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  • Writer's pictureLouise Higginbottom

Are your school years your best music years?

During this year’s Brit Awards I was surprised at how few artists I knew any songs by, or had even heard of. I often think that music has only got worse over time, with a particularly steady decline from 2010.

Though is it as simple as this, or is it part of the growing up and growing older process?

With the exception of Taylor Swift and a bit of Harry Styles, my Spotify algorithms tend to lean towards what I got into when I was in secondary school – for example emo legends like Brand New and also stars of the indie peak such as Arctic Monkeys. So, does this mean I’m stuck in a rut for finding new music?

Perhaps. But I think many people share my mindset.

I can’t remember not being interested in music, which is possibly down to having a Dad who despite not being musically talented, is a big fan and music was always around. I can clearly remember another kid singing Wannabe by the Spice Girls in my reception class cloakroom, and went onto become a very young fan of them. Top of the Pops was a regular watch which led me down the path of other pop favourites such as B*Witched and S Club 7.

I continued following that path of pop, taping songs off of commercial radio and collecting “Now” cassettes, which soon became CDs – but there was some potential for decent for music taste, as my Dad played Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morissette and Paul Weller tapes in the car a lot, which I found easier to digest pre-teens than his Led Zeppelin collection.

Until secondary school, most of the music I liked was fed to me in an easily accessibly way, and there wasn’t much discovery needed. Finding my own way in music almost certainly started with a documentary either about, or featuring Nirvana.

I was suddenly super interested in them and Kurt Cobain. I bought a lot of their albums, books about them (including Kurt’s journal), t-shirts etc. and learned loads of their songs on guitar. I was hooked and had got myself into this band all by myself. Although my dad is a low-key grunge fan, this was never something I remember being played in the car or around the house.

The early 2000s in the UK were the beginning of a big alternative phase for fashion and music, which would push its way into the mainstream until the end of the decade. A lot of the kids in the years above at school would read Kerrang! Magazine, and my best friend had also got into it, encouraging me to buy it in a week that came with a free CD centred on punk artists called “Smash It Up”.

The CD featured a few older bands like the Damned and the Dead Kennedys, as well as more current bands like Green Day, Less Than Jake and Yellowcard – so the self-discovery phase continued. As I got more into Nirvana, I started to read about other grunge bands like Pearl Jam. After reading about them I used a well-known and now defunct file sharing tool to download the song “Jeremy” which again, got me hooked and sent me off to HMV to spend my monthly allowance on a few Pearl Jam CDs.

Next came the influx of “emo” bands like Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance and Paramore. All bands that my dad has zero appeal in. These are still my favourite bands ever, and led me into longer established ones like Jimmy Eat World and Brand New. My group of friends at school were also very into this and we were lucky enough that our parents would pay for us to go to a few gigs and even chaperone us around London until we got old enough to travel around the city late at night without grown-ups.

Ultimately what I’m saying is: it may not be as simple as music getting worse as time goes by, but that the point you start discovering music for yourself is where your taste in music becomes defined.

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