Music Parenting 101: The "Two Albums Before Bed" Rule
As far as I'm concerned, people who don't ever listen to albums are music lightweights.
By "albums", I don't mean actual vinyl records. I couldn't care less which configuration or delivery method you chose. I mean a specific group of songs in a certain order.
As it is, I don't really care how you listen period. You can listen to the same song all day long if it makes you happy.
But as a Parent Hood, I'm responsible for teaching my kids the important facts of life. As you might suspect, the art of music is in the upper echelon of importance around here. And in that respect, my first lesson about music is this: If you really want to appreciate the art, you need to dedicate part of your listening time to albums. See also: - Steve Wiley: 10 Rock and Roll Hall of Famers That Never Topped Their 1st Album - Steve Wiley: How Much Is Music Really Worth To You These Days?
Don't Be a Song Hater, Dad
I love a good song. Songs are the beginning and end of music. There wouldn't be any good albums without them. But if you really want to truly appreciate the art of music, a song can only get you so far.
And the song vs. album concept doesn't just separate the casual fan from the true enthusiast on the receiver side of things - it separates the true artistic legends from the posers on the sender side of the equation.
Because as the history of one-hit wonders tells us, it's a lot easier to write a good song than it is to write a good album. Writing a good album is a whole different matter.
Take a look at the history of rock and roll, the genre that really brought us the artistic concept of the album. How many artists have written even two really great albums? Not many in the grand scheme of things. How about five. Hell, I could probably do that entire list pretty quick (and I think I just might.) It didn't take me long to come up with 10 Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Who Never Topped Their First Album, after all.
For the musicians who can write a good one, albums represent a certain time - of specific events, emotions, and lessons currently occurring in that artist's life. Take a look at any legendary songwriting artists' discography and you will essentially see a story of their life (and if you've been listening to the artist long enough, part of the soundtrack of yours).
So that's why I tell the kids: If you are gonna dive deep... if you gonna really appreciate the art of music... you need the album.
Two Albums Before Bed Don't get me wrong, my kids are song-loving pups, just like most, jumping from one to the next on the computer. Their phones' music libraries are mainly a hodgepodge of songs; when I hear music blaring from their room, it's usually a radio station or something like it.
But ever since they've been little, we've been doing a little thing called Two Albums Before Bed.
What is it?
Well, perhaps against your expectations of me as a former record store owner, I've been in on the digital revolution from the beginning. I spent a shitload of time on Napster. I had an iPod right away. And I ripped my CDs early. More than a hundred gigs worth of albums ended up in my iTunes library.
When we got a new computer, we moved the old one into our boy's room so they could have the music. They were seven and five at the time.
I made a playlist in iTunes called "Two Albums Before Bed", and every night from that point on, two different albums were dragged into the file, and those two albums were played while they were going to sleep.
I've made sure to include all genres, all tempos, all types--the key is to start early, before they develop biases or even preferences. We'll often sit and talk about the group or the songwriters or a concert or whatever. More than a few times, they've watched as the old man turned out the lights but remained in the chair in front of the computer, playing air guitar (or any instrument, I'm a one-man-air band) and absorbing the music, transfixed by its power and unable to leave quite yet.
And we've talked about the power of the album. How when it's done right, the songs come together to form a distinct piece of art.
What Album is That Song On, Dad? I think it's working.
A decade later, and we still do it. My 15-year-old often loads the albums himself...he's the most aggressive music fan of the two. My 13-year-old doesn't seem to worry about what's playing, but he passively pays plenty of attention, and he's still learning and enjoying.
And I still come in and load up new albums they haven't heard. You like the Josh Rouse? Let's try some Nick Drake. You like Kanye? Tonight we'll play Guru's Jazzmatazz. You love Wilco's Sky Blue Sky (they do, especially the song in the video "Impossible Germany," with one of the greatest guitar solos in history)? Tonight we'll put in Summerteeth.
More and more, I'll look in and see my eldest listening to an entire album - usually to check out a classic hip-hop artist like LL Cool J or Dr. Dre - while he's listening to Spotify on the computer (and mindlessly typing shit into his phone.) The other day, he asked me if he could pick up two of the old Kanye albums and the new Kendrick Lamar.
He's going backwards and forwards. Testing, listening, exploring, and buying the album. Makes the old man proud.
Now I just have to teach him how to harness the awesome power of that stinkin' phone.
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