The kids are alright

Visiting my in-laws in Eastern Tennessee this week. Because I’m so old (going on 37!), I  like to check in with my nephew (20) and niece (12) to see what the real music fans are into. I suppose I’ve been reading about the iPod/MySpace generation for long enough that I shouldn’t be surprised, but they don’t have any affection for the Top 40 dance hits they play at the gym, and don’t really care what MTV or the radio plays.

My nephew’s a pretty big music fan. (I like to take some credit for taking him to a Sonic Youth [disclaimer: I don’t like them that much] concert and introducing him to my vinyl collection when he was 14.) So it’s not particularly surprising that alongside Green Day he’s got CDs and goes to shows by more obscure bands like Of Montreal. But the Captain Beefheart collection was seriously unexpected. So was Roger Waters’ recently completed opera, Ca Ira–even I don’t have that, and I’m about the most fanatic Waters and (old) Pink Floyd fan around. He checks his MySpace site every day and carries his U2 iPod (with radio tuner attached) 24-7. He asked me about the upcoming “Microsoft player” (Zune) and was interested in the wireless sharing capability, but his most interesting comment about it: “It doesn’t use the Windows Media Player, does it? I hate the Media Player, it totally sucks.” Looks like the Zune team made the right call by building its own software.

My niece has been through her Britney/Justin phase, but now that junior high has started, she’s  into pop bands with indie-rock stylings  like Snow Patrol (who have the #5 single in the country–who knew?) and Stone Sour. But more surprising is how music lingo has crept into her speech. She describes herself and her friends as “punk,” but she means simply that they’re outcasts who don’t dress like preppies, not that she listens to punk rock or wants a mohawk (although she does want bright-red hair). And when one of her friends begins putting on that air of teenage angst and depression, she says they’re going “emo.” Hilarious.

And I can’t remember the last time there were so many records on my “to buy” or “bought” lists in the Billboard Top 100. Bob Dylan, Outkast, Gnarls Barkley, TV on the Radio, The Roots, and Yo La Tengo. Wait long enough, and the mainstream will come to you.

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