For my 14th birthday, I asked my parents to get me my very first shiny black electric guitar, at an age where all the other girls were asking for Blackberry smartphones. For my 16th birthday, my bestie, who had just moved away from Dubai, sent me a hand-painted A3 canvas of my favourite album in the mail. For my 18th birthday, my friends chipped in to get me a custom t-shirt with my favourite band and my favourite lyrics printed on the front. It’s fair to say the way to my heart is and always has been through my ears.
Which brings me to this long, long overdue post! Music has been especially at the forefront of my mind, my days and my entire life for the past two and a half months as a by-product of my career shift into the music industry.
I’ve had to revisit my entire music catalogue, which made me realise just how centre-stage music has been at every life event, big or small, I’ve ever been through. Music is ingrained in every memory, every phase, every aspect of my existence.
PS: there were so many songs I wanted to include but, as not to make this post turn into a novella, I’ve divided it into two parts! So without further ado, here is part one of the what where why and with who of the big songs that shaped me.
Whenever this song comes on, a supercut of my childhood memories in Cairo flashes before my eyes. My parents’ car had two staples in the dashboard, a French Favourites mixtape, and a Fairuz mixtape. The Fairuz one was special though: it only came out when my dad was in a good mood, usually while traveling back from a beach resort where we’d spent days kayaking and splashing about.
Fall Out Boy – Thnx Fr Th Mmrs/ Basically the entire Infinity On High album
I’d be lying if I started my foray into English music with anyone other than Fall Out Boy. Sure, I’d been exposed to the likes of Avril Lavigne and Evanescence by my sister and her friends, but this was my first find. I remember seeing a feature of the lyrics to this song in one of the many teen magazines I used to guilt my mum into buying me (soz, mama!), and being intrigued by the “cool” spelling of the title – and the rest was history!
My sister and I were so obsessed with Panic! At the Disco we would literally watch this video on repeat. To this day, I think they are the only punk pop band that didn’t truly sell out. Sadly, Brendon Urie’s heavy black eyeliner is long gone, but the spirit and creativity still live on. (Bring back eyeliner for boys though please and thank you.)
Ahhh, the years of unrequited love and teen angst these songs take me back to. I totally transitioned from faux-emo, faux-angry pre-teen to proper angsty and sad teen and The National was the perfect vessel.
Kings of Leon – Knocked Up/Notion (literally every song they released up until 2013)
My best friend in the 8th grade had a cool older brother who went to uni in London, and would always come back with what felt like the most inspiring cultural recommendations. Some of his obsessions, like Bob Marley, never stuck, but Kings of Leon certainly did. PS: both the aforementioned painting and t-shirt presents were KOL-themed.
Bombay Bicycle Club were such a monumental band for me as a teen. I used to listen to them on repeat while writing my book (which I thought would have led me to published fame by now…). Now, whenever I put them on, I feel a certain type of inspiration land gently on my shoulders. If I were to label them, I would probably call them my muse.
This song is a portal to the last day of my first year of uni, where I somehow ended up sitting on the floor of a grim, sticky halls living room with the twinkling blue hue of cheap fairy lights glowing above the heads of my sister, my drunk best friend (who ended up eating raw spaghetti later that night), and two strangers, listening to music at 4 am. This was the first time I’d felt like I was finally becoming the version of myself I’d always pictured: carefree, happy, and surrounded by people who love good music.
The Black Keys – Weight of Love (and the entire Turn Blue album)
To me, this album is musical perfection. Every song from start to finish is beautifully composed. I also used to play this album on repeat in my uni room and watch my uber cool water and laser effect speakers (£16 from Amazon – bargain!) dance away. Every memory from that year is so precious to me and I’m so grateful I got to encapsulate them in music!
It’s fair to say I had, sadly, truly abandoned my Arabic music side around the same time I discovered fall out boy. But Mashrou’ Leila brought me back to the other side with their incredible vocals and poetic lyrics. I fell in love with this song and its music video so much, I ended up doing my photography project based on its concept.
These three songs are so special to me. I spent endless nights in my tiny studio in Bristol, perched on my makeshift window seat, watching the world go buy and drinking coffee while listening to them. This was also the year my fascination with coffee also began, so these three artists were usually the soundtrack to my caffeine exploration journeys!
My rainy time songs didn’t work so well when I moved to Dubai; I needed sunnier music, and Bonobo was just the man for it. I don’t remember how I came across Bonobo, but I remember falling in love immediately. I also go to see him perform this song live with my best friend and soulmate, so it holds a very special place in my heart.
Silly as it sounds, I owe so much of my emotional growth to this album. It came out just as I was going through what was possibly the most heart-wrenching period of my adult life. Unequipped with the healthy tools to get over a heartbreak of that immensity, I turned to music.
I know, I know, it’s the most divisive album of theirs, and definitely not their best work. But for some reason, this album brings back memories of a hopeful summer with loads of road trips, quality time with special people, and a really great time in my career. I was determined to like it, so I always had it on repeat in my car. And it worked!
There are about a gazillion other songs that I’ve missed out, so make sure to check back for a part 2!