In our Spotify Essentials series, our favorite artists and writers curate custom playlists that hold some personal significance. In this installment, Mackenzie Scott, the Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter better known as Torres, retraces the soundtrack of her childhood.
When I was 5 years old, my brother got his driver’s license. My sister got hers the following year. The first memories I have of listening to music, other than the songs we sang in church, are of listening to CD’s or country radio in a Ford Explorer and a GMC Jimmy, respectively. Most of the songs on this playlist are from that era of my life, the one where my brother and sister drove me around in their cars, sunroof opened, me feeling like the luckiest kid in the world.
When I was around 8, my parents got me my own boom box for Christmas. This time in life was when my CD sleeves were filled with pop music exclusively —Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys were my favorites. I would dress up with friends and put on performances for my parents, complete with choreographed dances. Though the lip-syncing was unconvincing, I meant it fervently.
I didn’t look at any sort of online list to select these songs. Instead, I sat and waited for the melodies of my childhood to come to me at their leisure. They didn’t take long.
Each song I’ve included here has got a hook that holds up, some more than two decades since being released. The nostalgia hasn’t disappeared, and I haven’t forgotten any of the lyrics.
Each song has at least one memory attached to it. I didn’t really know what “Strawberry Wine” was about until I was a teenager, but I knew every word and adored the melody. I only got to listen to “Pinch Me” when I was at my friend Jessica’s house, because her mom would play it on the stereo for us when we were riding in the car, and I wasn’t allowed to have the CD myself because of the name “Barenaked Ladies.” When I got my first portable CD player, I listened to “Deora Ar Mo Chroi” on my headphones and sobbed as I went to sleep each night, because it made me feel too many things. I begged my sister to play “Goodbye Earl” on repeat when she would drive me home from school and sang the “strawberry jam” line more confidently than I sang the rest of the song. The domestic abuse theme of the song escaped me until later in life.