I’m in a car. Static hits my ear. Static becomes sound and sound becomes Christina Aguilera. Her powerful voice pushes through the scratchy radio of the of the decaying 1989 Nissan Skyline. It smells like cigarettes. I have easy homework tonight.
I squirm uncomfortably. These are the images conjured up as I begin the first track of my marathon listening session of every So Fresh: The Hits of Summer compilation consecutively in one sitting.
My first breakdown begins as the first few notes of “Take On Me” play. This isn’t a tasteful throwback cover. This isn’t a well produced reworking of the 1984 a-ha smash hit. This is hell. Covered by the short-lived Norwegian/British Boy band A1, the tinny synthesizers and phased arpeggios strike my vulnerable upper chest and I cough abruptly. This continues for the rest of the 4-minute run time and I exhale slowly as the song fades. I am halfway through the first CD of the 2001 edition. I bite my lip and the music continues.
As the barely passable Australian drawl of Frenzal Rhomb takes me to the end of 2001, I get up gingerly and replace the CD with its 2002 follow up. I walk back to my chair and sink.
I look back up and I’m back in my school uniform, this time next to my old gym. I listen out for an sign of where I might be in my childhood and the answer comes swiftly. I glance across at where the girls lockers used to be and I see her. My year 2 girlfriend, Cindy.
Cindy’s by the lockers as she usually was, hanging out with her closest friends Annie and Stacy. I begin to shake as I realise exactly where I am. “Strawberry Kisses” drifts from the lockers like a Chupa Chup that’s been left in the sun too long and turned to vapour. I gulp.
Daylight from my window licks me back into shape. I raise my trembling hands to cover it and resume the listen along, “I’ve gotten this far” I mumble to myself unconvincingly.
I continue cycling through the plethora of po(o)p, resisting incoming memories through sheer concentration and regular tea breaks. I shimmy through 2006, I scurry through 2007, I scrape through 2008 and as I stand up to replace the CD I wince. So Fresh: The Hits of Summer 2009. Oh fuck.
Anyone who went to high school will tell you that Year 9 was a BAD TIME. Like, a significantly more BAD TIME than any other BAD TIME you are likely to experience in your lifetime. I rush to the lounge room, find my way to the family liquor cabinet and make myself a strong whiskey on the rocks. ‘Ready as I’ll ever be’ I say as I trip into the armchair on the way to my room.
I sit there impatiently. The triple header of P!nk, Britney and Gaga result in no flashbacks. Hey, this might not be so bad, I ponder hopefully. I tap my feet to the oncoming bunch and I even feel relieved enough to note that “I Hate This Part” by The Pussycat Dolls has an interesting string section. “Better leave this out of the article” I chuckle to myself as, unbeknownst to me, my subconscious takes a nosedive.
I look up and am instantly blinded. “What th-”
Knee length socks on my shins tug incessantly like a fifteen-year-old left home alone for 45 minutes or longer. My mind races as I look around, trying to survey my surroundings.
“Lets Drop!…. Yeah!”
It hits me. I’m at a blue light disco. My mum is here. Metro Station’s 2009 Platinum hit “Shake It” blares from the community stereo. People are breakdancing. This isn’t happening.
I close my eyes and hope to be whisked away, back my my bed, anywhere but here.
I wake up in hot sweats. Is it over? Nah, I’ve made it through 2009 though. Thank god. The next few years in the marathon go by without a hitch, perhaps due to a strengthened ability to block out painful memory or perhaps due to my disassociation with pop in the later years of high school. Was I too cool for So Fresh in my mid/late teens? The answer is yes, I was too cool.
Notable hits that broke the barrier were Owl City’s “Fireflies”, Little Red’s “Rock It” and Hot Chelle Rae’s “Tonight Tonight” (surprisingly still quite a jam). The last few compliations drift by slowly, presumably because of the significantly reduced amount of nostalgia and fewer memory flashbacks. As Taylor Henderson’s forgettable acoustic wank “When You Were Mine” takes the 2015 release out I lay back on my bed, satisfied. It’s over.
As I put the last CD back I think about how for some kid, somewhere out there, 2015 will be their 2009. I continue to snigger as I button up my school uniform. Still fits, I think to myself as a manic grin forms on my face. Still fits.
Words by Laurent Shervington