“You used to call me on my cel-l-l-l pho-o-o-ne…”
My daughter Abby looked up at me, puzzled, appalled.
“How do you know that song?” she asked, which, now that I think about it, might have been code for, “Please stop singing that song.”
“I’m hip. I’m cool. I know Drake,” I said.
I barely know Drake at all, really. He’s a nice boy from Toronto, he’s a Raptors fan. I think of Drake every time I climb the stairs: “Started from the bottom now we wheeze.” That’s about all I know about Drake.
But Abby doesn’t know that. She doesn’t know that, at the time, I knew the song only from the many parodies of the music video. She doesn’t know that, at the time, I was calling the song “Cell Phone,” when really it’s called “Hotline Bling,” as if that makes any more sense.
And I was pretty certain in the chorus he was singing, “I me feel like chocolate cake!” It’s not my hearing; Drake needs to enunciate.
But it’s a catchy little melody: “You used to call me on my cel-l-l-l pho-o-o-ne…” I just had to hear it the one or two times and I could repeat it. It kind of gets stuck in your head. The cheesy keyboard and the Casio drumbeat to go with it make it perfect Dad-rock, complete with the Dad-rock dance moves.
No whipping or nae-nae-ing, for you, Dad.
Other than being an embarrassment to your children, there’s little benefit to staying on top of this stuff, pretending that you tolerate let alone like what the kids are listening to. I’ve had my musical time in the sun. There’s 60-plus years of rock and roll I can fall back on, including my own crappy Top 40 from back in the day. (“Ra Ra Rasputin,” anyone?)
I don’t need this new stuff. I don’t need to pretend to like Taylor Swift. And I don’t. Believe me, I’ve tried. She’s like a shrill, tinnitus-inducing kindergarten teacher at Karaoke night after a few drinks, and the times I’ve forced myself to listen, I’ve felt like Alex in A Clockwork Orange with my eyes pried open, but with better-quality videos and fewer atrocities.
But still, it feels important for someone who grew up with pop culture not to lose touch with pop culture. Losing touch is just too much for us kids of the eighties. Without pop culture, who are we? We’re just Baby Boomers but without any good stories to tell.
We need to be savvy enough to know what “Netflix and chill” means and smart enough to never, ever say it out loud. We want to be cool enough to say “Have you heard the new Grimes?” with a straight face.
So it doesn’t matter whether we like Drake, but it’s important to know Drake.
It’s important to know Adele even if you don’t fully get Adele because God knows you can’t avoid Adele.
Right now, Adele’s “Hello” is the most popular music video on YouTube. It’s been viewed over 300 million times in three weeks. The video tells the age-old story: girl meets boys, girl loses boy, girl sings in gale-force winds.
Thanks to Adele, at long last teenage girls have a new song to belt out at every single variety show you will attend for the next seven months. Someone asked me what the teenage girls were belting out before this new Adele song. Simple: the last Adele song.
I like Adele. She is a strong, independent Brit woman. She’s talented, her voice is sad and powerful and her songs are well written, none of which explains why she’s so popular, because, again, Taylor Swift.
But ours is not to question why. Ours is but to roll our eyes. Because, you see, there’s more to keeping on top of pop music and culture than just maintaining one’s relevance and causing our children to blush. (“Shawty got low, low, low?” No, no, no.)
With 60-plus years of rock history behind us, the real benefit is that we get to be smugly, obnoxiously, parentally instructional.
“You know, since we’re talking songs about phone calls, have a listen to this wacky baroque number called ‘Telephone Line’ by Electric Light Orchestra? Oh, and Adele? How about we VHS and hang with a little friend of mine named… Aretha…”