Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Why I Don't Really Hate Disney Channel Music At All
Look, folks. I hear a lotta hipsters who think they're gonna score points with me complaining that pre-tween Disney Channel music -- Miley Cyrus aka Hanna Montana, the Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato, whoever else -- is "ruining rock and roll."
I usually reply by getting really really pissed and saying that hey, faceless copy-cat indie music without even a SHRED of originality (see: about half the groups on Indie 103 RIGHT NOW, buy yourself a copy of Duran Duran's "Rio" if you don't believe me) is what's probably ruining rock and roll WORSE right now; maybe try making music that doesn't sound like everybody else on the radio / 80s radio hits minus the "faggy" bits to sound more butch for middle America / crap, okay?
I spent a quality weekend this weekend with my pre-tween imbibing quite a healthy amount of Disney Channel Rock (this included watching several episodes of "Wizards of Waverly Place" -- is it wrong that I think that chick on the show is super-duper hot? Yeah. It's wrong. I'm sorry.) And I've decided -- well, not decided, really, but solidified -- that I like Disney Channel Rock, and here's why:
1. Bubblegum music for pre-tweens has always been far cooler than it's given credit for. I shouldn't have to cite examples, but I will. Anything out of the Kasenetz/Katz camp from the late 60s like "Chewy Chewy" and "Yummy Yummy." The Archies. The Sweet. The Partridge Family. The Cowsills. The Monkees. KISS (yeah, they count, sorry). Justin Timberlake. New Kids On The Block (ask someone either older or younger than you, okay?). Duran Duran. Hell -- just about any time someone markets to pre-tweens and starts slapping someone's face on Tiger Beat or whatever the modern-day equivalent is, you can just about bet that they're cooler than you. And yeah: about 1/2 the groups on that list were manufactured, plain and simple, including the Monkees, so that argument doesn't wash one bit.
2. Bubblegum music is, by definition, repugnant to people who are older and more jaded. You catch yourself saying, recently: "I don't get that horrible shit that the kids like?" Guess what? Your parents said that, and so did their parents. Music for young people isn't for you to get. It's for your kids to get. You're not supposed to get it. It's that simple. If you don't get it, or actively hate the stuff, then GOOD -- it's working.
3. Bubblegum music is innocent. Say what you will about Modern Day Kids, the Disney Channel set keep it strictly PG at most. Frankly, I find that a little refreshing. Yeah, the actual STARS THEMSELVES try to bust out of the box sometimes (see: Miley Cyrus' seminude cellphone photos, or don't, depending on your level of creeped-out-ed-ness) but the music itself is refreshingly innocent. Frankly, I get a little tired of hearing music about mid-20s or mid-30s hipsters bitching about life sometimes, and I write the stuff. Sometimes I wanna hear cute little songs about love. Period. And I like that it's still out there.
4. Bubblegum music really isn't bad at all. Face it: a lot of you bitching about the stuff haven't spent any quality time with it. Did you buy the new Jonas Brothers record? Rolling Stone gave it 4 stars, and I think it deserves it -- it really is, as they say, a power-pop masterpiece, and twenty-five-BILLION times better than that International Pop Overthrow bullshit because it's genuine. Ask Prince what he thinks about Drake Bell, star of Nick's "Drake and Josh," because his album is almost as good as -- and sounds just like -- those Jellyfish albums from the early-90s which IMO have influenced a lot more people than the cynics thought they were gonna (I'm looking at YOU, Tangborn!). I got really hooked on Demi Lovato, who, I guess, was on that Camp Rock thing that they sell shit for at Target, and who sounds really asskicking. And honestly: who isn't secretly a fan of "High School Musical?" I mean, at this point, is it even cool to pretend you hate it?
5. A lotta these stars have some genuine latent talent. See also: Justin Timberlake. See also: Just about all of 'em. Give a bubblegummer enough time to find their own voice, and about half the time they end up doing stuff that's actually artistically viable. The Jonas Brothers write their own music, or lots of it -- I'm sure it's song doctored -- and that reminds me a little bit of the Monkees, because the songs are actually pretty damn terrific. Most of 'em sing pretty well, too, I hear a minimum of digital frippery and pitch-correction (unlike the last generation of stars -- I'm sorry, Britney's cool in a certain sense but she is mostly the product of studio trickery).
6. This stuff is an entry-point for cool rock music for kids. 'Cause, wow, you really think your kids are gonna be thrilled listening to Elliott Smith's "XO" in the car? They're kids. I've got my daughter hooked on the Free Design and the Archies and whatever else, but to me, that's a logical stepping-off point for kids, and it surprises me not one jot that she went from that into the Jonas Brothers. And from there, I fully expect she'll explore the full range of rock music. Of course, lots won't -- but how many kids DID go from, say, Duran Duran into cooler music? Or from New Kids into cooler music? It happens, a lot. Bubblegum is the rock and roll gateway drug.
7.It's harmless. Oh -- so ALL rock and roll has to be dangerous, like THE STOOGES? No, it doesn't. Some rock is supposed to be cute. It always has been, it always will be. Otherwise the dangerous stuff doesn't have anything to look dangerous against.
My recommendation: sit down and watch a day's worth of Disney Channel. You'll have to sit through twenty-five episodes of Phineas and Ferb (which isn't really THAT bad, all told, it's pretty funny) but you'll also get a spate of music videos, clips, ads, whatever else, and you'll feel like you're a little bit in touch with Youth Culture Of The Moment, and that's kinda cool, and I bet you find yourself actually not hating Hannah Montana anymore. Hell, she's twenty-five times better than "Achy Breaky Heart." Not that it's a particularly high sight to set against, but I'm just sayin'.