Originally Posted 8/25/10
When Kai was younger his musical taste was easy to understand. He spent most of his time with his mom and she listens to easy listening (adult contemporary music). So when we bought his first i-pod (which was only a $20 MP3 player) the music “Santa” included was songs we knew he liked because he told us so. His list was made up of songs you could find on either KOST or KBIG here in southern California. He liked Beyonce, John Mayer, Journey and Rick Springfield’s “Jesse’s Girl” to which there is nothing like hearing a 4-year-old sing in the shower.
Soon enough, I felt his musical tastes were too influenced by his mother so I arranged to add songs and bands I liked to the mix. I was excited because he seemed to really like what I had to offer him in music. Okay, maybe the old lady at the grocery store doesn’t want to hear a 5-year-old answer he’s singing about Barenaked Ladies when she asks what he’s singing. With that I didn’t really think the world needed a mini-me clone walking around. Instead I wanted Kai to develop musical taste of his own. After all, here is this kid that is teaching himself songs on the piano without either of his parents showing him how to play it.
So we upgraded his cheap MP3 player (which you get what you pay for) to an i-pod shuffle. On it I wanted to introduce him to as big a variety of music as possible. After all, it wasn’t likely he really cared for the easy listening tunes his mom liked and frankly my taste in music isn’t really anything “Rolling Stone” magazine is interested in writing about.
I decided to download a unique enough collection of songs for him to listen to and discover on his own. In all truthfulness, I did include all the songs he said he still liked from his old MP3, I also included a leaning toward more classical music since that is what he was teaching himself to play on the piano (thanks to years of indoctrination by Baby Einstein I am sure). Beyond that, I offered him a sample of both old and new music. 120 songs all told (listen kids will watch the same damn movie thirty times in a row – 120 songs is more than enough to start him with).
I balanced the selections as to not include too many by the same artists – most were only a single song per artist or band. I loaded it with songs by Louis Armstrong and Alison Krauss, the Beatles and the Beach Boys, Chris Brown & Coldplay, Dean Martin and Def Leopard, Fleetwood Mac and the Fray, Michael Jackson and the Mamas & Papas, Nirvana and Notorious B.I.G, and Pavarotti and Pearl Jam. 120 songs mostly be different artists. I watched and waited to find out what songs or style he was interested in most.
After less than a week of him listening, favorites emerged right away. First it was Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer”. Then the Boss’s “Born in the U.S.A.” and today “Photograph” by Def Leopard emerged as his favorite song. It’s fun to watch him play in the backyard singing a cappella as loud as he can to the songs he’s listening to over and over again. It certainly makes me appreciate the fact that I thought long and hard about the lyrics of the songs I selected (like selecting “Jump” by Van Halen instead of “Hot for Teacher”).
I’ve found this “experiment” extremely interesting this week. Here is this kid who’s developing his own taste in music. Sure it’s influenced by his mom and me but that influence won’t remain 100% true as he continues on his musical journey through life. Certainly the songs he is listening to are familiar if not favorites of mine. I can’t think of “Photograph” without thinking about sixth grade summer camp or just summer in general. It’s a great song and I’m excited he likes. What’s really most interesting is being able to share new things like music with your kids. Music is so much a personal experience for each of us. Yet at the same time our own personal taste in music was first influenced by our own parents. I can’t hear certain Neil Diamond, Olivia Newton John or Beach Boys songs without thinking of one of my parents and that time in my life when they first introduced me to their music.