What music is my character listening to - in 2003
September 5, 2017 4:17 AM   Subscribe

I am trying to build a playlist for a fictional teenage girl in 2003. All I listened to in 2003 was Jonatha Brooke and Dar Williams. Help me make her a little more well rounded.

For a variety of reasons my story takes place in 2003/2004. My 17 year old character listens to the radio and likes to take CDs out of the library. iTunes has just opened. So has myspace. So she has some options to discover new music. (I was in my 30s back then and pretty set in my musical tastes, so I honestly am drawing a blank.)
She's a gay, religious bookworm. She doesn't really like Christian rock. I think she'd be into girl-power folky-pop, but that brings me back to Dar Williams. I think the Dixie Chicks are a good fit, but she's not a huge country fan otherwise. Looking at the top charts for 2003 finds me a lot of noisy stuff that doesn't fit the bill.
She needs to have some favorite songs, because when she meets her romantic interest later in the story she shares lyrics with her.
So, if you can remember 14 years ago, what were sensitive teenage lesbians listening to?
posted by Biblio to Writing & Language (31 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Does she have someone who could have turned her on to Indigo Girls?
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:18 AM on September 5, 2017

Tori Amos or Fiona Apple? I listened to a lot of Tori Amos in 2003, even though some of her albums had been out for a decade by then.
posted by coppermoss at 4:25 AM on September 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

I started college at 18 in 2004. My roommate listened to a LOT of Ani DiFranco.
posted by phunniemee at 4:33 AM on September 5, 2017 [4 favorites]

Ani DiFranco would have been a bit old hat by then so a lot of her perhaps conflicting political stuff wouldn't matter so much?

As a queer... 19 year old in 2003 I listened to a lot of Bjork, David Bowie and Dar Williams with my little collegiate lesbian clique, so I think you're on track.

You might find some good leads perusing the performers of Lilith Fair. It ended in 99 but still had cultural cache for a while after.
posted by Mizu at 4:36 AM on September 5, 2017

Queer lady folk rock you say - you are looking for Tegan and Sara, who were making much more acousticy folky grrl stuff back then. I had them on a mix tape that I'd made for myself of stuff I'd got from Napster if that is enough of a citation for you!
posted by greenish at 4:47 AM on September 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

Tegan and Sarah. Bright Eyes.
posted by balmore at 4:47 AM on September 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

Definitely Tori Amos and Fiona Apple. I was 15 in 2003 (though not a lesbian) and my music collection was heavily 90s oriented because I'd pulled everything off Napster and Limewire years earlier; no way could I afford to pay for music. Anything from Lilith Fair therefore also featured heavily. Sarah McLachlan was my jam.

My memory from that time was that Tegan and Sara were just beginning to hit the mainstream in the States, but I am not 100% certain. They put out albums in 2002 and 2004, but I lived on the internet and had a thing for Canada at that age so I might be misremembering their Stateside appeal.

Michelle Branch put out a new album in 2003. It wasn't nearly as big as the previous one, which had "Everywhere," but it got lots of radio airtime.

Veronica Mars started late 2004 and had a huge influence on me. I don't know if your story stretches that long, but the theme song was by the Dandy Warhols. Wikipedia says the song itself came out in 2003, though.

Garden State also came out in 2004 and massively shifted my internal music landscape to an indie focus. Maybe your character is ahead of that curve? Perhaps the Shins?
posted by lilac girl at 4:57 AM on September 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Lois Maffeo, Rose Melberg, Team Dresch?
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:59 AM on September 5, 2017

TripleJ is Australia's youth/alt national radio station who do a Hottest 100 every year. It usually has some crossover with mainstream commercial, but leans much more alt/indie. Here's the lists for 2003 and 2004. They might give you some ideas.
(brb, time for some Modest Mouse)
posted by quinndexter at 5:19 AM on September 5, 2017

Maybe a little too early for the Decemberists? But when I think of early- to mid-2000s bookworms, that's the band I think of.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:21 AM on September 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

Sleater-kinney. Spoon. Wilco.
posted by emd3737 at 5:25 AM on September 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

Dashboard Confessional had an album that made it to mainstream radio that summer. Jimmy Eat World. Belle and Sebastian. Death Cab for Cutie released Transatlanticism in October of that year.
posted by shelle at 5:30 AM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was an 18yr old bookish indie girl in 2003*. I loved Sleater-Kinney, Idlewild, British Sea Power, Hope of the States, Franz Ferdinand, We Are Scientists, Interpol, Editors and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Not all of it girl-power, none of it religious, but all very 2003 (and some great lyrics to pick from).

*OMG how have I gotten so old
posted by citands at 5:32 AM on September 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

This is one of the rare questions where my favourite band is a good answer: Belle and Sebastian. Folky songs about lesbians and songs with a religious subtext.
posted by betweenthebars at 5:40 AM on September 5, 2017 [7 favorites]

I had the Indigo Girls catalogue memorized as a teen in the mid to late '90s. So did a couple of my high school friends who were into folk. I don't know if they'd already gone out of style for sensitive teens in the aughts, though. Tracy Chapman might also be an option-- she had a new album out in 2002. Didn't get much radio play then, but Chapman is definitely the sort of artist you'd find in a library. (Note: I'm not a lesbian myself, but my mom is QUITE queer, so our household was very steeped in queer culture).
posted by BlueJae at 6:16 AM on September 5, 2017

Also, maybe Iron and Wine? Our Endless Numbered Days was released in 2004, and while it's certainly not Christian music, there are a number of Biblical allusions in their songs.
posted by coppermoss at 6:30 AM on September 5, 2017

Buffy soundtrack.
posted by johngoren at 6:35 AM on September 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Maybe Cat Power?
posted by voiceofreason at 6:58 AM on September 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

sensitive bookish 16-year-old girl in 2003 checking in—
I started finding new (to me) music on Napster in 2000 or so; teenagers in 2003 were using Kazaa and limewire and while we bought CDs too, it wasn't the main way we found music.

The Be Good Tanyas (Blue Horse) [verrrry women-harmonizing and folksy]
Decemberists (Castaways and Cutouts)
Polyphonic Spree
They Might Be Giants
Le Tigre
Cat Power
the cardigans
letters to cleo
lauryn hill
cibo matto
neko case

Old(er) music new to me:
Leonard Cohen
David Bowie (I listened to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust over and over and over that year)
Fleetwood Mac
T. Rex

I also listened to a lot of punk and punk-adjacent- the clash, sex pistols, buzzcocks, sleater-kinney, sonic youth, pulp, etc, which is maybe not what you're thinking of, but was pretty offbeat and not very fashionable for teenagers at the time except at the fringes.
posted by zingiberene at 7:29 AM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Random bits: Evanescence broke big in 2003. Michelle Branch? Goldfrapp? Macy Gray? Liz Phair?
Natacha Atlas? Veruca Salt? Bjork? The Raevonettes? Ana Popovic? Plus one to Ani DiFranco and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 7:48 AM on September 5, 2017

Ray LaMontagne released the album, Trouble, in September 2004. The song, "Trouble", has the reprise, "I've been saved by a woman," and it was a very popular song with several of my friends who had just gotten into lesbian relationships for the first time--even though the song has nothing to do with LGBT stuff.
posted by colfax at 7:49 AM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This is fantastic, I have so much to Spotify!
posted by Biblio at 8:39 AM on September 5, 2017

Hi, I was 17 in 2003, sensitive but not lesbian, and still pretty religious at the time.

TORI AMOS, absolutely yes.

Indigo Girls were still out there but it felt like their audience skewed older. I liked them, but my mom owned their CDs.

Evanescence really took off in 2003, and it was a big deal to have a female vocalist in a rock band. A lot of us without access to more indie music really latched on to Evanescence because finally there was a woman's voice in modern rock.

The Dresden Dolls were not widely known, but active in 2003 and if your character lives closer to the Boston area or listened to college radio, it's more likely she has heard of them. I found them by 2005.

I also listened to a lot of Enya? This was actually sort of churchy, I remember my church putting on her music when it was time for 'quiet prayer' during catechism. She was having a moment thanks to being on the Lord of the Rings soundtrack and singing at the Oscars.

Relatedly, Annie Lennox performed "Into the West' for LOTR: Return of the King, which came out in December '03, and all the sensitive bookish folks I knew loooooved the song.

Allison Krauss was also well known thanks to O Brother Where Art Thou? and Cold Mountain, she's more in that folksy Dixie Chicks vein.

Otherwise, while MySpace and iTunes were *technically* available, no one I knew in 2003 used them. MySpace had only just gone live in mid-2003 and was not yet a 'thing' (I wouldn't learn about it until end of 2004). We were all still into blogging on LiveJournal. I knew only one kid who had an iPod. I could check out CDs at the library, but Top 40 radio by default shaped most of my musical tastes and so I had to skew towards male artists: Ben Folds, Weezer, Incubus, Jimmy Eat World, Wilco, Coldplay.

Also, all the Christian kids at my school were really, really, really into Switchfoot and universally insisted they were not a Christian rock band.
posted by castlebravo at 8:52 AM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Melissa Ferrick

Not queer-specific but everyone I knew at my big gay liberal arts college in 2003 was listening to the Killers.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:07 AM on September 5, 2017

2nding some stuff from upthread: Belle and Sebastian, Tegan and Sara, Interpol, Spoon, Bjork, Cat Power. Also: Neko Case's Blacklisted. EDIT: and Gillian Welch.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 12:53 PM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was a 16/17 y/o lesbian bookworm in 03/04! (Though decidedly not religious, and I didn't have MySpace or iTunes). Along with Dar, I listened to a lot of Ani DiFranco, Lisa Loeb, Sarah Mclachlan, Tori Amos, The Cranberries, Alanis Morrisette, and Shawn Colvin. I also had at least two (maybe three) Lilith Fair CDs that were in heavy rotation.

I had a couple Indigo Girls songs from mix cds, but never got into them enough to really seek them out beyond that. Agreeing with others that they tended to skew a little older.

Maybe also The Nields and Aimee Mann? I didn't personally pick these up until college, but they were definitely around in 03/04.

Also, does your character have any tv obsessions? If so, they probably picked up at least one artist from playing in the background during That Scene That Gave Them Feels.
posted by tan_coul at 12:56 PM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sixpence None the Richer?
posted by crazy with stars at 2:33 PM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Tori, Tori, Tori, definitely. And all of the above but I also recall many bookish lesbian friends still being massively into Morrissey at that point.
posted by freya_lamb at 4:47 PM on September 5, 2017

Rilo Kiley, Rainer Maria?
posted by checkitnice at 6:34 PM on September 5, 2017

Sleater-Kinney, Bikini Kill, Ani, The Murmurs... anything off the All Over Me soundtrack.
posted by indienial at 3:20 AM on September 8, 2017

Maybe toss in k. d. lang's duet with Tony Bennett on "What a Wonderful World"?
posted by kristi at 10:33 AM on September 8, 2017

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