One foot into Janel Jimenez’s Maximino Martinez Commons residence hall and it was already apparent that we weren’t dealing with an amateur music aficionado. She didn’t parade the title for the sake of fame — she genuinely breathed music. Posters of favorite bands adorned her walls, along with tickets to favorite shows. Concert T-shirts lined her closet, and headphones lay sprawled across the bed.
Jimenez, a Spotify intern and president of the UC Berkeley entertainment club, Berkeley Careers in Entertainment Club, has been passionate about music ever since she grew up listening to her mother’s R&B records of Michael Jackson, Earth Wind & Fire and many more of the soulful sounds that inspired Jimenez.
She tries to get others involved in the industry, as well. As president of UC Berkeley’s entertainment club, Janel works tirelessly to promote and inspire her peers.
“Janel is actually my mentor since she was the music director last time and I am the music director now,” said Debbie Zheng, who is a close friend of Janel’s. “She’s extremely helpful, you can tell she spends a lot of time with BCEC and she’s always looking out for us and trying to get us internships.”
Using music as an escape and a way to empower others, a shyer, younger Jimenez connected with her soul by listening to Aaliyah and Eryka Badu, among others, and then grew into incorporating rock influence such as Blink-182 and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
During fifth grade, when Jimenez actively sought out music, the young Green Day fan would visit chat rooms and promote the band’s music through her blog.
“I used to go on Green Day fan websites and talk to people and ask them if they’d meet up, even though I knew I’d never meet up with them, because I was 10,” Jimenez said.
Interestingly enough, the boom of Myspace and blogs actually helped define Jimenez’s taste in music.
“When I started using a computer basically is when I was able to look up stuff on my own,” Jimenez said.
Though Jimenez agrees that music is universal and that you don’t have to know the language to love it, she regrets her middle school K-pop and screamo phase, which she eventually grew out of as Vampire Weekend and Phoenix came into the mix in high school.
Claiming that a lot of the music she listens to now is “a clusterfuck of genres,” Jimenez is on the hunt for more instrumental pieces now that she is stepping out of her chillwave phase, which encompassed last semester.
“If someone listened to my music, I don’t think they could define me, because it’s so random and I don’t think you should judge people by what they listen to,” Jimenez said. “Just because they listen to a certain type of music doesn’t mean you should have a notion as to how they should be. The hip-hop guy is not going to be cursing at you or whatever the stereotypes are. I don’t think that should be used with music.”
Clearly opinionated about the industry, Jimenez has grown a lot from her Hilary Duff-concert-going self. And while that was her first concert, her growing passion for music still dates back to fond memories of the CDs and cassettes her mother exposed her to. With MTV and VH1 at her side, Jimenez’s passion grew aflame.
Though the content on those networks were thought to be controversial back then and though current music content also faces similar battles, Jimenez supports the idea of self-expression. So long as the concept is done with a sense of art in mind, Jimenez thinks it should be condoned.
“I think lyrics, no lyrics, you can get a sense of an artist by the music they produce,” Jimenez said. “There are emotions behind it, and that’s the best thing about music. Don’t be afraid of it being too controversial or sexual, but it has to be because you are trying to assert your self-expression. Don’t get psyched out by people who tell you your music sucks, because people can be pretentious when it comes to what they’re listening to.”
To Jimenez, music is more than words and a beat — it’s a process of evoking emotion and sharing a message. Regardless of the number of phases she has gone through, Jimenez is able to connect each genre to a part of her life. She did — and will — grow with music.
Contact Ilaf Esuf at [email protected]