Shamefully, I acknowledge my 12-year-old son is a Ke$ha fanatic. Any song she releases, he wants to download from iTunes. As an open-minded, loving, and accepting person who is even capable of a smidgen of coolness on every 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month, I’m not pleased with this development. My son is being encouraged to express his individuality, learn to think critically, and explore the wider world through all types of experiences and mediums. But Ke$ha? Really? Please. As one of my sister-in-laws succinctly put it, Ke$ha personifies super skank. Admittedly, Ke$ha’s music, to quote the phrase the hip kids breathlessly prattled to Dick Clark on American Bandstand back in the day, “has a good beat and is easy to dance to.” But her lyrics – the messages she choses to offer – vapid, devoid of any thought or soul.
Growing up on the straggling tail of the sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll generation myself, I don’t expect my son to only listen to sanitized, G version lyrics until he’s 18. Yet, I feel an overwhelming obligation to attempt to raise a non-prick who has respect for women and himself. My non-prick agenda outweighs his right to listen, watch, or play any damn thing he chooses right now. I am the evil mom who will not let her 12-year-old son play T-rated video games or listen to music I consider degrading, sexist, racist, or morally vapid.
I’ve recently begun taking my son’s musical education more seriously. The goal is to expose him to many types of music and help him develop a respect for the artistry and hard work involved in creating and producing truly great music. For Mother’s Day, I asked for the family to attend a concert by a great local singer/songwriter, ellen cherry, at the Walter’s Art Museum. She was part of a free public program called The Virgin Mary and Other Migrant Mothers and she performed to a small but rapt audience in the museum’s auditorium. It was an awesome experience for all of us as she not only sang, but gave insight into her creative process and projected photographs on the wall that had inspired various songs she was singing, or described at what moment and for what reason she began to write certain songs. At lunch, after the performance, we all talked about our reactions to the show, and although Sawyer admitted her music was not what he currently loves, he was impressed by her ability to play the guitar and sing so beautifully. He was pulled in by the images she projected on the screen and the stories she told. He began to see the work it takes to make something so special and share it with others. We concluded our musical studies for the day with a discussion about the raw, visceral, vigorous energy of punk rock and why both mom and dad have always been such fans. The image of pogoing in the mosh pit and pumping your fist in the air particularly appealed to my high energy, physical kid.
Picking music that your parents hate is a pubescent rite of passage. I expect many years to come where I’m gritting my teeth and begging my child to at least turn that mess down so it stops rattling the pictures on the wall as well as my nerves. I want my boy to explore it all and discover for himself what feeds his musical and artistic soul and makes the blood pump faster through his veins. But I’m also aiming to help him understand why he loves what he loves, what the music he loves means, what it represents, what is says about the world, and what it says about him. This mother’s duty.