Monday, December 06, 2004
THIS IS YOUR PARENTS' ROCK AND ROLL?
It is a given that every generation of parents comes to decry the music their kids listen to as degraded and degrading (at least over the past sixty years or so). And yet, if Mary Eberstadt is right, perhaps parents should listen a little more closely before they dismiss the latest "noise" their kids listen to:
The odd truth about contemporary teenage music — the characteristic that most separates it from what has gone before — is its compulsive insistence on the damage wrought by broken homes, family dysfunction, checked-out parents, and (especially) absent fathers. Papa Roach, Everclear, Blink-182, Good Charlotte, Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam, Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, Tupac Shakur, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Eminem — these and other singers and bands, all of them award-winning top-40 performers who either are or were among the most popular icons in America, have their own generational answer to what ails the modern teenager. Surprising though it may be to some, that answer is: dysfunctional childhood. Moreover, and just as interesting, many bands and singers explicitly link the most deplored themes in music today — suicide, misogyny, and drugs — with that lack of a quasi-normal, intact-home personal past.There may be some truth to these observations but I think that popular music has become so big and so diversified that it is next to impossible to discern any sort of trends from a handful of musicians and songs.
To put this perhaps unexpected point more broadly, during the same years in which progressive-minded and politically correct adults have been excoriating Ozzie and Harriet as an artifact of 1950s-style oppression, many millions of American teenagers have enshrined a new generation of music idols whose shared generational signature in song after song is to rage about what not having had a nuclear family has done to them.