Kids Keep You Young

A week or so ago, this statistical analysis of listening trends in pop music got a bunch of play on Twitter and Facebook, but I was too busy to do anything with it. The headline result, reported with all the accuracy you should expect of such things is people stop listening to popular music at 33.

By coincidence, in another part of the social-media universe, some friends were sneering at Top 40 music by way of highlighting a list of the current Top 40 chart to show how little of it they knew. As I'm currently marking time until I can call my doctor to get some help with what I suspect is a sinus infection, I thought I'd repeat that exercise here. Italic means I know the song, bold means we own it:

Ellie Goulding – Love Me Like You Do
Maroon 5 -- Sugar

Taylor Swift -- Style

Natalie La Rose – Somebody feat. Jeremih
The Weekend – Earned It
Mark Ronson -- Uptown Funk feat Bruno Mars
Ariana Grande -- One Last Time
Ed Sheeran -- Thinking Out Loud
Jason Derulo – Want to Want Me
Flo Rida -- G.D.F.R feat Sage the Gemini
Zedd – I want You to Know feat. Selena Gomez
Nick Jonas -- Chains
Pitbull -- Time of Our Lives feat Ne-Yo
Walk The Moon – Shut up and Dance
Rihanna -- FourFiveSeconds feat Kanye West
ToveLo – Talking Body
Tori Kelly – Nobody Love
Calvin Harris -- Outside feat Ellie Goulding
Sam Smith -- Lay me Down
Taylor Swift -- Blank Space
Vance Joy – Riptide
Meghan Trainor -- Dear Future Husband
One Direction -- Night Changes
David Guetta -- Hey Mama feat Nicki Minaj and Afrojack
DJ Snake – You Know you Like it feat AlunaGeorge
Hozier -- Take me to Church
Echosmith – Bright
Fifth Harmony – Worth It feat Kid Ink
Lunchmoney Lewis – Bills
Wiz Kalifa -- See You Again feat Charlie Puth
Meghan Trainor -- Lips Are Movin’
Chris Brown -- Ayo feat Tyga
George Ezra – Budapest
Nick Jonas -- Jealous
Sheppard – Geronimo
Ryn Weaver – Octahate
Sam Smith -- I’m Not The Only One
Nate Ruess – Nothing Without Love
Iggy Azalea -- Trouble feat Jennifer Hudson
Andy Grammer – Honey, I’m Good.

So, I come up just short of knowing half of the Top 40 at the moment, which is pretty good for an old dude a decade past when you're supposed to stop listening to new music.

Why is that? One word: SteelyKid. As previously noted, she's taking an interest in pop music now, and when I drive her back and forth to taekwondo, we listen to the Top 40 station. The songs I know are ones she likes; the ones we own are for the most part songs she's specifically requested that I buy and put on her tablet.

(A subset of her requests, actually, as she's asked for a couple of Pitbull songs that I refuse to buy because I find them a little too date-rapey for my six-year-old, and she's repeatedly demanded a Matt and Kim song that I would rather set fire to the car stereo than listen to ever again. There are also a few of these that she's asked for but I haven't gotten around to buying yet.)

This is the spot where I'm supposed to make some reference to what torture it is to have to listen to this stuff, and I will sometimes do that jokingly. But this is the Internet, and there's no joke that somebody won't take seriously and then overanalyze to prove that you're a Bad Person, so at the cost of any tiny shred of street cred I might otherwise have had, I'll say honestly that with a few rare exceptions, I really don't mind. I actually enjoy a bunch of these, and not in a Stockholm Syndrome kind of way, either.

In the end, my relationship with my kid is a whole lot more important to me than any pop-culture credibility I might have. So, you know, I'll roll my eyes a little at the thousandth sing-along with "Shut Up and Dance," and I'll do what I can to push her toward other higher-quality music (I've added some songs from my iTunes library to her playlists as well). But I like knowing what she's into, and encouraging her to like music, so I'm happy to change my radio presets and will gladly sacrifice the purity of my Amazon recommendations for the sake of the huge grin she gets when a song she knows comes on.

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some friends were sneering at Top 40 music by way of highlighting a list of the current Top 40 chart to show how little of it they knew

How many of them thought to make it a controlled experiment: take a Top 40 list from 1985 or 1990 and see how much of it they knew, and would be willing to admit that they knew (let alone had in their collection)? A few years ago I saw a YouTube clip consisting of excerpts from every song that was #1 on the charts at some point in 1985, and there were songs featured in that video of which I had no memory (I graduated from high school that year), as well as some songs I remembered hearing but didn't associate with 1985. I'll stipulate that some fraction of the current Top 40 is trash, but a substantial fraction of the Top 40 back then was trash, too. And some of the songs in my music library are guilty pleasures from back in the day (I assume you have yours as well).

There are valid reasons to hate on Top 40 music. Maybe the ascendent trends are trends you personally don't like (which is why popular music and I went our separate ways in 1993). Maybe you find the lyrics, or mondegreens thereof, objectionable. And so forth. But those reasons have been reasons to hate on Top 40 music for at least 60 years now. There's nothing in today's music that I find objectionable that wouldn't have been a good reason for my parents to object to in 1985. So the best you can do for SteelyKid is to guide her toward music that you don't find too objectionable, and let her develop her own filters for taste. Which is more or less what you are doing.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 07 May 2015 #permalink

I'm in my 40's and I've noticed the general trend. Most of my similar-aged friend's favorites are from the 80's. I personally only know about 5 of those songs, and back in high school I would probably know 40/40. Although in my case, it's not so much me listening to exclusively my favorites from decades past, but me branching out into more genres (new and old) and listening to music on my iPhone rather than the radio.