I saw TikTok so jarring last Saturday morning that it felt like a personal attack. And I have to talk about it.
When I was 14 and getting into of the world of music outside of the Jonas Brothers and Radio Disney, these were the songs and artists I gravitated towards. They were feminine, quirky, theatrical, deeply emotional, and wise. I felt like these songs allowed me to be me.
And yes, I discovered these artists all on Pandora Radio. Yup, before I was a Spotify hoe, I was a Pandora kid.
I remember spending hours listening to different artists from this genre of pop with the intention of studying the feeling and sonic tendencies behind them. Whether it was a bouncy pop song with a message or a deeply moving ballad, I wanted to save all these songs in my memory bank as I embarked on my songwriting journey.
I started writing songs the summer before I started high school with the intent of wanting to explore my big emotions and voice things I wasn’t confident enough to say out loud. Growing up as a golden child of sorts, I was always thinking about looking presentable and making my parents proud of me so it felt awkward to learn to be honest in this new space. As I entered my teens, I found it really difficult to rein in my emotions because I didn’t have a model of how to do that healthily. I figured though, people find emotions way more palatable when they hear it in a song, so why not make this my private playground.
The first song I ever wrote was called “Bottle” and if you think it was about bottling up my emotions, you’d be absolutely right. I was definitely thinking about Colbie Caillat’s “Midnight Bottle” when writing that one, even though she was talking about wine and I was way too young to drink lol.
Every once in a while I revisit my long playlist with all of these female singer-songwriters for inspiration or to just ground me when I feel alone in my feelings. This playlist is an honest extension of a version of me that I’ve spent the better half of 10 years learning how to care for. I’ve slowly started to share the songwriting side of me with the world and as weird and terrifying as it’s been, I can’t discount the joy I feel when I write a really good song that I think might speak to someone. I know the 14 year old Colbie Caillat wannabe in me is proud of me when I do.
Honestly, if you really want to know me, you’ll learn a lot by listening to these songs and the artists I obsessed over during this era of my listening habits. So without further adieu…
I wanted to be Colbie Caillat SO BAD when I was little. She was so wholesome and bright and I felt seen in her romantic, beachy optimism. She is one of the musical loves of my life because she represents that Disney Princess/childlike joy in me. I hope to do a deep dive on her music soon because homegirl’s got bangers for days. Might do it soon because I’m reconnecting with that idealistic of me lately.
Sara Bareilles was the bridge to my high school days with her theatrical ballads. I auditioned for my first musical in high school by singing “Gravity”. It taught me the power of singing your feelings and was great at teaching me how to enunciate in musical theatre singing. This is one of the best love songs ever and I’m always reminded of that scene in the show Community where I realized I was most like Annie.
Ingrid Michaelson’s soft voice and descriptive words spoke to me deeply. I still remember listening to her song “Locked Up” and my mind being absolutely BLOWN. I love how the song stews in anger but it has a hopeful tone to it. I felt like I was getting a masterclass in how to craft a quirky angry rock song. I cared a lot about embracing my quirky side in high school because that was the theatre kid thing to do. I mean, I did choose “Quirky Kelly” as my improv class name…yeah ok I’m cringing too.
Lights’s first album The Listening blew my 14 year old mind. Every song was just banger after banger. I felt so cool finding an indie/alternative artist that I really jived with. She really set the framework for the indie pop/rock love I’ve steeped in for my 20s so far. Not to mention, her latest album continues that songwriting magic she has.
I would be remiss in not admitting to the deep impact that Taylor’s Speak Now album had on me. It was released in the fall of my freshman year and tell me why I have the most vivid memory of listening to “Enchanted” on repeat as I got ready for my first high school dance where I stared longingly at my crush all night. Let’s just say that Taylor waiting to release Speak Now and 1989 has me on the edge of my seat because arguably those are her two most important albums to me.