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Music and Me, Meena

Hello hello! It’s Meena from Dusty Record on The Shelf on UIC Radio, welcome to my blog! I’d like this to be a little story about my journey in music discovery, who/what were my influences, and how I learned to be truly appreciative of what this amazing artform has to offer.

After joining UIC Radio, I needed to come up with an idea of what I wanted to cover on my show, so I was prompted to think long and hard about what kind of music I truly enjoyed. This made me want to travel back to my roots— what was the first kind of music I listened to? I have core memories of my Momma rocking me to sleep while carrying me on her hip listening to the same Destiny’s Child “Survivor” cassette tape over and over. Who knew a girlboss anthem of the early 2000s would become one of my favorite lullabies? Other than Destiny’s Child, my mom loved listening to Michael Jackson, Prince, Tina Turner, The Temptations (she was a fan of all of these artist’s biopics, which is how I heard most of their songs) and plenty of other Black icons in my household while I was growing up, so I was constantly surrounded by soulful sounds. As well as influences from my lovely Momma, my enjoyment of music was also shaped by the media I consumed. You might be thinking to yourself, “It’s gotta be Disney music!” You’re right, but that is not what I’m going to talk about this time! I consider Disney its own category, but my first exposure to “real” music that I can vividly remember is from two things: Muppets From Space and Tiny Toons.

I know. Very strange selections. BUT JUST HEAR ME OUT! In Muppets From Space, the film begins with an absolute BANGER and that is “Brick House” by Commodores. Along with “Brick House” the soundtrack also includes song such as, “Celebration” – Kool & The Gang, “Get Up Offa That Thing” – James Brown, “Shining Star”- Earth Wind and Fire, “It’s Your Thing” – Isley Brothers, “Outa Space” – Billy Preston, and “Survival” – The O’Jays. Five year old me would sit in front of the VCR rewinding the opening scene and other parts of the movies just to bump these songs again, something about them just clicked in my brain and “Brick House” is still one of my favorite songs to date. These songs, paired with a film that’s plot was all about finding yourself and where you belonged— watching it as a little Black girl, I find it fitting that I found belonging and happiness in the music of my people featured in the film.

As for Tiny Toons, if you don’t know what that is, it was like a bootleg Looney Tunes where the characters were essentially successors of the infamous Bugs Bunny, Lola, Daffy, and all the other Looney characters. Now, I keep bringing up cassettes and VHS tapes which makes me feel like a fossil (21 is old now apparently), but I had a Tiny Toons episode on tape that we never returned to Blockbuster (again, I’m old). This particular episode was called “Tiny Toon Music Television” and it was a parody of MTV— I was IN LOVE with this tape! The two songs I loved the most were “Respect” – Aretha Franklin and “Money (That’s What I Want)” – Barrett Strong. Let’s just say I drove my family crazy watching the Muppets and Tiny Toons all day long, I’m honestly surprised I didn’t wear out the tapes!

While my first exposure to music in my infancy and early childhood heavily featured Soul, Funk, and RnB, I unfortunately drifted away from these genres in favor of what was trendy. I thought that the music I was raised on was for “old people” and I strictly listened to pop radio to make sure I stayed on trend. However, trends die, and what was the cool thing to listen to one week quickly became stale the next, and heaven forbid someone knew you still enjoyed the song. You’d be roasted for being so cringey as to enjoy an old song… that came out a month ago. This isn’t all bad though, it was in this time period that I stanned One Direction, read fanfiction till 6am on a school night, and met my best friend because of our shared fan-girl experience! It also led me to becoming the Harry Styles stan I am today, but that’s another story. However, one day I entered my “I’m not like other girls” phase and decided I hated anything mainstream and all modern day pop music was trash. I feel as though many people went through that stage in their life where they rejected whatever was “in” to make themselves seem more interesting (on the contrary, it made us extremely annoying because it is all we would talk about). So what did I do? On a random day in 2013 I remembered that I stanned Michael Jackson to an insane level in 2009 and I wanted to be that person again. For a long time I dedicated myself to learning all there was to know about Michael Jackson from his upbringing, his entire discography, to his rise to fame as one of the most successful artists of all time. It was through him that my love of “old music” was revived and I re-discovered the music of artists I heard in my youth, plus many more! When I listened to music at home a phrase I frequently heard was “Whatchu know about this?!” and a part of me would be super proud that I impressed an old head with my music tastes.

Loving oldies became my entire personality… to my detriment. It made me a hater of anything popular and I silently judged folks who did not share my music tastes, which was dumb of me. I was missing out on really good music of the modern age and limiting myself to all that was out there! In the end, I learned it didn’t matter what was “trendy,” “real,” or seen as impressive. I started exploring new artists and new genres, and had a newfound appreciation for all types of music! I’m happy to say that my playlists are a whole hodgepodge of disorganized music madness, in fact, my favorite playlist is called “Scrambled Eggs.” It’s all jumbled up with 2,000+ songs that I’ve been building since 7th grade, I never truly know what will show up when I hit shuffle and I wouldn’t have it any other way! Music is meant to resonate with the listener, what you like may not be the same as another person and vice versa, which is totally okay! That’s the beautiful part, there’s something out there for everyone and we all go on our own little journeys of music discovery! Listen to whatever you enjoy and don’t worry about what anybody else thinks!


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