Unhappy birthday leads to me pulling the plug

Our girls like the pop songs they hear on the radio. This is unfortunate for several reasons. One being that they are too young for me to impose on them actual good music. Believe me, I’ve tried. Teaching them the virtues of [“indie” band X] is not worth the hemming and hawing that persists throughout whatever songs I choose to sample for them. Kids have the worst taste.

More importantly, there is the continual irony that the songs played on public pop radio stations for everyone to hear—as opposed to the “alternative” songs that are an acquired taste and that exist, by and large, beyond the scope of radio censorship—are the worst aesthetically and also subject matter wise. Like, pop songs are also the most inappropriate songs.

Not to make generalizations, but all current pop music is simply a juvenile sexual metaphor masked with a catchy beat. (Not like in MY DAY, when artists like Gerardo really meant something, you know?) So, not only do we have to bear to listen to this awfulness, but we have to sift through it so we don’t end up endorsing music that will lead our girls down the path of self-destruction. What this leaves us, since we are also bound by the girls’ distaste for “boy songs,” is Kelly Clarkson and the Frozen soundtrack. (If our girls are ever faced with the life challenge of a bad breakup or perpetual winter, they’ll know just what to do: sing.)

And I can’t live like that. Which leads to the other caveat. For me, terrible pop songs can exist in a vacuum, so I am OK with specific songs that are passable even if they are by “artists” who we otherwise would not let our daughters within 100 yards of. After all, if we start holding our musicians up to moral scrutiny, we will have no music to listen to. My wife disagrees. If Rihanna released a song called “Feed the Poor and Listen to Your Parents,” my wife wouldn’t want the girls to hear it because: Rihanna. (In my wife’s defense, the video for this hypothetical song would probably feature Rihanna in a bikini giving the middle finger while blowing smoke.)

I am less strict because, again, if I hear “Let It Go” one more time I am going to drive my car into a ravine. So yes, Miley Cyrus is terrible, but “Party in the U.S.A.” is terrible. But also OK. Katy Perry is a former Christian singer who is now a manufactured pop star who uses sex to sell music and herself, but “Roar” is a contrived, empowerment anthem that is actually right on the level of a four-year-old’s psyche. So that is fine.

In fact, while I was putting together their “Friday playlist” for the ride to school, I saw a new Katy Perry song called, “Birthday.” I added it thinking, “How bad could this be? It’s about a birthday.”

I was deep in thought as we drove along, not listening to the lyrics because I am, at times, a terrible parent. I was violently snapped out of this when I heard, in the middle of the song, Katy Perry utter “Happy birthday” in a sultry manner that would make Marilyn Monroe blush and, before what I had allowed could even sink in, my four-year-old daughter repeated it in the same manner from the back seat.

I unplugged my phone so hard from the adapter that the feedback through the speakers made a loud, piercing sound that forced my daughters to cover their ears, something I wished they had done about three minutes prior. NOPE. UH UH. NO MORE PLAYLISTS. EVER.

The lesson, as usual, is that I should have listened to my wife in the first place. Another lesson is something the great Katy Perry once said: “After a hurricane comes a rainbow.” (Not true.) The rainbow in this case is that we don’t have to listen to Katy Perry anymore. Hope the girls like Future Islands! (They are a band.)

Note: This column appears in the 7/3 issue of The Glendale Star and the 7/4 issue of the Peoria Times.