I Was A Teenage Poser
This morning, on a lark, I searched Spotify for MTV's Return of the Rock. This Nu Metal compilation album from 2000 (as well as its sequel album - The Return of the Rock 2) was on constant rotation during my teen years.
Each album had a line-up of artists such as Limp Bizkit, Papa Roach, Nickleback, Kid Rock, and P.O.D. Rap rock, stoner rock, hard rock - whatever you wanted to call it, I listened to this stuff almost exclusively from 2000 to 2003. Here's the thing I can admit now, in 2020: most of it sucked. Seriously. I hate now but I also hated it then.
The last thing anybody wants to be called as a teenager is a poser. But I was a big ol' poser during my high school years. I pretended to like bands such as Slipknot and Coal Chamber because that's what was listened to by the people thatI wanted to be friends with. Some of it was okay - I still dig System of a Down and Powerman 5000 and I will stan Evanescence for life - but Staind? Full Devil Jacket? Korn? All their songs sounded the same to me. I would listen to Slipknot's debut self-titled album and I couldn't tell where one song ended and another began. It was just sixty straight minutes of sustained growling. But I still went to see them in concert and I owned multiple Slipknot t-shirts. Why?
I was committed to trying to like these bands. I spent a small fortune on concert tickets, CDs, and black t-shirts and I would listen to Papa Roach, Static X, and, yes, Creed albums on repeat just to try and convince myself that I was a fan. I put more effort into trying to like Nu Metal than I did my school homework. To this day, I still don't know if my belief that Nickleback's first album The State is actually a good album is genuine or if I'm suffering prolonged Stockholm Syndrome.
My musical tastes have always been a bit weird. Growing up, my parents listened to Oldies radio stations and so I was more familiar with Herman's Hermits or The Association than any '90s pop or rock acts. The first CD I bought with my own money was an album containing wolf howling set to piano music. The first song I got really obsessed with was Seal's "Kiss From a Rose." The first song I learned all the lyrics to was Weird Al Yankovich's "Jurassic Park."
A lot of my musical tastes were formed because of my oldest sister and what she exposed me to. I liked Less Than Jake, The Offspring and The Toadies because she bought me their CDs as presents. I can't blame her for the multiple Slipknot posters I had on my wall, though - that was entirely me trying to fit in with a specific crowd during school. And to what end? None of those metal dudes were actually that friendly with me and mostly just put up with me because they had a crush on my sister.
I continued to listen to nu-metal up through my freshman year of college - at which point I was introduced to the glorious world of online piracy. I don't condone illegal downloads, but I will also admit that I would probably still be listening to butt rock today if it wasn't for my school's file-sharing platform.
Having access to high-speed internet and millions of MP3s led me to finally figure out what kind of music I liked. The answer? Pretty much everything. I love U2 and Everclear and Murder by Death and Loudon Wainwright III and Kate Bush and Guy Forsyth and Madonna and so much more. I thankfully still haven't gotten to the point where I've stopped being able to appreciate new music but I am at the point where it's hard to keep track of new music. I have a tendency to get really into a band just as they are fading into relative popular obscurity.
Spotify has been great for introducing me to new stuff. The service's algorithm really does a great job of suggesting music I do end up liking - plus it's great for tracking down stuff I used to listen to in high school.
I'm grateful I'm still not a teenager who feels the need to pretend to like certain bands in order to fit in, but every now and then I get a hankering for the Return of the Rock - if only to remind myself of that angry, black t-shirt wearing miscreant who would jam out to Fuel while walking the mean streets of McAllen, hanging flyers for his neighbor's real estate company on doorknobs so that he could earn the money to buy more rock albums he only kinda liked the following Tuesday.