Saturday, August 31, 2013



There has been an abundance of articles circulating the web on how to talk to your daughters about Miley Cyrus or how to talk to your sons about Robin Thicke after their shocking performance of Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” at MTV’s VMAs, but the greater conversation still appears unspoken: have you talked to your children about their shitty, shitty taste in music yet? Or more importantly, have you talked to yourself about how you could let you children have such shitty taste in music?

While everyone is ranting and raving about Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke’s best impression of LeeLoo and Beetlejuice doing softcore porn, we should really be asking ourselves as a society how we’ve let such incredibly bad music seep into our homes.

Why do your children listen to knock-offs of Marvin Gaye? Why don’t they just listen to Marvin Gaye? Don’t you have Marvin Gaye records lying around, for crying out loud? Marvin Gaye sang about sex, but in a sexy way. Not in a rapey way. For example: while Marvin Gaye sings lines such as “You can love me when you want to, babe // This is such a groovy party, baby” in “Got to Give It Up”, a song that Thicke acknowledged being inspired by and preemptively sued the Gaye family re: copyright infringement allegations , Thicke  sings “You the hottest bitch in the place“. Since this is a blog post about shitty taste in music and not about feminism, I will ignore the fact that this is an incredibly offensive lyric and zero in on the fact that “you the hottest bitch in the place” is just plain ol’ incorrect English. Instead of worrying about your children watching scantily clad women being dry humped by men who could be their father, you should be more concerned about your children dropping verbs from their sentences.

Aside from the lyrics, I’m not ever sure there is a single instrument other than one keyboard in “Blurred Lines” (as semi-proved by the VMA performance; I’m not sure MTV knows what a musical instrument even looks like anymore). Remember when songs were played by a band with several talented musicians? Remember when middle class or impoverished kids got together and sang in a garage and they would mail their tape demos to label execs and sometimes, just sometimes that label exec would get all excited and phone the kids in Detroit or Minneapolis or some other cold-ass place and say, “You’re going to be stars, kids!”? Remember when musicians weren’t solely children of famous people?

If you’re worried about your kids twerking, then teach them the “Electric Slide”. That’s what I did when I was 12. The Electric Slide is shitty music too, but at least it’s 18 completely asexual dance moves. Hell, teach your kids the “Macarena” for fuck’s sake. I’d have way more respect for your 13 year-old if I saw them being the lone nerd doing the “Macarena” at a school dance. They’ll even learn Spanish in the process.

If my kids ask me why I’m so sensitive about this issue, I will tell them it’s because shitty music comes from people who have money and who constantly stroke each other’s big fat egos. I will tell them that, sadly, the art industries are run by people with neither style nor class, who care more for shock value that ultimately makes them more money. People who make shitty music don’t care about grammar or about using instruments, and they prefer to knock-off or sample all the great work that has come before them.

It’s time to take away our children’s TVs, iPhones, iPads and all the other shit they shouldn’t have and force them to listen to music prior to 1999. We should take our children on record buying trips. We should read Keith Richards’ autobiography before bedtime (with some censoring). We should show them what a cassette tape looks like and tell them that if they make a really cool mixtape, they’ll make someone fall in love with them. We should force them to listen to the uncut versions of “Stairway to Heaven”, “American Pie” and “Free Bird” because they should be subjected to the same 20 minutes of radio monotony that we had to. If my daughter wants to look like Stevie Nicks, I’d proudly buy her a shawl and moon-shaped tambourine. If my son wants a poster of Frank Zappa crapping on the toilet, I would buy it and frame it over his bed. If my children end up hating me for taking away their top 40 diarrhea, I would tell them it’s for their own good because I don’t want them growing up to be like Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke simply because they’re shitty, shitty artists.


Anonymous said...

Granted, I'm a plus 50 boy with a ton of music under my belt (on the walls, in boxes, etc.) and I agree with many of these comments ("Hey, you kids, get off my lawn!), but there has always been crap art promoted by bags of money who want more money. The lack of music in many of today's top 40 isn't all surprising if you take a stroll down memory lane and run into the likes of the Boone family and their ilk.
As a parent,however, there is the opportunity to actually play music around the house (and even sing along!!!!) instead of letting others program your child's taste in music. I do it in my classes as well; my students get to choose sometimes and sometimes I choose musical selections. Some is crap, but often there are gems to be mined.

jeff said...

Our kid wanted me to transfer some music to her ipod: wanted the Decemberists, Macy Gray, Fountains of Wayne. I gave her the four-volume Hitsville collection and over her objections a best-of Rolling Stones (hey, can't win them all).

jeff said...

One point though: I can see my parents writing something very similar in 1970, moaning about Jimi and Janis and the Beatles and the Stones and moaning about kids not appreciating Frank, the Gershwins or Harry Ruby.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anonymous (I'm a different anonymous) there was loads of crap out there pushed hard at us by record execs. I heard it all and chose not to buy it. Great music is still being made, and my daughter and her friends listen to it. I don't like all of it, but when you actually listen, some of it is very good. some of them have asked me for music from my collection. They want Led Zeppelin, The Moody Blues, The Beatles and Queen. There is still hope!

buzzbabyjesus said...

For about two hours every day I fill the house with music while I make dinner and we eat it. The family joke is that it must be time to sit down because something really aggressive is on.
Even though I have several thousand cd's it's usually coming from my phone in a big inclusive playlist. As a result, my daughter's heard all kinds of vintage Blues, R&B, Reggae, The Beatles, Elvis, Bob Dylan, Jazz, Country, Big Star, Syd Barrett and a cast of 1,000's played in shuffle mode.
She's aware of the Beatles Vs Stones debate and definitely prefers the Fab Four. I made a Queen compilation and she begged me to NEVER play it again.
She's kind of a folkie and likes Davy Graham, Pentangle, Nick Drake, and The Moulettes.
She a Dr. Who fan and bought Chameleon Circuit, who aren't bad.
She likes classical music more than I do.

The only time top 40 has been played in my house was when she experimented with it at about 11 years old. For 3-4 weeks I heard WPLJ coming out of her room.
One time I explained to her that I didn't listen to that stuff because I'm into music, I'm a musician, and there wasn't anything there for me. I have low expectations about having any real effect on her trajectory, and immediate gratification is out of the question, but often enough I'll see something I said turn up as a subtle influence. She stopped listening to Top 40 all of a sudden when she realized they played the same crappy songs over and over again, and that her favorite parts were the commercials, because some were funny.
She sees right through Hanna Montana,and probably doesn't even know what MTV is.

simonthecat said...

I think a big part of the problem is that music is being so blatantly marketed as a disposable commodity - just one more lifestyle accessory, to be tossed or ignored just as soon as the next thing comes along. Can you honestly believe that anyone who's buying this stuff will want to listen to it again in 2 years? 5 years? I think about the first albums I bought - Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper - and I still flat out love those things today.

A walk in the woods said...

I've put good music into my boys' ears since before they were born (played a lot of Van Morrison, Dylan, Stevie, Beatles, Aretha, etc in utero) and took them both to see Bob Dylan at 1.5 years old so that he would be their first concert experience.

I think it's bearing fruit. Yesterday our oldest son said he wants to play sax in the school band (he's in 4th grade) which got me into a conversation with him about Coltrane...

That being said, he does like the radio junk too. My least favorite one is that damn "Armageddon" song. Can't win 'em all.

Shriner said...

The only thing missing from that article was "And Get Off My Lawn!".

And why he used 1999 as a demarcation year, I don't know. In general, I though most music that came out of the 90's pretty much sucked, too...

William Repsher said...

I actually took "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke as a compliment to an era of music that I sometimes hear replicated very well these days. (The new Daft Punk album blew my doors off ... they nailed that mid-tempo disco sound of the mid-70s that I really enjoy hearing now, think "Rock Your Baby" by George MacRae.)

Of course, I hope the Gaye estate sues the ass of him and those responsible for such a direct lift of a classic. The uncensored video for the song is also pretty putrid ... then again, the "Fat Bottomed Girls" video by Queen suffers from the same sort of asinine (pun intended) overkill.

Most of the guys I grew up with, their musical tastes are like a time capsule of 60s-80s rock, with nothing before or after. Which is fine -- most people simply stop listening to music and growing their musical tastes as they age. Whereas I've chosen to pursue this thing in some real, substantial way, even if it's only for my own personal pleasure. Listening to music, particularly new music, is something I'll always want to do.

And discover music from the past that I glossed over or simply never heard in the first place. I get just as much pleasure from doing this as discovering new music that appeals to me.

Top 40 is geared towards kids. Not being a kid since the 70s/80s, most of it goes right by me. Really started noticing this in the 90s, where it felt like rock had all the joy and life sucked out of it.

If I had a kid who listened to Top 40, I'd sort of put up with it, even with how sleazy and annoying so much of it has become. In hopes that whatever groundwork I'd have surely laid in his/her formative years in terms of appreciating and seeking out good music in any form would slowly sink in as the herd mentality of teenage taste let up on its grip.

Would this be an inopportune time to mention that when I was 11, I thought "Love Will Keep Us Together" by Captain & Tennille was a great song? I still like it and consider it the perfect antidote to "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division.

bib bad wolf said...

I am going to take the extreme minority position and say i like blurred lines a lot. stupid as can be, and catchy as can be too. same as it ever was.

I wouldn't put the video on my kids' playlist, but the song on the ipod, i wouldn't be opposed to. my daughter listens to modern country pop songs with salvation lyrics and i don't forbid those either. we try to meet on what she/i/we like about the song and talk about what we are not so cool with and why and how dumb and even disagreeable can still be catchy.