Parental Guidance

Rating the year's hits with Mom and Dad

"What do you want? He's right."

"So," my dad says, "is she cute?"

¨Drop It Like It´s Hot,¨ Snoop Dogg (featuring Pharrell Williams) My father grew up in Detroit and took the bus down Grand Avenue to school, right past Berry Gordy's makeshift Motown studio. I wouldn't say he loved the music, but he certainly has an appreciation. In the last decade, his beloved hometown morphed from the epicenter of soul into a hot spot for garage rock and rap, a genre for which he has little appreciation. Last year, as he listened to 50 Cent and Missy Elliott and Eminem, he struggled to articulate why he didn't like the songs, almost as if he had to apologize. This year it was my mom's turn.

Alicia Keys and Josh Groban won over Mr. and Mrs. Hepola, but Snoop Dogg and Slipknot did not. Perhaps this can be attributed to their "gritchy" mood.
Alicia Keys and Josh Groban won over Mr. and Mrs. Hepola, but Snoop Dogg and Slipknot did not. Perhaps this can be attributed to their "gritchy" mood.

"I don't appreciate the fact..." she starts and then stops. "I wonder if it's a culture gap, if I can't culturally make that leap into rap. I find the words offensive and uncomfortable."

My father recognizes Snoop Dogg from commercials and television appearances, and to him, this song is better, more understandable than others he's heard. But I don't think my parents will ever be able to stomach the coarse street-slang of rap, with all its giddy insults and epithets, and that's OK. In our household, words like "nigga" were the worst kind of slander. Once in seventh grade, when he wouldn't let me borrow money, I very proudly used a new vocabulary word on my father. I called him niggardly. He sent me to my room.

¨You Raise Me Up,¨ Josh Groban On this song--with its symphonic swells and easy listening tempo--my father is firm. "This was my favorite," he says. "It was very pleasant to listen to."

"It wasn't my favorite, but it had a tune and words I could hear, and it was kind of inspirational," my mom says. "That's in sharp contrast to Snoop Dogg, in which I thought, 'Well, what the hell was that?'"

¨A Decade Under the Influence,¨ Taking Back Sunday My mother is a child therapist who always embraced art as a useful emotional outlet. So I'm surprised to hear her critique the emo band of the moment by saying, "It just sounded angry to me. 'To hell with you and all your friends'? I don't find that very appealing."

"But a lot of the operas and classical songs you listen to are angry. Besides, haven't we all felt like saying, 'To hell with you and all your friends'?"

"Absolutely," she says.

"So isn't there a cathartic thing going on?"

"Maybe I just want it said in a classier way."

Oh, to hell with this. I mean: Next!

¨Take Your Mama Out,¨ Scissor Sisters My parents are wearing out by the time we get to the final song. I forget that it's work for them to listen to these things, because their brains are running hard to latch onto something--anything--interesting to note. That's why I wanted to end with something easy and fun, almost a no-brainer, which is exactly what the Scissor Sisters offer.

"It was pleasant to listen to," my dad says. "But it was no Josh Groban."

Sheesh, parents. Sometimes, you have to agree to disagree.

"With the exception of Josh Groban, the songs I liked the least were in the second half," says my mom, "and I started to think, I'm just in a gritchy mood; I'm not going to like this. But then I warmed up to this song--his voice, the music. So I'm not in a gritchy mood after all."

And no, I don't know what "gritchy" means either.

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