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30 Years Of Music And Memories

Dick Clark once said that “music is the soundtrack of our lives.” In honor of turning the big 3-0 on September 27th, I’ve compiled a list of 30 songs that have earned a spot on the soundtrack of my life. Enjoy!

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1. "Creola" - Jimmy Buffett

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This is my first music memory. I was 2 years old, and my dad (a huge Buffett fan), rocked me to sleep to this song in his rocking chair.

2. "Don't Mess With My Toot Toot" - Rockin' Sidney

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When our family was hanging out at the resort lodge while on vacation “up north,” you’d always find me in the corner by the jukebox. Don’t ask me how I was aware of this song at 7 years old, but somehow it became one of my favorites to play on the jukebox when I was playing DJ one quarter at a time.

3. "The Sign" - Ace of Base

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I remember this as the first CD I ever bought. I was in 2nd grade.

4. "Waterfalls" - TLC

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Around the time I bought my Ace of Base CD, my cousins copied their CrazySexyCool CD onto a cassette tape for me, since my parents deemed the CD inappropriate for a kid my age. I later got in big trouble for bringing my cassette copy over to a neighbor friend’s house.

5. "Because You Loved Me" - Celine Dion

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When it comes to my taste in music, I always say I love country because of my dad and divas because of my mom, and everything else is just me. Some of my first music memories with my mom are her listening to Celine’s Falling Into You album. Much later in life, this song has come to remind me of one of the most influential friends in my life. The people we hold closest can have a profoundly positive impact on us that we may not realize at the time. This song is about that for me.

6. "Wannabe" - Spice Girls

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This song is when I would say I first REALLY got into music. As eclectic as my tastes are at times, I’ve clearly always been a pop kid at my core. This was the summer before I turned 10 years old. I wasn’t allowed to watch MTV, which my babysitter knew, but she let me watch anyway. She got me into the Spice Girls, as well as Hanson and Marilyn Manson, both of whom I’ll get to. Keep reading.

7. "Mmmbop" - Hanson

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Along with “Wannabe,” this song was a big part of the start of my pop music obsession. Beyond that, though, this song contains one of my favorite (and in my mind a bit profound) ‘life lesson’ lyrics: “So hold on to the ones who really care; in the end, they’ll be the only ones there.” So true.

8. "One Way Ticket" - LeAnn Rimes

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LeAnn Rimes has the honor of being my first favorite singer / first obsession. I was flipping through the channels and stopped on a concert of hers airing on the Disney Channel. This was the song that made me fall in love. She was my first concert back in 1998. I was 11. She was 15.

9. "...Baby One More Time" - Britney Spears

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I remember EXACTLY when Britney broke. She was one of those artists. This song blew up over Christmas Break my 6th grade year. I remember nothing of her before Christmas, and then when we started school again in January, everybody was singing this song and talking about this “new singer” – Britney Spears.

10. "God Must Have Spent A Little More Time On You" - *NSYNC

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When I was a shy 6th grader in Alabama, I went to a school dance with some kids from the drama club, and this 8th grade girl asked me to dance when this song came on. It was my first slow dance, and I’ll never forget her kind gesture that made me feel included in the party for the first time that night.

11. "I Wanna Love You Forever" - Jessica Simpson

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One of my favorite memories of 7th grade was going to a Valentine’s Day party with my “girlfriend” (I know, right?!), and we slow danced to this song. It reminds me of that feeling you have at 13 years old of how everything, whether good or bad, feels as if it will last forever. You quickly learn that everything can only be “infinite while it lasts.”

12. "One Sweet Day" - Mariah Carey & Boys II Men

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When my cousin Jeff passed away unexpectedly in 2002, I remember putting this song on almost immediately. I don’t know what triggered me to think of this song (which was already quite old at the time) so quickly that day, but ever since, this song has been my go to for grieving the loss of a loved one.

13. "Fighter" - Christina Aguilera

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Christina Aguilera’s Stripped album got me through high school. I do not say that lightly. I had a really tough time fitting in in Alabama (middle school was especially hard). Although I basically grew up in Alabama, I clung so hard to claiming the Midwest as home that when I returned to Wisconsin at age 17, it felt as if I had never really left. Having nothing but music to turn to a lot of the time, the Stripped album spoke to the insecurities and pains of coming of age I was dealing with alone, and helped me understand things better. It also made me feel empowered to start thinking for myself – something that can be hard to do when you’re an awkward teen odd duck like ME living in the Bible Belt. Other faves on this album are “Soar,” “Cruz,” and “The Voice Within.” I literally listened to this album nonstop for almost a year and a half.

14. "Intervention" - Madonna

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American Life is hands down my favorite Madonna album. Iconic artist status aside, the album totally changed my perspective on life and the world. It was a different dialogue that I needed to hear at age 17 in order to grow as a person. I can’t pick an ultimate favorite song on the album, but this is one of them.

I can’t tell you how much I believe in this lyric:

“And I know that love will change us forever; And I know that love will keep us together.”

15. "Till I Collapse" - Eminem

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Thanks to my sister, we both got really into Eminem when I was in high school. The Eminem Show was one of my favorite albums growing up. Before there was “Lose Yourself,” there was this song. I chose this particular song because, to this day, it still makes it onto most of my inspirational/motivational playlists.

16. "American Idiot" - Green Day

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With the tragedy of 9/11 happening in my freshman year of high school, the second half of my high school years were very interesting politically charged times. The war in Iraq had just begun, and 2004 was an election year, and everybody had something to say about it all. American Idiot was one of my favorite musical commentaries on what was going on in the world. My senior year of high school, I saw Green Day live on their tour for this album. Being the corny, sentimental person I am, I hold dear to my heart the fact that this was my first time crying at a concert. They were performing “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" and a sea of confetti fell from the sky, and I just burst into tears. I was so embarrassed, but in hindsight, what a moment?! I love knowing that music can have that strong of an impact on people.

17. "Because of You" - Kelly Clarkson

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Kelly was my next favorite singer after my LeAnn Rimes obsession died down. Kelly wrote this song about her parents’ divorce when she was 16. It was a single off of her Breakaway album during the time that my parents were getting divorced, when I was 19. For that reason, this song always strikes a strong emotional chord with me. Beyond the specific subject matter, this song is also about learning from examples of what NOT to do, not just following the lead of others, but learning from the flaws in their example.

18. "Whenever You Remember" - Carrie Underwood

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I’ve always expressed myself better through music than any other means of expression. When my sister followed my dad back to Alabama in 2006 – a move I didn’t understand or support at the time – I made her listen to this song. For us, it represents growing up together, moving around together, dealing with our parents together…everything siblings go through together and the crazy lives they can experience. It is about reaching for your biggest dreams, and sharing these experiences with loved ones.

19. "Everytime We Touch" - Cascada

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This song/album were my first time really delving into dance music and LOVING it. All this shit was happening in my family, and I used to lock myself in my dorm room, shut out the world, and play this album at full blast and jump around. So cathartic.

20. "The Fight Song" - Marilyn Manson

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I was initially introduced to Marilyn Manson when I was far to young to appreciate him, by my babysitter, before I was allowed to watch MTV (the same one who turned me onto the Spice Girls). It wasn’t until I bought the Lest We Forget… collection of greatest hits when I was 19 years old that I actually started listening and becoming a fan. I listened to that album a lot throughout my parents’ divorce and everything else my family was going through at the time. I always say that I let Marilyn Manson yell for me during that period. I quickly came to love the heart and soul I can feel from him behind the aggressive sound of the music. He got me through a lot.

21. "Easy Silence" - The Dixie Chicks

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This is my song for anyone who has truly been there for me at any of my lowest moments. Sometimes the best people you have in your corner don’t have to say a word to be a pillar of support for you. Value the people that are there to give you the space to go through whatever it is that you’re going through.

22. "These Are The Days" - Sugarland

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I didn’t like Sugarland at first for some reason, but when I came around, they became my favorite country group, and Jennifer Nettles my favorite country singer. When Sugarland’s Enjoy The Ride album came out, I remember going to see them at Milwaukee’s Summerfest with some friends, and I couldn’t wait to see Sugarland live again – and I did, twice. This album was my country gospel for a while. This song still gets me with the feels every time.

23. "Just Dance" - Lady Gaga feat. Colby O'Donis

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If you know me, chances are you know my love for this woman. I came across her performing this song on TV before anybody really knew of her, and I felt like the pop star I’d been waiting for my whole life had just danced (pun intended) her way into my heart. The rest, as they say, is history.

24. "Breathe Me" - Sia

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In 2009, long before the chandeliers and cheap thrills, one of my most positively influential friends introduced me to singer/songwriter Sia. Although once she caught the pop bug, my friend lost interest, I have remained a fan all these years. This song always gets me, as does any live version of her song “Lentil.”

25. "Raise Your Glass" - Pink

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At Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball tour, I met many people who would become some great new friends for me in Minneapolis. At the start of it all, we all went out dancing together quite often. Other than all the Gaga that we loved, this was another song that was insanely popular at the time. It spoke to the individuality we were all starting to learn to celebrate. I’ll always think of those beautiful people and the freedom of that time with this song.

26. "Lost As They Come" - Savannah Smith

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This song is so special to me. After nearly a year of not having a title, I named this song before Savannah performed it at a school event for which I had booked her. Savannah is one of the closest friends I have from my years in Minneapolis, and one night several months before this school function, as she was preparing for a show, she told her manager and me that she was working on a new song, but wasn’t sure it was any good. She played this song. By the end of it, her manager and me were both in tears, and I assured Savannah it was the best song she’d written. It has always been my favorite of hers, and will always remind me of those innocent days filled with big dreams in my early 20s in Minneapolis.

27. “Give Me Everything” - Pitbull feat. NeYo, Afrojack, Nayer

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One of my favorite things I’ve ever done was intern on the promotions team for a Top 40 radio station. I have so many fond memories of that year. This song was one of the most popular songs while I was interning, so it always makes me think of the fun we had working all the station events. I would love to get back into radio one day.

28. "The House That Built Me" - Miranda Lambert

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Miranda Lambert is my favorite country badass. I’d never paid much attention to this song initially for some reason. A few years after it came out, I went to see Miranda with a friend who is a big fan. We were right up front. Miranda started talking about her upbringing, and then went into this song. Totally surrendered to that moment, and paying attention to the sentiment of the song for the first time, I started crying hardcore. There’s NOTHING like the places and experiences that shape us as we become who we are destined to be. It’s crazy how much life can be lived on one little piece of land, isn’t it?

29. "Gypsy" - Lady Gaga

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This song has always struck such an emotional chord with me that I rarely listen to it. Partly because of its effect on me, and partly because I don’t want it to lose its effect on me.

This song, to me, represents freedom, and sharing your freedom with someone you love. My friend Katie and got to see Gaga perform this song live a mere 6 weeks before we moved to NYC, and that is a moment and a feeling I will never forget.

No one should be afraid of adventure or occasional loneliness.

“Maybe we can see the world together.”

30. "A New Day Has Come" - Celine Dion

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Over time, this song and this album have become somewhat of a gospel for me. So many emotions are tended to with this album, and I find it very spiritually healing every time I listen. “Prayer” is another favorite song of mine. In the spirit of a “new day,” here’s to new beginnings, and a new era…BRING ON MY 30s!!!

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