Music Notes: Music prompts nostalgia — and that’s a good thing

Usher, Ciara and Bow Wow created some of the memorable musical moments of the 1990 and 2000s.
Usher, Ciara and Bow Wow created some of the memorable musical moments of the 1990 and 2000s.

Credit: AJC file

Credit: AJC file

Music from ’90s and early 2000s. Those were the days.

Editor’s Note: This week’s Music Notes column is written by the arts/entertainment editor, Nicole D. Smith. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s music columnist, Melissa Ruggieri, will return April 30.

I often make an effort to not think about the past.

I find that whenever I try to relive my past, nothing ever feels exactly the same. It doesn’t look the same. And it’s rarely how I remember it. (My twin sister often corrects my flawed memories.) In fact, I get inspired when I discover something I’ve never experienced or begin to imagine what my future holds. Innovation and technology make our lives easier. I’m happy using that tech and looking forward to the future.

But, a few nights ago, I looked back — way back to a time when I wasn’t even born: 1959.

While flipping through Netflix, I landed on Rod Serling’s TV anthology, “The Twilight Zone” — the first series, which premiered in the late ’50s. I took note that the acting and storytelling still spark imagination, curiosity, understanding — and its messages that challenge common societal beliefs resonate just as much today.

The episode that captivated me: “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine,” which first aired Oct. 23, 1959. In the show, English-American actress Ida Lupino plays a forgotten 1930s film star who incessantly re-watches her old movies to relive her heydays in Hollywood.

Spoiler alert: She never does move on with her life.

“That would never be me,” I thought. “Or at least, I hope it wouldn’t be me.” That moment sat with me. Do I look back too often? Do past accomplishments and memories pull me back in time?

I turned off the TV and realized there is indeed something that often takes me back to my past.

It’s music.

When I’m listening to songs released during my teenage years, college days, or early 20s, I relive the late ’90s and early 2000s all over again.

I’ll admit it: When I hear music from my coming-of-age, I long for the good old days when I waited for MTV’s “Total Request Live” music video countdown to play Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time” (when midriff tops were still a thing) or other heavy-rotation hits, like OutKast’s “Hey Ya!” (when R&B didn’t play second fiddle to hip-hop).

That evening, after I watched “The Twilight Zone” episode, I scrolled through my iPhone, and I blasted at least a dozen songs from the ’90s and early 2000s. I thought about what I was doing at the time I first heard the songs, danced to their music video — and then, finally, realized I could never hit the high notes that Mariah Carey sang. (But believe me: That didn’t stop me from trying.)

The entire night, I was living in the past — and I loved it. It felt good to remember because remembering allows me to cherish my past and my correlated music story, which has shaped me. And your music story makes up an important part of you, too.

So, here’s my challenge: Go ahead and look back.

Listen to the music that represents your past — music that’s made you who you are today. Play the songs that made you think of your first crush, eased your hurt, or convinced you could dance. That’s what music is — a unique soundtrack for each of our lives — the bad, the good, the unforgettable. The key is to visit your past, recall what caused changes for the better — and then move forward to your bright future.

Here, I’ve listed a few of those ’90s and early 2000s songs that I’ve been streaming — songs that make up my story. Music makes those moments worth remembering for me. Enjoy.


MC Hammer, “U Can’t Touch This” (1990)

Michael Jackson, “Remember the Time (1991)

Boyz II Men, “Motownphilly” (1991)

Kris Kross, “Jump” (1992)

A Tribe Called Quest, “Electric Relaxation” (1993)

Mary J. Blige, “My Life” (1994)

TLC, “Waterfalls” (1994)

Mariah Carey, “Always Be My Baby” (1995)

En Vogue, “Don’t Let Go (Love)” (1996)

Blackstreet ft. Dr. Dre, Queen Pen, “No Diggity” (1996)

Toni Braxton, “Un-Break My Heart” (1996)

Mariah Carey ft. Krayzie Bone and Wish Bone, “Breakdown” (1998)

Destiny’s Child, “Say My Name” (1999)

Early 2000s

Lil Bow Wow ft. Xscape, “Bounce With Me” (2000)

Craig David, “Fill Me In” (2000)

Alicia Keys, “Fallin’' (2001)

Jay-Z, “Izzo (H.O.V.A)” (2001)

Vanessa Carlton, “A Thousand Miles” (2002)

Avril Lavigne, “Complicated” (2002)

Beyoncé, “Me, Myself and I” (2003)

Monica, “So Gone” (2003)

Mya, “My Love Is Like... Wo” (2003)

Ciara, “Goodies” (2004)

Kelly Clarkson, “Since U Been Gone” (2004)

Snoop Dogg ft. Pharrell Williams, “Drop It Like It’s Hot, (2004)

Usher ft. Lil Jon, Ludacris, “Yeah!” (2004)

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