Every so often, I like to switch the radio in my minivan to a pop or rock station and sing along with whatever is playing, just to impress my teenagers. This isn't difficult, considering how many songs from the 70's and 80's still populate radio playlists. (Please, someone, recognize that Boston's "More Than a Feeling" was a bad song back in 1976 when it first came out.)
Of course, today’s pop songs have only one or two lyrical phrases that you can pick up within seconds, so in the span of a stoplight, you belt the chorus as though you really know it.
You could say it’s a little parenting mind game — a parlor trick to dispel the myth that moms are hopelessly uncool.
But I don't do this to flaunt that I’m a middle-aged hipster. Instead, I like to remind my children that I'm paying attention to what's out there.
I won't lie — staying on top of pop culture, especially music and lyrics, gets more difficult as I get older. For one thing, much of it just sounds like noise. Compared to the music from my era, today's songs are the soundtrack to a headache. (Wow. My fingers moved across the keyboard and out came my parents.)
A simple Google search of popular music from my 18th summer recalls "Miss You" by the Rolling Stones, "Three Times a Lady" by the Commodores, and "Boogie Oogie Oogie" by A Taste of Honey. Not exactly classics, but mildly melodic nonetheless.
Fast forward to this summer's notable pop music releases. There's the mind numbing "Alejandro" by Lady Gaga, depicted in an 8-minute music video that is so laden with graphic sex and blasphemous Christian and Catholic imagery even MTV.com asked, "Does Lady Gaga's 'Alejandro' video go too far?"
Hmmm…she wears a shiny red nun’s habit, swallows a rosary, simulates sex with a dozen or so nearly naked men and ends the video with militaristic marching and what looks like a rape scene. I vote yes, MTV.
I wish Lady Gaga's latest "artistic" effort was the most offensive one we’ll see and hear this summer, but that distinction will have to go to the self-styled terrorist sympathizer "M.I.A.," a native Sri Lankan Tamil known on her British passport as Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam.
Maya has captured the imagination of a fawning media and the pop music elite, which has allowed her to catapult to superstardom as a singer/songwriter despite the fact that, by her own admission, she's not a musician and doesn’t know how to sing.
Never mind those pesky details. Maya is an "artist." Music is just one of many media through which she expresses her cultural and political points of view.