Feb 2, 2011

Crazy Bubblegum.

Dear aap

My kids like bubblegum music, miley, lovato, osmnet, jonas etc…It is driving me crazy !!! My son (age 7 & daughter age 11 think I’m from the middle ages…) I told my daughter , these people will Not be a factor in 10 years, mark my words, cuz if they are we are in trouble !!!! In 1993 graham parker sang, I’ve seen the future of rock & it sucks… And he’s not even in the r& r hof, but as the poet macmanus said, ‘that is a story for another day’…Yes I listened to my share of bubblegum as a youngster… am I Being too harsh, should I just let it be & realize this is all a part of a growing Musical phase… is it possible my 11 year old will grow up buying Air supply records (I’m really old, can’t you tell ?) Thoughts, advice counsel wisdom please !!!! - PAUL

Dear Paul-

I'm not sure which statement most qualifies you as old, that you used to word "records" or that you name-checked 'Air Supply.' Either way you're right about one thing: Your kids think you played Little League with Noah on the Old Testament squad. You gotta shake that sort of thing off though, they know no better and you get to wait, quietly and patiently, for every parent's revenge: When you get to be kindly and indulgent grandparents while your grandkids run YOUR kids through the parental grinder... so bide your time waiting for that.

But as far as the music goes, you might be suffering from some selective memory. Even when we were youngsters there was a style of pop music that had us in its crosshairs. I remember cutting 'records' off the back of cereal boxes, taping a couple of quarters to them "for weight" and playing them on a portable turntable. I don't exactly remember WHO was on those records but I distinctly remember a lot of parental eye-rolling when I said: "This is the greatest song ever." ...it wasn't of course... but the key thing is that those first forays a kid makes into finding his or her own music is guided mostly by "liking what their friends like." No matter how humanely and progressively you might have raised 'em, kids go through a period where nothing, absolutely nothing, is more important than fitting in with their friends and, more importantly, distancing themselves from you... and music is often the 1st way to do it. ...and you can't win either way: If you hate it, you're the clueless old dinosaur and if you like it (or pretend to like it) they'll just talk about how weird their dad is because he likes their music.

As I said earlier, this sub-genre has been around at least since the beginnings of rock music. Magazines like 'Tiger Beat' have been around forever for a reason. Somewhere out there right now is an unknown 9 year old boy who, in 4 years will be as big as Justin Bieber. What was Elvis if not teeny-bopper catnip? ...and come to think of it weren't those mostly (younger) teenage girls screaming at the Beatles on Ed Sullivan? There ya go.

The difference NOW is that, as with all things media-related, it is all Cross-promoted and monetized from every possible angle. Kids don't just listen to their new favorite records and stare at a poster, they're online reading tweets and feeling really connected to their new heros in ways that older generations of new fans could only have dreamt about. Imagine if the 1966-era Beatles had online access? The mind boggles.

I'm realizing that, since you are a fossil, I'm not telling you anything you didn't already know... You asked for advice and I've been here bloviating. So what should you do?

Here is what you should do:

1) Indulge them. Let them have their music. Let them sing along and tell you what incredibly awesome "artists" Jonas Brothers are and, if you can, get them to say some of this with the camera rolling. Then when they're too-cool seventeen year-olds and they want to tear down their Bieber posters and paint their rooms black, you can decide whether or not you want to play it back for (or perhaps 'at') them.

2) Strike back against Toddler tyranny. I remember riding in the car with my parents when I was kid and I don't remember even ONCE being allowed to decide what we listened to on the radio. I don't recall even being asked to render an opinion. I'm not saying that was fair, right or even good parenting, but I am saying that there is no reason why a FAMILY car radio has to stay glued to 'Radio Disney' for the entire time the kids are ages 6-13. Know what I mean? Give everyone a turn, but know in advance that when you slide that sweet, vintage 'Air Supply' 8-track into the player, the kids are just going to put their earbuds in and listen to their ipods. ... Try to expose them to some quality sounds, but know they'll resist, or pretend to resist, 95% of your efforts.

3) If they have any interest in playing music, with instruments (as opposed to with samplers) get on that bandwagon. Nothing breaks the spell sucky music has on a kid faster than a hands-on understanding of how blandly constructed it is.

Hope that helps, but I think your only antidote will be Time.