Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Pop radio is dying...

And is anyone listening?

You know people I have to admit something. I have a teenage daughter (age withheld to protect what little cool credability that I might foolishly cling to) that I have been trying to get past the unfortunate stuff that is played on the radio. Have any of you listened to pop radio lately? It was not only an education for me but I have not heard the words "ass," and "bitch" so much since... well, since ever. We could not listen to the radio stations my daughter wants to listen to with my younger son in the car.

And the preprogrammed -- not in your town, really -- DJs were extremely sexually suggestive. I know, I know... how can I say that on this blog where we attempt those double entrendre thingies like some people work in oil and clay... well, maybe Atta. I just like catching what I can in the guy's shadow.

Anyway, I was listening to this station after a song about all of the places where the man had graphic sex with several different women and the DJ comes on to discuss the meaning of the song and that women listening should call in and discuss where and how they would "do it" with him. Now before you think I was listening at night, this was 4pm on a Saturday. And yes, I know what Robert Plant meant about all that lemon juice running down his leg.

Thus I tried to talk about the content of the song and DJ's remarks as demeaning to women and my daughter dismissed me as being "too serious." Am I being too serious? Am I being too judgemental about music that I do not like? I just find that so much of what Usher et al sing and sing about to be so one dimensional. Am I being unfair?

What I have encountered in trying to discuss music with my daughter generally is resentment. Resentment that -- the Beatles, Stones, Who, Kinks, Boston, U2, Journey, REM, Replacements, Husker Du, The Connells, Billy Bragg, Uncle Tupelo, Whiskeytown, alt-country, Wilco, and too many others to mention -- resentement that I am trying to shove music at her without thinking about what she wants to listen to. And as someone who has experienced much music being shoved down my throat by boomers as music they *HAVE* to like because it's *BETTER* than whatever they're already been listening to. That doesn't tend to sit well and I appreciate that concern.

Now things are not impossible and I find that sharing music is important. My daughter and I can talk about Green Day -- we both love the new record, The Killers -- man, its like part of the 80s all over again, The Cure -- she really likes them, Outkast -- I have to hand that one to her... it is a great record. We both agree that the Strokes will have little staying power and the Velvet Underground is far far far... did I say far... superior to the Strokes. We also recognize that downloading (regardless of which service) has replaced the local record store and there is a loss of community from that.

Most young people (which I think of as under 17) tend to resent the implication that the music of their parents (or grandparents!) is superior to the music of their
contemporaries. It's true even if, as is occasionally the case with my daughter, they actually do like (or even prefer) baby boomer, post boomer, punk, or post punk music.

The corollary to not being preachy to younger people about your era's music is to be open-minded about theirs. I thought about this last night as we
were packing up after listening to music for a few hours. I think that she was a little taken aback to see me blissing out to "Hey Ya" by OutKast, which is one of my favorite songs right now. I can't help it; it's an
insanely catchy song, and hookiness is always my bottom line as far as most popular music is concerned. Plus, I love the spare but thick sound of the song. I realize that the wildly eclectic and inventive OutKast is hardly a typical hip-hop act, and that "Hey Ya" is more pop funk than rap. But the point remains: it's important to keep an honest ear open to music that's outside of the typical genres or musical eras that constitute your comfort zone.

So, the question is: how do I get my daughter to consider the consequences of such blatantly offensive behavior or am I making a mountain out of a mole hill? What do you think? Maybe I should introduce her to Ani DeFranco?

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