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What matters in the world of popular music.

Who says music has to be dumbed down for kids?

A Boy and His Guitar ...

"The nephew" knows good music when he hears it. Photo by my sister, Stephanie Decker.

My nephew finally got himself an mp3 player for Christmas. And already the adventurous music listener (and a voracious one too!) he asked me to play “cool uncle” and fill it up with music for him for New Years.

Yes, he wants the usual stuff everyone his age is listening to on the radio … or as his mother puts it: “anything that sounds rebellious.” But he’s also a huge Lindsey Buckingham junkie. He’s memorized most of the libretto to Anais Mitchell’s Americana opera Hadestown (my top pick for album of the year in 2010). And he helped pick out The White Album by the Beatles and the BBC Sessions from Led Zeppelin for my father for Christmas along with his parents.

Did I mention he’s in first grade?

I’ve noticed people tend to have low opinions of young people and their musical taste. Disney markets Hannah Montana to kids and they lap it up because it’s what they hear — and their parents buy it for them because the music’s safe and inoffensive (just don’t let the kiddies watch “Can’t Be Tamed” if that’s your theory!) But kids aren’t stupid. They want to hear music that sounds good, and if they could hear bands like Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, Regina Spektor or Only Son playing on top 40 radio, they’d lap those bands’ albums up too.

[It'd be nice if the music industry could pick up that kind of idea and run with it, the idea of getting kids when they're young and teaching them to love music, to want to explore it. These are our children, they're not just another marketing tool.]

Anyway, I just had a ton of fun filling his mp3 player up with both the music I know he already enjoys, along with the music I think he will enjoy when he gets a chance to hear it on shuffle. And I’m not going to make assumptions about what might or might not be over his head … aside from keeping things clean (he’s seven, so no major profanity) I think it’s best to let him set the limits of what works.

I can’t wait to hear what he winds up latching onto … ;)

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3 responses

  1. I was brought up on Cat Stevens, Elton John, Michael Jackson, Whitney and the Beatles. I skipped all the kids stuff and am so grateful for it.

    Some of my fondest memories growing up involve listening to music with my parents.

    December 29, 2010 at 9:45 PM

  2. I didn’t really start exploring popular music until I was in junior high, but once I fell I fell hard ;) Thanks for the reply, Michael! :) Hope you’ll stick around :)

    December 29, 2010 at 10:14 PM

  3. Anita

    I really liked what you had to say Jonathan and I feel you are so right. As a kid, there really wasn’t much of any certain kind of music palyed. My mom loved classical and piano music. I got into country in junior high and then went right to Disco, which I still love.

    December 30, 2010 at 12:47 AM

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