The Joy of the Single: Lessons From My 9 Year-old.

I’m an album guy. Always have been. Always will be. When I say album, I don’t mean vinyl. Though I’m a vinyl guy too. Since I got my first Kiss album at the age of 5 this is how I’ve listened to music. Just like a book. Cover-to-cover. Mix tapes never held much attraction for me. I need to understand the record as a whole. The rule has held fast as the media changed over the years. From album, to cassette, to CD, to mp3. I want to hear the whole thing. In fact, I typically want to hear the whole catalog, 10 albums if necessary. Even if that means sifting through hours of mediocre music to enjoy the nuggets buried within.

 Well, my 9 year-old son has introduced me to the joy of the single. Something that I’ve until now never understood. Though Colin still has flashes of his father’s brilliant musical tastes, the inevitable influence of his less refined third grade pals have started to take their toll. Suddenly Lady GaGa, the Black Eyed Peas, Katy Perry, Pink and Rihanna have all made their way into my family’s collective consciousness. Oh God, to what depths will we fall? But let me put my rock snobbery aside for a minute to talk about what I see happening before my eyes.

 When Colin asked me to put Pink’s So What and Katy Perry’s I Kissed a Girlon his iPod, I downloaded the albums for him. Instinctively getting the whole album, complete with bonus tracks and remixes. When I proudly handed his iPod back to him (he thinks I possess some magic that enables me to supply him with any music he asks for), he came back 10 minutes later with a frustrated look on his face. “Dad, I asked for So What and I Kissed a Girl. What’s all this other crap (my word, not his)?” I looked at him, perplexed. “What you mean, son?” I answered in my best Dad voice. “You asked for the new Katy Perry and Pink albums. There they are?” What I didn’t understand is that he didn’t care a bit about either artist. He wanted to hear the songs that he knew and that he was listening to with his buddies. All the pleading and badgering in the world would not convince him to listen to those albums all the way through.

 He recently asked for a couple of Kanye West songs; Stronger from Graduation, and Heartless from 808’s and Heartbreak. I pulled my usual routine. I downloaded the whole Kanye collection; The College Dropout, Late Registration, Graduation,  and 808s & Heartbreak. Knowing Colin a little better this time around, I put his 2 songs onto his iPod. I, on the other hand, loaded all 4 albums onto my iPhone, right next to the Pink album and Katy Perry albums.

 On a recent cross-country flight to Las Vegas I settled in for a marathon with Kanye to learn what all the fuss is about. I’ve heard Colin’s two Kayne picks and found myself enjoying them quite a lot. I was looking forward to digging in a little deeper. 2 hours in and I’m pulling my hair out (of which I already have none). This stuff is terrible. Total crap as far as I’m concerned. I suffer all the way through and learn that in 4 albums time this guy has managed a sum total of 2 good songs. I don’t get it; 2 flashes of brilliance in 4 albums? What’s with that? Who keeps letting this guy make albums?

 This got me thinking about Pink and Katy Perry. I made my way through them as I moved through hours 4 and 5 of the flight. As far as I’m concerned, So Whatwas the best punk rock song of 2008. An unadulterated pissed-off tirade against an ex-boyfriend. “I’m gonna get in trouble, I’m gonna start a fight!” From the moment I heard it the first time, Pink gained an unlikely fan. I Kissed a Girlwas a quirky hit that caught my fancy as well. I know it’s cheap and panders to the lowest common denominator but I can’t help myself. I do get a little uncomfortable when my 5 year-old daughter starts singing along, but it’s a catchy tune nonetheless.

 What had me climbing the walls of the cabin is that these are the only songs on both albums that are remotely worth listening to. Everything else was a complete waste of an hour of my life. I feel a cheated. How can one great song be followed by 9 complete pieces of trash? Seems to me that out of 10 or so songs you’d have to get lucky and have at least one more that’s worth listening to. No such luck. I’ve now spent the better part of 6 hours listening to 6 full albums, of which I’ve enjoyed a total of 4 songs. What the hell? It seems unfair. I want my money back! I want my 6 hours back!

 This is when I come to the realization that Colin is smarter than me. It’s an age-old coming-of-age situation. At a certain point in his life the son becomes wiser than his father. Colin’s only 9 though. This isn’t supposed to happen until he’s at least 13. But Colin gets it. He’s a member of the iPod shuffle generation. A never-ending mix of singles. “I want to hear what I want to hear,” is the mantra. Why waste my time listening to something I don’t know, when it may mean I’m listening to something I don’t like? For the first time in my life, I think I agree. Bring on the singles!

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~ by spinthis45 on June 20, 2009.

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