If you follow me on Grooveshark (yes, people actually do, and to those people: I’m sorry that I listen to Soul Decision’s “Faded” every day), you will see that today I created a playlist entitled “Middle School”. Elementary school gave me many songs that would become representative of major experiences in my life–among them, “Ghetto Superstar”. Once at Sports Camp our section had to participate in a camp-wide lipsyncing contest and we unanimously chose “Ghetto Superstar”. Let me clarify that none of us could relate to the subject matter on a personal level, nor did we realize that the chorus was a rewrite of “Islands in the Stream”. I wanted to do the Mya lipsyncing part and was certain that I could do it better than the limp haired girl who ended up doing it, but I wasn’t brave enough to put myself up for it as I knew I would never be allowed to leave the house in the tube top and short skirt that such a role demanded. My mother wasn’t a fool. I don’t think I was even allowed to own a tubetop.
Anyway. Middle School. What was the music that really influenced me during those formative years? Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon? Fleetwood Mac? The Beatles’ White Album? No, it was the early 2000s and I was an Indian girl living in the South Bay Area of California, and my vision of the perfect boyfriend was an older boy who drenched himself in Acqua di Gio and drove a Honda Civic with rims and tinted windows. This is the music that I lived and dreamt to:
1. Every Ja Rule song.
A highlight I liked to rap along with: “Stop the complaints and drop the order restraints, our sex life’s a game so back me down in the paint”
2. Nivea ft. Jagged Edge: “Don’t Mess With My Man”.
I did not have a man but this song made me sure that if I ever did, I wouldn’t take no bitches trynna take my baby. Cause it would have been hard to find a brother that was down for me, you know?
3. Ludacris ft. Shawna: “Fantasy”
This was literally the raciest song I had ever heard. It still might be. Primarily, I learned that there is something called a 50 yard line on a football field, and that Ludacris could lick and spank women in many different public locations, including libraries. No one was safe.
4. Amanda Perez: “Angel”
Look I grew up in South San Jose and she was “of Mexican descent” so I listened to it a lot okay? I later found out that she was from Fort Wayne, Indiana and felt vaguely tricked.
5. Truth Hurts ft. Rakim: “Addictive”
A woman with the stage moniker “Truth Hurts” sampled an old Hindi film song. I didn’t understand Hindi or anything, but I am Indian and so my friend Shweta and I, the only two Indian girls among our middle school friends, got pretty excited when this came on at the middle school dance. It was like the only song I could claim having some deeper understanding of that my classmates presumably could not access. “This is actually from an Indian song”, I would say knowingly. I recall moving my body to this song in a way that I thought vaguely suggested “sexy bellydance”, but that in retrospect looked more like “Bollywood-theme party stripper having a seizure”. (Note to Indian girls everywhere: Stop.)
6. Kylie Minogue: “Can’t Get You Outta My Head”
I always wondered how her boobs didn’t fall out of that deep cowlneck in the video. After watching it every day, my school dance style changed from Oriental epilepsy to a disjointed kind of rhythmic pulsing born of my belief that I looked beautifully caught up in the music, captured in the lights of the colored disco ball just like Kylie was caught in the light of the setting sun on the rooftop at the end of the video. I don’t think I really grasped how much of that “caught in the light” thing was about camera work and a magical thing called special effects.
7. That KC and Jojo or whatever song they would play during slow dances.
One you’re like a dream come true. Two, just wanna be with you. Three, cause it’s plain to see that you’re the only one for me. Four, repeat steps one through three. Five, make you fall in love with me, if ever I believe my work is done, then I’ll start back at one. I’m pretty sure that 1-3 don’t qualify as “steps” to revisit, and that they are instead vague statements and observations. I was usually not asked to slow dance, but I comforted myself by being embarrassed for everyone who was slow dancing to this song–weren’t they listening to the lyrics, awkwarddd!