i'm all out of love
I have a nephew who’s 13, and he listens to godawful music—the Carpenters, Paul Williams, Air Supply. It’s like the Greatest Hits of the Muppet Show. He’s kind of geeky, in a way that’s endearing right now, but I fear that when he enters high school next year, his geekiness and his enthusiasm for schlock from the ’70s will doom him to ridicule and ostracism, and I don’t know if he has the stomach for it. I know I don’t have the stomach to watch it happen.
I’ve tried to introduce him to music I think is cool, though I know that’s fraught—I’m in my 30s now, and my tastes were set 20 years ago. In any case, it hasn’t really worked. Any advice?
—The Taste Maker
The Omniscient One says: You shouldn’t try to change your nephew’s musical tastes. If he loves the music then I’m sure he’ll be able to defend it should someone criticize it. Rather than introducing what you think is “cool,” ask him to tell you what it is he likes about what he’s listening to now. This will give him an opportunity to articulate his reasons in a friendly atmosphere and prepare him for any future criticism. Don’t forget, the Carpenters had at least 15 #1 singles and sold over a 100 million records, so your nephew is not alone in liking their music.
The Practical Cogitator says: Well, The Muppet Show was a great show. I think your nephew is all right. Turn him on to some Journey, why don’t you? You know what he likes—help him, don’t try to change him. And another thing: What makes your taste in music so cool?
Strictly Classified says: What’s wrong with the Carpenters? Seriously, lighten up. Feel free to broaden his musical horizons, but I think he’s capable of figuring things out on his own. Oh, and I’m not ashamed to call myself a Fanilow.
Aberrant in Allentown says: At that age a kid’s musical taste often go one of two ways: They either listen to what they’re already hearing their parents play around the house, or they listen to totally bogus, formula-produced, mass-marketed, teeny pop garbage they were sold by TV and the media. He’s escaped the latter so even if you find the stuff he’s into now is totally lame, I’d still consider the kid to have more sophisticated taste than lots of kids at that age. As he goes through school he’ll be turned on to things his friends listen to (and who knows, maybe he’ll turn some of his friends on to Muppet music). He’ll discover stuff on his own, and tastes change and evolve. When I was in school, the “rap” kids picked on the “goth” kids who picked on the “pop” kids who picked on the “metal” kids who picked on the “rap” kids to complete the circle. So if you’re trying to prepare him to be “cool,” it doesn’t matter—kids will find something else to pick on anyway. So the real advice here is encourage him to be himself, and make his own decisions for the right reasons. That’s a lesson that starts with things like his tastes, but lasts through life, which is way more important than being “cool” in the long run.
The Shutterbug says: An appreciation for what you call “schlock” is what others might call campy. With the popularity of vintage-thrift chic, retro housewares, and Instagram filters, taking an interest in quirky music might actually make your nephew cooler than you. Feel free to share your own music taste with him, but back off and allow him to pursue his own unique interests as well. It could be worse…at least he isn’t delving into the catalog of ’80s schlock.
The Gay Perspective: Don’t interfere or make your nephew self-conscious about his taste. There is no authority of opinion and he is exploring his individuality, whether you like it or not. Your judgment and condescension will be neither appreciated nor productive at this fragile time of his development.
The Straight Skinny says: I’m astonished that my co-respondents are being so gentle here. Air Supply is an awful band. They were awful when they were new, and they remain awful now, no matter how Glee tries to resuscitate them. Your nephew is old enough to be told this. True, he will probably manage to replace them with other, more modern but equally grim stuff, but you will have done your duty as an uncle and tried to show him the Path of Coolness.
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