The other day, while we were idling away after work, discussions started out. It meandered around politics, religion and media for a bit - subjects with more gravitas - and finally settled for the mundane.
Like how frustrating it was for us to overcome our social ineptitude, thanks to our engineering education. And how we could barely manage to talk to girls. When we spot a beautiful creature, it’s a joy not unlike a miner who spots a diamond in a coal mine, or a wildlife lover who spots a dodo. He can only revel in its beauty, but cannot hope to have it to himself. We reached a unanimous conclusion that all of us would end up being spectators, while the 'good girls got swept off their feet' by those 'Arts types'. This realisation was too much to stomach, so we started talking about music.
The evolution of one's musical choices is a sort of ritual that every youngster has to go through. Music passes from generation to generation. Take my generation for example. We grew up in the ‘90s on Kumar Sanu, Udit Narayan and Alka Yagnik. My family was (still is) as middle class as it gets. We had a two-in-one player and we used to buy cassettes once a month. I still have the cassettes of DDLJ, Aashiqui. Even Hum Aapke Hain Koun, which to my knowledge, had 17 songs (including one that went Chocolate, Lime Juice sung by a 27-year-old Madhuri Dixit). Yes, we had quite a lot of fun during those simple times. Then came the assault of the boy bands and girl pop.
As the calendar moved closer to the millennium, we were exposed to Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, Boyzone, Britney, Madonna and (*shudder*) Savage Garden. Come on, don’t be snooty. We all know we listened to them. Confess that you used to love the strange electronic beeps that were a part of all Britney songs. You wanted to kill Nick Carter because he, along with the Backstreet Boys, used to make girls faint instantly while you hadn't even managed to borrow a pen from your crush. Yet, in your secret lair (bathroom), you imitated them; you wanted to be like them. You grew your hair like them, and ended up looking like mutated versions of your idols. Ronan Keating was oh-so-cool when he sang I love it when we do but you never bothered to discern the lyrics. In fact, you didn’t even know that the song was called Life is a Rollercoaster. I still remember listening to Larger Than Life by Backstreet Boys, and I had no clue as to what they were singing. We had a common Walkman, and during the rains, we would listen to one verse and abruptly stop the tape. And then ask each other, “Kya bola? Kuch samjha kya?”
Do you remember watching the music videos? I’m sure you remember watching them for ‘objectionable content’. I watched one where J Lo took off her shirt at the end, and MTV switched the song immediately. The song was horrible, but hey, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. I still remember wanting to kill Enrique Iglesias when he kissed my beloved (Anna Kournikova) while I stood in front of the TV, helpless and unable to do anything. You must have surely imitated Darren Hayes of Savage Garden. Admit it, you sang Truly, Madly, Deeply, causing your parents to wonder if this was teenage angst or just plain bad singing. You danced to Animal Song, and reneged against your parents, ironically, by singing Affirmation.
And then there were the rock bands. Your first taste of blood. Linkin Park. Don’t you remember trying to shout like Chester Bennington, only to wake up your parents who thought that you had woken up from a nightmare? In fact, when I was trying to learn Crawling, my mother came running into my room because she thought I was retching my dinner. But there was also Eminem. I had a classmate who rapped Lose Yourself. At our school farewell, to the combined horror of all teachers and parents. Rap and rock fought a huge battle for supremacy. One day, despite all my mother's protests, I bought an Eminem t-shirt. On the auspicious occasion of Dussehra. That's almost the equivalent of embracing Satan. The next day, I borrowed a Linkin Park cassette and played it at full volume. Now, in every person’s life, there comes a time when you have to shut up, and listen to Pink Floyd. I did that in college.
Over the years, my listening list has expanded. I don’t listen to much of pop. I don’t rap at all (for fear of embarrassing myself). But sometimes, I find myself reaching out into the past. A younger version of me grabs my hand, stuffs one earphone into my ears and says, "Listen to this. This is so cool."
As Take That said, Never Forget Where You’re Coming From.
An edited version of this article was published in JAM.