I have vivid childhood memories of protesting road trip soundtracks from the back seat. Though my sister and I were usually just one “she’s on my side!” away from purposefully getting carsick in the other’s sand bucket, we formed an anti-classic rock alliance without hesitation.
“You two just don’t know good music,” my parents would say as they drowned out our requests for New Kids on the Block by cranking Sweet Home Alabama a few notches. They’d pretend not to hear us whining, as they belted Hotel California in a tone that can only be described as “mocking.”
The musical power trip continued all the way down the Garden State Parkway until the traffic came to a standstill. Since crawling along in a sea of brake lights for a few dozen exits can only be infused with more irritation when accompanied by complaining children, they’d switch to the Top 40 station to silence us with Martika’s smash hit “Toy Soldiers.”
Fast forward to yesterday. It was everything you’d ask for in a summer day. Warm and sunny with an agenda that contained two things:
- Go swimming.
- Eat ice cream.
We could have hit up any of the numerous ice cream stands near home. Instead, we opted to take a bit of a scenic drive to our favorite spot just out of town. I was pretty psyched to spend the drive cranking a new classic hip-hop station we recently stumbled upon. (The things that excite me these days may be the first signs of giving up – a one piece bathing suit that doesn’t look like I belong poolside at Del Boca Vista! A morning solo yard sale hopping! Kids who put their dishes in the dishwasher!)
I like to think my kids have diverse and sophisticated musical tastes. And for the most part, they do. (My three-year-old’s long-running obsession with the little known 70’s glam rock/alien performance art outfit Zolar X being the most bizarre.)
But like most kids, their tastes can sometimes be described as “shitty.” That’s my only excuse for why they decided to rally against the (radio edit, of course) of Notorious B.I.G.’s Hypnotize by loudly belting the chorus to the equally inappropriate (and straight up embarrassingly terrible) top 40 country-pop earworm “Honey I’m Good.”
Go ahead, kids. Stage your fruitless protests. I can easily sing Pamela Long’s hook of “Biggie, Biggie, Biggie, can’t you see/Sometimes your words just hypnotize me” right over your dissenting little voices.
Still, I didn’t see the parallel of these backseat experiences, a quarter century apart.
Then, The Fugees “Killing Me Softly” came on. Just like the National Anthem at a baseball game, you have two options when it happens: sing along or ZIP IT.
“I don’t like this song! This song is boring,” the 9 year old moaned and I began to wonder if I warped his brain bleaching my hair during pregnancy.
“This song is nasty,” the younger kid offered, testing the new insult she’d picked up earlier in the day.
“UGH. SHHHHH. This is the Fugees/They are awesome/The woman singing is named Lauryn Hill.” I hissed out as much info as I could before Ms. Hill could make it to the next verse. They were intentionally snuffing out my hip hop high.
“Is she dead?”
“No! She’s a little crazy, maybe, but she’s not dead. SHH!”
“Mom! Look! Look, mom!”
“Mom! Look at him! He put stickers on his face. His WHOLE FACE.”
I ignore them completely and sing along, content to believe I’m totally KILLING IT, just like I used to when my girlfriends and I cranked it on the tape deck in the Chevy Corsica.
“Mom! Look! I pulled off a sticker and it took out a whole bunch of eyebrow hair!”
And then, my husband swooped in and it all came crashing into view.
“Leave her alone. Your mom is having a moment. She’s re-living her youth.”
Just like that. I’m almost certain the sound of a record screeching to a halt echoed through the car.
A Tribe Called Quest is the new Lynryd Skynryd. And according to my kids, this station, full of nostalgia, is as dusty and boring* as the ones I grew up sulking about.
*This opinion is suspended for Sir Mixx-A-Lot’s Baby Got Back.
And for your listening pleasure. Sing along if you want to.