Those damn kids today and their strange and frightening music raise an important question for me: When did I become my dad?
Back in the eighties – when popular music reached its pinnacle of achievement – I would be home from college, in my room, cranking cool tunes and my father would get home from work, peer in, scrunch up his face and ask how I could listen to that infernal racket. The answer, of course, was that I had (and still have, dammit) really awesome taste in music.
[youtube aEuyLJKG_ac nolink]
I actually pitied my Dad for being unable to appreciate the Midwestern-inflected post-punk glory of The Replacements, or the sonic frenzy of their Minneapolis brothers-in-noise Husker Du, or the soaring, roaring guitar heroics of The Clash. I don’t know what music he actually liked. There were some LPs lying around the house – kids, you can ask your parents what those are – but they were things like the Kingston Trio and the Sound of Music soundtrack. This last one was a particular sore point for me since my mom got the idea to name me Kurt, which is the German equivalent of Melvin, from the little Von Trapp twerp who sang “Fa.”
And now I find myself in a similar position to where Dad found himself a quarter century ago – hating, well, pretty much everything in the world of popular music and having it hate me right back. Like my Dad, popular culture wrote me off well before I hit 40. There is, however, an important difference between Dad and me, as well as between the younger generation and me. My Dad was, and young people are, completely and utterly wrong about music, and I am unequivocally right.
Let’s review some of the popular music of today. A group called the Black-Eyed Peas is kind of popular. The woman in the group is named Fergie and she looks like she could take me in a cage match. Their music is a kind of dance-chant mish-mash of various musical styles – all bad – combined with a visual sense that makes me wonder “Do you people look like that on purpose?” I have no clue what the hell they are singing about. I’m just pretty sure it’s not particle physics.
There are a whole bunch of rappers out there. I know some of their names: Jay-Z, 50 Cent and Flo Rida, who is apparently unaffiliated with the State of Florida. They’re all badass gang-bangers. Just ask them. Oh, and they also sing, which seems to be an afterthought.
There is someone named Lady Ga Ga. She looks and dresses like a she-male George Jetson, which I mean in the kindest possible way. She sings a song called Poker Face that does not seem to be about Texas Hold ‘Em, or anything else that I can discern. It’s a really bad song. After I pointed out that even I wouldn’t inflict it on a Guantanamo inmate, one of her fans countered that her hit “is really catchy.” Yeah – so’s herpes, and I don’t want anything to do with that either.
Let’s be clear – I do not hate popular culture. I like it. I grew up marinating in it, and I even paid for a car using my experience to write TV trivia questions and jokes for that old pre-Internet computerized quiz game they used to have in bars back in the 90’s. And when we would assemble the right wing newspaper at UC San Diego, I would play The Ramones really loud to annoy both the sullen Trotskyites lurking about as well as the dorky conservatives who thought you couldn’t be down with Reagan unless you wore a suit and tie to class. Hell, most mornings in college I was lucky to just find my pants.
And I do like some recent good popular songs – Mr. Brightside by The Killers thoroughly and completely rocks, and U2 rose above their morass of suck with Beautiful Day. And… well, I guess that’s about it. That’s all the music I like since 2000.
It’s not just music that wrote me off at 40. I also hate the movies hip young people seem to adore. Remember how everyone loved Superbad? Not me. I like my comedies funny. And remember how everyone thought Lost In Translation was so profoundly moving? Well, I like my dramas unfunny – though it gets props for including the Jesus and Mary Chain’s Just Like Honey on the soundtrack.
Perhaps it’s just time to accept that at age 44, ones’ views and opinions have absolutely no value or resonance within popular culture, despite their manifest correctness. But I’m not going to do that. I’m going to keep pointing out to misguided young people that everything they hold dear is wrong. Because I’ve earned that right. Because I’m older. Because I am my Dad.
And now I have to go turn the hose on some kids who are playing on my lawn.