My children are subjected to my musical tastes on a daily basis, and lucky for them I like variety. But one thing they aren’t hearing is what everyone else on is hearing on the radio. Because no one is hearing what everyone else hears on the radio.
As a GenXer, I may be among the last to have participated in the collective experience of listening to the same songs as everyone else. Back then, music seemed so simple. You heard a song on the radio. You liked it. You bought the album (or asked for it as a gift). Unless you had a deeper involvement in the world of music, all that ended up on your radar was what you heard on the radio. In our town, that consisted of only a handful of stations. And before the late-70s, it was fairly limited to AM radio.
As a music lover, I do appreciate having access to as much variety as possible. On one afternoon, we may enjoy some Nickel Creek, old Whitesnake, Silverspun Pickups and Liz Story. It flows wirelessly from our computer to our speakers around the house or through the headphones on my iPhone. Pandora, personal playlists, internet radio — we cover it all. But there is that one thing missing — that common experience.
If you asked the kids in my children’s classes what songs they listened to the day before, it probably would include all manner of artists and genres. (These kids are young and still subjected to their parents’ control of the car and home stereos.) When I was a kid, most of us listened to the same radio station and the same songs.
Granted, there are hits that are unavoidable in this country — Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” comes to mind. But those ubiquitous hits are rare. When I was in college, a friend of mine broke out “Sundown” by Gordon Lightfoot on vinyl. We all knew the chorus. (Some knew the verses.) We all sang. We all appreciated. I’m guessing that if someone streams Josh Groban in a dorm room 15 years from now, a good half of the crowd won’t recognize a single note.