Teenager!

When my son was ten, he began to develop his own taste in music in earnest. At first I was excited, and created a Pandora account for him so that he could explore different types of music without being limited to his father’s collection. Then from his room I heard sounds like this:

And this:

And I was like, “Wait, what?!”

I mean, there’s nothing wrong with industrial rock and whatever The Browning are (Wikipedia says “electronicore,” but at some point we’re just throwing words together, aren’t we?), and if they’re you’re thing, that’s cool. But he was ten. Ten. At ten I was listening to some combination of Jim Croce, Three Dog Night, The Band, Steve Winwood (solo, not even Blind Faith), and Billy Ocean. “Get out of my dreams, get into my car!” Needless to say, I freaked out a little.

I’m not sure what my issue was, really, but I suppose it had something to do with not realizing that his emotional life might be sophisticated enough for music that… hard. I mean, maybe he just liked loud things, or maybe I was missing something. Then he went through a Linkin Park period, a Korn period, a Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave period, and all along I kept thinking, “What the hell?!” and occasionally, “I think I hung out with my son in high school.”

Around thirteen, his musical tastes began to diversify, much to my relief. Hip hop and R&B entered his catalogue, as did some classic rock (he has Boston and Bon Jovi stations on Pandora). Then at around 14, dubstep. Lots and lots of dubstep. Sooooo much dubstep. I started to hear that wub wub sub-bass in my dreams, I shit you not.

Finally, I think he’s reached some sort of equilibrium over the last year or so. Every once in a while I’ll ask him to send me a list of some songs that he’s into at the moment, and he’ll quickly oblige me. I’ll listen to them, think “Cool!” or “Oh brother” alternately, and get a sense of who he’s becoming. Sometimes I even learn about new music.

Here are the tracks on his latest list. It’s not all my groove, but I can’t lie, I am a little relieved the electronicore thing is mostly over. Does that make me an old man? So be it.

Trap! That I can handle. Hell, it’s got a beat; I can dance to it.

That I even like. In fact, I’d never heard of Overwerk (I’ll be damned if I know where he heard of him), but I’ve now listened to the whole EP a few times, and it’s pretty awesome if you like electronica. It’s a little Daft Punk, a little Deadmau5, a little house, a little dubstep, and not at all bad. Not great, but good while you’re writing a post, say.

NSFW

Ah, he’s my son. Kendrick Lamar is the King of New York.

Yeah, he still really likes dubstep. By the way, the only way to properly listen to that is to jump up and down with your hands held high, bouncing your head like your neck muscles are atrophied.

Umm… yeah, apparently he’s R.’s son as well, because she’s the Drake fan. I’m pretty sure she is the one who made him a fan. Lord knows it wasn’t me. The video’s pretty fun, though.

Hahahaha… wait a minute, wait a minute… hahahahahaha… Oh man, let me catch my breath. OK, he’s definitely my son. I am on record as saying that is the best pop song ever. Apparently Michael Jackson thought so too.

Now that’s going to be stuck in my head for days. It has 87 million views, so he’s clearly not alone in liking this song. And it is pretty damned catchy. Teenagers’ll be teenagers, right?

Are all Skrillex videos in slow motion? Here he’s playing with dubstep’s roots, I suppose. It’s still Skrillex. I’m only supposed to say nice things, so I’ll leave it there. On the bright side, my son tells me that between Shaggy and this song, he’s become a reggae fan.

215 million views. Damn is it catchy. Makes me want to put on animal masks and go to the club. I will forget it five minutes after listening to it, though.

NSFW

And finally, he’s my son again! I hope he doesn’t understand all of the lyrics, though (man do a lot of songs mention “molly”). If you’re not familiar with the state of hip hop today, those verses in order are by Big Sean, Pusha T (who was all over SXSW), Yeezus, and 2 Chainzs. I admit that if I were in strict parent mode, I would be unhappy with him listening to a song like this, but then I remember that I was listening to NWA and 2 Live Crew by his age, and feel much better about this song.

If he’s anything like me, and I think he’s a lot like me, his musical taste will go through multiple stages of evolution over the next couple years, and at 18 he’ll look upon much of the music he’s listening to at 16 as awful, even embarrassing. But I like that he’s developing his own taste, for the most part independent of his parents’, and even of his friends’ (who, from what I can tell, do dubstep and hip hop only). That’s pretty cool, right? Maybe in a couple years I’ll write another one of these with ten songs from 18 year old Chris’ son. I bet it will be quite different.

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33 thoughts on “Teenager!

  1. 16 year old daughter is an example of watching a child’s musical evolution although as I did at her age, get stuck for a time listening to music based on the cuteness quotient of said bands. She has been through a pop stage, goth stage, a dub step phase, and is sort of stuck in a kpop phase which until either she gets weary of the music or fawning over the pretty boys, she will again expand her musical horizons.

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  2. The Boy is now 19, and finishing his first year of college, and is now DJ Bea Arthur, hammering it down on the overnights…here: http://www.kcpr.org/#/
    Watching him grow up, moving through pop to metal to hip hop to indie, writing his own albums, forming bands…
    And all the while becoming a person, not just my son.
    Pure awesome.

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    • 1.) I am listening to KCPR’s stream right now (it’s Pretenders).
      2.) ‘DJ Bea Arthur’ is an awesome handle.
      3.) That said, he may come to regret it. I also had a comical DJ handle for a while, and while it was funny at the time, it’s a little weird and embarrassing when people still call me by it now. My handle here is actually what I was planning on replacing it with, but stopped doing any DJ gigs around that time, so it just got used here instead (many would argue that this handle is no better. At least it’s better than my AVClub handle, which I picked spur-of-the-moment and now wish mightily that I could change, but now it has too much commenting history on it. Basically, I suck at choosing handles).

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    • Aaron, that is awesome. It really is, for me at least, and I gather for other parents as well, one of the clearest and most exciting ways to observe the development of a child’s personality, particularly over the teen years. I’ve really enjoyed asking him for new songs every few months and getting lists that often differ entirely not just in the songs but in the genres and styles. And given his interest in broadcast media, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him do college radio.

      I’ll have to check your son’s show out next time I’m up that late on a Sunday.

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      • “Ah, ‘scuse me there, guv’nr, but I notice that this album does not seem to have any content bemoaning Margaret Thatcher crushing the coal miner’s unions and destroying Britain forever. P’rhaps you could point out what I’ve missed?”

        “It’s 2014. Britain’s doing just fine. And this is a new recording of the Brandenburg Concertos.”

        “Oh. Well, maybe you want to have some allegory in the artwork for the cover…”

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      • To be fair, there’s an American equivalent. Jason Heller at AVClub started a recent piece on the Sisters of Mercy with this paragraph:

        The ’80s were a disease. It’s not necessary to have been alive in the
        ’80s to know this. For every piece of pro-’80s propaganda still making
        the rounds in pop culture, there’s a stark counterpoint—a reminder that
        the decade was largely a stifling wasteland of conservatism and sameness
        dominated by, to quote Duran Duran, cherry ice cream smiles.

        My favorite comments, quoting this opening paragraph:

        Don Mynack • 2 months ago
        Calm down, William Burroughs Jr.
        13 • Reply•Share ›

        choppernewt Don Mynack • 2 months ago
        No shit. Jesus Christ, Jason.
        5 • Reply•Share ›

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    • No, I hadn’t, but it’s awesome. I had actually thought of doing a post about the 20th anniversary, talking about the importance of the album, but I haven’t figure out an angle to take. I’m not sure to express to non-hip hop people both how good it is and how incredibly different it was, despite the fact that its themes were, in a sense, those dominating hip hop at the time. I mean, watch a Snoop or Tupac video from around the same time — say, “California Love” or “Gin and Juice” or “Gangsta Party” — and listen to how they talk about street life, and then listen to Illmatic. It’s like watching a cartoon and then switching to a hard-hitting documentary. It was a revelation to a lot of people, particularly people who didn’t live anywhere near those streets, to hear the way Nas talked about them. And he did it in a damn near perfect artistic package, which made it impossible to ignore. You had to listen, and you had to hear the words, and it was poetry that opened your eyes.

      Oh, and the essays that article mentions are mostly online. E.g., :

      http://poetry.rapgenius.com/Marc-lamont-hill-critical-pedagogy-comes-at-halftime-nas-as-black-public-intellectual-excerpt-annotated

      and:

      http://adammansbach.com/other/margins.html

      I’d actually read that second one, but hadn’t realized that it was part of a larger compilation. It’s a pretty interesting in depth exploration of the album and its context.

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      • I had actually thought of doing a post about the 20th anniversary, talking about the importance of the album, but I haven’t figure out an angle to take. I’m not sure to express to non-hip hop people both how good it is and how incredibly different it was, despite the fact that its themes were, in a sense, those dominating hip hop at the time.

        Hmmmm….I think I might have a good idea for this ;-) – have you checked that draft post? If it looks good to you maybe I will throw it up tomorrow…

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  3. The Browning appears to have gotten their album art from Id Software.

    That dude in Black Light Burns wants to be Trent Reznor in a bad way, doesn’t he? And I had to rewind to make sure I heard a lyric correctly – yep, he said “feculent franchise” (which, coupled with “The Browning”, definitely suggests a theme).

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  4. I have tried to maintain music as my most solid connection to my 19 year-old but it gets increasingly harder. When she was little it was easy to turn her onto the stuff I liked. Now she has gone off on her own path but we still reconnect over various artists. We both love The Killers and Regina Spektor and Cake. And she went to the Billy Joel concert with me last week, so that’s something.

    And that ‘Turn Down for What’ video is going to get watched by me at least 10 more times this weekend.

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