I’m a big fan of the radio. I like scrolling through my preset stations, happening upon something I love (or discovering something new), and singing along as I cruise through town. My singing voice is terrible, but if I crank up the tunes loud enough, all I can hear is Adele and I totally pretend I sound that good. It’s a simple pleasure, one I’ve been indulging since I got my license.
About a year ago, I was torturing my son with a painful rendition of “International Love” when he turned to me and said, “You know this is Chris Brown, right?”
Uh, no, I did not! Immediately, I turned the station. Though I don’t think of myself as being overly opinionated, I knew just enough about Chris Brown to feel uncomfortable as a backup singer. I was, in fact, a little appalled that his music was on the radio at all but that’s neither here nor there. I abandoned my appreciation for the song and never looked back. The radio has no shortage of music, and there are plenty other people to listen to.
I have an eclectic taste in music. My iPod is filled with everything from Eminem to Megadeth to Jon Cozart. There isn’t much I won’t listen to, and there’s even less I won’t at least try out…but lately I’ve become attached to songs I later have to reject on principal—Chris Brown’s International Love being a prime example.
A month or so ago I discovered a song that had a good beat, was easy to sing along with, and quickly became my favorite “find” on the radio. One day, while driving my daughter to school, I heard the opening chords and happily began an uneven rendition. Then she told me, “Mom, that’s Justin Bieber.”
DAMMITT! Again, I didn’t know a whole lot about this kid, but the little I’d heard was not positive. Public tantrums, assault, gross disrespect of people, places, whole countries…
It was harder to let that song go. Because I’m cheap, I rarely buy music. Singing along with The Bieb was not the same as financially contributing to his antics, but it still felt wrong so I wasn’t going to do it.
A bit irked, I let it go, easing back into some old standbys and a couple new favorites. One of them, an uptempo ballad (if that makes sense) had a different feel to it. The singer’s voice was not one I recognized, but I appreciated the difference, the unique quality to it. Within a couple days, I found myself scanning the stations, hoping to hear it.
Then my son told me, “This is Miley Cyrus.”
I have nothing against Miley. As I said, I like her voice. Her songs (one of them, anyhow) really resonated with me. Even so, that knowledge changed things. The opening chords of Wrecking Ball no longer prompt an excited, “Oh, it’s that song!” My first thought has since become, “This is Miley Cyrus.”
Here’s the problem: singers are not anonymous anymore. The argument could probably be made that perhaps they never were, but I feel like I know too much about these people. I don’t watch E! or read People, and yet I can tell you what Selena Gomez said about Justin Bieber when they broke up. I know what silly, stupid nothings celebrities have tweeted in the last week…and I’m not on Twitter!
When I was a kid, I truly believed I was the biggest fan NKOTB would ever have. I knew all of their songs by heart. I knew Donnie Wahlberg’s favorite color, and where Jordan Knight went to kindergarten. If a boy in class made a derisive comment about any member of this group, I could defend them with all the knowledge of one who carried her copy of Teen Bop in her purse.
Looking back, I didn’t know squat. Those guys could’ve been sucker punching DJ’s and smoking pot in their hotel rooms with underage girls and I wouldn’t have known. Back then, fans didn’t carry cell phones (ready to record) and celebrities didn’t thoughtlessly (publicly) post every thought in their head the moment it occurred to them. There used to be a wall between us—the famous, and the adoring. I think maybe we were better off that way.
It’s hard to appreciate a love song if you know the guy singing it abuses his girlfriend. It’s impossible to believe the sentiment of a charitable contribution when the chick donating fifty grand went off on a tangent about the laziness of the recipients. I kind of wish we could go back to a time when face value was all we got. When we were oblivious to hidden motives and the sometimes ugly truth of a celebrity’s personality.
Maybe they weren’t better people back then, but at least I could pretend they were.