“My Life in 10 Tracks” is a series in which contributors share the top tunes that they associate with the defining eras of their lives thus far as well as memorable moments that lie on the vast spectrum of pain and pleasure. Charting important milestones through music, our contributors revisit and reflect on adolescence and coming of age; first love and last heartbreak; new beginnings and departures.
Raph is a creative at heart who enjoys stringing words together for copy, poetry, and the songs that he single-handedly composes in his leisure time. As the founder of an LGBTQIA-focused pop music blog, he takes care to keep his finger on the pulse of the international music scene. Read on to discover the soundtracks that Raph couldn’t get enough of across the various formative stages of his life.
#1. Super Trouper – ABBA
My first entry point into music was playing the keyboard as a kid. And I remember how ABBA’s songs would always get stuck in my head, long before I knew what a ‘hook’ was. Super Trouper takes the cake simply because of how campy and bizarre it is.
#2. Starlight – Muse
This song was one of my first instances of “heard a song, don’t know the title, let me find out”. Way before the days of Shazam. I don’t recall exactly how I eventually found its title but I think I ended up hearing it on the radio at some point and seized the chance to Google the lyrics.
But this led to my dad buying me my first ever CD — a compilation of rock songs from the 2000s — just because this song was on it. That piano intro brings back such great childhood memories.
#3. Up With The Birds – Coldplay
When people ask me about my favorite artists, Coldplay always comes to mind. I unironically love Coldplay. I love how colorful their music is. I love the attention they pay to their visuals. Watching them perform live in March 2017 is one of my favorite memories ever. Up With The Birds is my go-to feel-good song, which always puts me in a better mood when I’m feeling in a bit of a slump. The line “Good days are coming our way” has saved me from slipping countless times.
#4. Bad Romance – Lady Gaga
Just like a large part of queer kids who were born in the 90s, Lady Gaga was single-handedly responsible for me discovering my sexuality and embracing the fact that I might just be a little different from the other kids. Her rejection of society’s judgments and callous comments about her was so radical at that time — and it was everything I needed to feel seen and validated as a closeted gay teen.
#5. Enchanted – Taylor Swift
With the highs of coming to terms with my sexuality also came the lows of experiencing my first heartbreak. I distinctly recall playing this song and crying to the “Please don’t be in love with someone else” line the first time I ever felt teenage heartbreak, as if it was the end of the world. Ugh, how dramatic. Still, this song has clearly stood the test of time and I would gladly cry to it any day.
#6. Perfect Places – Lorde
Lorde doesn’t get enough credit for how she influenced music in the 2010s, and beyond. At a time when people were getting fatigued from EDM and self-empowerment anthems, this 16-year-old swooped in and showed them that pop can be understated sometimes. Perfect Places is proof of that.
Today, she still remains one of the most intriguing artists to me, even if her latest record was somewhat was a dud. She’s able to paint scenarios with her lyrics impeccably.
#7. Tusk – Fleetwood Mac
My dad always played Fleetwood Mac on his vinyl player in our house when I was a kid but it was only when I got into vinyl records in my 20s that I started to truly appreciate their music. There’s a dream-like, tranquil beauty that emerges when Stevie Nicks’ voice fills the room.
Tusk isn’t one of their top hits, but there’s something mesmerizing and mysterious about it that I just love.
#8. Heart of Glass – Blondie
There will never be a better time for pop than the 80s. The recklessness and laissez-faire attitude of songs like Heart of Glass is something we just don’t get in music anymore. I thoroughly enjoy 80s pop — Blondie, Bananarama, Starship, Eurythmics —and I always wished I got to experience that era in person.
I’d say the 80s has influenced the way I dress as well. Bright prints, patterns, and high-waisted pants. That’s my jam.
#9. Black Dog – Arlo Parks
One of my favorite songs in recent years, especially because of how rich and heartfelt the lyrics are. It has gotten me through some dark, depressive days. In a time where we’re still cooped up at home to a certain extent, the line “Isn’t it cruel what your mind can do for no reason” is especially poignant.
Like Lorde, Arlo Parks is an artist whom I really admire for the things she can do with words. That’s what I want to achieve with my own writing. There’s a sense of poetry she brings to her music that we need more of.
#10. Pretty Places – Aly & AJ
Pretty Places is a combination of all the things I love about music. It sounds like a timeless classic, like a song that has already existed way before its conception. It reminds me of a place that represents bliss, that I’m trying to get to. Or maybe I just have a thing for songs with ‘Places’ in the title.
I love a song that can transport me somewhere else and offer three minutes of escapism. This song is absolutely that. I’ve loved Aly & AJ since their ‘Potential Breakup Song’ days and their ability to do a 180 is incredible.
As told to Sherryl Cheong.
Feature collage by Sherryl Cheong