an earthquake on her mind

Apparently, the kind that would bury us alive

By putting all this weight on us forever

I lie here on the ocean floor

Broken castle by the shore

And I made this mess

I built this fire

Are you still mine?

To this day, The Used are still making music with albums like Heartwork, and they're still speaking directly to my broken heart and tortured soul.

I listen to these bands whenever I need to write from the perspective of a teenager that closely aligns with my younger self, or when I just want to reminisce. They've all helped me work through my issues over the years, and some are still helping me to this day. Whether it's with their music, or quotes from their interviews, or even just their random posts on social media, these bands and their members were an integral part of my high school experience.

Thanks for reading!

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About the author

Natasha Penn

Latinx, genderfluid, parent Author, blogger, & freelance writer. Working on my book series: Saturn Rising, Book One: Aquarius. Will post my poetry, short stories, and fiction series here.

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Avatar: @oveikeii

Banner art: @midluuna

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