Soundtracks of My Life: Reflecting on 20 Musical Years

I recently turned 20, an uneventful, useless year if you ask me. I’m not a birthday crier. I’m not someone who gets sad and sappy about getting older, but this year felt different.

Don’t get me wrong, birthdays have always and probably always will be a cause for celebration for me, but my birthday this year felt like the “Sunday scaries.” It was just a reminder of how fast time passes by and how fast everything in our lives are changing. Five years ago I was a cringy, insecure 15 year-old and five years from now I’ll be … 25. I could practically be a completely different person in a completely different place. I recently found myself saying the phrase “when I was your age,” to an 11 year-old Girl Scout selling cookies in my neighborhood. Now that made me feel old.

These thoughts may have been sparked by the recent “Do you think we will be friends forever?” conversations with friends — nevertheless, I’m thankful to have aged and to still be here in this moment.

A stark example to how much I’ve changed can be seen in my music taste. Personally, I associate different time periods of my life with different albums that I listened to. Some of them I chronically listened to for months at a time and others remind me of a certain pinpointed day or night of my life.

In my 20 years of life I’ve gone through a whirlwind of musical eras. It would take a novel to tell you about all the music that has impacted me in one way or another but there’s a handful of albums that really stuck with me.

The Beatles practically ruled my childhood — it’s impossible to narrow it down to one al- bum. The ones I remember listening to the most are “Abbey Road” and “Revolver.” My dad had
a playlist on his old iPod called “the kids mix” that he would play when me and my sister were in the car. Obviously, it was stocked full of The Beatles.

I liked the funny names of the songs and how the lyrics seemed to make no sense at all.
I liked how ironic the cheerful sound of “Max- well’s Silver Hammer” was and I liked listening to the strange story of “Eleanor Rigby.” Perhaps my favorite “Abbey Road” song was the imaginative, childlike song “Octopus’s Garden.” Still, whenever I listen to The Beatles, I remember

little Remy sitting in a car seat peering out the window.

Anyone who knows me now knows I love ABBA and that I love the “Mamma Mia” movies. Although I didn’t always like pop music — I thought it was rather stupid and meaningless (remember I was raised on classic rock) — I remember always bopping my head to ABBA. We had a CD of “ABBA Gold,” a compilation album that was released in 2008. My mom would pop it into the Subaru during road trips and grocery runs. Who knew four Swedish people singing about heartbreak and being cheated on could make you want to get up and dance?

Imagine being a shy 14 year old making the transition from middle school to high school and just like that, SZA drops “CTRL,” her sophomore album that you are now listen- ing to on repeat. SZA sang about her true, raw feelings even if they weren’t necessarily good or empowering. Going through awkward grow- ing pains along with SZA made me feel better about myself, even if I didn’t quite understand her relationship problems at the time. Hearing my favorite SZA song of all time, “Garden,” live might have been the best music moment I have ever experienced. I like to think it put awkward freshman year Remy at peace.

Another artist that helped me through my early high school days was Janelle Monáe.
I had been a casual listener since the “Electric Lady” album but when “Dirty Computer” came out, I was officially a fan. It was a highly political concept album made during a time when I felt like the world was falling apart. The album sounded so confident when I was anything but that. As I was beginning to navigate my own sexuality, hearing all those carefully crafted innuendos and a whole song about vaginas, “Pynk,” felt truly empowering.

My senior year of high school, I didn’t want to go to college. I never really liked school and I didn’t picture myself needing a degree. In fact, I couldn’t picture my life past high school at all. But then I started listening to one of the great- est songwriters of all time, Joni Mitchell. All of her songs have meaning and purpose. There’s always a story attached to them. Like most Joni listeners, the “Blue” album is my favorite.

In the song “Carey,” she reminisces of the time she spent in Greece. She met an American, Carey Raditz, in a small hippie village on the island of Crete. The song refers to all the crazy adventures she had with Raditz during their relationship. The album follows Mitchell’s travels, heartbreaks and triumphs. Listening to “Blue” made me want to live a life worth writing songs about. I no longer wanted to stay in my comfort zone, I wanted to go somewhere far away, meet new people and find a place where I fit in.

I don’t think I have a favorite band or musician of all time, though Fleetwood Mac is definitely up there on the list. My last years of high school, their music was turned on loud whenever I got in the car. I remember listening to “Rumors” on the car ride to get my wisdom teeth removed.

“Tusk,” a super underrated album, was basically on a loop my last semester of high school. It’s an album that captures the feeling of glory and freedom that I had about leaving high school and my hometown but also the uncertainty about letting go. The song “Storms” will forever remind me of graduation. It’s five minutes and 30 seconds of Stevie Nicks singing her heart out. “Sara” is also a song that will really do a number on you if you’re in the process of saying goodbye to friends you’ve had for years. When I listen to “Tusk” now, I always think about what felt like the last fun summer I would ever have.

My freshman year at New Paltz was full of self-discovery and shenanigans. It was around this time that I stumbled into Phoebe Bridgers’ “Punisher” album, which pushed me into the sad indie music rabbit hole. Phoebe’s lyricism and vocals were somehow perfect for coping with this big shift into adulthood.

First semester, I went to my first concert in the city, Lucy Dacus at Brooklyn Steel. I listened to “Historian,” her 2017 album on repeat be- fore that show. It starts with perhaps the most devastating song I’ve ever heard, “Night Shift,” a song I’ll never forget hearing live. The moment that Lucy brought out Phoebe might have been the loudest I’ve ever screamed. I’m not going to make this a concert review so I’ll just say despite the sad nature of their music, that night was full of harmonious energy and pure happiness.

I saw Lucy with people who I still love to this day. When I think back to that magical night, I think about how those friendships helped me grow and how much I’ve changed even since then.

About Remy Commisso 45 Articles
Remy is a third-year student from Rochester NY. When she’s not in the Oracle office, she’s listening to new music and having movie nights with friends. This is her first semester as features editor. You can reach her by emailing