High School Halls: The Soundtrack of Our Teens

Welcome to another High School Halls post on Deep-Fried Friday. I’ve been taking an extended look at aspects of the high school years, both then (when I attended in the 80’s) and now.

Today’s topic is a fun one: Music.

Of course, what you experience in any generation of music depends on what you listen to. Are you a country music fan? A punk rocker? A folk follower? Do you turn your radio to pop, rap, or R&B? If I ask two different kids what music characterized their teenage years, their soundtracks would be different.

But certain songs carry weight in the moment and in our memories. Certain music artists connect with what we feel and experience. Certain tunes or lyrics can spark a visceral reaction.

I’ll be covering music from my teens, but I’m a bit lost on the current music scene. Thankfully, Gavin, teenage son of YA author Coleen Patrick, agreed to let me interview him on today’s music scene. First, me . . .

That Was Then

What trends characterized my teen years?

Hard rock/heavy metal became mainstream with bands like: Black Sabbath, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Guns & Roses, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Metallica, Motley Crue, Pat Benatar, Van Halen, and Whitesnake.

Guns N Roses
Guns N Roses

Rap music took hold with artists like: Beastie Boys, Big Daddy Kane, Ice T, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Queen Latifah, and Run D.M.C.

New wave became the music of nightclubs and videos with the likes of: The B-52’s, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Devo, Duran Duran, Erasure, Eurythmics, Flock of Seagulls, Talking Heads, and Yaz.

Soft rock singers included: Air Supply, Alan Parsons Project, Chris Isaak, Christopher Cross, Peter Cetera (Chicago), Lionel Richie, and Whitney Houston.

Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston

Rock-n-roll in its basic form was brought back by artists like: Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Bryan Adams, Huey Lewis & the News, John Mellencamp, and Steve Winwood.

And then there were general Pop artists like: Cyndi Lauper, Elton John, The Go-Go’s, The Police, Prince, and U2.

Looking at the mainstream pop world, I think three M’s deserve a spotlight: Michael, Madonna, and MTV. They are intertwined, of course, because Madonna and Michael Jackson likely wouldn’t have experienced their vast success and become the King and Queen of 80’s Pop without being able to show their dance moves, their fashion, and their creativity.

Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson

MTV launched in August 1981 and, in my opinion, set the tone for the whole decade. Suddenly, we could see the music artists–not just a photo on an album cover or in a magazine, or those few who attended a concert. The masses saw them perform, in whatever way they wished to present their songs.

The top-selling artists of the decade, however, didn’t all have choreographers. Here are the top 10 by most #1 songs:

Steve Wonder (4)
Prince (4)
Bon Jovi (4)
Lionel Richie (5)
George Michael (5)
Hall & Oates (5)
Whitney Houston (7)
Phil Collins (7)
Madonna (7)
Michael Jackson (9)

Who were my favorites? What was my soundtrack? Well, my music taste ran the gamut (and still does). I liked everything from Janet Jackson to Rick Springfield to Rush (all concerts I attended). I never got into rap music, though. And I spent some of that decade discovering artists like the Beach Boys, the Beatles, David Bowie, Harry Belafonte (saw him in concert too), Fleetwood Mac, Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, and Led Zeppelin.

Maybe my taste is best seen by which 80’s artists I have music from. In my CD collection, you’ll find Kate Bush, Janet Jackson, John Mellencamp, Journey, Huey Lewis & the News, Peter Gabriel, Steve Winwood, and Yes. However, I really miss the cassettes I once owned of Genesis, ‘Til Tuesday, Robert Palmer, and Rush.

I also attended concerts by the following 80’s artists: Cyndi Lauper, Huey Lewis & the News, Janet Jackson (twice), Rod Stewart, Rush, Tina Turner, and Yes. I know I’m missing a couple, but memory fails.

This Is Now

G sings
Gavin, our teen music expert

Gavin has eclectic taste and a music background. He participates in chorus, an acapella group, and the music production club at school. He also plays the piano.

Welcome, Gavin! What trends do you see in music for teens today? What music styles are popular?

Pop with electro-dance influences, like dubstep which was very popular last year. Indie music with folk influences, like Mumford & Sons.

I had to look up “dubstep.” Good to  know.

How do most teens listen to music? What are their sources for trying out a new artist or listening to their favorites?

I listen to music using my iPod or YouTube. Spotify is another popular app for listening to music. Pandora is good for discovering new music too.

Do teenagers still attend concerts regularly? Why or why not?

Yes. Even though music is very accessible these days, you can’t recreate the live experience.

I agree. Have YouTube and shows like American Idol, The Voice, and The X Factor affected today’s music? Do they seem to matter to teens?

YouTube for sure. In my opinion, TV hasn’t made big impact on teens.

Who are your own favorites? What music or artists would you put in the soundtrack to your teen years?

My favorites right now are Michael Buble and Frank Sinatra. It’s kind of unusual but I’ve been into jazz for the past year and I like to sing that type of music. Some of the artists that I listened to over the last couple of years include Red, Dead Poetic, Chevelle, Bare Noize, The Avett Brothers, Ben Kweller, and Story of the Year.

Thanks so much, Gavin! I enjoy Michael Buble and Frank Sinatra. I didn’t know anyone else! Guess I’ve been living under a rock or listening to my old music too much. (Okay, yeah, today I listened to The Best of Pat Benatar. *shrug*)

Just in case my readers are not aware either, here are a couple of songs from artists Gavin named–Chevelle and Story of the Year.

If you have any idea what this song means, let me know.

Liked everything but the screaming. (Does that make me old?)

Now it’s your turn! What would the soundtrack to your teen years include?

Sources: Billboard, Rolling Stone, Rotten Tomatoes, Rapworld, Like Totally 80s, Yahoo-Top Twenty New Wave Bands-Part 1, Yahoo-Top Twenty New Wave Bands-Part 2, Yahoo-Ultimate 80s Soft Rock Playlist, Nostalgia Cafe

13 thoughts on “High School Halls: The Soundtrack of Our Teens

  1. Mine is everything you listed under the heavy metal category. I still listen to a lot of this, and my 17 yo daughter likes a lot of what I listen to too, although her favorite is indie music (I guess what we would call “alternative”).

  2. It was cool to read a young person’s take on what teens listen to today. I have two teens (14 and 18) so I hear a lot of what they enjoy and some of it is now on my iPhone. I used to think rap was crap and now I don’t. And my daughter likes a lot of the “screamers” which I don’t enjoy. I love being introduced to new singers via their selections on the radio in the car. It has truly opened my musical preferences.

  3. Loved this! The funny thing is, I was more familiar with what you shared than what Gavin shared, LOL. I love the classic rock stuff (thanks, Dad), but *my* soundtrack would definitely be all those ’90s pop songs from the Spice Girls, N*Sync, Destiny’s Child, Britney Spears, etc. Good Charlotte and Eminem are favorites too!

    1. Who is Good Charlotte? I don’t know that one. And I was a Backstreet Boys fan more than N*Sync. 😉 It’s due to my dad that I’m a fan of Neil Diamond, Olivia Newton-John, ABBA, and Elvis. I hope my kids get some of my musical taste. Thanks, Karen!

  4. I was mostly a pop music kind of girl. 🙂 I had phases with hair bands, alternative and even blues, but almost every weekend you could find me taping the pop songs from the top 40 radio program. I still have those cassettes!.

    1. I like blues, Coleen! I was so impressed that Gavin listened to Buble and Sinatra, by the way. I also forgot to mention one cassette I really miss–The Best of Blondie.

  5. Jesse’s Girl by Rick Springfield, Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes, Roxanne by the Police. Def Leppard, Poison, Guns n Roses, Jane’s Addiction, Fear. Oh, and Prince. I thought he was super sexy. Still do, really.

    1. We have some of the same taste there, Catie! I wasn’t into Poison or Jane’s Addiction, but I like all the rest. I still remember going to see Purple Rain with Prince and being mesmerized by the music. 🙂

  6. Oh, the memories. Nothing takes me back to a time more than the music. I’m covered in flashbacks 🙂 My hubs normally insists that Rush has only one female fan, me, I’m looking forward to telling him they have another, lol. My first concert I mentioned before was Olivia Newton John, but the next concerts were INXS, the Beach Boys, and Cinderella. Oh yeah, now there’s a mix. Love your taste in music, Julie. Fun post.

    1. Geddy, Neil, and Alex are awesome! You should also talk to Jennette Marie Powell. I think she did a school paper once on a Rush song. How cool is that?! LOL.

      And SO jealous about the Beach Boys too. *sigh*

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