The Soundtrack To My Life: Michael’s Picks

Michael Angee, Life Editor

Of the most vivid moments and memories in my life, I sometimes cannot recall everyone I was with, or what exact day the memory occurred or what people were wearing, but I can tell you what song was playing while I had that conversation with my dad, joked with my friends, entered the record store for the first time or walked hours in my neighborhood calming my mind from any and every tumultuous day. Music, especially throughout high school, has served as one of the defining features of memories and eras of my life. Interests and people and activities all seemingly align with the ever-expanding soundtrack of my life. I can only hope that I helped contribute memories to the soundtrack of the lives of the people I love and appreciate. 

“Just the Way You Are” – Bruno Mars 

When I was just five years old, I remember feeling a sense of longing for romantic love. It was strange; no song had really made me feel that way in my short and new life at that point. However, Bruno Mars’ 2010 album, “Doo-Wops and Hooligans,” provided the wonder of a new world to my young and malleable mind. A lot of memories take place in my dad’s old gray 2002 Mercury Mountaineer — I remember looking out of the window, either heading home from Vineland K-8 to my house or going from my house to Taekwondo practice at Choi’s Taekwondo or driving to Publix with my dad and feeling a new emotion—the emotion of longing. Longing for a time that had not happened yet, longing to have a romantic connection. It was strange that a song made me feel so strongly at such a young age, but I believe moments like that prove that music is intertwined with the human spirit. It provides a vessel for expression that is not easily matched. My dad, to this day, still jokes that I used to sing “eyes, eyes, eyes,” as I attempted to sing the introduction to the song: 

Oh her eyes, her eyes, make the stars look like they’re not shining,” 

Which in effect, held a great role in my development as a child, as someone who loves to romanticize situations, and someone who holds that wonder of songs lyrics to his heart dearly to this day. 

“Hotel California” – The Eagles 

As a kid, I would say this song would be the first song I play at my wedding; I always gravitated towards it and any time it was on the radio I would crank up the volume a few extra decibels all for the love of the track. One of the most fun songs to dissect and analyze, “Hotel California” by The Eagles became one of the most memorable songs in my childhood as the lyrics of this highly visual song seeped into my young mind. The image of this Overlook Hotel-esque building towering over the desert in the relentless summer was, for some reason, a highly comforting image. It was the mystery of this scorching structure that contained a cold soul that pulled me into loving the song. I had not really understood what pulled me closer to the mystery of the song, and as I grew older the song still contains the same allure.

19 de Noviembre – Carlos Vives 

The day of my dad’s birthday coincidentally lands on the same date as this Carlos Vives classic, and every year on November 19th, my mom, sister and I would play this song in the morning as we got ready for school or in the afternoon. My dad would always jokingly brag that Vives created the song for him and for his birthday. The song, of course, landing on my father’s birthday represented the love and admiration my sister, mom and I all hold for him. And beyond us, his brothers and sisters – my uncles and aunts – and their kids – my cousins – are all represented through the music he has shown me and that we all have experienced together. The track signifies the eternal value of that date in our family, the date that the de facto leader of the Angee’s first touched this Earth and began to impact those around him and continues to do so through the light he provides to those around him. 

“Black and Yellow” – Wiz Khalifa 

Dance Empire never shied away from creating grandiose visual experiences, especially in my eyes, their hip-hop productions. My sister started dancing at Dance Empire Miami when she was only 3-years-old, around the time I was born, so a lot of the music I heard from a young age sprouted from the depths of the studio halls and shows. During the end-of-year recital one year, the studio created a dance to Wiz Khalifa’s 2011 track “Black and Yellow,” which is the first rap song that stuck to me and built my taste for music in the future. Although I would complain about having to attend my sister’s dance shows, some of the songs and productions, in which the studio flourished, left an impact on my ways of listening to and experiencing music. 

“So What” – Miles Davis

When I was 13 I purchased my first record on vinyl, Kind Of Blue by Miles Davis. This purchase would lead to my never-ending rabbit hole to find new Jazz music. Jazz is, and has always been, human music. It is filled with serene and chaotic idiosyncrasies mended with variation and style only found in the genre. The organized chaos of Jazz was first introduced to me through the stylings of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly and Bill Evans all through Kind of Blue. As the opening track to the project, “So What,” was the true opening track to my interest in jazz and its influence on modern-day music. The purchase of Kind of Blue also sparked my love for collecting records, and there was no better record to hold that first position in my collection. 

“Apple Pie” – Travis Scott 

Entering high school, I did not have a friend group. Well, not really. I remember feeling alienated from any people I tried to socialize with, probably not because they had shown me any animosity, but because I had this relentless doubting of all and any social skills I had. Although, they did feel pretty minimal. Nov. 23, 2019, was the first time I had felt welcomed, truly welcomed, into a group during my adolescence. That day, I had met a group of people that felt as though I was actually welcomed and I did not have to create a facade of personality or interests to fit in. The first song I played with this group of people over AUX was “Apple Pie” by Travis Scott, which was the first talking point I had with any of them. Beginning debates of whether  “ASTROWORLD” was better than “Rodeo,” talking about music in general, which began the theme of bonding with people with one of the easiest phrases to start with: “what music do you listen to?” 

It is an understatement to say that playing this seemingly small moment changed the way I believed I could communicate with people. It altered my confidence to something that I could talk to people with a little more ease. November 2019 was a very special and formative time to my growth and I am so grateful for the people that were a part of it and for those that became a part and stayed a part of my life. 

“WOLF” – Tyler, The Creator 

Thanksgiving 2019. The gathering at my house had ended, but Black Friday was only awakening. My cousin Julian and I agreed that I would ride in his yellow stick shift Camaro while our other cousin, Alex, would ride with his girlfriend (now fiance) Sam. Within minutes of us being in the car, we were driving on the turnpike toward Walmart. I am not exactly sure what we set out to buy, but I know my cousins wanted to find some good deals that night. Within those first few minutes the speakers filled with the opening chords to Tyler, The Creator’s 2013 sophomore album, WOLF. WOLF and it’s story of adolescence, understanding, loneliness, explosive energy, and melancholic conclusion, was a beautiful introduction to Tyler, The Creator’s music and an introduction that would affect my entire perception of music, my love of creative endeavors and the encouragement that left field ideas are highly capable of working. 

In 2022 at the “Call Me If You Get Lost Tour” show in Miami, I met up with Julian after the show, greeted him with a big smile and hug and exclaimed as a pointed to my outfit – a GOLF t-shirt with colorful patched pants, light brown vans and the flat, brown brimmed hat that read the albums name that spurred the life of the tour – “This is all because of you!” I wanted to tell him that Thanksgiving 2019 was, because of him, a turning point in my perception of great creative works and beyond. 

“I Think I’m OKAY” – Machine Gun Kelly and YUNGBLUD

My sister initially showed me track 14 off of Machine Gun Kelly’s 2019 album, “Hotel Diablo,” and I was not too intrigued with it at first… but that would not stay that way for long. Almost every morning in the fall and winter of 2019 driving to school with my sister as she was a senior, and I, a freshman, this song glued the memories of that time with those morning drives. It glued together the memories of my sister’s purple-painted parking spot in the MPSH senior lot, sitting every morning as we awaited the day ahead under the rising sun. Those days in the car in freshman year were cut short by COVID-19, but we still listened to the song and it helped build memories that I associate with the rare moments of solace in that especially anxious school year. I Think I’m OKAY also is one of the many songs I associate with my sister and the relationship we have cultivated over our years as siblings. 

“Bean (Kobe) – Lil Uzi Vert” 

If there was a song that fit the time of March 2020 perfectly, it would be this one. March 13, 2020, was the official release of Lil Uzi Vert’s album, Eternal Atake (deluxe) – LUV vs. the World 2, and consequently the track “Bean (Kobe)” which featured Chief Keef. The song had leaked years ago, but fans pleaded with Uzi to release it, and he did just that. I vividly remember being with friends for the last time as rumors swirled of a shutdown, reciting the lyrics as if the song had officially released years prior. Eternal Atake was the last semblance of pre-pandemic “normalcy” before the COVID-19 shutdown and an album I associate most closely with freshman year and the album that I most likely played the most during the 2020 lockdown. From taekwondo practice Zoom calls, to biking with select friends in our neighborhood, the album acted as the soundtrack to the beginning of that complex time. 

“Sugar Daddy” – The Jackson Five 

One of the most important places to me in Miami is the all-encompassing record store, Yesterday and Today Records. It holds so many personal memories, as well as an archive that is historic to the memory of all audiophiles. The first time I walked into this enchanting store was in November 2021, and I had gone there with my mom after hearing the store was full of records. And full is an understatement. The store is stacked from boxes on the floor, to records on the walls, posters on the windows, CD, Cassette and vinyl players lined my line of vision with every fortunate outing I experience with Yesterday and Today. I walked briskly up those concrete stairs to the second story of one of the many strip malls on Bird Road. I opened the second door from the stairs and entered Yesterday and Today. “Brand new boots I bought you / Fine, fine blew your mind,” The Jackson 5 sang over the stereo as I entered and goosebumps enthralled my body without a second thought. I recognized the track as being from The Jackson Five, but could not recall the name of the exact track, so as anyone would, I shazamed the song to find the name of the 1971 tune and smiled to have found the result, slid my phone in my pocket and continued to peruse for records within the enchanting shop.  I knew this store would be special, and it has always stayed that way.

“Birthday” – Larry Fisherman 

“Oh there’s a bird on the lawn! I think it must be a nightingale come over on the Cunard or the White Star Line, he’s singing away, it’s romantic isn’t it Tom?” – Daisy, The Great Gatsby 

“It had been a golden afternoon, and I remember having the familiar conviction that life was beginning all over again with the summer.” – Nick, The Great Gatsby 

Run on Sentences is Mac Miller’s 2012 mostly instrumental mixtape, released in between the time of his album “Best Day Ever” and his mixtape “Macadelic.” I watched my emotions travel to the place of the music, the instrumentals carried my mind to a different place, to a place of golden nostalgia, although not harmful, as nostalgia may feel at times, but necessary to the development of some semblance of emotional intelligence. I was 15, and those walks, those long, long, therapeutic walks during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic played a transcendental role in some sort of freedom in the outside world from my home. The opening track of the project, “Birthday,” opens with a sample of a conversation between Tom, Nick and Daisy from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, “The Great Gatsby.” The contagious nostalgia of Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel, contributed to the emotional; depth of the instrumentals Mac Miller under his production alias, Larry Fisherman, created during a transformative era within his career. “The Great Gatsby,” and the conversation in which the three characters represent the change within modern America during the gilded age of American history. An age marked by false realities of status and the rush of new wonders provided by the industrial revolution, F. Scott Fitzgerald captures the idealistic and illusive American Dream, a dream that in the 1920s seemed unrealistic and full of gilded personas. Perhaps Larry Fisherman was attempting to uncover his own gilded reality by using this conversation from the book, revealing his necessity of telling his own truth in order to evolve further as an artist. 

“Hand Me Downs” – Mac Miller 

In 2021, I acquired my first video camera, a camera I still use today to document memories and capture moments. Hopefully one day I will be recording more than this.

If there was an artist that I would associate the most with in summer 2021 it would be Mac Miller. One of my most listened to artists and artists I know the most about, the eighth track on the artist’s 2020 posthumous album, Circles, Hand Me Downs is one of the most beautiful and serene songs of Mac Miller’s discography. It feels like acceptance; it does not feel like regret or sadness, but a song of melancholic hope acknowledging the mistakes of the past and Miller’s self-destructive tendencies of coping. Hand Me Downs was my go-to song to play in the car in summer 2021 and the song I would play the most around friends but also the song that reminds me the most of those first few months with my new Sony camcorder. The ability to document the memories of my friends and I, in an almost home video-esque style, was one of the greatest blessings and still is to this day. 

“BELEZA PULA” – Masayoshi Takanaka 

Takanaka created a Brazilian, tropical, breezy tune all while originating from Japan. BELEZA PULA was the song my friend group listened to the most in our Junior year of high school, marked the change and evolution of the time and was essentially the de facto theme song of the time as well. The  seven minute and 53-second track is the song we played the most during drives in South Miami and Sunset Mall, driving up and down US1 near our homes, to dancing sporadically to the song in Dylan’s (one of my close friends) home studio. In the recorded history of our friend group, this song was documented the most times in video of us listening to it. It is so different to anything any of us were listening to at the time and resonated for its uniqueness and tropical feeling. To put it simply, many positive memories were created during the playing of this song. Despite introspective conversation minutes prior, there was never a night that BELEZA PULA would not play at some point. The moments of reveling in the tempo changes and the liberating feeling that Takanaka somehow always applies to his music will always be some of my fondest memories in all of high school. Dylan even bought me the “BRAZILIAN SKIES” record on vinyl, which opens with BELEZA PULA, as a birthday present, cementing the physical representation of these beautiful memories as a piece of art sitting between other vinyls including “Kind of Blue.” 

To the people that made these songs special and the moments that will continue to be remembered through the tunes we listen to, thank you. The soundtrack to my life will only expand as memories and people continue to come and go as the connective tissue of our high school memories will forever be linked with the music we experienced the most with.