16 March 2011

Dad Rock and What Makes Your Musical Taste

When I was seven years old I loved Debbie Gibson, Belinda Carlisle and Madonna. I couldn't understand why my dad made me listen to Jimmy Buffet, Van Morrison, and Paul Simon. It was soooo embarrassing especially when he sang along. Hadn't he heard those songs a million times when they first came out? Why did he have to listen to them over and over?

I vowed that as an adult I would always listen to top 40 radio and keep up on popular music. No way would I waste my time on old music when there was perfectly good new music out there!

This vow lasted until the mid-90's. When my favorite AM radio station that played The Pixies, Throwing Muses and The Cure, and other great bands got bought out. After the station moved to FM  it was all Nickelback, Creed and other Eddie Vedder impersonators.

Since then I've been on a steady diet of mixes from friends, KEXP and blip.fm. A spot check on the top 25 artists I listen to (see below) you'll see quite a few 'from the vault."

Okay, this is not news.

I realize it's only natural for people to develop a taste for a certain type of music. When that genre falls from popularity* what can you do but keep listening to the music that's already been produced?

* come on world, why can't we give female-fronted post-punk bands another try?

What I don't understand is taking music and crap-i-fying it. I don't mean sampling, I mean really shitty covers. Here's the distinction:

Jessica Simpson samples Jack and Diane for one of her songs, Kid Rock mashes up Werewolves of London with Sweet Home Alabama - I don't like it, but I can live with it.

At the gym last weekend I heard the most god-awful cover of Brown-Eyed Girl. It was slow and really hammy, I almost put my fingers in my ears. Sampling is one thing, but can't we leave the original versions alone?

What's next, Justin Beber covering Jim Croce's Operator? Ke$ha doing an auto-tune version of The Beatles' Yesterday? Don't answer that... if those exist I don't want to know.

Getting back to Dad Rock:

I learned a lot going to and from school everyday in our '79 Celica. I never want to hear Call Me Al ever again, but I value it as part of the foundation of my musical taste.

In high school I met this awesome chick (who curates an excellent blog now) and we discovered: not only did we like the same music - so did our parents. Come to think of it, she may have been the one to coin the phrase Dad Rock.

Anyway, we lost touch and years later, guess what? Second verse, same as the first.

With the internet giving us greater access to fringe bands and lots of them, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that (yet again) our tastes aligned. I'm talking up-and-coming bands from Scotland and college bands from Bellingham that only existed for two years. I think she is my soul mate in music. We joked that we have the same music "genealogy."

I can't help but wonder, as many others have, what from the current era will hold its value into the future? With so much of today's pop culture made from recycled materials (music - and movies too) what will be held up as "classic"? Will we simply digress into a crap-that-begets-crap cycle of cultural degradation?

At least Debbie Gibson wrote her own material...

I didn't have the stomach to watch this entire video, but my reaction to the first 60 seconds was OMG they're so... clothed.

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