Transient but deep. Fleeting but real. Common but unique. The precarious and vulnerable teenage mind. Sometimes, teenage angst lived side by side with mental illness. Sometimes it simply intruded on otherwise happy and carefree times. It made everything feel 10x harder. Hands up who would go through their teen years again? No-one? Me neither. But here’s a few nostalgic tunes instead – to re-live it, without having to endure the pain again. The soundtrack to the common case of teenage angst and the brutal emotions of the every day teenage mind…
Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
Obvious – yes. But it was THE song that tempted millions of kids away from the seriously uncool realms of Roxette and Amy Grant. The mainstream introduced us, but once we were part of our ‘alternative’ world, we condemned the popsters who wanted to join in. This was about our identity. Nobody else was allowed in. We watched it on The Word because we were too young to get served in the pub. And if you could find the original 12” of ‘Love Buzz’ you were inevitably balancing precariously on a very high teenage pedestal.
Living a quaint village life just didn’t cut it. Not when there were total rock chicks like Courtney Love out there tearing it up and bagging men like Kurt Cobain. Still, you could play make believe for a while. Smoke a Marlboro Red (out your bedroom window of course so mum doesn’t find out), find the laciest vest top that Dorothy Perkins stocked and throw Teenage Whore on the record deck of your cheap 90s hi-fi. Let’s Pretend – just like they told us to in the 80s (there was always a window in those scenarios too).
Sometimes though, it all got a bit too dark and shouty, and you needed a bit of bubbly but respectable pop to lighten things up without taking the giant leap towards Kylie. Cue the Cardigans. So full of saccharine you couldn’t help but feel sweet and fuzzy. Goes well with a bottle of Lambrini.
You couldn’t really break up by text in the 90s. You had to say it out loud. Knowing that someone as cool as Gwen Stefani had been dumped as well helped a little, but it was still the end of your life when it happened to you.
Michael Stipe told us that everybody hurts. But really, we knew he hadn’t experienced anything quite as traumatic as what we had just gone through when we experienced our first serious break up. Still, it helped give the tears that pleasurable quality that makes your chest ache but in a good way.
Now you’re trying to rationalise the why. Why did you get dumped? Why you? Why is she better? Your life is over. You hate yourself. It must be you. You’re weird. And ugly. And unpopular. You’re destined for a life of misery and Tori Amos is the only other person in the world who knows how you feel. Sadly for your parents who are unintentionally listening from downstairs, you can’t hit the high notes like Tori can. But with every swig of Taboo and Lemonade, you fall deeper into despair, wailing like a banshee and crying into your diary pages (you also discover you can’t write lyrics like Tori can).
Newly single you hit the ever so slightly ‘alternative’ clubs in your baggy jeans and cropped t-shirt and danced until you couldn’t breathe to get the bitter taste of rejection out your system. And this was something that you could actually dance to (anyone tried dancing to Teenage Whore?) Born Slippy. And Trainspotting. Being pleasantly reminded that our ex wasn’t the only bloke in the world – or in fact the UK. Fit Scottish blokes existed! AND you could stop pretending that you didn’t like dance music – because Underworld and the Prodigy made it acceptable.
A little bit older and wiser. Your identity is becoming less black and white and you’re looking for a more sophisticated take on life. And a more sophisticated appearance. Time to wave bye bye Seattle and hello Bristol. Being on trend is cool again. And with that in mind, you switch from Lambrini to Chardonnay (because it’s the only wine you know other then ‘red’ or ‘white’).
OK it was a cover. But after finding Bristol we found Tricky and Martina. And it was time to get political. Kind of. Reading the Guardian, understanding very little but knowing how good you look picking it up from the paper shop. You knew your mind. You listened to whatever you wanted (providing Alexis Petridis gave it a good review) and you were ready to change the world.
Baby One More Time – Britney Spears
EXCEPT, you had a dark secret. The key to destroying your universe. If ANYONE should walk in on you performing your carefully choreographed Britney routine and singing along to every word (because you knew them off by heart) life would simply not be worth living. Even though every single friend you had, no matter how much black lipstick, no matter how many Sonic Youth t-shirts, no matter how many Ramones albums they owned (NB: for those of you who don’t know, they are a real band, not just a t-shirt) you could easily find yourself bopping away to this one. Get to your 30s and 40s and you can all breathe a sigh of relief when you can finally unearth your Spice Girls and Kylie collections and play them for the first time in public.
I’d like to take this opportunity to also thank Judy Blume, Select magazine and Sun-In hair spray for getting me through those harrowing years. Teenagers of today – we owe you some serious respect.
3 thoughts on “10 songs that capture every shade of 90s teenage angst”
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10 songs that capture every shade of 90s teenage angst – I agree with a pretty much all of your choices although I would have included The Offspring Self Esteem I love how music has the power to transmit feelings that you may not normally be able to convey to people.
Thanks for sharing thiis