Welcome to my “SOUNDS LIKE” series! This is where I recount specific parts of my life where I have strong musical memories. (I know it’s selfish, that’s why it’s on my blog.)
If you look at the music I grew up listening to, you can clearly see how I got to like certain sounds and certain artists. I didn’t grow up in a musical household, but from a very young age, I made it a musical household.
My dad always tells this story of how in my babbling stage, I would scream from the backseat “MUUUU PAPI MUUUU!!” (meaning I wanted to hear music) and I would not stop until he turned on the music. Early proof that I was made for this kinda stuff.
In an effort to calm an insistent child, my parents made sure there was always music playing in the car and at home growing up. My family has always known that music is the way to my heart, eager to share artists and songs they love. I thank them for encouraging my love of music and helping me expand my musical horizons.
I want to take this moment to take you on a musical journey to see how each of my nuclear family members have affected my music taste and some memories are associated with the songs I’m sharing today.
My mom grew up in El Salvador in the 1960s and 1970s, a really turbulent time and place but arguably some of the best decades for music. Her taste lies in brilliant, emotional storytelling and a moving performance. From the country-rock sensibilities of Creedence Clearwater Revival to the emotional opera of Il Divo, if I heard something reeeeaaalllyy emotional playing on a Saturday morning, I knew my mom was up and cleaning. But truly, the music my mom loves is what taught me to use music as a language, to explain how I feel through lyrics and melody. There’s a lot of songs that she loves that will always remind me of her.
-Who’ll Stop the Rain – Creedence Clearwater Revival
My mom once said that this is one of her most favorite songs in the world. I got to take my mom (and dad and brother) to see John Fogerty of CCR at the Hollywood Bowl and I remember she got a little teary-eyed watching this performance. I even learned to play this song on guitar for my mom’s birthday one year; she was joyful at that. Anyway, this song will always remind me of her.
-Donde Estará Mi Primavera – Marco Antonio Solis
This song came out when I was tiny and I remember my mom was in love with this song. Marco Antonio Solis was the lead singer of the band Los Bukis, apparently my first ever band obsession. In addition to screaming “MUUU” for music, I would scream “BUUUU” for Los Bukis. This sentimental song was my introduction to ‘staring out the window and having a moment.’
-I Believe in You (Je crois en toi) – Il Divo ft. Celine Dion
When I hear this song, I automatically am transported to little kid me hiding in my bed on Saturday mornings as my mom wakes up to clean, cook, and make the house presentable. My mom loves vocalists like Andrea Bocelli, Michael Buble, and Josh Groban—you know, the kings of classical pop. It’s because of her that I’ve been able to stay educated on the more cultural types of music.
Operator (That’s Not the Way It Feels) – Jim Croce
I thank my mom for introducing me to the genius of the 1970s singer-songwriters. From Jim Croce’s vivid storytelling to Neil Diamond’s iconic inventiveness to John Denver’s tender melodies, my mom’s fascination with these types of songwriters has encouraged me artistically as I’ve thought about the relationship between music and poetry.
My dad was born in a town in Mexico that is near the California border and at 18 years old, came to make Los Angeles his home in the 1980s. He was fresh out of high school and in a big, bustling musical city. One of my favorite stories he tells (and one I’m very jealous of) is that one day, when he was working as a delivery truck driver in downtown LA, he looked up to see U2 shooting the music video for “Where the Streets Have No Name.” He’s always been a rocker and an advocate for how the 80s completely transformed pop and rock music. I trust his judgment on a good song.
-Rayando el sol – Maná
One of my dad’s favorite bands growing up was Maná. Their pop-rock melodies paired with their longing lyrics always seemed to tell the story of my dad on first listen. This song particularly was one of the songs he’d sing in the car and I always associate it with driving to visit his home in Mexico. Also, I always thought my dad looked like the lead singer.
My Way – Frank Sinatra
This song reminds me of my dad because I think it captures his ambition well. If I inherited my mom’s nostalgic and emotional tendencies, my ambition (and wild, curly hair) come from my dad.
-Don’t You Forget About Me – Simple Minds
I have such vivid memories of this song coming on the radio, my dad turning up the volume (to the dismay of my mom) and excitedly singing along. He doesn’t waste a breath to tell me how great and impactful the 80s were and the more I explore music, he’s right.
-Cough Syrup – Young the Giant
This was a case where my sister showed me this song and then we showed this song to my dad. We didn’t think he’d love it so much until one day I saw him watching a Young the Giant concert on tv and he kept rewinding (because DVR was a thing) to watch their performance of this song. I got to take him to see Young the Giant earlier this year and like I mentioned with my mom tearing up at CCR, we both cried, screamed the words, and danced to this song. In knowing the things my dad has struggled with since the economy crashed in 2008, I know how hard this song hits him.
My older sister
Due to our age gap, I tend to remember my sister as the one who introduced me to pop idols, hip-hop/rap, and angsty alternative/rock music. She, like my dad, was a rocker, but growing up, we loved listening to radio-friendly pop. She was the one who had a really deep impact on my understanding of the rockstars I grew up idolizing. Honestly, I looked up to her first, then everyone else followed.
Estoy Aqui – Shakira
Shakira, my first ever musical idol, was shown to me by my sister. This was the first song I loved from her. According to our parents, my sister and I would dance around to this song together all the time. It was a real treat to see Shakira at the El Dorado World Tour with my sister because we went back to being those little girls singing in Spanglish.
Pieces of Me – Ashlee Simpson
My sister and I soaked up Ashlee Simpson’s music like sponges. It was angsty yet poppy, a perfect transition from our pop idol days to her alt-rock phase. This song specifically reminds me of when we would watch music videos on YouTube and then download songs on Limewire. Oh, the wild west days of the internet. She was the one that showed me how to do all that…and I might’ve just ratted her out on that. We’re terribly sorry.
Sugar, We’re Going Down – Fall Out Boy
If it wasn’t for my sister, I would have never known the genius of Fall Out Boy and From Under the Cork Tree. This was one of the few albums we played on repeat during road trips. I felt extra cool knowing the other songs on this album that weren’t played on the radio. As the one that was still stuck in the pop idols phase, I was able to see that seeds were planted for my later fascination with the emo trinity.
Snow (Hey Oh) – Red Hot Chili Peppers
My sister is the reason that I love and appreciate KROQ and ALT 98.7. But I had to include this song because of a funny memory. We used to live in a really hilly part of LA. My sister was driving my cousins, younger brother and me around and decided to drive a little more recklessly as we went up and down the hills in our neighborhood to the tune of Snow (Hey Oh) on the radio. She ended up getting us in a fender bender with the lady she recognized as the the hostess from the Denny’s she would always go to. My brother ended up being scared of her driving and I ended up with a funny memory.
My Younger Brother
Because of OUR age gap, my brother was the one that benefited from me. But the interesting thing is that recently, he’s flipped it on his head. I’ve been surprised recently to see how nostalgic HE is for mid-to-late 2000s Disney Channel stuff. He’s been trying to get me to get Disney+ so he can use it and watch all the shows we used to watch. Turns out he’s as nostalgic as me. In conjunction, it’s because of him that I’ve become more open to SoundCloud rappers since that’s how he listens to music primarily.
Things Will Never Be the Same – Jonas Brothers
I was shocked that when the Jonas Brothers came back this year, my brother was the one enabling me. Looking back, I definitely forced everyone in my family to listen to them because once my sister could drive, I took control of the music selection. Little did I know, my brother would actually learn to love their songs. I got to take him to their concert at the Hollywood Bowl and it was quite a bond strengthener for him to see me completely lose it. Anyways, he said this is his favorite song from them.
Lucid Dreams – Juice WRLD
I didn’t like this song when it first came out, but after my brother made a case for it, I warmed up to it. My brother is my one connection to the generation below me and he’s able to explain to me SoundCloud and TikTok’s role in music today. While nostalgia on Disney Channel pop bonds us, the songs he listened to through his friends further us.
Death By a Thousand Cuts – Taylor Swift
My brother unironically likes Taylor Swift. I don’t care if he thinks other people think that’s not cool for a guy. I went through the same thing (but more on that nunaced situation later). He talks to me about her music with a genuine appreciation for the music and that’s nice to do since she (seemingly) can’t be separated from the stories in the media.
Magnolia – Playboy Carti
My brother said Playboy Carti is his favorite SoundCloud rapper. Not gonna lie to y’all, I can’t really vibe with this song. But, I can see how it’s popular. It’s interesting to me that my brother isn’t that into rock music like the rest of us are. I guess you can credit that to the whole rap stars are the new rockstars thing. Don’t know what I’m talking about? I’ll explain it later, but for now, go see what Post Malone‘s doing.
My contributions to this playlist show the evolution of how I thought about my life and family through the years. These are all songs I’ve shared with my family in some way or another and they have their stamp of approval.
Pies Descalzos, Sueños Blancos – Shakira
My sister and I used to get scolded all the time for walking around barefoot. We were aware of how my mom wanted to run the household, but we liked to bend the rules as much as we could. This youthful song explains my early view of my family best: my siblings are my partners in crime and my parents, though they mean well, just don’t get us. What I love about this song is that it describes the Latino generation gap between kids and parents. We were well aware of it as kids.
Read My Mind – The Killers
Ah yes, the quintessential, teenage angst song. Sam’s Town by the Killers is one of my all-time favorite albums and I always associate it with two things: the road trips my family used to go on and the restlessness I felt about moving out of the part of Los Angeles I grew up in. In my young eyes, where I grew up was a “two-star town” and I was eager to leave and prove myself to it and my family. But growing up, I don’t think they could read my mind about it.
One Fine Wire – Colbie Caillat
By the time I got to graduating high school, I began to find out that the happy childhood I had was a kept-up appearance. It was difficult seeing my parents argue near me when I had never really seen them have confrontations growing up. This song was a favorite when I was 14 and learning to write lyrics but as an 18 year old longing to leave home for college, this song said why.
This Was a Home Once – Bad Suns
I included this song on this playlist as a way to wrap this playlist with a pretty, glittery bow. Pretty much everything in this song is scarily true in my life, except I’m the little sister and I don’t “wear a ring in the nose.” But why this song needs to be here is that it signifies the shift in my relationship with my family. I love them a lot despite the painful stuff I’ve learned about what they’ve been through but we’ve gotten to a place where we’re not kids anymore and somehow, we still need each other. There’s grace in learning how to communicate with my family and in learning how I can help each of them as an adult. This was a home once, but it’ll always be a home I’m thankful for.
(Polaroid photos courtesy of my nephew, who might have a talent for photography as a 5 year old.)