Musically speaking, the year 2017 was a return to the ’90s for me.
Earlier in the year I started a ’90s playlist on Spotify, which may have been subtly influenced by the reemergence of crushed velvet and Doc Martens in fashion as of late—or maybe it was a Soul Asylum song I heard faintly in the grocery store.
Songs that once made parents uneasy—lyrics that spoke forthrightly about depression, self-loathing, suicide, and runaway teens—are now as nonthreatening as wishy-washy poetry set to the beat of a sitcom intro They’re now the tunes you hear while casually browsing the produce aisle, practically unnoticed. “I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me.” You hum along until your brain redirects the idle energy into calculating the price of four avocados.
Honestly, I can’t tell if the music has held up over time or if I’m too blinded by the glow of my nostalgia to hear how dated it is. Especially in the case of The Smashing Pumpkins, who I’ve never really stopped listening to. They so perfectly captured my life, or what I believed it to be, in their music video for the single “1979.” To the blissful ignorance of my mom, I spent many weekend nights in the ’90s riding around in sloppily driven cars with cool guys, causing a scene everywhere we stopped. I have not yet built a tolerance to the guileless joy “1979” triggers in me, so I keep it in rotation.
I liked a lot of music from other decades at the time, but ’90s alternative was mine. It was the music that validated my emotions at a time when I was looking around for someone more experienced with life than I was to tell me, “This is normal, you’re normal, you’re not alone in this.” Not only did the music of the ’90s help me cope with the gloomy aspects of being on the cusp of adulthood, it often enhanced my eagerness to explore autonomy and romance.
Even the experiences I wasn’t yet having were conveyed to me through music in a daydream-like manner. It was the next best thing to real. “Champagne Supernova,” the 1996 hit by Oasis, was a culmination of the romance I anticipated would soon happen to me. Regardless of the lyrics being rather obscure, likely written in a drug haze by a known junkie, there was a tone of lust and longing in the music. The lyrics enhanced this notion, as if the lovers in the song shared a dark passion and couldn’t let go of each other. I later read that Oasis band member Noel Gallagher couldn’t defend the song’s nonsensical lyrics, but left it at “It means something different to [everyone].” At the peak of the song’s popularity it was on the radio every 20 minutes, and teenaged me pined for the tangibility of the feelings it gave me. I wanted to experience my own passion in the presence of this (now admittedly corny) song.
Fifteen-year-old me would be thrilled to know that a week ago I had a feverish (read: drunken) make-out session while my ’90s playlist blared in the background, and lo and behold, “Champagne Supernova” cued up as if it had a destiny to fulfill. My partner in, uh, canoodling was completely unaware that the wave of tension he probably felt in me was a containment of laughter. Here I was in the moment I’d waited 21 years to have with this song and another warm body, and it was so cheesy it was practically perfection. For all I know, he was having a similar moment.
“Dazed for Days” is the name of the Spotify playlist that is the vault of my teenage heart, and I’ve made it public and posted it below *hint-hint*. The 99 songs that make up the list aren’t all songs I loved, or even willingly listened to—but they all made an impression on me, for better or for worse.
Maybe it’ll spark nostalgia in you.