How I Became a Katy Perry Sympathizer

Currently making the rounds on Facebook is this parenting blog post about our responsibility to teach kids about “good music.” Or, as the title states: “How to Talk to Your Kids About Their Shitty Taste in Music.” It’s a weakly argued call to arms in reaction to the whole VMA/Miley Cyrus twerking debacle.

What a load of hipster-douchebag crap. My retort: How on earth did your kids get exposed to this “shitty” music in the first place? Pro tip: don’t leave your kids in front of Disney XD all day, or they will think music is meant to be overly synthesized, un-artistic pop.

I’ll admit, pop music is heavily marketed to our young people. Whether you realise it or not, a lot of money is spent on product awareness — that’s the music biz. What is on the album takes back seat to the mysticism or hype built on what you think is going to be on the album. You already know what to think and feel, before hearing a note. That is marketing.

If done well, the potential audience will be worked into a frenzy. So let’s get accountable for our actions: instead of pointless, complain-ey blog posts, why not get our mom-and-dad brains into the game? The question should be: Are your kids getting caught up in marketing? Do they know what marketing is? Do you know what marketing is? Do you understand the intersection of marketing and the arts?

Few people, including most people who work in the music biz, care to understand this concept. They willfully ignore it, and gleefully get caught up in it. And, so, our kids follow suit. New Arcade Fire anyone? Gawd, white people — adults, even — are SO PUMPED about their new album. It’s exhausting.

So when my 8-year-old daughter decides her favourite singer is Katy Perry, what do I do? Is Ms. Perry a suitable role model, considering the mainstream options? Is anybody? Or is this an opportunity to impose my jaded, post-feminist, post-indie rock opinion?

In my mind, my daughter must make her own decisions. If I listened to my parents, I would only like Kenny Rogers and 80’s Tina Turner. Our kids must create themselves for themselves. Our job is to give them a loose set of rules, parameters inside which to make good and positive decisions. When my kid asks to listen to “the radio” in the car — which inevitably means Top 40 dance pop stuff — I abide. We listen. I tell her to listen for the sidechain compression, the auto-tuned vocals, the recurring use of beats and fills, arrangement structures that are copied form song to song. I want her to listen with her brain, unhindered by any marketing message.

Point being, life is a perpetual learning experience to be enjoyed. This is the main lesson I teach my children, and happens to be my prime directive. Most music, yes, is shit. Katy Perry balances on the razor’s edge of being a mega-YOLO-slut (ever listen to the lyrics to “Last Friday Night“?) and being a young, powerful, inspiring woman with an incredible voice. RAZOR’S EDGE, PEOPLE.

So sure, we’ll watch the “Roar” video on YouTube together. We did that with “Gangnam Style,” too. Trendy music will ebb and flow, but it’s those times when we’re walking home from school and my daughter is humming “Ring My Bell” by Blood Sisters that I feel a tinge of redemption.

This entry also appears on HuffingtonPost.ca

That New, Mellow Sound

“The latest musical climate — perhaps a sonic reply to the sluggish, humid global warming trend — is rootsy, VU folk-pop à la Beach Boys.”

I wrote that nearly a month ago, after the hype surrounding the new Fleet Foxes and Beach House records. Hoping it was a phase and nothing to get overly excited about, I saved it to my drafts. But after reviewing this week’s Canadian college music chart, I discovered a band from Calgary called Women, and — alas! — the lo-fi, lazy movement continues with surprising strength…you know…because the music is so sluggish…where would they get the energy…oh, forget it.

Now, I understand the appeal: aren’t we tired of the bombastic, excitable baroque-pop that nearly makes us want to dance (but of course we would never really dance because we are too cool for dancing)? Could we perhaps non-dance to something other than that overwrought “meatslicer” beat? Wouldn’t we rather just take a huge break from this complicated “indie” thing? Well, I’d like to. I’ve renounced indie before…but I do not necessarily condone this new business that’s going on. My problem is that I’ve heard it all before. I’ve listened to Pet Sounds and that Velvet Underground box set with the banana on the cover and everything by David Bowie and the Beatles and, well, shouldn’t we be moving forward? I loved Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach, the “Wall of Sound” and the 60’s. But what about onwards and upwards? With our songwriting and our production? References to the past are lovely and intriguing, but a band’s entire thing being a reference to the past? Too quaint. Far too much so.

Well, I guess you could just shove this back into my face and tell me to go listen to Girl Talk and Crystal Castles. But I can’t listen to that stuff because it has its own problems.

I suppose I am continuously trying to cope with our saturated modern musical climate. You know, I was a huge Elvis Costello fan in uni, and as fromaggio as he can be at times (Shipbuilding Good Year For the Roses, anyone?…Wotty, you win.) you’d be hard up to find talent like his anymore. It’s few and far between, being a good songwriter and then presenter of those songs, both live and on record. I noticed that the Elvis Costello wiki classifies him in earnest as both punk rock and new wave. Nowadays if you’d see some new band classified the same way, their music would you’d probably make you want to: 1. vomit, then 2. commit suicide.

Maybe this new, mellow sound can be likened to the popularity of ambient music in the 90’s with musicians like The Orb and Aphex Twin: everybody needed a break from all that serious, alternative stuff. In conclusion, The Besnard Lakes is to Bloc Party as Global Communication was to Nirvana.