Thank You for the Music

The mixtapes, drama and Seth Cohen quips that shaped my adolescence

The real Little Miss Vixen, Ironist, Cosmo Girl and Kid Chino.

This month marks the 15th anniversary of one of my favorite shows. I’ve watched dozens of them and some have had a big impact on me — Seinfeld, Six Feet Under, The Office or Treme just to mention a few—so this anniversary could be not that big of a deal. Except that The O.C. was the first show that hooked me up and opened the door to many TV hours to come. Even more than that: for better or for worse, it was a huge part of my sentimental and cultural education. In a way, this teen soap made me who I am today.

I’m not a fan of book/movie/show reviews. I prefer to experience the content by my own and I think you should do too. So, in case you never watched The O.C., I’ll just say it features some of drunk fights in high school parties, a decent number of lover quarrels in pool houses and many mother-daughter arguments in high heels. It doesn’t really matter. Teen dramas aside, The O.C. is not what you’d consider a great show. Some plotlines are absurd at best. The fourth season should have never existed. But you know what? I don’t care.

“At its worst — hell, at its best — The O.C. could be plenty cheesy. But, you know, there’s Camembert and there’s Velveeta. It was nice for a time having a choice between the two, let alone knowing the difference.” Andy Greenwald

To me, The O.C. will always be what kept me company one New Year’s Eve when I was in bed instead of partying because I had the mumps (ew!) and a whole lot of FOMO and teen angst. It is what taught me the word “awesome”, and gave me a glimpse of lives that helped me escape mine when I needed to. It is what made me first click with not one but two people who have later been key in my adult life. It is what helped me prepare through the death of Marissa Cooper (no, after 15 years it’s not a spoiler anymore) for much more real and painful losses.

The O.C. will always be what introduced me to none other than Dead Cab for Cutie! The Killers! Jeff Buckley! And so many bands that have been a foundation of my musical education that now I can’t conceive my cultural references without. They seem so intertwined in who I am that it feels like I’ve been listening to them forever —but I haven’t. Living in Barcelona and not having older siblings and friends, I probably would have never even heard of them if it weren’t for this show.

We take it for granted now, but back in 2003 discovering new music wasn’t as easy as it is today. Sure we had Ares, eMule and Myspace, but if you didn’t know what you were looking for, it was impossible to find. The result was that my friends and I ended up listening to the same MTV artists over and over and over again. When The O.C. mixtapes appeared, it was like suddenly having a cool friend that introduced you to all the unknown bands he had discovered in a trip to some exotic surfer land. Even if they were marketing tools, these mixtapes felt so personal, so revelatory.

With every carefully curated song, The O.C. creator Josh Schwartz and musical supervisor Alex Patsavas opened the door to a rabbit hole of musical discovery. Death Cab brought me to Ben Gibbard, who brought me to The Postal Service, which brought me to… so many songs that not only felt like they talked about me and my problems, they helped me discover things about myself — and a bunch of related indie artists in the process.

“Sometimes listening to a song and feeling false love, false heartache or false rebellion feels just as good, if not better, than the real thing.” Sinead Stubbins

I read The Catcher in the Rye, The Bell Jar, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and all the coming-of-age novels I could get my hands on — none of them resonated like The O.C. and its soundtrack did. Now if you didn’t experience it when you were a teenager, you probably won’t like it. The characters will seem spoiled and shallow. Their everyday drama will make you laugh. If you missed The O.C. train, I wouldn’t recommend you take it as an adult. But I do hope you had your own version of it growing up.