Their Words Still Speak to Me: Revisiting Teen Pop from My Childhood

by Robine Jean-Pierre

Last night after a long day at school, as I slipped under the covers and into bed, I did something that was long overdue: I looked up a Hannah Montana song on YouTube. I started with “This Is the Life” and next thing you know, I was a dozen songs deep and brimming with romance, joy, teen spirit, excitement, and needless to say, overwhelming nostalgia. I knew that once I had started it would be hard to stop; even though it was approaching 2 a.m. I just kept checking what was in the “Up Next” list under each video and picking the one I wanted to hear most, jumping from stone to stone like a child in a stream.

I love the musical composition of lots of Disney teen artists’ songs, like those of Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, the Jonas Brothers and Selena Gomez. Sure, teen pop is not the most diverse genre out there; the songs do tend to fall into a predictable pattern. But something about these songs was so familiar, so cozy; the lyrics spoke to my heart and even the instrumentation seemed so rich that I couldn’t resist soaking in it all.

Recording one of my own songs (Perfect Love) in a friend’s home-based studio last week made me realize just how much goes into even the simplest modern song. We had started with a preliminary acoustic version–just one layer of guitar, my lead vocals and my own backup vocals harmonizing–but I realized that if I wanted to take it to the next step in a future recording session, I would have to be thorough and specific about what I wanted. When you really listen to a typical song today there is so much going on, so many layers and nuances and effects.

Getting back to my Disney favorites, the beautiful thing about these songs was not just the instrumentation and composition, but of course, the lyrics. So many of today’s songs are too simplified–not that many words, or not much meaning or neither, just vain repetition. That’s why I hold dear to my heart the songs that have a pure, positive, universal message and are not just about sex, drugs and money. Many of these Disney songs talked about innocent romance punctuated by either fear, excitement or both (see Hannah Montana’s “He Could Be the One,” and Demi Lovato’s “Catch Me”); about having standards upon entering a relationship (see Vanessa Hudgens’ “Say OK”); about the love of a father and daughter through the years (Billy Ray Cyrus and Miley Cyrus had a few, such as “I Learned from You”); about friendship and love as a whole, not just romantic love (Hannah Montana’s “You and Me Together” and “Bigger Than Us”). These topics are not necessarily simple, but nearly anyone could relate and benefit from listening.

Some songs that really spoke to me that night were Hannah Montana’s “Make Some Noise” and Demi Lovato’s “La La Land.” “Make Some Noise” has the kind of message you don’t hear enough in mainstream music:

“Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not strong enough
Don’t give up, there’s nothing wrong with just being yourself,
that’s more than enough
So come on and raise your voice
Speak your mind and make some noise…”  

Sometimes we need this reminder, teenagers and grownups alike. Hannah Montana’s music was geared toward predominantly young preteen and teenage girls, I presume, and they are often in need of all the support they can get; they receive a lot of pressure from mainstream media to be something they’re not, and to keep quiet if their opinion is not popular. “La La Land” is a very feisty, edgy, playful song about someone who’s famous but not afraid to be herself, someone who doesn’t let celebrity go to her head. One verse says “who says I can’t wear my Converse with my dress? Oh baby, that’s just me.” The chorus says,

“Some people say I need to be afraid
of losing everything
because of where I
had my start and where I made my name
but everything’s the same
in the la la land machine.”

Demi Lovato had my heart from very early in her career and her voice is as amazing as her songwriting skill (which is an understatement). To see that she started strong, went on a decline, battled her demons and overcame to continue making powerful music is a tremendous feat. Maybe these very words played a part in bringing her back to full recovery, as she realized that she couldn’t let anything change her for the worse. (It would be unjust to not recommend her comeback song, “Skyscraper.”)

I can unashamedly say that many of those songs don’t need to stay in my childhood– they are just as relevant, some even more relevant than before (particularly for the love songs now that I’m of age and engaged). Seeing that some artists like Miley are grown now, and have made drastic changes in their career in terms of target audience, message and style, I could only hope that they are not ashamed of their past, and that they don’t dismiss the beautiful songs they made popular as childish, boring, or cliché. Their words still speak to me.

Dear Summer….Hasta Luego

I’m packing my summer up in a crate until next year. As I sit here reflecting on these past two months, my intention for this post was to say “omg what summer? Blah blah” but then I went on Instagram and coincidentally saw my girl Stef’s post and she said:

“Dear summer, instead of focusing on how quickly you came and went, I will make the BetterLifeChoice to celebrate all of the amazing moments your presence allowed me to have”.

So ok you win Stefanie! I won’t say that the summer TRIED it with its “sneak peek/ trailer/ coming to theaters soon near you” behavior……and how this whole time I was thinking this was just the free trial. A test run. A tryout. A sample. An intro. A pre-game. Ok ok I’m done lol, I won’t say any of it.

In my “pack tha summer up” crate I’m throwing in bodak yellow, the show Power, Woodland Restaurant weekend brunches, frozen strawberry margaritas, cat eye sunglasses, rooftop happy hour, and late night patio moon watching. I’m also throwing in my cousin’s’ wedding, BBQs, restaurant outdoor seating (which I LIVE and DIE for), Nike slides with fresh white pedis, off the shoulder everything, rolled ice cream, my birthday (Aug 19th Leo Nation baby!), the eclipse, some things I shouldn’t say on the internet LOL, and Venti Starbucks pink drink; My “All summer 17” essentials.

I DID play myself though because I haven’t been to the beach OR a pool all summer but it’s been real y’all. I enjoyed it. I’ll tell you what I did take some time to do though.

I worked a lot.

Working on some of the relationships in my life.

I worked on my relationship with ME.

I stopped criticizing myself and stressing scales.

Stopped avoiding crop tops and spaghetti straps.

I stopped holding my head down and avoiding conversation and social media when I had an acne flare up because I decided that slice of pizza was looking too right and calling my name.

I started listening.

I said no…and didn’t feel guilty.

I slowed down.

So I could see, feel, hear,  notice,

Be present.

I stood in front a room of 30 plus people last Thursday facilitating mindfulness and I asked “When’s the last time you just sat and just stared up at the sky and the moon?” Only me and a few other people had our hands up.

This summer I took time to acknowledge and thank the sun, moon, and stars for doing it’s job everyday and never calling out of work like we do every now and again lol. 

As we wrap the summer up it brings up these nostalgic feelings of being out with your friends, family, bae, having your toes out, all that good stuff. Good music, good food, just vibez all around. So like Stef, I’m gonna celebrate all of the amazing moments summer allowed me to have, all of the beautiful memories I’m packing up in the crate. I hope the summer was good to you mi amors because it was great to me.

Until we meet again 90 plus degrees!

 

P.S In case you didn’t know, it’s National Encouragement day.

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-day-of-encouragement/

Send a text to or call people you love today.

Especially those you haven’t spoken to in a while,

or someone whom the ways of the world may be hitting home for them right now…that surprise love is EVERYTHANG.

Tell them you love them, encourage them to keep going.

Sometimes those two words are exactly what someone needs right at the moment you bless them with it.

….Keep Going. love ya

Virtues from Motherhood: A Letter to my Friends

A Letter to my Friends,

In a few days, all three of you will walk across the stage at the Barclay’s center, solidifying the end of a chapter in your lives. I am so proud of each of you, and it has been a privilege to watch you grow and find success. I know each of you will bring such light and greatness to wherever you go next. Though I’ve only had the fortune of knowing you for two years, it feels like we’ve known each other decades and I know I’ve made lifelong friends.

My journey here at City Tech was shaped by you, your presence, your support and all our shared moments of laughter, triumph and at times relief. Until I got here I never had a real college experience, I was never apart of things on campus and I never felt like I belonged, but you all changed that. I looked forward to coming to school every day and sharing classes and breaks together made me feel like I was meant to be here and that I was going to be alright.

I will miss each of you so much when I begin my final semester here in the fall but I’ll share all the great experiences and values I had with you three with the peers I encounter before I leave. When I think back on all my attempts at college and all the times I tried and failed, it no longer seems like such a big deal because I’ve found such great success, and great people here. I want to thank you amazing ladies for letting me into your lives, for sharing your time and input with me, for dealing with me when I was on the brink of a meltdown and most all for being a friend when I felt like I had none. I will always look back on this time of my life as a flourishing, happy and most of all one filled with love and I will always tell my daughter about the experiences I’ve had at City Tech. Congratulations!

Your friend,

Samantha

 

Samantha and Mariah- New Tech Times relaunch 12/15/16

Samantha and Jodieann- New Tech Times relaunch 12/15/16

Samantha and Pam- New Tech Times relaunch 12/15/16