Recently, in preparation for yet another one of my long journeys, I downloaded two new albums to keep me occupied for the 8+ hours in transit. But then, partway into the trip, something odd hit me: while both of these records were released within the last few months, they're each from groups I've been listening to for over a decade. That's right, it's more than 10 years later, and much has changed; however, the same couple of band names fill my playlist.
Content-wise, it's hard to truly call either band "the same" as the ones I fell in love with when I was still a teen. Both were on the radio then; both are again today. Yet they've grown up, they've found themselves (and their sound) in a very different way, and they've moved on towards the future.
It's a well-known fact that the music we love during our formative years will always be a part of who we are at our core, our identity. But there are plenty of fans who will discard their once-favorite bands as the musical groups continue to develop as artists and the tracks change. Whether a group is accused of "selling out" or simply growing up, the music isn't the same, and neither is the experience for the once-14-year-old listening.
Many of us hope that the things we love will never change. When that recipe is alerted, even just slightly, it reminds us that nothing is ever truly the same. We remember that the passing of time is inevitable, and there's no way to hit pause or replay on life.
I look back on these two bands' catalogues - each more than five albums deep - and see what it means to get older. I look back and laugh at that weird reggae phase one went through, or how the other was impacted by the time when rap and rock were at the height of their unity, and I think about how I went through that "skull phase" for a little while back then and cringe. I listen to the albums which first brought us together and there's certainly nostalgia and a deep love for sure, but it also gets old quickly, as though I've heard them just one too many times and the delight is slightly dampened because of it. I am the listener I was back then, just as these bands aren't the same today.
So you see, it's not a matter of a band getting better or worse - the music was never Mozart in the first place, and it definitely isn't now - but about the songs growing and changing, just as I have. The teen years may have a certain level of ease I associate with them now that I'm in the real world, but let's face it, you couldn't PAY me to be fourteen again for a day, let alone a week. Getting older is terrifying, but it isn't nearly as scary as Peter Pan's alternative.
My past has informed my present and will always be a part of my future, but growing up means learning which pieces to hold on to and which to let go. Therefore, while others may toss formerly-beloved artists aside for not remaining true to an idea of what they once were, I chose to bring along a few of my favorite bands for the ride. And I hope they'll continue to seek out the best versions of themselves, just as I attempt to do.