Angst on Tour: How Music Got Me Through My Adolescence

By Emma Rosenstein

Everyday is the end of the world when you’re a teenager. (Or a 20 year old that is somehow feeling the effects of a midlife crisis without even reaching quarter life age)

This might be an unpopular opinion but I love feeling angsty. There’s nothing like finally being able to relate to your favorite music or understand what a certain character is feeling in a comfort movie of yours. I think my peak feeling of angst was in middle school. Looking back on it, I’m not really sure why I felt the way I did, I just remember feeling insanely alone and out of place amongst all of my friends.

Between that and also experiencing major changes through puberty, I saw the world through a lens of nihilism and despair. While it may have been the time when I felt most alone, I was able to find an escape in the form of music.

During this portion of my life, I fell in love with two of my now favorite genres: pop punk and alternative rock. I also found some of my favorite artists during this time: My Chemical Romance, Avril Lavigne, Pierce the Veil, Fall Out Boy and Paramore. I was definitely more of a pop girl in middle school so this kind of music was very different from the Beyonce, Katy Perry, and Rihanna that I was used to listening to.

These artists sounded angry and loud, and the instrumentation was so foreign to me, but the lyrics felt so real. I will never forget the first time I heard “I Don’t Love You” by My Chemical Romance. While at this point I had never been in love, hearing the lyrics “When you go, would you even turn to say.. I don’t love you like I did yesterday” hit me so hard. The best thing about angsty music is that no matter what you’re going through or what emotions you are feeling, they’re able to represent that emotion in such a relatable and freeing way. 

When I was younger, I didn’t just hate life. Oh no, I hated everything. I had a glass half empty approach to everything, which is what contributed most to my angst. I wanted to stand on top of the tallest building and just scream songs like “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” by Good Charlotte and “I Don’t Care” by Fall Out Boy at the top of my lungs. I had an undying need to stick it to the man!

Even though this was a small portion of my life, the music that I listened to during this time is near and dear to my heart and it’s honestly more relatable to me now than it ever was. As a twenty year old college student who is living paycheck to paycheck in a world run by capitalism, I relate so much more to the angsty music that I listened to in my youth.

I have also been introduced to so many more artists that represent this same feeling of angst that I had previously felt in my early adolescence. As I’ve gotten older, a lot of these artists diversified as well, and have included more female and nonbinary/gender non-conforming artists.

Some of my favorites include Phoebe Bridgers, Lana Del Rey, boygenius, Renforshort, Mitski, and even some pop artists like Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift, and Olivia Rodrigo. All of these artists have evoked more of a calmer yet emotional feeling of angst that is contrary to the hard hitting rock angst that was popular in the 90s and the early 2000s.

Mostly, I think everyone gets a bit angsty every once in a while but beautiful things can come out of these moments. For me, it was finding music that I hold close to my heart. For others it might be hobbies, movies, or even doing some soul searching to find their passion. Angst has been synonymous with a lot of negative traits but a lot of the movies, music, and characters labeled as angsty are very relatable, for good reason. Angst is real. Angst is art!

Listen to Emma’s playlist here!


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