What is it about?
Kid Cudi's "Soundtrack 2 My Life," off of his 2009 debut album Man on the Moon: The End of the Day, is an autobiographical admission of the loneliness, alienation and depression that defines his life. Cudi's debut was released at the perfect time. As Facebook began to explode amongst high school students at the end of the decade, millions of high school kids grappling with the challenges of adolescence--the unrequited crushes, the crumbling friendships and the loneliness and mental health strains that accompanied it all--found solace in Cudi's immensely quotable confessional that reassured them that they weren't completely alone. Looking back, it's almost as though the track was tailor-made for social media. The refrain, "I've got some issues that nobody can see, and all of these emotions are pouring out of me," appeared almost daily on my Facebook timeline, as did "Ignorance is love and I need that shit." Another less-depressing yet popular line was "Haters shake my hand but I keep the hand sanitizer on deck." God, I miss the days when the only thing sanitizer kept away was the haters.
Why did I like it?
Like most high schoolers, I found a kindred spirit in Cudi, whose lamentations about paranoia, depression and the death of his father connected with my own privileged existence; namely, of course, my lack of a girlfriend. The lyrics--tackling self-delusion and isolation--coupled with brooding, atmospheric production, produced a powerful song that assured my peers and myself that we weren't the only ones who felt alone and misunderstood.
How does it hold up over time?
The song is 11 years old now and remains a prime example of "old Cudi", the lonely stoner whom nostalgic fans reference whenever he puts out new music. (His 2018 collaboration with Kanye, Kids See Ghosts, however, is absolutely worth listening to and captures some of that Man on the Moon Magic.")
As for "Soundtrack 2 My Life," I'm conflicted about it. I still love the dark, atmospheric production. The chorus, although basic, does what a good chorus is supposed to do: it lends legitimacy to the listeners' own feelings and their own struggles. I've never been to a Cudi concert, but I can imagine the crowd chanting it together and all of the unspoken emotions imbuing that moment.
At the same time, some of the lyrics that I overlooked when I was younger strike me as unbearably corny now. It's hard to truly vibe with a song when you suddenly get hit with a line like "Ass all chunky, brain is insanity/Only thing that calm me down, pussy and some Cali tree." Even lines like "I am happy that's just the saddest lie," which once seemed so profound, sort of give off "I"m 14 and this is deep vibes," which probably explains why it was so popular with that age group. Still, I was always more into Cudi for his beats than his lyrics, and the fact that his first two albums had such a distinct, identifiable sound testifies to his talent as an artist, regardless of his shortcomings.
*I also finally understand what "I got 99 problems and they all bitches" is a reference to, and who Jigga is.