Albums that Shaped Me: TMNT Coming Out of Our Shells
It's a little known fact about me that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Coming Out Of Our Shells album is in my top 10 of best albums of all time. I'm not being ironic. This isn't nostalgia. I listen to it at least once a day, every day. It is during this 37 minute run time that I feel most centered and calm. It is vital to the well being of my mental health.
Anyone who knows me closely knows that I take the things I love the most and make them part of my daily routine. I take this to the extreme, and while I won't go into detail because it will assuredly be its own blog post someday, there is a thing in my life called the "YOU'VE GOT MAIL intervention" that ended in legitimate therapy.
Yet unlike YGM, listening to this album daily has not become problematic. If anything, it may be one of the unsung heroes of keeping my mental health together.
My first introduction to the TMNT Coming Out of Our Shells album was from a cheap VHS my mom brought home to me. It was "The Making of the Coming Out of Our Shells Tour." I'm pretty sure it was a promotional item that she later found at a garage sale and gave to me simply because I had been obsessed with the turtles since I was a toddler. I was five when the tour started, but age six or seven when I first became aware of it.
I watched that Making of tape on repeat. It didn't bother me that I'd never see the live show. Even as a kid, I knew opportunities like that didn't happen to kids like me.
It also didn't hold me back that I was only hearing snippets of the songs. I fell in love with this album measure by measure. The Turtles had come to life as rock stars, and as an 80's rock kid seeing my heroes bridge the gap to my other dream job; there was no way this album wasn't going to be for me.
It was years before my mom tracked down the cassette tape. Finally owning the legitimate album in whole felt like matching the other piece of your best friends necklace. My soul felt complete.
And when music became available to me to download through Limewire, it was the very first album I did. When music became available to stream, it was the first album I added to the playlist. It is a part of my identity. No hyperbole intended.
I could sit here and argue why the music has merit from a artisan viewpoint alone. I could go into detail on why I believe the songwriters imitated music genres skillfully while making it feel relevant to the TMNT universe and work as a cohesive live show story. But no argument I could make would do anything to change your mind if you've already decided it's a joke. And you know what, that's ok with me. I understand. I don't need to justify to anyone else why I truly love something. We are who we are. I didn't write this to defend myself. I wrote this to celebrate it and thank it for contributing to who I am.
My favorite songs are the melodramatic ballads and inspiring anthems. "Skipping Stones" still manages to invoke a meditative feeling for me. Reflective, melancholy, faithful, and ultimately content, that song is symbolism for when I am most at peace. It is the space in which I want to live my life, to know I'm ok even when things aren't ok.
"Count On Us" can still make me happy cry in certain moments. In every moment, it never fails to inspire and fire up my heart and courage.
Then there are the songs that make me laugh and are always a source of great joyfulness. The rapping, oh my lord! I adore it. I love cheese, and aside from the pizza part of things, the TMNT songs had so much of it you could order a 5 Cheese pizza and it would still pale in comparison to the amount that was on this album.
The past six months especially have been my crucible. Years of a hidden illness suddenly coming to a head, it has been fight or die. I've also had to face that my lifestyle and personal relationships needed to change if I am going to make the life for myself that I want. This is not a time for cowards or quitters.
So every day with the help of my heroes in a half shell, my brothers in spirit since childhood, the Turtles sing courage, hope, faith, and joy into my very exhausted heart. My brain goes quiet, the pain of my aching body suspends, and my spirit roams free just long enough to remember who I am and what I stand for.
"Sing about it
When you're happy or sad
Good times or bad
You got to
Sing sing sing
Sing about it"
And when I start to get overwhelmed and think I need the answer there's...
"But all things
As time goes by
Moving on to bigger
And not quite
Pretty soon I start to believe in myself again. In my own power and that I matter. That I am more than trash.
"We just kept practicing we stayed underground
'Cause singing in the sewer is a wonderful sound
It's a wonderful sound"
And suddenly I don't feel so alone anymore. WE shall overcome. By we, I mean me and all the people that love me. Whether it's abuse, mental illness, poverty, or sickness, "you gotta fight to be free."
"You can count on us
Where ever you are You know that We're never far
You gotta fight To be free"
It is tragic to me that the world believes we need to shed our childhood heroes for adult ones, or that our childhood heroes need to have adult complications to be considered legitimate. I appreciate a solid dark turn for superheroes and the complexity of the antihero. But at the end of the day, I will never stop believing in the simplicity of goodness, love, and hope. This is what this album by my childhood now adulthood heroes means for me.
Every day that I can "Sing About It" is a good day to be alive.