This time of year, lots of folks start listening to Christmas music. Personally, I can’t really embrace that stuff until approximately December 16 (superfluous Modern Family reference just because). Then I’m all in.
But this year I had a realization. December is when my radio dial floats towards tween stations. For those of you in Chicago, Imma talking about B96, but there is a B96 in every market in this country of ours. It’s the kind of station that thumps a constant rotation of Katy Perry, Rihanna, , Taio Cruz, Ke$ha, Maroon 5, Ne-Yo. On Pandora, it’s just called “Firework Radio.”
This happens for a few reasons. My cover story is that I need to know what’s current to create a playlist for the Donna’s Good Things’ Happy Hopeful New Year’s Eve party. That cover story is pretty good, partly because it makes me look altruistic, partly because it’s true. The back story is that I secretly like the stuff. That’s right. I said it. I secretly dig thumpin’ tween musical cotton candy. Like Christmas music, though, I like it in small doses for limited periods of time.
I know that every summer I will get a dose of it when we take our communal family vacation with Mary Tyler Dad’s high school friends. One of the friends, we’ll call him “Doug,” shares my affinity for tween culture. Doug, though, actually has tweens — that’s his cover story. But Doug and I both know that we listen to this stuff because it is awesome. We listen to this stuff because we like it. We listen to this stuff for the same reason we are the only two adults to join in on the Wii dance-offs — Doug and I have retained a relationship with our tween selves.
On last summer’s communal vacation I got one of the best compliments of my life when one of Doug’s tweens told me, “I dont mean this as an insult, and don’t take this as an insult, but I think you are the most childish of the adults here.” An insult? No way and quite the contrary. Her words nearly brought tears to my eyes. The fact that we were walking on the Atlantic beach at sunset just made the exchange that much more profound. I hope I always remember that compliment.
My point is that there is some merit to this tween musical cotton candy. It makes you want to dance. Well, it makes me want to dance. Possibly, it makes you want to claw the speakers out of the mini-van, despite the new mani you just got. I would argue that the problem is not the music, but that they only put 10-14 songs on rotation at any given time. Hence, why I can only listen to the stuff for small bites of time.
The key word in that last sentence is listen. When you actually listen to the lyrics, they’re not so bad. Some of ’em are even okay, dare I say, pretty good.
Exhibit A from Katy Perry’s “Firework”:
You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th o July
‘Cause baby you’re a firework
Come on, show ’em what you’re worth
Make ’em go, oh, oh, oh
As you shoot across the sky
Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon
It’s always been inside of you, you, you
And now it’s time to let it through
See? I think that is a fantabulous message for a tween, boy or girl. And, yeah, it is repetitive and simplistic, but the message is good, especially for the tween set.
Exhibit B from LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem”:
Um. Next. I dig this song, but it’s all about girls on jocks.
Exhibit C from Pink’s “Missundaztood”:
Well, I’m a stickler for good grammar, spelling, and punctuation, so this is disqualified based on title alone.
Exhibit D from Taio Cruz’ “Dynamite”:
I came to dance, dance, dance, dance
I hit the floor ’cause that’s my plans, plans, plans, plans
I’m wearing all my favorite brands, brands, brands, brands
Give me some space for both my hands, hands, hands, hands
‘Cause it goes on and on and on
And it goes on and on and on
I throw my hands up in the air sometimes
Gotta let go
Oh. Um. I never realized the materialistic bent to this song. Worshiping brands is, perhaps, not the best message to send to the little ones. I remember in junior high the pressure of Jordache v. Vanderbilt on our little asses. And Pony v. Converse on our feet. Yes, at that age it sucked.
And all this time, I thought Mr. Cruz was introducing some scientific theory by giving a lyrical should out to Galileo. Huh.
Exhibit E, Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger”:
Maybe it’s hard (did he just say hard?)
If you feel like you’re broken and scarred
Nothing feels right
But when you’re with me
I’ll make you believe
That I’ve got the key
So get in the car
We can ride it (Did he just say ride it?)
Wherever you want
Get inside it (Did he just say get inside it?)
And you want to steer
But I’m shifting gears
I’ll take it from here
And it goes like this
Oh, man. I just read these lyrics for the first time. Quite possibly not the best message for tweens. Sounds like a roadmap to taking advantage of young girls with poor self esteem. Sigh.
Okay. Maybe I was wrong. But it still has a good beat that you can dance to. I’ve got to go shufflin’, shufflin’, shufflin’ . . .