Saturday, June 17, 2006

Favorite Songs (a.k.a., Billie Joe Armstrong, meet Laurie Berkner)

I’m sitting in our home office working on the computer when Madison enters with a request.

“Dad, can you download a new Kelly Clarkson song for me and put it on my disc?”

This is how a five-year-old talks about music in 2006. Madison and Ava have never known a world that didn’t have iPods in it, a world in which the tip of a thumb wasn't able to instantly produce thousands of songs, or the click of a mouse access many more through iTunes – a store that has everything you could possibly want, is right there in your home, and never closes.

Our girls will never meet Sam Goody, he’s left the building. They will never go to the mall and haul stacks of overpriced cassette tapes to the front counter so some disgruntled goth teenager can Houdini them out of their anti-theft plastic coffins – tapes that will later be eaten by a temperamental deck. I guess there’s a chance they will still have the opportunity down the road to buy a compact disc, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Music is big in our house.

When Gwen was pregnant with Madison we had Radiohead’s “OK Computer,” “The Man Who,” by Travis, and Sarah McLachlan’s “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy” on auto repeat. We played these discs on drives out to my parents’ house and on long trips to Vermont, we listened to them in the delivery room during the overnight wait for the Pitocin to kick in. They say that babies can hear and become familiar with music in utero, and I think I believe it, because as a newborn the slightest inkling of "Paranoid Android" would calm Madison right down.

Madison took her first Music Together class at about 13 months, Ava at six months. I sometimes think the world would be a better place if its population was limited to people who can identify, unaided, the melody that accompanies the words, “Hello... everybody... so glad to see you...”

We listen to music at home, in the car, everywhere. I’ve written before about music on our daily drives to school, the sing-along playlists we use as a family. We started the girls off early on Baby Bach, Raffi, the Dora, Barney and Wiggles soundtracks. Through Noggin we luckily discovered Laurie Berkner a couple of years ago and have spent plenty of time with Victor Vito and in the Toy Museum. The Carpenters’ “Top of the World,” and John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” have been fixtures of our car sing-along playlist since its inception, sometimes with mixed results. On one trip to Vermont we played "Top of the World" so many times - at Madison's request - I thought Ava was going to chew through her Britax restraints and jump out the window.

Some of the funniest home video we own is of Madison and Ava, both about one when their respective footage was taken, dancing around the living room to Bob Marley's "Buffalo Soldier." Having experienced Madison's reaction a couple years earlier, we couldn't wait to try this out on Ava and, sure enough, as soon as the song kicked in she started bouncing around the floor, perfectly on beat, like a founding member of the Whalers killing time on stage waiting for the pipe to come around again.

I’d like to say this was all about the girls’ enjoyment and enrichment, but as the father of two beautiful daughters, just a couple of years apart, I’ll confess to noticing the pioneering pimping efforts of Joe Simpson, and I’m not above that kind of behavior. It’s really just all about the kids, right Joe?

Lisa Loeb showed up on our playlist at some point, after we saw her on Noggin, singing a great and infectious children’s song called “Catch the Moon” with some other woman. This was right around the time I noticed her on VH-1, starring in a sort of reality TV “I’m just as pathetic and awkward as a ‘regular’ person” dating show. I didn’t mention it to the girls.

And, in honor of Thom Yorke and Billie Joe Armstrong, we have continued to play regular adult music as well, as long as it’s “clean” – to invoke an iTunes adjective – and appropriate. No cursing, no complicated anti-social lyrics, although I did once mistakenly clickwheel to N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton” while Madison was in the car. I think the first bit of profanity in that song pops up at word five or six, so unfortunately the damage had been done by the time I was able to redirect the device.

I did some extensive previewing of Green Day’s “Bullet In A Bible,” and Madison and I have enjoyed listening to a few of the more appropriate selections: “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” and “Minority.” Billie Joe drops the F Bomb once in Minority, but I’ve gotten the timing down well enough to induce a momentary glitch in the stereo system that appropriately protects the young ears in the back seat.

And while it’s relatively easy to pick songs without curses, or – when it’s unavoidable – cause the audio system to burp through the profanity, these safeguards will not inoculate the adult in the car from having to explain the occasional mature lyric that captivates the imagination of a young mind. I noticed about a year ago that Madison started picking up on specific lines in songs and, I have to say, it’s had an impact on our playlists.

We got into a little Avril Lavigne phase a while back after I put “Sk8er Boy” on a workout mix for Gwen, and one of the first songs Madison asked about was “Anything But Ordinary,” off the same cd, in which Lavigne sings, “Is it enough to love? Is it enough to breathe? Somebody rip my heart out and leave me here to bleed.”

“What does this lady mean, Daddy, is she bleeding? Why does she want to rip her heart out?”

“Oh, Madison, she doesn’t really mean this, she’s just saying that someone hurt her feelings. She’s not really bleeding.”

Madison considered this for about a minute and rendered the following verdict:

“Daddy, I don’t think we should let Ava listen to this song, it’s not really appropriate.”

I agreed and we moved the selection off our family playlist, although Madison and I kept it in active rotation.

Madison called The All-American Rejects' single "Dirty Little Secret" the "Secret Song" and for a while it became her most frequent request. We'd hit the car and within about 10 seconds I'd get this: "Secret song, Daddy." For some reason that lyric never prompted any "what's this guy talking about?" dialogue and I wasn't exactly complaining.

We liked and spent a lot of time listening to Yellowcard's "Ocean Avenue" cd, Madison used to call the title track "Staying Up All Night," after one of its more prominent and recurring lyrics. Thankfully, she shared my negative view of the band's follow-up effort, "Lights and Sounds," which was so bad it never even made it into the car. Keane's amazing and melodic "Hopes and Fears" was prominent at one point, a great little sleep inducer that was right up there with Baby Bach in that regard.

Both girls loved Embrace’s breakout cd “Out Of Nothing.” “Gravity” was one of the first songs they actively requested in the car - first Madison and, later, Ava as well. We sang along to most of the songs on that disc, but the bloom was off the rose several months ago when Madison noticed this line in “Keeping” – “And, in the end, I wished it all would burn…”



“What does this man mean when he says he wished it all would burn? Is he trying to start a fire?”

“No, Madison, I think he’s just upset. Someone must have hurt his feelings.”

“Oh, OK.”

Paging Laurie Berkner.


Blogger Unknown said...

This reminds me of my trips with Dad.
How he'd so obviously try to censor those lyrics.I never knew what they meant.But I always noticed the flow of adrenaline through his body at those times.
I think this so captures the moment.
It's beautiful!

2:16 PM  
Blogger Sugee Andersyn said...

LOL I remember being a kid in the car, going somewhere with my Dad, and Diana Ross' song "I'm missing you" came on and she sang, "Tell me why the road turns.." and I said, "Why does she say 'tell me why the road turns'?" I was so confused because I thought that SURELY, a grown woman, she would know why the road turns!!? To get someplace!! Gees... :) My dad just said that she meant it in a different way, and that was the end of that. lol

8:37 PM  

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