Pop music is a young person's game, as I tried to explain to my third grader a few weeks ago. Being young, he knows nothing else and I'm not going to change his mind, so occasionally I forego my stations and indulge his pop music requests. He thinks I'm terribly boring and old, but pop music ruled my world for the first half of my life.
Remember listening to Casey Kasem every Sunday morning? Tuning in as early as possible to try to get nearly all of the Top 40? Stepping away from the radio only during the dreadful long distance dedications? Long before I had a stereo with a tape deck (yes, young people, tape deck), I'd hold my tape recorder up to the speaker, dutifully recording the top ten songs each week, trying to record as much of the song as possible without deejay voiceover. I'd take my tape recorder to elementary school, rocking out to the week's top ten in the back of the school bus. I was cool like that (or as I was weirdly pleased to learn is still elementary school parlance--not).
I became old, in the music world, somewhere around 1992. The grunge thing was lost on me. I couldn't tell Nirvana from Pearl Jam from Stone Temple Pilots from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Once my weekends and--who am I kidding--several weeknights weren't spent standing around, drinking beer and listening to some fraternity's dance mix, I officially was out of the pop loop.
After a twenty-year hiatus, I'm getting pulled back in by my son. Not long ago, I wondered if "water cooler talk" was important for the elementary school set. My kids don't watch much TV or play many video games, and I wondered if they might be left out by other kids. My son tested the social waters with a brief foray into Pokemon cards last year, but he's really striking out with pop music. While like a good parent, I find most of the kids' music perfectly dreadful, I am reasonably happy to indulge his fervent musical requests.
A common plea is now: "Can we listen to Hits 1?" I always have music on in the car and usually at home, and Hits 1 is far from my comfort zone. My Pandora station is a perfect mix of classic rock, folk, and country. My top level pre-sets in the car are:
80s on 8
Classic Rewind (classic rock)
Classic Vinyl (classic rock)
Prime Country (80s and 90s country)
The Highway (contemporary country)
Willie's Roadhouse (old school country) - mostly I like the deejays' accents
One Direction, Flo-rida, PSY, and a band mysteriously named fun. are not what I'd choose, and I certainly wouldn't choose to listen to the same five songs that seem to be playing every time we turn on Hits 1. Like a good middle-aged person, I mutter (mostly to myself) that every song sounds the same, with the same synthesized techno beat. But I'm grudgingly willing to let the kids listen, even if I think the music is often crap. I'd rather this be my son's way of joining in, rather than wanting to plop himself in front of a screen all the time; I'm sure that day will come soon enough. I believe that music is important, even bad music--the soundtrack of our lives, and whatnot.
In the meantime, I've added Hits 1 to my second-tier pre-sets and have even admitted that Whistle is a fairly catchy song. The only one I cannot tolerate is Gagnam Style; I've not felt compelled to check out the "hilarious" video, and the song is truly abysmal. [shudder] The kids permit me to change the station without complaint, so they must not truly love it either.
Next time you're stopped at a light next to a forty-something mom in a minivan, don't judge her if she's listening to Dynamite. She's probably just trying to be a good mom to the little pop music fans in the back. Don't worry, she'll turn right back to her classic rock as soon as she has a few minutes to herself because, as we all know, pop music is a young person's game.