High School Never Dies
The rotation on my iPod Classic from 2008-2012.
This is a quintessential high school album in every way. The endless buffet of Facebook status-worthy lyrics, the pining, the whiplash between overconfident and vulnerable. That's what high school feels like.
It's release really felt like a moment. The upbeat songs played at every party in high school that I went to after it's release, and the slow songs were the soundtrack to smoking a bong in your friend's room next to the window. It felt like this album was for everyone no matter the genre you came at it from.
I felt so cool and pretentious listening to this in my shitty town - which I know isn't exactly good but its a nice break from hating yourself. I felt like I was invited into a world of summer homes and disposable income when I listened. Homoerotic encounters and all. (he was a diplomats son...)
I will never forget listening to this album for the first time with my best friend at the time, Vanida. I came over to her house one summer afternoon and she could not wait to show me the drop in pyramids, super rich kids, and most importantly the way she felt like Forest Gump was written specifically for me. As a gay kids best gal pal, she knew exactly how I felt in all of my romantic crushes and she sat there singing all the lyrics to this song with a huge smile on her face like. "This is your song dan!!!"
It changed the game in music, but we didn't know that at the time. We were just smoking pot and along for the ride.
By most standards, Lights is a very successful musician. For some reason though, I feel like she has never truly gotten her flowers - especially for this album. No other artist at the time (sorry owl city) was so good at fusing pop-punk subject matter with a dream-pop soundscape.
Even the cornier lyrics feel endearing, because the sounds surrounding them take you away from earth where things are cringe or corny or cheesy - whatever galaxy Lights takes us to hear is a judgment free zone. Her vocals are stunning - and I love how her voice sounds ducking in and out of its auto-tuned peaks. Drive My Soul is one of my favourite love songs of all time.
This album is pure fun and also includes some great lyricism incredible delivery. I'd loved hip hop for years, but it was so refreshing to a) hear it from a woman and b) not include the misogyny and homophobia that all other major rappers at the time were pushing.
Except for that stupid Eminem verse.
The alienating feeling of the suburbs gets under your skin. It is not for the faint of heart, and I don't think its something that if you grew up in a city you could possibly understand. Arcade Fire elevated (somewhat pretentiously) this phenomenon to new heights on this album. Sprawl II, the album's best song, articulates this the best. You know your kind is in the city, but you cant escape the feeling that they don't want you there.
In pop-punk, its "I'll never leave this town :( ", in country music its "I'll never leave this town :)" But on Fearless, a perfect country pop album, Taylor flips that. "this is a big world, that was a small town, there in my rear view mirror disappearing now" she sings on White Horse. Throughout this album, she expresses all of the small town high school feelings good and bad in brilliant form. It was the comforting soundtrack of my bus rides to school. Even though she was a thousand miles away, the only person who I felt understood me back that was a musical legend in the making, playing a sparkly guitar on stage singing the songs she wrote to other kids just like me.
I know I am cheating a little here, including 2021's "Taylor's Version" of Fearless, but it just sounds so good and I do prefer it over 2008's.