Like many fathers, I used to be considerably more fun. There was a time -- well before the advent of late-night Zyrtec runs and forgotten swim equipment and the gloppy aftermath of serving soup for dinner -- where I would venture outside into the real world, attend "events" and "concerts" and "things that began at 9 p.m.," with other people who were also not trying to leave early so they could avoid paying the sitter an extra $20.
O, 'twas a glorious and long-forgotten time of late nights, breakfasts in restaurants and original hair colors! For a while, they actually used to send me to concerts to write about concerts, as a job! Listen to music, as work! This year, by contrast, I was asked to submit a list of my Top 10 albums of the year. I didn't do this last year, because I didn't listen to any new music. I didn't listen to any new music this year either, but I submitted a list anyway, because lists are dumb.
Nowadays, of course, things are different. The Lowcountry is a lot of things -- gorgeous, humid in December, in need of several million cell phone towers, seriously, I don't even care, make them giant 100-foot-tall pink flamingoes, just INSTALL THEM -- but a vibrant center for live music is not one of them. And because of that, coupled with the demands of parenting and the fact that dads listen mostly to John Denver anyway, the pop charts read like foreign languages now, or whatever language in which popular songs are performed by a grown man named Pitbull.
This is why I look forward to visits from Alex. Alex is a music fan, a fantastic singer and exactly 9 years old. (He's also my son's best friend.) Seriously, I used to write about music semi-regularly, and now my base of knowledge is routinely trumped by a fourth-grader. I am not kidding when I say that I wait for Alex's visits so I can get recommendations for my running mixes.
But I also absorbed a small amount of new music because I found myself watching last year's edition of "The Voice," a reality singing competition judged by Blake Shelton, who is 12 feet tall; Christina Aguilera, who spends most of the show hugging everybody; CeeLo Green, who dresses mostly in black leather living-room drapes; and Adam Levine, who was recently named People magazine's Sexiest 87-lb. Man Alive. (Seriously, I'll give you Matt Damon and George Clooney, but this guy is an Old Navy mannequin with slightly more stubble.)
Singers on "The Voice" traded mostly in modern pop hits, of course, except when they did songs like "When A Man Loves A Woman" (which is a TERRIBLE coach's choice for an unknown singer because everyone knows that song already and you can't make it your own if you're some 19-year-old from Pennsylvania, and wow, is this a surprisingly well-formed opinion). But they also throw in enough quasi-nostalgic hits for the lucrative Former Young Person demographic that I belong to, which explains the season finale cover of Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me" and the time the Apple-store guy did a Meat Loaf song, which incidentally was amazing. You really dropped the ball on that one, America.
Anyway, after a few episodes of "The Voice" I started matching pop hits to song titles and band names, such as Imagine Dragons. I am actually the last person on Earth to know of Imagine Dragons. (I know this because I checked with Imagine Dragons. They keep a list.) Seriously, it was like, "Oh this is Imagine Dragons? THIS is Imagine Dragons also? This other song that's been on the radio for like 25 years is ALSO Imagine Dragons, somehow?" Four-year-olds know these are Imagine Dragons songs, but regardless I was thrilled to run my discovery past Alex, who responded thusly:
Me: "Do you know this band Imagine Dragons?"
Alex: "Um, they're amazing."
So whatever, I'll keep trying. And I will continue to nod politely when he talks about Lorde and Avicii and these other ridiculous-named elflings on the pop charts these days, and teach him when music was real and bands were serious. Like Def Leppard. And Meat Loaf.