The first years living in America, the only music I listened to was my parents. To be more accurate, my dad’s music. Our car rides were frequently filled with the local NPR station KUOW-FM 94.9 (Jazz hour and Car Talk) and Weird Al Yankovic CDs. To me this was normal, but after over hearing my dad trying to defeat his music taste to my older cousins; I concluded my dad music taste was not in fact normal. But that was okay. My dad was ‘weird’ and so was I.
My family and I had moved from Japan to the States in 1999 and by this time, we had lived in the Sammamish / Issaquah area (outside Seattle, WA) for a couple of years. Even with a couple of years of separation, Japan was still stubbornly holding on like the smell of your house that sticks onto all your clothes reminding you that as much as you try to look the part, the other senses give you away. To people around me I had some quirks and questionable tastes. Just like dad.
The difference I had with my dad was that he was all too comfortable with himself. If he did have doubts he did a good job hiding it from me. I on the other hand, wanted desperately to fit it. So when my cousins showed me the local Hip Hop and R&B station, Kube 93.3, at a Christmas party where the adults talk and the kids go off to play in the rest of the house, I found something that could help me fit in.
After listening to NPR and Weird Al Yankovic for so long, this music was fresh and sent a surge into my body. I also realized these were the songs the cool kids liked. I could start conversations with people about songs and artists we both liked. I found my way in, so I dove in head first.
I started listening to the radio day and night to learn what was hot on the airwaves. It just so happened that “So Sick” by Ne-Yo would be played at the top of the hour regularly. For an emotional middle schooler, I had memorized the words and I was love sick about a relationship I had never had. This song became my introduction into American music and more specifically Hip Hop and R&B.
As I revisit the music and music videos now, I am reminded how much I actually secretly wished I was like Ne-Yo growing up. He was smooth with the girls, dressed sharp, and confident with the hat tilted. All the things I wished to be seen as because in reality I was deathly anxious and shy struggling to feel any type of confidence. To this day, there is a part of me that struggles with this type of social anxiety.
But for those 3 mins I listened to and sang Ne-Yo songs, I had that fedora on gliding around the scene telling a beautiful woman how I felt about her. And she saw me. She wanted me. I was desirable. I was on top of the world. Everything I ever wanted.
He was living a life I could only wish to live.