Eminem's Mockingbird comes on the radio, my 13-year-old daughter
tells me she knows all the words. She'd rap along, but she's not
going to do it with me in the car. That draws me into the song
that much more. I listen to this father expressing his regrets
for past mistakes in his marriage and trying to explain himself
and I wonder how much of me she hears in that song. Because, in
the end, I want her to know those feelings are pretty much mine.
Like a lot
of my friends around my own age, I've spent way too much time
this past year making fun of rock bands like Simple Plan, particularly
that one song in which the singer whines to his father, "I'm
sorry I'm not perfect." I'm starting to realise that's
the other side of the same attempt at dialogue. If all us heard-it-all-befores
would admit we might not know everything, we all might find what
I've lately been discovering - the Top 40's still a damn vibrant
When I hear
3 Doors Down sing, "You love me but you don't know who
I am," I wonder how close that comes to something my
daughter might want to say to me, and something tells me it's
too close for comfort, certainly for easy dismissal.
really what fully half of
the songs in the Top 20 are about -
how to survive the most vicious
social torments with some shred
of self-worth intact.
but related ring the familiar sounds of my generation's music
echoed in the Killers' Mr Brightside, Mario's Let Me Love You,
Sum 41's Pieces and Destiny Child's Girl. Then Akon's Lonely comes
on and then Green Day's song with that "I walk alone"
refrain, and I've got a lump in my throat remembering 13 and knowing
these songs strengthen my daughter and her friends in ways I can't
really what fully half of the songs in the Top 20 are about -
how to survive the most vicious social torments with some shred
of self-worth intact.
Then there are 50 Cent's and the Game's singles [separate and
together] best summed up by Hate It Or Love It, criticizing the
educational and justice systems and celebrating the fact that,
at least in the music, "the underdog's on top/and I'm
gonna shine until my heart stops." [Click
here for lyrics to Hate It Or Love It.]
That's what I hear in Trick Daddy's Candy, most forcefully when
Lil' Kim steps out and luxuriates in her sexuality, a celebration
I wish I'd heard ringing through the radio far more often when
I was 13. Amerie's insistent One Thing gives me the shivers, and
Frankie J's hapless Obsession reminds me age really ain't nuthin'
but a number.
In this context,
Snoop Dogg and Justin Timberlake's face-off on Signs speaks to
all of these racial, sexual, age and class-consciousness themes
at once. Though both Snoop and Charlie Wilson warn the young singer
against getting too big for his britches, the kid makes a convincing
case for his perspective. No one wins the argument because that's
not the point. Closer to the point is the end of Game's video
when he holds his young son up high and then close. What matters
is that the radio is still one of the few places where we express
our hearts openly and dream big dreams.
The above article first appeared in Rock & Rap Confidential,