About 12 years ago I used to brag about “today’s teenagers.” I worked at a big high school as the tech dude, and it was kind of fun seeing the various mp3 files the kids listened to. They ranged from top 40 groups to the Beatles, including rap and country. Those kids had access to a big huge world of illegal mp3 downloads, and they listened to a huge variety of music. I was very heartened by it – when I was a teenager, you wouldn’t be caught dead listening to something your dad liked. It had always been that way, but change was in the air.
Fast forward 12 years to the present (2018) and now we have terms like “Dad Rock”, which can be explained very simply – if you are a teenager, it’s music that your dad likes, or worse, music made by your dad. The term is used as an insult, such as “Oh, that’s DAD rock. That sucks.” This is an offshoot of “Dad jokes,” aka any jokes that are corny or old.
The empowerment of teenagers kind of goes back to the 50’s, where teenagers for the first time had significant buying power, and companies started to cater to them. It’s not unique to the United States – it can be found in many other countries. Japan has historically avoided this. In Japan, stories often portrait the kids as being stupid and careless and the adults as being the wise ones who have the answers, whereas American stories (especially on TV) show adults as being buffoons and the kids being the smart ones. I’ve always thought Japan had it pegged more accurately.
Anyway, artists like Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and Steely Dan are all examples of “Dad Rock.” And if you happen to be a dad, anything you do will be devalued by a percentage of teens as Dad Rock. You’re not allowed to make music, Dad! You’re too old, you can’t be cool any more! Go out to the garage and sort your bolts.
No point in getting mad. Teens have always (except the brief window I described) wanted to make fun of and deride music made by oldsters. Not all teens. But it’s part of the process of growing up. My own dad gave me what I think is the best explanation of this I’ve ever heard. He said that when kids get old enough to realize that adults don’t know everything (and can and do make mistakes all the time), they rebel. It’s not the only thing happening here, but it’s true.
I can remember making fun of Hendrix as a teen. I was comparing him to Eddie Van Halen. I understood the historical significance of Hendrix but I didn’t care. Similarly I made fun of everything I didn’t like, including Journey, Loverboy, opera, country, bluegrass, and the list goes on and on.
Now I look back and realize what a dumbass I was. Now I look at any and all music as being worthwhile, even if I dislike it tremendously. I give credit to anyone who writes, records, performs. Jealousy and competition in music are for youngsters who don’t know any better.
So if you’re a dad and you’re making music, don’t get too upset if some youngster calls it “Dad Rock.” With artists like Bob Dylan, Santana, and Peter Gabriel, you’re in some very, very good company.