I’ve always grown up around noise. The television was always on in the background at home, and traditional Vietnamese folk songs and bolero blasted through the speakers every morning as my mother would cook. And the radio on the way to school, dialed in at 92.9 FM, would always play a mix of P!nk, Journey and Paul McCartney.
Listening to Taylor Swift’s “Mean” or “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas always reminds me of my elementary school days: sitting in the back right seat of the family van, shopping at Walmart on Friday nights, sprinting around the cracked pavement on our school’s playground. These memories are pretty antique — back when Swift was still country and Fergie was still in the band.
A particular song can always bring you back, transporting you years into the past like a mental wormhole.
Classic hits — including pop music from a specific time — can stimulate our “reminiscence bump,” according to the BBC, which is a phenomenon where an adult remembers memories from their younger years.
Although I am still a teenager, I experience this effect because of the many music phases I’ve gone through. I was not experimental with different genres as a child, opting to listen to whatever was playing on the radio instead of branching out. I received my education of current hits through the incessant release of Just Dance games, the royalty-free songs 2013-2015 lifestyle YouTubers used in their vlogs and school pep rallies.
Needless to say, I was not very aware of popular songs upon entering middle school. When I was entering adolescence, I had helplessly fallen into the deep, dark abyss of K-pop.
I became obsessed with K-pop in middle school and early high school. There’s something addicting about finding a new group, learning all the members’ names, listening to their entire discography, watching all the compilations and fan edits on social media … the list goes on and on.
As I became more active on social media at age 13, I exposed myself to K-pop fan accounts: pages where people sing covers and dance to new music releases. At the peak of my K-pop fixation, I had a fan account of my own where I would upload my own covers.
I used to feel embarrassed and ashamed when recalling these memories. However, I now embrace my K-pop phase as a fun, carefree time in my childhood.
My past self was pretty happy, even though she had to defend herself against family members who didn’t understand that music transcends language and friends who would tease her for listening to a boy band that didn’t align with stereotypical gender norms.
But I found an interest I was passionate about and it occupied me for years.
Although I eventually lost the dedication I once had for K-pop, Spotify never ceases to shove an old SHINee or 2NE1 track in my shuffle every once in a while. I hold special memories of excitedly watching new music videos with my best friend who also loved K-pop — we performed dance covers at school talent shows at the ripe age of 13 despite our lack of dancing experience.
I think music is something wonderful you can relish alone or with friends. As I grew older, my music taste diversified, including Latin pop and country and suggestions from classmates, friends and siblings. I would always have my headphones in or an external speaker on, bellowing with sonorous bass and treble.
Whoever first invented music deserves all the praise in the world — I don’t think I could survive without it. So, I’ll continue trudging through monotonous school days and boring weekends babysitting, but at least I’ll have a tune in the background that will accompany me.