When You Were Young: A Thousand Miles

It is universally accepted that everybody loves 3 things: parfaits, birthday clowns, and nostalgia. This column aims to play upon the sentimentality inherent in every reader by remembering a key “retro” pop culture item.

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Yes, this column is being run on a Thursday.

This week’s Throwback: Vanessa Carlton Walking A Thousand Miles

Give me your Swifts, your Grandes, your huddled Cyruses yearning to breathe free. I say you can have ‘em, just give me an iPod Video loaded up with just one MP3: A Thousand Miles by Vanessa Carlton.

2001 was a great year for music and my life. I learned some basic addition. Collected a boatload of money for UNICEF. Got teeth knocked out by—in no particular order—a dodgeball, a soccer ball, and a girl’s fist. Listened to a whole bunch of Radio Disney.

Hearing A Thousand Miles brings back all of these early childhood memories. It is, for me, a musical representation of both the catchy melodies that permeated throughout my childhood as well as the literal distance it felt like my mom drove us to school every morning. Later, this song would be relevant again in my life when I first watched the White Chicks scene where Terry Crews sings it. It was the first time I teared up from laughter. It wouldn’t be the last.

Enough about the feelings this iconic pop anthem invoked in me 13 years ago, let’s get down to the brass tacks: the actual song. In case you’ve been living under a soundproof boulder for the last decade, I’ll give you some highlights. There is an instantly recognizable piano riff, a catchy chorus, and soaring strings. Carlton even throws in some subtle bells in the background. Her voice—a conglomerate of the pipes of an American-Idol era Kelly Clarkson with the vocal gravitas of Barry Manilow—is something that can’t help but stick with you. These things all combine to create a mélange of pure, honest-to-goodness pop, with a little more than a dash of feeling.

Columnist Doug Larson once wrote, “Nostalgia is a file that removes the rough edges from the good old days.” When I hear A Thousand Miles, I think about my “good old days.” For me, this song is a time machine, bringing me back to the second grade book fair, reading Roald Dahl in the corner, or back with the class hermit crabs, simultaneously terrified and excited by their claws, or back to English class watching Schoolhouse Rock videos.

That’s why I chose this song for the first installation of this column. For me, it harks back to the days when life was easier, and there wasn’t much else to think about except for 1) what my mom packed me for lunch that day and 2) how much I loved when this song came on the radio.

Clearly and non-negotiably, this song absolutely rocks. I’d walk a thousand miles, just for that iPod Video loaded up with Vanessa and her piano.

POST-ARTICLE NOTE: This song is not to be confused with anything in Michelle Branch’s music catalogue. Everywhere is a great tune, but Michelle is no Vanessa.

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