I always attributed my musical awakening to the moment I saw Taking Back Sunday perform “MakeDamnSure” on “Degrassi: the Next Generation.”
I was 11 years old and fed up with being laughed at birthday parties for not knowing the words to Mariah Carey’s “Shake It Off” — Taylor’s is better, anyways — so I decided that the angsty anthems of mid-2000s emo would be the soundtrack to the rest of my life.
Or at least until I was done with middle school.
But thinking back on it now, my initial attraction to rock music started at an earlier age.
When I was growing up, my older cousin lived in my house. I was a sticky, plaid-clad elementary school girl, and he was an uber cool, super hip teenager. He had a dial-up computer, a PlayStation with Metal Gear Solid, a full-sized poster of Michael Jordan and a bunk bed … the kind with ONLY the top bunk. That was the very definition of early-2000s coolness.
I, on the other hand, shared a room with my parents and exclusively ate alphabet soup and string cheese.
Looking back, I was probably the most annoying kid. My parents would always dump me in my cousin’s room for babysitting on the weekends, which was a dream come true to a little kid who just wanted to hang out with her cool cuz. I would knock over all his homework and ask inappropriate questions such as, “Where is YOUR mom?” and then force him to let me sing Backstreet Boys songs to his girlfriend over the phone.
I would snoop through his CD collection and discover John Mayer and Maroon 5, way before the media morphed them into musical playboys.
He would make me mix CDs and teach me how to play basic chords on his Fender Stratocaster, then sit me on his amp while his band practiced in our garage. The cacophonous harmony of untuned instruments, ears ringing from the inevitable feedback and cops knocking on our garage door to tell us that they had received noise complaints from our neighbors were the soundtrack to my preschool years.
When my cousin moved away for college, he taught me how to download music on my own. I remember feeling so badass downloading the explicit version of “1985” by Bowling For Soup on our brand new, high-speed Internet. It was the first time I had ever heard the word “ass” used in a song. Very rock ‘n’ roll.
And now, I spend all my time downloading music, searching for new artists and reading and writing about their influences and inspirations. Most of the music I listen to today was influenced by the music my cousin unconsciously introduced to me when I was a kid.
My 13-year-old brother is into rap music, and every time I come home I try to pretend like I know a lot about what’s hip and cool. I ask him questions such as, “Did you hear the new Drake mixtape?” And he says things such as, “I don’t really like Drake,” and I say, “Oh yeah, me neither,” which is totally a lie because he was on “Degrassi” and once wrote an entire verse making puns about Kraft cheese.
But before my little brother knew how to use Spotify, he would write me lists of songs to download for him. It was usually a few Top-40 songs, a couple of current rap hits and then something such as, “Every Twenty One Pilots album and whatever that song is that you always listen to in the car.”
You never realize the influence someone has over your tastes and interests until you’ve developed your own and get to share that common ground. And you never know the influence you have on someone else until you’re storming the barricade of a Twenty One Pilots show with your little brother, raising your fists in the air and sweating among a barrage of flashing lights, experiencing rap and rock and heart and soul rolled into one perfect package.
Contact Rosemarie Alejandrino at [email protected].