“The more I know, the less I understand,” sang rock legend Don Henley, and after surviving my teens, twenties, and (in September) half my thirties, I’m starting to think he’s right.

The long and short of it is that life changes us, often while we aren’t looking. You think you understand something, and then you wake up one day and have no idea how you ever believed you knew what you thought you knew. It’s happened to me many times, and the most vivid thing that’s made me notice it is how songs seem to change as I get older.

Really, the songs themselves aren’t changing—my interpretation of them is. But either way, hearing a song for the first time in a while makes me realize just how much I’ve grown. The following five songs are ones that resulted in eye-opening moments for various reasons.

*This post contains affiliate links, mainly because they are a quick and easy way to include images. So don’t feel like you need to buy anything, but if you do, I’ll earn a small commission.

Song 1: “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac

I was first introduced to this song with the 1997 recording from Fleetwood Mac’s live concert at Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, CA. Stevie Nicks dedicated it to her dad and delivered, what was to my very young ears, a very nice performance. Most of the lyrics went over my head, and as an aspiring choral soprano, the low notes went very under my range. It was my favorite song on the album, and it remains my favorite Fleetwood Mac song.

In fact, I didn’t even hear the original 1970s version of this song until my late twenties when it showed up on one of my Pandora stations. As I listened to a younger Nicks giving, what I felt, was a less stellar performance, I was struck by the notion that the reason this performance wasn’t as good was because she didn’t understand the lyrics yet. As soon as the song ended, I went over to YouTube to find the 1997 version, and I was blown away. Not only did Nicks deliver a stronger performance, but I could hear her understanding of the song in her singing.

Landslide is one of those songs that changes every time I listen to it. As a kid, it was fun to stretch to hit the low notes. As a teen, it hit me as something more that I couldn’t quite name. In my late twenties and thirties, there is so much meaning that I couldn’t possibly discuss it all in a post that isn’t fully dedicated to Landslide. And I suspect when I listen to it in another ten, twenty, thirty years, it will mean something completely different.

If you haven’t heard the 1997 performance, I highly recommend it, and here’s a link to the video.

Song 2: “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus

This came out at an interesting time for me. I was trying to publicly distance myself from liking Disney things while secretly clinging to everything Disney. I was also not at all a fan of Hannah Montana, and I made this very clear to anyone in earshot by loudly proclaiming that Miley was absolutely nothing special as a singer. To my complete bafflement at the time, my dad really liked this song, which I attributed to no accounting for taste.

Recently, I heard this song for the first time since my teens/early twenties, and wouldn’t you know it, my dad was on to something. Not only is Miley actually quite talented, but the song is very true in a way I didn’t realize 15-ish years ago. Then, the climb seemed like a ridiculous idea—why focus on the journey when the destination is what will be rewarding? What 20-year-old me didn’t realize was that the destination is just another stop on the journey. I had a book come out a few days ago. It was a destination, but it’s not the end, not at all. It’s just a step toward releasing the next book, and the next. And to whatever publishing might lead to after that.

Dare I say it, but “it ain’t about how fast I get there, ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side. It’s the climb.”

~Listen to The Climb here

(And if you’re interested in that book I just published, you can check it out here.)

Song 3: “Welcome to My Life” by Simple Plan

“You don’t know what it’s like to be like me.” This was my teenage anthem. Because obviously I was the *only* one who felt like an outcast, and nobody else could possibly feel this way because they all had their stuff together. How dare they pretend they get it?

Spoiler: It wasn’t just me.

After blasting this on repeat in high school, I then had several years where I didn’t listen to it at all. After coming back from my first Disney trip with my boyfriend in 2015, I was unpacking and was in this weird mood. So I put this song on because I thought it would be just the thing to get at all the emotions I was feeling.

Except, it wasn’t, and I soon turned it off because I couldn’t fathom how I’d ever identified with such a “whiny” song.

I’ve since realized that “whiny” isn’t the best word. I’ve also realized that this is the song that really stopped me from looking for the negative in everything. That giant pity party this song used to throw was all in my head, and it took hearing it at the right moment to understand that. I haven’t listened to it since that day, but I suspect if I did now, I’d be able to hear it for what it is: a giant call for help.

~Listen to “Welcome to My Life” here

Song 4: “My Immortal” by Evanescence

I loved this song from the moment I heard it. But only the radio version—the album version was slightly different and just didn’t strike me the same way. As a teenager, this was the shining example of everything I wished was cool. I figured there was some supernatural stuff going on and it was affecting the person in the song, and it gave me hope that someday the world would not laugh at me for liking Dungeons and Dragons.

Hearing it when I was a bit older, I really started to wonder. Maybe that supernatural element wasn’t there. Maybe it was just about someone who lost someone they love and can’t move past it. When I heard this song a few years in to my current relationship, it stole my breath because I couldn’t imagine the feeling of losing someone I cared about so much. This song transformed from a hope that society would accept my obsession with fantasy fiction to a deep and meaningful exploration of the power of loss. It was a lot to digest, let me tell you.

~Listen to “My Immortal” here (The “good” version. :))

Song 5: “Unpretty” by TLC

This was one of those “meh” songs when I was younger. I was never into the hair and makeup thing, so I shrugged it off as bull because it didn’t feel like it applied to me and “no one really cares that much about appearance.”

Come to find out, appearances are valued by more people than I thought.

Years later, the line “if you can’t look inside you, find out who am I to be in the position to make me feel so damn unpretty” grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. All of a sudden, I realized, kind of like with “Welcome to My Life,” that the party was inside my head. But instead of pity, it was a name-calling party. I complained about how I wasn’t “deemed” pretty and thus didn’t care how I looked, but really, I had just been hoping that appearances really weren’t that important because I didn’t know what to do with mine.

And then this line made me realize that I was the one responsible for thinking I was “unpretty.” Talk about life-changing. Beauty is like books. Everyone has their own opinion of the best kind, and everyone will argue that their opinions are the right ones. But ultimately, the only person whose opinion matters is your own.

~Listen to “Unpretty” here

Do you have a song (or five) that seem to have changed with time? Tell me about it in the comments (and drop links so I can listen 😸).

One thought on “Through the Years: 5 Songs That Change as I Get Older

  1. I love this post. Thanks for sharing your songs. I’ve been listening to old episodes of the podcast “Sixty Songs That Explain the 90s” and hearing that music is bringing back so many memories. I love learning the backstory of the artists and songs, and have come to appreciate some that I never thought twice about before. Can’t think of a good example of a song that has changed for me, at the moment.

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