Dad takes closer listen to son’s music choices



Dad takes closer listen to son’s music choices


Sunday, April 20, 2003

That preteen music thing is starting to happen at our house. The other day my son asked for a CD player.

This is a kid who likes nothing better than to take things apart and put them back together the way he wants them, so my first image was of spare pieces of the CD player turning up between sofa cushions or under his bed. That’s really not the way I want to spend money.

Why do you want a CD player, I asked? I want to listen to the new Eminem CD, he answered. Ah, music, sort of. All right, I have to admit, Eminem does have an ear for tunes, but his lyrics aren’t exactly what I want my son listening to.

I fished out a CD of R&B greats and slipped it into the player, hoping it wasn’t too late to influence his musical tastes, but fearing I’d already failed in that particular area of parenting.

For a few months now he’s been interested in music. The kid cultural-transmission network has clued him in on which stations to tune to for the right stuff, so almost always now there’s a radio going somewhere in our house.

He moved his clock radio from the desk in his room to a spot next to his bed so that he can fall asleep listening to the soothing sounds of rap.

I did something like that too, a very long time ago.

Our house was small, so we all slept in the same room, which meant I couldn’t have sounds wafting through the room without annoying my mother. I had a little battery-operated radio about the size of a deck of cards. I’d tune it to the right station, turn it down way low and hold it to one ear while Diana Ross sang to me.

People always like music, but there is something different about young people and music. Sometime after they enter double digits in age, music becomes not just entertainment, but social glue, therapy, instructional material.

“It’s getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes.” That’d be Nelly. It’s a popular song with 11-year-olds because they’re kinda thinking about sexuality, but in a giggly way.

I’m trying to catch the lyrics to some of this music so that I know what the kid is picking up.

“In Da Club” by 50 Cent has been really popular. I hear my son and his friends singing the part that says, “Go Shawty. It’s your birthday.” But when I listen to the entire song, I find lines such as, “I’m into having sex, I ain’t into making love.” I don’t hear the kids singing that part, but it’s there on the radio for them to absorb.

Since watching him fall asleep to the radio brings back memories of my own childhood, I try to think of the positive part of this.

The lyrics provide an entry point for discussing the difference between a purely physical encounter between two people and physical closeness that grows out of and strengthens emotional bonds.

Or maybe it’s time to change the channel.

There’s stuff kids need from music and things they don’t.

You know how kids of a certain age feel put upon by life, downtrodden and subject to injustice at every turn? Music offers a release for those feelings.

“Sometimes it feels like the world’s on my shoulders.” That’s from Eminem’s “Hailie’s Song.” But more than when I was a kid, there’s a lot of garbage to wade through to get to a little rebellion anthem or comfort music.

I called up the lyrics to Eminem’s “Superman,” from his CD “The Eminem Show.” In it, the artist discusses his relationship with a particular woman and with women in general, the central message being that he has one use for women. Or perhaps I misunderstood.

Maybe I’m just getting old, but our son won’t be using his allowance money on that particular bit of music.

On the way home from school the other day, I surfed through stations on the car radio, searching for just the right one. Nothing good, but I needed a break from war news as much has he needed a break from misanthropy and sex.

I pulled out an old Curtis Mayfield tape, put it in the player and gave both our brains a rest.

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