Friday, March 28, 2014

They Don't Make Music like They Used to (and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves Because We're Afraid of Becoming Irrelevant)

I have a 6-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl, and they listen to whatever music I listen to, and they like it, most of the time. But I live in fear. We're not the only influences in the kids' lives, and the older they get, the larger the chance of them coming home from school one day, humming a new Katy Perry song. Or Bieber. Or whatever manufactured teen sensation of the day they're innocent enough to consume and think of as their own.

When parents find out their kids have shitty taste in music, they either roll their eyes, or start a Good Music 101 class, and I had always considered myself in the second group. I've had it all planned out:

When the first crappy music makes it into our house, I will sit my kids down, play the entire Pink Floyd discography, then The Beatles, then Simon & Garfunkel. And Bjork. And Death Cab for Cutie. And Arcade Fire. Then The Velvet Underground. Then Talking Heads. Radiohead. Flaming Lips. Yo La Tengo. Then Robyn Hitchcock. Then we'll take a short break, and start our Bruce Springsteen lesson with Nebraska. When we're done, the only thing left to say will be, "Any questions?" And they'll know they've made a mistake, and that they're destined for better things.

Or maybe I will roll my eyes and know it's only a phase?

Recently I got to drive a rental car, which came with satellite radio. And like many people from my generation, my first choice when I turned on XM Radio was their '80s station.

This song was the first one to play, and I couldn't be happier:

Last Christmas I gave you my heart
But the very next day, you gave it away

If you're a child of the 70s or the 80s, you just repeated "gave it away" in Andrew Ridgeley's voice. That's what we do, because we listened to Wham! religiously as kids, and now as adults, we sing along and remember the good old days.

And that's the point. There were great songs in the '80s, but most of us listened to crap, and we ended up fine-ish. Maybe people who talk about the good old days are just afraid of becoming irrelevant? So they look back and imagine a time when everything made sense, and then they compare it to what young people face today: Snapchats, and twerking, and sexting, and terrible terrible music.

We weren't better than them, though, and us old men and women need to remember that. They listen to Bieber? You listened to George Michael. Their songs are all about sex? Didn't you sing along to "My Toot Toot"? Aren't you singing it on your head right now?

I have to remind myself to lay off the next generation. They will make their own mistakes, whether it comes from twerking of by listening to One Direction, but along the way, they will create their own culture and change the world in their own ways. And one day, 30 years from now, our kids will drive their hybrid cars jetpacks, and a Bieber song will start playing, and they will sing along, remembering those crazy 2010s.

We're not the first generation to pretend we're musical snobs, and we won't be the last. Our kids--the same ones who put up Miley Cyrus posters on their bedroom ceilings--will react to their own kids' favorite music with disgust, and try to convert them away from the dark side of manufactured crap, but in the end, crap will forever continue to be manufactured, kids will forever like it, and they will forever grow up listening to it with a nostalgic smile, singing along to bland lyrics with the same terrible rhymes repeating themselves one generation after another, and they will then lecture their kids about the golden age of music.

So when the inevitable happens, and my kids come home singing songs that offend all that is good and beautiful and edgy in the world, maybe I will choose to roll my eyes and move on after all. After all, I had this poster in my room:


Hey Hey Hey, this post has been republished on Huffington Post!


  1. I have been successfully giving my kids the 80s' experience as far as music, movies, and cartoons. Project 80s Brainwashing in full effect!

  2. As much as I like '80s cartoons, and as much as I love to say, "They don't make stuff like that anymore," I have to say the new-ish Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated show they have on Netflix is awesome.

  3. I'm willing to check that out, but I hated the new version of Thundercats.

  4. Point taken. I didn't like Wham or George Michael but there was plenty of stuff I liked that I am sure I would hear now and cringe. I have to admit I think the One Direction (well, they're big one at least) is catchy and I like some of Katy Perry's songs. More importantly, my son loves both and it makes him happy. It ain't a tradgedy!

  5. I often give my kids the "You like that??" My oldest son, the one closest to developing a musical taste, and currently the one with the most musical talent is a fan of Muse and Lady Gaga. He actually gets Gaga, as his mother and I get, and to a less extent enjoy Gaga. He has realized that publicly being a Gaga fan in 7th grade will pigeonhole him by his peers, and he doesn't give a crap, which is all his mother, myself or his monster mother, could hope for. The middle child listens to everything, loves the David Byrne/Brian Eno album "My life in the bush of ghosts" and regularly makes fun/his own lyrics to most pop music. The little girl is all Frozen all the time right now, but has been known to belt out some Katy Perry, and occasionally some Bob Marley. They all hate country, and I love them for it.

  6. Ha, I've never heard a One Direction song. And even if I did hear it, I didn't.

  7. I'm amazingly not over Frozen yet. To be honest, I probably sing it more often than the kids do.

  8. post post modern dadMarch 31, 2014 at 3:55 PM

    The trick is knowing the difference between "good" music and the stuff we enjoy. I have no problem listening to The Spice Girls or Katy Perry (by myself, unironically) or Rick Astley or whatever. I also know that quality comes in the form of Johnny Cash or The Ramones. When we listen to music I talk to my kids about it and I help them understand the merits of whatever it is. Is it good? Why? Do you like it? Why? How can you tell it is "authentic" and what does that mean? All sorts of stuff a music snob would ask - right before putting on Rick Springfield.

  9. My daughter is 3 and has awesome taste in music. Laurie Berkener, Steve Miller, Buddy Guy, The White Stripes and a spattering of thumping house music (that she affectionately, and appropriately, calls Yikes Music) I fear the day she gets Bieber fever and I have to cope, as sound as your perspective is.



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