Music and memory share a special relationship. Hearing certain songs or albums can prompt us to remember moments or life events. Consider “Homeroom,” hosted by Riley Beggin and Jenna Bushnell, a musical trajectory best mapped onto the life experiences of Generation Y. Weekly themes on your worst break-up, high school dances and your first summer with a driver’s license coalesce around their central motif: nostalgia. Riley and Jenna sat down to share their musical milestones; the dialogue typical of their radio panache, which centers on sacred albums; and the song of our generation, R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix).”
The Badger Herald: Tell us about yourselves.
Jenna Bushnell: I’m a senior at the University of Wisconsin majoring in journalism and international studies. Riley and I met each other freshman year of college while living in Witte. We first bonded over our love of music in general, but more specifically, the song “Fo Yo Sorrows” by Big Boi, which we’ve played more than a few times on our show.
Riley Beggin: I graduated last semester with a major in history and international studies, and now I fill my time working for the Majestic Theatre, continuing to get my live music fix. Jenna and I had that “Step Brothers” (DID WE JUST BECOME BEST FRIENDS?!) moment our freshman year while drunkenly talking about hip-hop — it’s been a dream ever since.
BH: What is the concept behind “Homeroom?”
RB: We both have a deep connection to the music that we grew up with and the way that music has soundtracked our lives. We wanted to make a show that fleshes out the idea that songs are really connected to specific moments and stories. The idea of “Homeroom” is to play songs that represent different experiences we’ve had growing up. (It also makes for some interesting fodder because Jenna grew up outside of D.C. and I grew up outside of Minneapolis, so our experiences sometimes have sharp differences while being weirdly relatable.)
JB: Because we’re both wrapping up college life this year and have to unwillingly embrace adulthood, we thought it might be fun to get extra nostalgic about songs, albums and artists that were important to us growing up (and hopefully our listeners too).
BH: Is there any one theme from your show that sticks out? What were some of the featured songs?
RB: One of my favorites was “Awkward School Dances.” It probably wasn’t the listener’s favorite, but we played all those songs that they played in your sweaty school gym while you pretended to like grinding. We played “All the Small Things” by Blink 182, “Goodies” by Ciara and what we call the song of our generation, “Ignition (Remix)” by R. Kelly.
JB: Middle school dances were the best. And worst. A quick skim of my blog from seventh grade would tell you all about that. Nevertheless, nowadays when “Hot in Herre” comes on at a bar, everyone gets a little excited. I love old songs that make you want to scream out, “THIS IS MY JAM!” I do that often.
BH: What albums do you consider sacred? How have they cemented a particular moment in your life?
JB: It’s a split between two albums: Graduation by Kanye West and Stankonia by OutKast. Stankonia was the first hip-hop CD I ever owned. (I think I actually took it from my older brother, but regardless.) That was back in the day when you couldn’t skip songs on your iPod, so I’d just listen to the full album over and over again. “Graduation” was the first album I really understood. I love every song on it, including “Barry Bonds.” And Ye’s subsequent concert was my first hip-hop concert, which I’ll never forget.
RB: Fleet Foxes’ Helplessness Blues isn’t as old as some of the stuff we play on our show, but that album really pulled me through freshman year. It always brings me back to that fall semester when I was getting used to such extreme change, exciting new places and people, and the really, really cold winter that I am still shocked by.
BH: Can you think of a song or album that has taken on a new or different meaning with age?
RB: This is going to be a bit of a cop-out, but A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory. I listened to it a lot when I was 15, just because I liked the sound. As I grew up, I got drawn into social justice work and really thinking about race in a systemic and personal context. Over my time in college, The Low End Theory drew me in and challenged me in new ways.
JB: “No Scrubs” was my favorite song in first grade. My friends and I actually had choreographed an entire dance to it. Obviously, now I know what a scrub is, but I can also appreciate TLC for embodying strong, proud women and I think that influenced me in a positive way growing up. Obviously “No Scrubs” is a lot more fun than some of TLC’s other, more substantive songs about womanhood, but the message is still powerful: I’m a woman, and I’m not going to take your crap.
Recent music discoveries?
RB: I just cannot stop listening to Future Islands right now. Other standouts for me recently have been Wye Oak, Foxygen, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, anything that Kendrick Lamar touches, The Preatures, Cage the Elephant and Against Me!.
JB: I’m often pretty late to new music discoveries, so I’m not charting any new ground when I say I’ve been listening to Danny Brown, MO and Jhene Aiko a lot recently. I’m in the class Black Music 162 (every music fan should take this class), and it’s opened my eyes to a lot of artists I was not familiar with. As a result, I’ve been listening to a lot of George Clinton, Arrested Development, D’Angelo and New Orleans Bounce artists like the Showboys.
BH: Why should people listen to your show?
RB: Because nostalgia never sounded so good.