My parents have really bad taste in music. And no, not the typical six-hour-marathon-of-the-Bee-Gees-really-appreciate-Brian-Wilson’s-solo-stuff type of bad taste. No, they had to get all trans-generational with regards to shitty music. As I write this, my dad is singing wistfully to Ani DiFranco. And I am thankful. Do you know why? Because it’s not The Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga, or Pink.
I rue the day my mother first walked in to Work Out World. She entered not only a giant gym, but a giant cesspool filled with the dregs of the Top 40. Day after day, I heard her come home and tunelessly warble ‘Bad Romance’ or ‘Where is the Love?’. I’ll be perfectly honest—I love my mother, and she has a lovely singing voice. For church. If you like that sort of thing. The problem was not helped by my father, who has an online shopping addiction and depends on the UPS man for social interaction. Ostensibly to please my mother, but most likely because he couldn’t fit any more golf shirts in his closet and needed a fix, he bought the entire discography of Lady Gaga, The Black Eyed Peas, and Pink, along with the DVD of Pink’s Funhouse Tour (I had, to my peril, deleted this off the DVR as the recording was five months old. Little did I know, my mother listened to it every single time the cleaned the house).
From the Amazon.com box, the contagion spread. I would get into my car, turn it on, and be assaulted with, volume and bass maxed, the pseudo-defiant strains of “..so what?! I’m still a rockstar, I got m-“ until I quickly turned the CD player off. This would, of course, be followed by my furtive glances around to see if anyone had heard. Eventually, my father was infected, and his symptoms were frightening. I remember walking downstairs to see him, legs crossed, staring thoughtfully into the Windows Media Player visualization of “Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night” while washing down his Vicodin with a Bloody Mary and doing a fairly good impersonation of being zonked out on Quaaludes. His empty-eyed stare as he looked at me and contemplatively said “Mazel Tov,” in time Will.i.am is etched in my brain forever. Add to this my mother’s occasional attempts to rap through “I’mma Be” and you have one nasty outbreak of shitty pop music jumping past its usual hosts. Someone once tried to defend the Black Eyed Peas to me, saying that they were a good indicator of what was going on in the current musical underground. Really? Because if that’s the case, the musical underground is full of sixty year olds with Windows Media Player. What horror have you wrought, Fergie?
Of course, all this pales in comparison to how they’ve bought, probably in bulk, into the Gaga zeitgeist that pervades gyms, shopping malls, and gay clubs across the continental US. Did you know my mother was on the pre-order list for the deluxe edition of Born This Way? I didn’t – at least, not until I woke up one morning to my mother pounding on my door screaming “government hooker!” at me. Needless to say, I was incredibly confused. My dad seems to be an ardent Gaga devotee as well. I’m sure he was initially drawn in by the numerous sax-solos, being a gigantic fan of Kenny G, Michael Bolton and elevator music in general. When I exasperatedly asked him “Why do you even like this shit?” over Gaga’s droning pseudo-manifesto bit in “Born This Way” he replied with “Well… it’s a nice song! About how much mothers love their daughters!” Hm. Now, I’m of the school of people that think Stefani Germanotta is not in possession of one single clue about what her songs mean until she improvises their meaning when questioned by Matt Lauer or Barbara Walters. However, I don’t think even she would go for that description—it’s a little too pat, and doesn’t leave much room for inverted crosses and bondage gear. But I guess she’s a great canvas for whatever people want her meat dresses and fake-German to mean, and that’s probably what appealed to my mother (and just about everyone else that styles themselves as some kind of monster) in the first place.
This isn’t to say that parents don’t occasionally pull out some great music. Pretty much the opposite, actually—they introduced me to both Three Dog Night and The Band, and I was almost named Rhiannon after the Fleetwood Mac song. Sometimes, though, when I wake up at seven in the morning to the opening strains of “My Humps” with my mother and father ardently singing along, I question: Are two bands and my almost-name enough?
Probably. At least until they discover Rebecca Black or Brokencyde.