My “taste” in music as a kid was pretty average for the ’90s. For the most part, I was into the music that was directly targeted at me: The soundtracks from Disney movies (mostly The Lion King and The Little Mermaid), and the boy bands and pop princesses. Once “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls came out when I was about 9 or 10, I was totally on board with all that pop music had to offer.
Zig a zig ahhhhh
A year or two later, I was in my tween years and TRL debuted on MTV (Carson Daly 4Ever!). Making the Band was part of the TGIF lineup, and Britney released …Baby One More Time. (I definitely saw Crossroads at the theater and later owned it on VHS.) I slightly preferred the Backstreet Boys over NSYNC, but made room for both. I remember putting quarter after quarter into a jukebox-type machine at a Pizza Hut on my 12th birthday, playing “Genie In a Bottle” on repeat until the table of grown men next to us got up and left.
This being around the time that formats were changing, I had a mix of both cassettes and CDs (Aqua was on cassette, B*Witched was on CD). I also had a radio in my bedroom that I listened to regularly, knowing the DJs of my local Top 40 station well and always having a good idea of which artists were going to be in the “Top 9 at 9” every weeknight. (Do kids these days even know what radios are? Or are they too busy Snapchatting their BFFs while riding around on hoverboards?)
Instead of buying singles on CDs from Sam Goody, I would usually just wait for them to play the song on the radio, and record it onto a blank cassette, usually picking up the last syllable or two from the DJ’s intro. Such quality.
And then Bon Jovi–beloved 80’s hairband out of New Jersey–made a comeback in their career around the year 2000 and my entire relationship with music changed.
I can’t emphasize enough how little sense any of this makes. I did not have friends or siblings who got me into Bon Jovi. My parents did not have any particular affinity for the band. Jon & the Gang were not on the cover of teen magazines. They did not sell any merchandise directed at 12 year old girls. (Given that the band members were all in their 40s at the time, this would have been fairly creepy if they had.) And although more recently I have come to realize what a true stud Jon is (the man has aged well, let me just say), I wasn’t particularly in love with them in that sense back then. Their music was fun and they just seemed so cool with their big hair and leather jackets.
But “It’s My Life” hit the Top 40 and I couldn’t get it dislodged from my brain. When Jon sang “My heart is like an open highway / Like Frankie said, ‘I did it my way’,” I had no idea who Frankie was. When he sang “Luck ain’t even luck, you gotta make your own breaks,” I felt Jon truly understood me and my 12-year-old problems (whatever they possibly could have been).
From there, I acquired all of Bon Jovi’s albums from the 80s and 90s and then “discovered” bands like Aerosmith, Def Leppard, U2, Twisted Sister, and Van Halen. You know, the usual stuff teen girls are into in the early 2000’s… Ahem.