Where do kids listen to their pop music today? (All I know is, it better not be on my lawn…)

Spotify informs me that Darla Moore has subscribed to “my” playlist, “NPR Songs of Summer.” Of course, it’s not “my” playlist. It’s NPR’s.

For a moment I thought I’d discovered what Darla had been up to since Nikki bumped her from the USC board of trustees — listening to Adele, LMFAO, Taio Cruz, Gnarls Barkley, Simon and Garfunkel and the Stones. But then I realized it was another Darla Moore altogether — but one, it should be said, with pretty good taste, who also listens to Emeli Sandé, Kate Bush, R.E.M., Loudon Wainwright III, Beck, the Velvet Underground and the Psychedelic Furs, among many others, according to her public profile.

Which is aside from my point. The point is, I have a confession to share.

After having played them over a bunch more times, I realize I was wrong about some of those songs on the NPR list. Some of the recent songs I rated really low on my zero-to-five-stars scale are a lot better than I thought they were when I first rated them.

For instance… I wake up in the morning with LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem,” which has really grown on me, in my head.

And more dramatically, I originally rated Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” at two stars, which was ridiculous. I now consider it to be worth at least four, if not five. It’s amazing. I didn’t come to this decision because of seeing two of my older (male, amazingly enough) cousins dancing to it with abandon at a wedding a couple of weeks back — doing something that looked very like an Indian rain or war dance, which the song’s driving rhythm tends to abet.

No, I’ve come to that conclusion from listening to it over and over. And eventually going, wow. You know how I posed the question of what, exactly, makes Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” so mysteriously stirring? What, I asked, is the music doing to the ear, the brain, the soul in that part that “goes like this, the fourth, the fifth/ The minor fall and the major lift…?”

Well, something comparably awesome happens, building irresistibly, and then exploding, every time, when Adele sings this part:

The scars of your love remind me of us
They keep me thinking that we almost had it all
The scars of your love, they leave me breathless
I can’t help feeling

We could have had it ALLLLLLL…

It’s just amazing.

But it took time for me to fully realize it.

And it occurs to me that that is a large part of the difference, in terms of my appreciation, between recent songs and something like, for instance, “Honky Tonk Women,” with which I was saturated during the summer of 1969. (When I hear it, it brings one particular memory specifically to mind… driving down Highway 17 between Myrtle Beach and Surfside, passing by right where Tad’s used to be, telling my Uncle Woody — who’s just a little older than I am, and therefore sort of like an older brother — that that was just the best driving song ever. This was possibly influenced by the fact that I had just started driving.)

It’s not that I’m an old fogy — although I’m sure some of you will have your own opinions as to that. The thing is, I react to music much the same as I did in my youth. I certainly feel the same inside when I hear it.

But back in the day, we heard the songs so often, and they had a much better chance of growing on us. On TV, on the radio, walking down the street, coming from a juke box. Music was so common, and shared, and unavoidable. Grownups were able to mock The Beatles’ “yeah, yeah, yeah” because they heard it, everywhere.

There was one Top 40, and everybody was exposed to it. Now… music is more diverse, and specialized, and broken down. And I have the sense that you have to go out and seek it more than you do today. Even if it’s only clicking on a link from a friend via social media, you sort of have to seek it out.

Yeah, maybe it’s just because I’m not invited to those kinds of parties, but music just doesn’t seem as public and as ubiquitous as it once did. Is that a misperception? I don’t know.

I do know that music took a shift toward the private and esoteric and fragmented in the 70s, as we all became “album-oriented.” But then it came back together, became more democratic, in the 80s with MTV, to where most of us have a shared soundtrack for that era.

Now, just as people can choose highly specialized TV channels to watch — rather than having to be satisfied with three networks — they are more empowered to choose a specific musical direction, and have it be private, through their ear buds. Yes, it’s shared, but more person-to-person, rather than communally.

Or so it seems. As I say, I don’t go to parties where current pop music is being played, assuming such parties still exist. But then, I was a pretty antisocial kid, and didn’t go to all that many parties.

So what’s different? How do y’all see, or rather hear, the music scene today?

The music used to be so public, and unavoidable.

33 thoughts on “Where do kids listen to their pop music today? (All I know is, it better not be on my lawn…)

  1. Brad

    Oops. I accidentally posted this momentarily before realizing that it wasn’t the same Darla Moore we all know.

    I hope that Darla won’t mind the brief mistake. It made her look like she had pretty decent musical taste, which I’m sure she does…

  2. Mike F.

    “For instance… I wake up in the morning with LMFAO’s ‘Party Rock Anthem,’ which has really grown on me.”

    OK, just like my 9-year-old.

  3. Brad

    Yeah, we did. And I decided I was wrong about what I said. So I’m setting the record straight.

    But note that I’m raising a new question here. Maybe the changing ways people interact with popular culture doesn’t interest you, but it does me.

    As for it being a slow news day — I don’t know, is there something burning out there you want to address? These ARE the Dog Days, you know…

  4. Brad

    Actually, speaking of which — this may help explain why you (Bud) like disco while I can’t stand it.

    To me, the 70s were a time for digging deep into rock albums, as I noted above, as opposed to more public, Top 40 kinds of music. I was listening with headphones at home.

    But if you were into disco, you heard it a lot, and publicly, and it grew on you. Me, I stayed away from discos, and the music never got a hold on me.

  5. Juan Caruso

    Where do kids listen to their pop music today? Are you kidding? Anywhere they go, on their earbuds (in-ear headphones).

  6. bud

    Maybe there’s something to that. I just assumed it’s mostly because of the small difference in our ages. I was mostly unattached in the mid-late 70s and spent a good bit of time in college clubs. And they were extremely fun times that I recall with a great deal of nostalgia.

  7. DanM

    Well, my songs of summer are a little different. The only names Brad listed that I recognize are Simon and Garfunkel, the Beatles, and the Stones. While I grew up in the 50s/60s I pretty much listened to classical music (and still do).

    There is “summer” music in that genre, such as Vivaldi’s “Summer” from The Four Seasons” (other composers also wrote music about the seasons); Gershwin’s “Summertime;” Delius’ “In a Summer Garden” and “Summer Night on the River,” just to name a few specifically related to the summer season.

    Of course, any music can be fun to listen to in the summer. Why, just the other day I listened to some of Tchaikovsy’s “Nutcracker” and Eden Brent’s album “Mississippi Number One,” which has songs like “Mississippi Flatland Blues” and “Darkness on the Delta.” Now that’s eclectic.

  8. `Kathryn Braun Fenner

    I’ve never been in a disco, but I was out and about in the late 70s, so I heard it played and associated it with good times. I also liked the lack of distortion, both vocally and instrumentally, and the liberal use of horns. It is played in tune, as well.

  9. Brad

    Juan, that’s what I was proposing — that the music is private and experienced individually, passed from friend to friend, rather than being a communal thing that everybody hears together…

    And Dan — if you’re gonna go all high-falutin’ on us, maybe you’d best go over to this earlier post and tell us all about those little-known Japanese and Russian movies… 🙂

  10. Steven Davis II

    Say what you will, but I’ll take Disco over this cRap music today. Any moron who doesn’t have stage fright and can grunt and cuss into a microphone has the potential to put out the next gold record.

  11. Steven Davis II

    Which makes me wonder, in 50 years what will Oldies stations be playing… “Only the Lonely” or “Slap dat Ho”.

  12. `Kathryn Braun Fenner

    Disco wasn’t computer-generated–actual musicians made it happen, albeit on electronic equipment often times. How is that different from a rock band that uses electric guitars and electronic keyboards?

    I am not a fan of the blues, with the wrecked voices and intentionally flat notes, or a lot of music that derives from it. It is legitimately good, I just don’t like it. Hence, Elvis leaves me cold, while the Bee Gees, though not my cup of tea, don’t make me wince.

  13. Brad

    Ouch. Me, I like music that sounds organic.

    I say “machine” partly in ignorance. Before typing it, I tried to picture actual humans PLAYING disco music. I couldn’t. There’s no performance in it, per se. It comes out of a box, perfect and flat. And I don’t mean “flat” in a musical sense. I mean flat like champagne without the effervescence.

  14. Brad

    Speaking of drugs… rock and roll is the music of beer and wine and weed and at its extremes, heroin. (Or maybe that’s more jazz.)

    Disco is the music of cocaine.

  15. `Kathryn Braun Fenner

    In fact, I prefer classical and acoustic cool jazz. I recommend the series of Beethoven piano sonatas with violin accompaniment to be played by the most excellent Phillip Bush and his sidekick, violinist Aaron Berofsky, at the Columbia Museum of Art the first weekend in September


    I have the album, and it never ceases to move me. Organic indeed, and (semi-)locally grown!

  16. Brad


    But back to the original topic… I sort of feel that kids today are missing out on having the music — a core, a canon of shared cultural experience — as a unifying thing for their generation. I sense that by being personal, music is fragmented, and in no way fosters a sense of community.

    Which you know that, as a communitarian, I would regard as a bad thing…

  17. Brad

    I’m still sort of hoping people will tell me that there are places kids go and I don’t where the music is loud and public and general and shared, and that they DO have this communal thing that I fear they lack…

  18. DanM

    When I read your post on the latest list of best movies, I found that I had seen only three of them (Nos. 1,2, and 6) and heard of only one other.

    I’m not very “high-falutin” when it comes to movies. For the life of me, I don’t know why they didn’t include “The Blues Brothers,” “Goldfinger,” “Bullitt,” and Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry” films.

  19. `Kathryn Braun Fenner

    I guess that other than disco, which I heard because I was out on dates or with friends, I lack the essential core music of my generation. I have to ask my husband all the time what such-and-such piece sounds like or what song by X group I might know. I’ve learned most of my pop music from music piped into stores.

    Growing up, neither I nor my friends had much money for records, and didn’t like WBBQ Tiger Radio. We went for teen-girl-friendly stuff like John Denver, Carly Simon, Neil Diamond, James Taylor. Nice to sing along to. We often only owned maybe ten records. Didn’t hurt us much.

  20. `Kathryn Braun Fenner

    and if I were to abuse a substance, it surely wouldn’t be beer or weed. Cocaine scares the heck out of me, but the side effects of loss of appetite and boundless energy are far more appealing than the munchies and a beer gut!

    Some of us are red lipstick people, and some are Chapstick people. I am the former. Cocaine, disco, silk, martinis….not weed, dead rock-stars, gauze and beer.

  21. `Kathryn Braun Fenner

    The coolest thing about being on the iPad, with its annoying auto-error-insertion feature, is that when I read the New Yorker profile of Bruce Springsteen on it, I could play the links to the songs they were talking about. Not my cup of tea, and I wasn’t familiar with most, but at least I could follow along.

  22. Steven Davis II

    How can one like jazz? Whenever I’ve had to listen to it I hear guys playing scales and what appears to be warming up sounds out of those instruments. And I doubt they could play the same “song” exactly twice.

  23. `Kathryn Braun Fenner

    Most of the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s (Take Five was a Paul Desmond composition) Time Out and Time Further Out numbers are very accessible. Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue. The bossa nova greats: Stan Getz, Joao Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Vince Guaraldi, most famous for the Charlie Brown scores, but my favorite piece is Cast Your Fate to the Wind–always makes me happy!

  24. Rick

    Some of a little older than dirt,spent out summers listening to R$B music at the Myrtle beach Pavilion.Some of the more adventurous ones moved up to Ocean Drive and gathered at the Pad or the OD pavilion. Cheery Grove Had Sunny’s Pavilion a late night place.


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