While driving down the scenic west coast of Florida with the convertible top down and music blasting, my dad turned to me and asked a riveting question: “In 30 years, will you know the words to this song playing right now?”
It happened to be Katy Perry’s “California Gurls,” a pretty generic pop ditty, yet a memorable tune. I pondered this question for a bit, and it got me thinking: seriously, with so much music swimming in my mind, what will stand out in the next few decades to me and my children? What will be my generation’s Beatles, Rolling Stones or Madonna?
When I was around five years old, my parents used to pop Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill into the car’s six-disc changer, along with albums by the Beatles, U2, Jimmy Buffett, Bruce Springsteen and Blondie. As I aged, my reluctance to listen to what my parents thought was “cool” grew as well. No one wants to listen to what their parents listen to. It’s just not cool. I’m sure that future generations will feel the same rebelliousness, but about which artists? Will it be groups like the Beatles, whom I grew up listening to, rejected in favor of “cooler” bands and then finally embraced? Or will it be bands like Hansons — artists I thought were cool back in my childhood days?
With the AM/FM radio becoming more obsolete, more niche satellite channels are emerging. This leaves future radio listeners a choice of more specific sounds, narrowing their general genre capacity. For example, my top 40 radio station in New York, z100, plays the hits of today but will also play throwbacks to the ’80s and ’90s. However, on my Sirius satellite top 20, I listen to the same top hits over and over and over, leaving me with no knowledge of the great tunes of the past. This affects the fact that someday my family car’s CD changer will have more Taylor Swift as compared to its Joni Mitchell.
As the music of today blasts through the speakers, prominent memories build, with this generation’s tunes as its background noise. I think that’s why we will remember not only the CDs we listen to on the car rides home with our parents, but also, and perhaps more so, the music we’re growing up with in our iTunes libraries.
As we age, we will not only reminisce about the classic rock we listened to with our parents, but also the poppy top 40 hits that make some of our best memories. Though Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA” is not the most heartfelt song, I will always have memories of dancing and singing to it on football Saturdays with my friends. Also though, I will always remember stealing my dad’s Beach Boys albums and sticking them in my Walkman when I went to day camp so my friends and I could sing and pretend we were on a tropical island.
I idolized the Spice Girls and I will forever remember every word to “Spice Up Your Life” (and sadly enough, the dance that goes along with it). The stars of our generation and past generations will stick in our memories, and the memories of our children, too. They’ll be classics to us, even if they’re not seen that way by the world.
It really depends on the memories that are shared with the music, not so much whether a song is popular or acclaimed. Songs aren’t always memorable because of their complexity in instrumentals or poetic lyricism, but because they have a significant meaning in our lives through our memories. And it will be those memories we will share with future generations.
So yes, when I grow up I’ll remember the great oldies: Alanis Morissette, the Beatles, Jimmy Buffett and the others my parents introduced me to. But just because those were my parents’ classics doesn’t mean they’ll all be mine. To answer my father’s question: Yes, I will also remember the words to “California Gurls” and countless other current pop hits in 30 years, because of the great memories that were made along with that music.