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Music & Podcasts

The STILL Awkward AF Later Teenage Years | Sounds of Me Part 3

It feels like it’s been a while since I wrote another instalment of my Sounds of Me series. Since my last post, I’m excited to tell you that I’ve actually recorded a podcast episode of Lyrical Life Disorganised Waffle with my lovely fellow writer pal, Dom G, who inspired me to create this series. I had a fantastic chat with Dom about mental health, music, and life in general, and I can’t wait for you to hear it. Make sure that you’re following his Insta to find out when the episode is live, and you’ll also be able to read his poetry, which is beautifully written and incredibly powerful.

Sounds of Me: The Still Awkward AF Teenage Years Pinterest graphic

Still Awkward AF Later Teenage Years

Anyway, today’s post is all about the later years of my musical tastes. Let’s take a look back at the situ as a whole. We’re looking at around late 2007 onwards. During this time, I was coming to the end of my GCSEs (food tech and child development both being subjects I excelled in but have never ever utilised in my adult life), desperate for a boyfriend, and obsessed with two things – Scrubs and Avenue Q. 

I remember first discovering Avenue Q in 2007 – it was GCSE ICT and myself and my friend Tammy had discovered the song If You Were Gay. We would sing it to each other in lessons, instead of actually doing any work. I then discovered that Avenue Q was an actual musical. For anyone who hasn’t seen Avenue Q, it’s just the best musical ever. It combines actors with Sesame Street/Muppet style puppets and addresses growing up, relationships, friendship, and finding out where the hell you’re meant to be in life. It’s the perfect “adulting” style musical. Plus, it’s fucking hilarious.

From then on, I was obsessed. I became obsessed with the songs – Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist, The Internet is For Porn, It Sucks to Be Me, and so on. I later discovered that the original New York Broadway show was available to watch in 9 minute chunks on YouTube (back in the day when that was the maximum video length). I watched the entire show and fell in love with it even more, as well as falling in love with John Tartaglia, who played Princeton and Rod (I also became obsessed with his show on Playhouse Disney, Johnny and the Sprites, but that’s another story). I soon discovered that there was also a West-End version of Avenue Q, running at the Noel Coward Theatre in London, something I became even more obsessed with knowing that it was closer to home. I learned about the cast members and regularly kept an eye on ticket prices, hoping that they would be low enough to have as an option for my 16th birthday. 

Obviously, a West-End show with your mates, plus transport up to London isn’t cheap. So that idea went to hell. However, that didn’t stop me learning each and every song, along with the overall script of the show (thanks to those 9 minute YouTube segments).I soon found out on MySpace (ah, MySpace – anyone know how Tom is doing?) that the actress who played Kate Monster and Lucy the Slut was leaving the cast. Don’t laugh at this next bit. The stupid little 15 year old twat that I was wanted to audition for the role. I knew the songs and the script almost word for word. I was born for that goddamn role. Obviously, being a fucking child, I never went ahead with this dream, but I remember for a while, it was a genuine dream, and the songs I performed in my bedroom would always be Special and There’s a Fine Fine Line – both of which are sung by puppets, but I smash them every single time.

Fun update – Liam took me to see Avenue Q for my birthday in 2011, and in 2018, we went to an amateur production at our local theatre with some friends. Colette and I met the Bad Idea Bears, Lucy the Slut, Gary Coleman, and Trekkie Monster. It was an amazing evening.

Colette and I surrounded by actors and Avenue Q puppets - including the Bad Idea Bears, Lucy the Slut, and Gary Coleman.

Scrubs and Beyond

So, sweary shagging puppets were one obsession as I approached my sweet-16, but what was the other? Well, it was everyone’s favourite medical sitcom – Scrubs. A show that I still love to this day. There were loads of things I loved about Scrubs. It was funny, Zach Braff was HOT, it had the potential to make me laugh and cry all in the same episode, and most importantly, it had an incredible soundtrack. Scrubs featured some amazing songs as part of its musical repertoire, some of which still reside in my Spotify library to this day. It had such a varied playlist of songs that would suit for all occasions – songs to pep you up, songs for when you needed to cry it out, and just songs that were goddamn brilliant. For example, there was Winter by Joshua Radin – which featured in the iconic episode, My Screw Up – a song that to this day has me welling up. Then there was Come Around by Rhett Miller, which is a song I’m ashamed to say I would sit silently singing along to while crying my eyes out and wishing I had a boyfriend – the main chorus being “AM I GONNA BE LONELY FOR THE REST OF MY LIIIIIIFEEE” – yes, that sounds pathetic, but you didn’t see what I looked like at 16. You would have been worried. Finally, there was American Girl by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, which was my “have a makeover and sort your fucking life out” song. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

On the side of my Scrubs and Avenue Q obsession, there was also a new one that was born during this period. Again, it was my friend, Tammy, that introduced me to this particular song, and to this day it’s still one of my absolute favourites. That song is Hey Soul Sister by Train. It’s just such a happy, lighthearted, upbeat song, and it instantly made me smile the first time I heard it. It’s long been a dream of mine to be able to play it on the ukulele (that I’ve yet to learn to play…that’s a bit of a sore point), and it even featured as part of our wedding playlist, being one of the songs that played in the background as we signed the register.

Sixth Form 

Ah, sixth form. What an emotional rollercoaster. Sixth form was essentially where it all changed for this Bugs Bunny-teethed, heavily bespectacled, moderately to highly unattractive (I was on the pill by this point so despite my disgusting face, my tits were PENG) 16 year old weirdo. It was the time where my two best friends, Beth and Cilla, meddled (I say meddled, but honestly, I’m grateful AF to them both, otherwise NOTHING would have happened) with my now husband, telling him “OMG DO YOU KNOW WHO FANCIES YOU?!”(and to be fair, they did the same to me). Not really believing that anyone of the opposite sex would be interested in the absolute fucking toe that I was, I tagged along on nights at each others’ houses, drinking cans of Strongbow and (on special occasions) weak mixtures of Glen’s vodka and coke. One song that sticks out in my mind (among others) is 5,6,7,8 by Steps. I mentioned my love of Steps in an earlier post, but this memory isn’t even attached to that obsession. Instead, after a couple of cans of Strongbow, Beth, Cilla and I would get up and bust out some moves to this party classic. There was literally no other reason other than the fact we’d had a couple of cans. It was never just 5,6,7,8 either – it would be the classics: Superman, Saturday Night, The Time Warp, you name it. 

Then, we move into early 2009. The Valentine’s Ball. Awkwardly, Liam and I agreed (over MSN messenger) to be each other’s’ date to the Valentines’ Ball, a fundraiser that Beth and some other students had organised as a fundraiser for a trip to Honduras. After impressing everyone with my knowledge of 80s and 90s music (just call me Shazam), my now husband and I found ourselves slow dancing to Waiting for a Star to Fall by Boy Meets Girl, which is the song that played as he asked me to be his girlfriend.

Me and Liam at the Valentine's Ball. I'm wearing a black dress and have a bob haircut. I'm smiling, revealing my heavily braced teeth. Liam is smiling, wearing a suit and has his arm around me.
The night it all began

What followed was months of desperately trying to be cool, dark and twisty, in order to impress my new boyfriend. Bearing in mind, I was still a bespectacled, wonky toothed and now fully metal-mouthed disgusting freakshow (albeit with a banging pair of tits), I was BUZZING at the fact I had a boyfriend. Music wise, at the time, I remember taking a liking to Kelly Clarkson’s album, All I Ever Wanted, because it literally had a song for every single mood on it. In particular, I remember My Life Would Suck Without You being this full on banger that was perfect for listening to when I needed a boost or wanted to celebrate how ecstatically in love I was. There were also songs on the album for when you needed to cry it out – such as the aptly named Cry, and Already Gone. Both of these were songs I would listen to whenever Liam and I had an argument (I wish I could say I was joking), and, as we moved into 2010 with the prospect of us potentially going our separate ways for university keeping me up at night (we never really discussed it in detail – but both options of long distance and breaking up completely weren’t exactly appealing to me), they both had even more power attached to them. Alongside these two songs, I also became obsessed with a song called Only Hope by Switchfoot – a song that featured in the film A Walk to Remember, which I had only just seen and fallen in love with purely on the basis because it made me cry my fucking eyes out each time. My angsty 18 year old self would listen to this myriad of depressing songs, crying at the prospect of us breaking up (again, I wish I could tell you I was joking). Why was I so convinced the shitty ending would be what happened? HAVE YOU EVEN MET ME? If you’ve followed the blog from the start you’ll know why I was so convinced it was all going to go tits up. Also, put yourself in my shoes – you’re UGLY AF and you can’t quite understand why someone as amazing as your boyfriend would have any interest in you, your severe stomach issues, your clinginess and your rapidly declining mental health. You don’t want to put all of your happiness in a situation that could potentially kick you straight in the vag.

Of course – spoiler alert – after months of anxiety, stress, tears and zero optimism (can you guess which one of us it was?), we both secured our places at the University of Northampton. A classic example of how my overthinking and catastrophizing caused months of heartbreak, stress and unnecessary pain. But anyway, another one for the therapist I’ll hire if and when I ever win the lottery.

Anyway, before we set off to university, there were plenty of good times to be had with our friendship group, still meeting up most Friday nights armed with the trusty bottle of £10 vodka, a 24 pack of Strongbow, and a bottle of apple flavoured Mickey Finn. Alongside the cheesy AF party tracks, there are a couple of other songs that have a few fond memories of these nights attached. One of them is Torn by Natalie Imbruglia. There’s a comedy actor who performs a dance to the song which you’ll find on YouTube, and it’s bloody hilarious, and it was the party piece of our friend, Simon. We’d all join in with it, and even 10+ years on, it’s the first thing I think of whenever I hear the song. You knew that whenever Torn was performed, you were having a bloody good night. So much so that we persuaded Simon to perform it at our wedding. Under the condition that I do it with him. What followed was one of my favourite memories of the entire day, with our friends (those who knew what was going on) watching and laughing their heads off, while everyone else was just confused AF. It was truly one of the best examples of an inside joke between you and your friends. 

Dancefloor photo from my wedding. Me and Simon stand opposite each other dancing to Torn by Natalie Imbruglia.

On the subject of party pieces, it’s worth mentioning that during the first years of our relationship, Liam and I developed our own. The PS2 game Singstar was a regular fixture of our drunken evenings at each others’ houses, and after enough shots of Mickey Finn, we’d crack it out. I have so many hilarious memories (and cringe AF videos on my laptop) of us all performing different songs, but the one that has since turned into Liam’s party piece was Shut Up by the Black Eyed Peas. Over the years it’s been performed (albeit badly, because we were always hammered by this point) at numerous parties and gatherings with our friends, and we even sang it last year at my Mother-in-Law’s on Christmas Day (I believe she has a video of it that I’m too scared to watch). However, it dates right back to those drunken nights on Singstar before uni.

The University Years

I won’t beat around the bush. We all know how much I fucking hated being at university. However, there’s no denying that there was a banging soundtrack to those 3 years. I distinctly remember spending my second year sat on the sofa watching the music channel with a big-ass textbook on my lap, trying to make sense of the notes from the lecture I hadn’t attended. Songs that stick out in my memory include Born to Die by Lana Del Ray, Seek Bromance by Tim Berg, We Found Love by Rihanna and Somebody That I Used to Know by Gotye feat. Kimbra, all of which were in regular rotation.

In late 2011 (during my second year of uni), I started my job at my local high-street opticians where Radio 2 would be blasting out each day. In those early months, I don’t really remember any songs in particular, but, in late 2012/early 2013, I remember one song by a certain Ms T. Swift, and that was We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together. In full Radio 2 fashion, it was played at least once every 2 hours, and this was before I became a full on Swifite. While it’s probably not one of my most favourite Taylor Swift songs, every time I hear it I’m taken back to those early mornings waiting for things to get busy.

Finally, completing this edition of Sounds of Me is Thrift Shop by Macklemore. Once again keeping with the eclectic theme, Thrift Shop is a song that I discovered during my third year of uni, the year in which I went out more than the entire three years put together. It reminds me of nights out with my friend, Amy, drinking vodka shot sticks in Revs, Cherrybomb cocktails in NB’s, and often skiving off lectures to go to Greggs. Even now, just hearing it takes me back to evenings of getting ready and pre-drinking vanilla Smirnoff.

So, I’m hoping that this selection of songs is slightly less cringe than last time, but I’ll leave that to you to decide.

The Playlist

Special – Avenue Q

There’s A Fine, Fine Line – Avenue Q

Winter – Joshua Radin

Come Around – Rhett Miller

American Girl – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

Hey Soul Sister – Train

5,6,7,8 – Steps

Waiting for a Star to Fall – Boy Meets Girl

My Life Would Suck Without You – Kelly Clarkson

Cry – Kelly Clarkson

Already Gone – Kelly Clarkson

Only Hope – Switchfoot

Torn – Natalie Imbruglia

Shut Up – Black Eyed Peas

We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together – Taylor Swift

Thrift Shop – Macklemore

Featured image by Math on Unsplash.

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