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

Pop Culture + Kids + Aging Hipster Mom = ???

I am now in the twilight of my second pregnancy: with less than two weeks to go and the baby already “in position,” I’m finding I have to force myself to focus on the marathon I’m about to run. Labour is similar to just that — running a marathon — it is mentally and physically exhausting, but the reward at the finish line is like nothing else we, as human beings, will ever experience in our lifetime. This goes for moms and dads.

This being our second child, I feel more confident than I did the first time around. And while this confidence still comes with its own hesitations, I guess I am more relaxed knowing how the whole labour thing is generally going to go down. I pulled up my previous birth plan and whittled it down to the “best of,” a half-page of point-form notes detailing my personal list of dos and don’ts for whoever is staffing the maternity ward that day.

As I was working on the plan, I decided to consult the Internets to read about plans for second births. One of the resources I came upon was a blog called TheFeministBreeder.com. The name of the blog was one thing and the advice was fine, but more captivating was the blogger’s bio:

Gina Crosley-Corcoran — writer, doula, childbirth educator, activist, and mother of three littles. Used to play in a famous rock band. Now earning a Master of Public Health in Maternal Child Health.

I mean, “famous rock band?” How could I not Google this? The rabbit hole led me to ’90s femme-grungers Veruca Salt, of whom I was a big follower in my mid-teens. While mommy-blogger Gina was not in the band while I adored them, I was nonetheless fascinated to learn that the band is still kicking around. I watched YouTube videos for Seether and All Hail Me two of their singles from their seminal 1994 American Thighs album.

Thank the heavens that tight, ringy snare sound, which I would vocalise as a tonal schpincks, has gone out of style.

Beyond that, I began thinking about our seven-year-old daughter who can memorize and sing back a song after hearing it once. She comes home from school with all this total musical garbage in her head — stuff her peers are “into” — though I’m sure they don’t know why they like this music other than the fact they must be mainlining the Disney Channel where it’s being marketed aggressively to them. I mean, these kids are in grade two and their parents are buying them head-to-toe Selena Gomez and Hannah Montana apparel. Call me a snob, but yuck.

Do people even listen to music? Following my alternative lifestyle, harsh words for most mainstream music and dangerously “aging hipster” attitude, I mostly think that music is an empty escape for most of the consuming public.

But I digress. I want my daughter to actually listen to music, to hear and appreciate what she is listening to. She is immediately drawn to music with female singers — she likes Feist and Robyn but we rarely listen to music at home so nothing is forced upon her — and for a moment I thought maybe she would like Veruca Salt.

Parenting is an odd, amorphous journey you take with your children. We have to avoid cramming our own nostalgia down their throats and let them discover who they are and the culture that will inevitably inform their identity. So as I shepherd a seven-year-old carefully around the edges of the music industry, I will also welcome a new person, who will grow up hearing me talk crap about music marketing and false-representation in the arts.

Wish me luck.

This post also appears on the HuffingtonPost.ca

Music Blogger Feels Old at Skrillex Show

I read these articles last week and have not been able to get the idea out of my mind:

Feeling Old at the Skrillex Show hilariously summarized here by HuffPo’s Kia Makarechi.

As if by stepping into a Skrillex (“dubstep” DJ) show, the unsuspecting music blogger is suddenly stripped of their powers. Like Superman being exposed to Kryptonite, or an X-Men having lost their mutant powers. What is an X-Men without their mutant powers? Just a human. What are music bloggers without their keen, astute, cynical and omnipotent indie cred, they are just regular people. Whereby age, and therefore reality, responsibility and accountability, are the hip culture critic’s Achilles’ heel.

It is pure, unbridled comedy. Wait till these uber-jaded 27-year-olds turn 30, when nobody cares what they think of the TV shows they watched and then, finally, they get their first “unbearable soul-crushing hangover.”

Amazingly, as I write this, I feel dangerously just like…a judgmental/preachy blogger! Yikes. This whole this is getting way too meta for me. I’m out.

Musical Mnemonics 3: Squeeze

While shopping for back to school clothes for by kid, I found myself in the beige-est of retailers, Old Navy. Usually when I do normal, mall-related things, the music stores play perplexes me. I can’t not listen to it. I know it’s a whole thing now, for a band to have their song included on these playlists. And depending on the store, the musical selections can be totally unremarkable, frustrating, irritating, mind-blowing, delightful, or, on the rare occasion, a reminder of something amazing I haven’t heard in a while.

Whilst wandering the Old Navy in search of white, child-sized polo shirts, I was reminded of Squeeze via Pulling Mussels from the Shell. A classic track.

This instalment of “musical mnemonics” is dedicated to Squeeze: a new wave pop band from the UK, circa late 70’s/early 80’s, who wrote really fucking great songs. Namely: Tempted, Cool for Cats, Pulling Mussels from the Shell, Black Coffee in Bed, Another Nail In My Heart. Go out and purchase their Singles 45s and Under immediately. Especially if you were born in the 90’s, you gotta hear these songs. It’s imperative.

Anyway, this is pretty much the kind of music that belies my white-ness. I mean, check out some of their music videos on YouTube (see below). Holy goofball festival, but I know, I forgive everything. After all it was the 80’s and that decade unfortunately rolled into the 90’s which taken together created the biggest cultural recession the Western Hemisphere has known. Much like the massive cultural cluster-fuck we’re presently living through.

Take a break from it, remember something easy, something good. Something to listen to while drinking beers by the lake somewhere. NO PRETENTION. REMEMBER THAT?

Apparently that’s Jools Holland pushing the piano around…

Update your Bookmark Toolbar

Let’s face it: the main function of the internet is to consume our time while giving us a feeling of accomplishment. Does scouring Facebook for information on our “friends” qualify as social research or a waste of time? Everybody has their favourite sites, their Bookmark Toolbars with their most visited places. While wasting some time of my own, I found this story: A.V. Club’s Favourite Time-Wasting Websites. I realised it was time to update my bookmarks.

For about a year I’ve been addicted to Perez Hilton. It’s been like a car crash: I have to look, at risk of seeing something terrible. That’s a human reaction, right? Anyway, I have seen several accidents, train wrecks, and tons of stupid, baby-la-la shit. Sometimes its funny, sad, tragic and definitely juvenile. Sometimes I agree, others I disagree. But it is celebrity paparazzi culture, so I don’t let it affect me too deeply. But of all the double-standards that are all over that site (like some people are gross when they smoke, others are allowed), the final double-standard was when he announced that he was starting a record label. This label is going to be a success, and I have to give Perez props for deconstructing the entire entertainment industry, only to rebuild it under his rules. He really gives it his all, his personality is invested in the total identity of the site, and will spill over into the identity of his label. Excellent marketing.

And so I realised I needed a new vision when it comes to trash talking. I deleted my Perez bookmark and am feeling like I will get the same content between my music “industry” newsletter, Go Fug Yourself and new addition, Dlisted. Round it out with NME.com, the BBC and the occasional local perspective from either Midnight Poutine or Fagstein and there you have it: the world in pop culture.

Update your bookmarks accordingly.