Thursday, January 5, 2012

Generational Bias

Jim Fusilli today writes in the Wall Street Journal about Generational Bias. When it comes to listening to music many people, once they reach a certain age, stop listening to new music and prefer to listen to the music of their youth.  Fusilli calls them the Gee-Bees for short-

They present their argument as perceived wisdom: Popular music was better then. For you to disagree is to reveal a deficiency on your part. Cite examples of excellence among today's musicians and you too are dismissed. Here's a typical conversation:

Gee-Bee: "Go ahead. Name a band today that's better than (insert '60s or '70s act here)."
You: "Radiohead? Arcade Fire? TV on the Radio? Sigur Rós?"
Gee-Bee: "I never heard of them."
You: "You never heard of Radiohead?"
Gee-Bee: "I don't listen to new music. I don't need to. No one will ever be better than (insert favorite old-time artist or band)."

This kind of obduracy isn't new, but it does seem especially egregious among boomers.

I happen to think he's being a bit hard on the GeeBees.  Raising kids, negotiating the workplace and saving for /worrying about retirement takes its toll and leaves precious little time for indulging in the exploration of new music.  Every year there's more of it and longer you live the harder it gets to keep track of it all.  In my case the 1990s were my 'lost decade'.  During that time I completely lost touch with the current trends in our culture.  It would have been quite easy to simply listen to songs of youth, happily ensconced in a little self-made time bubble.
But something interesting happened.  When my daughter Anna was about 11 or 12 she introduced me to The White Stripes.  I smiled and said to her, "That's good stuff!  It's clear they've been listening to a lot of Led Zeppelin."  She asked, "Who is that?"
And so a wonderful conversation with my kids started up.  I remember one day my son John came home with a Gorillaz cd.  I was skeptical.  A band made up of cartoon characters?  Shades of pretend bands like The Monkeys or The Partridge Family.  But the lead singer's voice was oddly familiar and I snapped my fingers- this was Damon Albarn of Blur (ok, so the 1990s weren't a complete black hole). 
Today, with the help of my kids, I find myself listening to Sharon Jones, Kid Cudi and MIA (the list goes on and on).  Stuff I'd probably not be aware of without their guidance.  We share what we find and hold onto the best without generational bias.
Oh, and Anna's favorite station on Pandora?  You can create it yourself by typing in Hang On Sloopy