I drive my daughter Jackie to school in the morning and, because I’m a swell dad, I let her select the radio station. Occasionally, she’ll throw me a bone and put on one of “my stations” — she can sometimes find something she likes on Boston’s WERS or 92.5 The River — but most often, we’re in Top 40 territory, and I find myself gripping the wheel like a man being tortured by Katy Perry, because that’s what I am.
But despite my avowed affinity for rock both classic and modern, sometimes I find myself actually grooving along to the hits, although singing along to them definitely gets the thumbs down — dad vocals and Ariana Grande simply do not mix. It gives me hope, not necessarily for the music industry, which is still dying, but for the chances of me personally not becoming totally irrelevant.
To help other pop-challenged parents out there, here’s a list of five current radio hits you may actually find yourself listening to after your kid has left the car. Spotify these and impress your children! (Well, except for No. 1 — you’ll have to YouTube that one, because Taylor Swift and Spotify are never, never, ever getting back together, probably.)
1. “Shake It Off,” Taylor Swift. I desperately try to dislike her, but she’s just so perky and, let’s face it, cute as a button. Plus, she’s right: The haters ARE gonna hate hate hate.
If you’re like me I’m sure you've heard this ubiquitous first single from her quatrillion-selling new album “1989” many times, and yet I still can’t bring myself to change the station when it comes on. If only it didn't have that part where she starts pseudo-rapping and talking about “this sick beat” — that is SO something a former country star trying to go pop would say.
2. “All About That Bass,” Meghan Trainor. It’s catchy, it’s got a ’50s doo-wop sound (there’s a sax in there!) and a nice message about appreciating yourself for who you are, and it subscribes to that age-old pop music practice of having a chorus that makes no sense whatsoever. (What’s wrong with treble? I mean, I know it’s no bass, but still.)
As for the much-maligned line about “skinny b*****s,” I don’t like it either. But for better or for worse, skinny people don’t get to be offended — it’s like when white people complain about being persecuted.
3. “Take Me To Church,” Hozier. This guy’s got a spooky-soul thing going that sets him apart from most of the goopy stuff on top-40 radio, and he sounds fairly tortured too — lots of talk about church and funerals and sinning and sharpened knives. It’s like the ’90s all over again! He even rocks the plaid.
4. “Bang Bang,” Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj. Yes, it took an entire committee of pop stars to make this song, and I don’t really have any idea what they’re all singing and rapping about. I think it might be mostly about how great each of them is, particularly in comparison to the other two.
But it’s got a nice ’80s R&B vibe, the percussion is appropriately punchy for a song called “Bang Bang,” and even if she’s made some questionable fashion choices, Minaj does bring the whole enterprise to another level. I’m a sucker for when rappers spell things.
5. “Riptide,” Vance Joy. Oh hell, he had me at the ukulele.
All that being said, I’d still advocate for forcing your children to listen to your stations now and again — otherwise, how will they ever learn about “Led Zeppelin IV”? That sounds like an even trade-off for Katy Perry to me.
Stream the above songs on Pete’s Pop Culture Parenting & Pets Blog at northofboston.wickedlocal.com/section/blogs. Follow Peter Chianca on Twitter at @pchianca.