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The Soundtrack Of My Life-So Far

Songs that have defined the eras of my life.

By Kimberli Alisa WongPublished 12 months ago Updated 12 months ago 13 min read
By Jakov Zadro on Pixaby

Age: 2

Song: Long, Long Time by Linda Rondstadt

At the age of two, I couldn't read yet, but I had memorized the entire Snow White fairytale and could recite along with the book.

I also knew the words to the entire Linda Ronstadt Greatest Hits album.

I remember distincly singing along from the backseat of my parent's car, strapped in the car seat. "Long, Long Time" was my favorite--even at a young age, I gravitated towards the sad songs. Next was "Silver Threads and Golden Needles."

I can still feel the straps over my shoulders and tucked under my armpits. I think that this album and this song really sparked my love for singing. Those were good times.

But when I was 7 or 8, I asked my Dad if I could sing the National Anthem at a swim meet. I was a swimmer. He laughed and said, "You?" This embarassed me and I shook my head. For years I never tried to sing again, until my early 20s when I shook off the fear and gave myself permission.

The first song I learned was "Long, Long Time." And I have been singing and performing ever since.

Age: 7

Song: The Greatest Love of All by Whitney Houston

I never told anyone this, but this isn't my favorite Whitney Houston song. Even at age 7, I never liked the opening line, "I believe the children are our future." I didn't understand it. Why is this love song about the greatest love of all (romantic, right?) talking about children?

I now know Whitney was not singing about being in love, but rather loving herself. Hahahahaha.

Still, my oldest cousins Fia and Tammy made me sing it. Over and over again. They thought I liked it, in fairness to them. It would come on on the car radio and we would blast it and sing at the top of our lungs while they grilled me about my childhood boyfriend, Christopher B.

I'm not sure if it was the stressful Q&A, or the song, but "The Greatest Love of All" was defnitely imprinted into my psyche.

These days I am all about loving myself. And, I just put this together right this second, maybe this song subconciously has something to do with it.

Age: 12

Song: More than Words by Extreme

The title says it all, need I say more?

And I knew all the words. I would scream them along with all my girlfriends who also knew all the words. I was a typical 7th grader. Just sayin'.

Age: 13

Song: Jump by Kriss Kross

If I could choose a song to define my early teen years, I really don't think I would pick "Jump" to be honest. Unfortunately, I don't have much say in the matter.

"Kriss Kross gonna make ya jump, jump, jump!" Hoards of newly-minted teenagers jumping and moshing in unison, fists pumping in the air, in a sweaty school gym. We didn't know who we were or what we were doing, but we could be exhilarated and uninhibited jumping all together.

It really was the only kind of dance our generation could handle, so I think the song came out just in time.

Still, if you didn't turn 13 when this song came out, you definitely missed out. It's literally all I can remember from those awkard, eye-opening, socially formative dances.

That and slow dancing to "Everything I Do, I Do It For You." That was definitely more on the traumatic side though.

Age: 14-16

Song: Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan

We studied the lyrics of "Mr. Tambourine Man" in poetry class. But I always associated that song with my Dad. "Like a Rolling Stone" was a song that made me feel like I was the first person hearing it, for the first time. Have you ever decided you were just going to go all-in? That this was the moment, this is it? It's all or nothing.

"If you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose," Dylan sings. On the surface, it seemed like I had a lot: a nice house to grow up in, a good school, nice clothes. But I never felt understood or seen by the people in my life. Not my fellow students, not my teammates, not my parents, not even my sister. I always felt like I was starting from scratch. That everything around me could fall away in an instant, and it wouldn't matter because it wasn't mine anyway.

And all that would be left was me.

Age: 16

Song: Hooked on a Feeling by Blue Swede

Summer 1995 my sister and I had the priviledge of traveling to Tokyo, Japan where we would assist teaching English at a private summer school called St. Mary's. We made $400-$500 week cash working maybe 6 or 7 hour days hanging out with the coolest international students who came in to teach from all over the world and local Japanese kids. It was the most amazing experience and one of the best, to this day, of my entire life. The Tokyo kids were the cutest kids I had ever met, the food was spectacular, and Tokyo was so safe I had the most freedom I'd ever had. I would wander the streets late at night all by myself and it was all fine.

Coming from America, with its guns and mass shootings, such safety is almost unimaginable.

And yet that soaring feeling of nothing to worry about is etched in my DNA and totally unforgettable.

My cousin was the director of the program and every morning we would hop into his Suburu and blast the "Reservoir Dogs" soundtrack and bop along in the back seat with the windows open and our hair blowing in the breeze. "Hooked on a Feeling" became the anthem of a free, careless summer.

I can still hear the "uga chakas" ringing in my ears....

Age: 20

Song: American Pie by Don Mclean

Long plane flights between California and Princeton, New Jersey where I went to college, international flights between New Jersey and Beijing, China, where I did my study abroad, traveling countless hours by train and plane and taxi through Interior China, where I did my thesis research--

"American Pie" kept me grounded and reminded me who I was, somehow. It's so long that I could listen to it for exactly 8 minutes and 32 seconds straight without having to switch songs. It was immersive. It told a story that was cathartic and meaningful and American. It reminded me of home.

Traveling can be lonely, and especially in China I was so far away from everything familiar and I would often go for months without hearing a word of English. "American Pie" was the opening song on my mixed mini-disc and I would listen to it on endless train rides and it made me feel less alone.

When I listen to that song, I feel like I've listened to an entire lifetime lived by this person who is singing, and I also feel like I've witnessed an entire era in history, all conveyed through music. It's almost like it's an old friend sitting next to me, telling me this amazing story about the loss of innocence. I think that's why it made me feel less alone, because I could relate, and why it was the perfect traveling companion.

Age: 22

Song: Pop by *NSync

Oh. My. God. After 8 months in China, to come back to the United States and see JC Chasez with his new haircut in the music video for "Pop" on MTV... it was like I was reborn. I craved hamburgers, and pizza, and all things American. That included pop male icons. I never had a thing for boybands, or pop, or artists like *NSync or Britney Spears, but that song and specifically the music video for that song got me into IT ALL.

JC had a new haircut and man was he fine. I became his new number one fan, and I listened to all things *NSync but especially "Pop."

A few years later after I had moved to Los Angeles and was still way into my celebrity crush, I actually met JC. I had volunteered to mentor for a day foster kids at the Santa Monica Pier. JC was one of the celebrity volunteers. We were paired up with one or two children, and spent the day with them going on the rides and playing games at the fair.

My girls were Suzette and I can't remember the name of her older foster sister. Suzette was around 10, blonde, and wore a red bandana. Her older sister was 15 and African-American and tall. I could tell they had both been through hell, there was a sadness and hardness especially in Suzette's eyes that gave everything away.

Towards the middle of the afternoon we stood in line with the other kids and waited to take pictures with JC. He had on a cool black hat and tight black t-shirt and funky pants.

I still have the pictures. For whatever reason, after I met him, I stopped crushing on him. It just stopped. But I still love him. He has the most beautiful voice. I wish he would make more music. He is definitely my favorite *NSyncer.

Age: 24

Song: The Ocean by Peter Mulvey (cover) (Dar Williams original)

Dar Williams wrote the original "The Ocean" that Peter Mulvey, one of my favorite artists of all time, covered in a live concert that left me enraptured, and forever a fan.

I'd been a fan and avid listener of Dar's music for a long time. I knew the song "The Ocean" and her version is one of my favorites, too. But watching Peter perform it live, with his sweet, raspy voice and ability to make a single guitar feel like a full band, won me over.

"The Ocean" is about the dichotomy of the harsh, indifferent world and the man who lives day in, day out with this truth. Juxtaposed with the carefree ignorance of a visitor, who has the luxury of coming and going as she pleases while she dangles her shoes and picks flowers.

As a new adult, I always felt like the girl with the shoes, splashed by the reality of the ocean and given a huge wake-up call. I identified with both the local and the visitor.

A lot of my mid-twenties were spent catching whatever concert I could of Peter's and I always requested this song. Sometimes Peter played it, sometimes not. I saw him in as many cities as I could. I didn't follow him around, per se, but I would sometimes plan certain trips and vacations visiting friends to coincide with his shows. He's originally a Midwest performer, but he plays all over the country and also in Britain and Europe. I saw him in Princeton, where my college friend Vanessa first introduced me to him. Then Berkeley and Santa Monica, where I'm from and where I've lived. I attended shows in New York City, Boston, Milwaukee. I even saw him in Ireland twice, once in Cork and another somewhere along the road to Galway.

He plays in smaller, more intimate venues and a lot of his music is sad and folky, with beautiful melodies and banging guitar.

There was a love story I was working through during those years, one that really shaped a big part of me. My heart was broken and in piecing it back together I learned so many things I am so grateful for today. But luckily I never fell in love with Peter. With him it was always about the music. But what a lovely privilege that his music graced and echoed through those cavernous halls of my twenties, a true soundtrack to those years which soothed the pain, when all I was really searching for was my own path.

Age: 33

Song: 3 by Britney Spears

My 30s were when I got in touch with my inner feminine. I had always felt I had been very in touch with my female goddess energy, if you will, as a teenager. Something happened in college, and I kinda became more bookish and insecure, at least that's how I saw it. Being an islander of sorts (my mom is Filipina and my dad is part Indonesian), I always loved that sexy mermaid energy and I wanted to reclaim it.

So in my 30s, I went to Hawaii a couple of times, did some workshops, started some pole dancing. And that meant, tons of dancing to Britney Spears. I'd never been much of a fan of hers when I was younger, I was more or less indifferent. I didn't really know much about her, to be honest. I would watch her performances on MTV and while I enjoyed them, some seemed a bit girly.

It wasn't until a bit later when I started to realize just how damn sexy she was. And when I wanted to remind myself how sexy I was, I would turn on Britney Spears and start dancing away.

Works every time.

Age: 40

Song: Permission to Dance

The rest of my life is dedicated to BTS. That would be Bangtan Sonyeondan, or Bulletproof Boy Scouts, or Bangtan Boys, whose members are Jin, RM, J-Hope, Suga, Jimin, V and Jungkook.

Army has a saying that BTS finds you when you need them most. They started creeping up on my radar in 2018, with their Love Yourself world tour. I started to hear about this band from Korea that was breaking all sorts of touring records. I remember trying to look up tickets for their Rose Bowl concert in 2019, and hearing that it had sold out in minutes or something like that.

I had no idea.

During the pandemic, summer 2020, a friend showed me their music video for "On." We were hanging out, passing time in lockdown as everyone else was doing, and binging youtube. I was impressed with their dancing. But I didn't think any more of it.

This was the second call.

I don't really know how they creeped their way into my consciousness. If anything I'm still uncovering the why. I'm not a huge concert goer. But they were persistent, and effective. And the message was clear. Some may know they held a four-day concert event called "Permission to Dance" at SoFi stadium in November-December 2021. I live in Los Angeles, so I heard about the concert. It was maybe the first concert SoFi stadium would ever hold, or one of the first, I'm not sure. I thought, "maybe I will try to go to that."

But I wasn't BTS Army yet, so I didn't know that buying tickets is a rigorous 3-step verification process not for the faint of heart which must be done weeks in advance. And that during the sale millions scramble frantically and simultaneously to secure tickets online and that only a lucky few will ever score face-value seats. Entire worldwide tours have sold out in less than an hour.

Now having been through the process twice, I must say it is extremely stressful.

Anways. I clearly didn't get tickets to the SoFi show. Or did I?

I'd given up. There was a Ticketmaster fiasco and tons of SoFi membership holders had been given priority, very few fans got tickets, etc. etc. etc. I had no verified fan code, I had no idea what I was doing. Resale ticket were literally $600 to in the tens of thousands of dollars. But it was OK, I didn't really know much about BTS to begin with.

I uber drive part-time, and I decided to uber during the concert. My first passengers that day were, lo and behold, going to SoFi to see BTS. Excitedly, they told me that they were verified fans and last-minute, Ticketmaster had released a bunch of face value seats. They had scored great seats near the stage in the 100s section for $367, which were reselling for 2 grand.

"Can you buy me a ticket?" The words were out of my mouth before I could even think.

"Yes!" one of the girls exclaimed. "I still have a few hours left on my code."

She spent the entire ride, the next 30 minutes, refreshing the Ticketmaster site until she had found me a seat just as good as hers. And I paid $367.

So that is how BTS found me. They were persistent, and I was lucky. I didn't even know who all the members were when I got there (even though I got a thorough briefing from my new Army friends), but I have been Army ever since and there is no going back.

It is quite an unexplainable thing. I think part of what made me fall into this family, if you will, was the experience of the Permission to Dance concert in 2021, still quite in the midst of the pandemic. We all wore masks at the show, every single person. It was BTS's first concert back with a live audience in almost 2 years. They were emotional, and raw, and grateful. J-Hope was in tears as he spoke in Korean. I could tell, and feel, just how much we had all gone through since 2020, and the relief at some small semblance of normalcy.

The Permission to Dance concert was unforgettable for how incredibly down-to earth and human it was. I will forever remember it not as a concert, but as a coming together for all of us and for what we experienced during that difficult time.

I knew then and there the BTS members were just like everyone else in that arena, and the things we were feeling were also the same.

Since then I have been more or less immersed in the BTS way of life (joking not joking). Their music is my kind of music. Their outlooks enrich my own. They are super talented and entertaining, kind and intelligent. They are funny as hell. They are responsible. And there is an inexplicable connection that I did not seek out. It is almost as if we are rooting for each other, every day. Their presence is palpable, not just in their music, but from them as people. Army and BTS support each other. Which is a great thing to have, especially during a time in my life when I am really starting to build the things that I want for myself and also to give to others. Plus, it is just a happy, fun, silly, and loving community to be part of.

Which is really how I am living my life these days.

travelpop culturehumanitydanceconcertcelebritiesbandsart90s music80s music60s music

About the Creator

Kimberli Alisa Wong

poet. writer. actor. filmmaker.

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