Modern culture likes to paint dads as very simple creatures. (“Why, in cartoons, is the dad always an idiot?” my dad used to ask.) The family collective, and each member individually, tends to learn him for a few tried-and-true points of contact.
Aside from being Boat Dad, Hockey Dad, and Construction Dad, mine is Classic Rock Dad. This is especially salient for one family member, because I suspect it has a lot to do with why I became Music Me.
While Music Me has been away in Boston, Classic Rock Dad has been renovating. He’s spent months tricking out the living room with a bangin’ stereo system he put together himself, using physics and long consultative phone calls to me and people with real answers. So now that I’m back, Top 40 Sibling whips out his anemic Android database of sounds du jour to show off the new stereo. Dad shakes his head. “Brianna’s music is better,” he says. My academic ego shrivels at the musical elitism, but my sibling rivalry propels me to Spotify.
Spotify is a near-perfect mirror of my musical soul. I listen religiously to my Discover Weekly playlist. The algorithm is hit-or-miss, but useful, and inexhaustible. For all the criticisms of Spotify, it is the most complete, wander-friendly database I’ve yet found, that always lays breadcrumbs for your return home. Suffice it to say that I know my home well.
Thus, I recognize my account instantly on my father’s iPad, somehow foreign; out of place in my renovated brick-and-mortar home. “What?” he says. “I don’t really need my own account.” I scramble to explain why he does, but Classic Rock Dad reclaims the device in pursuit of some Led Zeppelin, and I save this battle for later, after “Disco Wasn’t Gay”. (Short answer: it was.) That was yesterday.
It took me until today, three months after the release of Portugal the Man’s “Feel It Still” to acknowledge its greatness. I know, shame on me. And while I’m sitting at the kitchen table, digesting my third listen, Dad starts singing “Please Mr. Postman”. Next thing we know, we’re toggling between the two, and I am quietly marveling at the subconscious lines that can be drawn between generations of music. I ask if he likes the contemporary adjacent, and he responds with a more enthusiastic yes than I expect.
He glances at my screen and tries his pitch again. “So why can’t I use your Spotify account?” As I begin to explain my saved preferences, he offers, “I don’t use it that much. I don’t change anything; I just listen.” I point out the Discover Weekly playlist and the Daily Mixes I habitually ignore, and I don’t even bother to explain saved songs because I realize he doesn’t click anything other than play. I use the word algorithms a lot. But then I start to consider that my pristine footprint may be better off with some trusted outside influence.
“Come on,” he says, “I liked that song. My account wouldn’t be like this. I would never have found that on my own. How am I supposed to find new music?” And, I know, teach a man to fish… But isn’t this what I want to do? Allow people to cherry pick my opinions for their own growth? Isn’t his streaming fingerprint the same as all those fingerprints left on radio dials in the truck we rode in on so many highways?
Don’t I owe him some reciprocal musical exchange – or can’t I just admit that I would love to amplify my hereditary tastes using the long-distance means available? It’s not the passenger seat gameshow of the aughts, “Who’s this song by, Brianna?”, when I’d jump at the clear right answer, or scramble in the hopes of guessing right and surprising a proud audience. It’s “What is this, Spotify?” and it works in a pinch.
I am not only the result of my own tastes. I am far from the only only influence on myself. My identity has more than enough room to accept some influence from someone who helped build it. Dad’s been feelin’ it since 1966, at least. And now, we feel it still.