12/13/2004

Sing For The Moment

In an outstanding piece entitled "Eminem is Right", Mary Eberstadt of Policy Review Online askes the question: "What is it about today’s music, violent and disgusting though it may be, that resonates with so many American kids?"

The odd truth about contemporary teenage music — the characteristic that most separates it from what has gone before — is its compulsive insistence on the damage wrought by broken homes, family dysfunction, checked-out parents, and (especially) absent fathers. Papa Roach, Everclear, Blink-182, Good Charlotte, Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam, Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, Tupac Shakur, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Eminem — these and other singers and bands, all of them award-winning top-40 performers who either are or were among the most popular icons in America, have their own generational answer to what ails the modern teenager. Surprising though it may be to some, that answer is: dysfunctional childhood. Moreover, and just as interesting, many bands and singers explicitly link the most deplored themes in music today — suicide, misogyny, and drugs — with that lack of a quasi-normal, intact-home personal past.
This is a long but incredibly insightful article that is worth the time to read. My favorite snippet comes from an interview with Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder:
"Think about it, man," he says. "Any generation that would pick Kurt [Cobain] or me as its spokesman — that must be a pretty f— up generation, don’t you think?"
As the child of divorced parents and a mentally-ill mother, I find Eberstadt's observations and conclusions to be spot-on.