Wish My Baby's First Song Wasn't Sung by Richard Marx
There is another description for the job of music writer: music snob.
When you are repeatedly forced to form opinions on what makes music good or terrible, it becomes easy to confuse those opinions with fact. I am as guilty of this sin as anyone. I will argue to the death about how Digable Planets were robbed of the universal praise that the Fugees received for best nineties bohemian hip-hop trio. I can assure you that Radiohead hasn't put out a noteworthy recording since Kid A and I dare you to prove me wrong that Arcade Fire is the only band in the iPod shuffle age that understood how an album can tell a story.
So pity my poor daughter.
Born earlier this month I was determined to raise her with good taste in music. We gave her a good start with her name. If she would have been a boy, her name would have been Jude. But since she is a girl, her name is Simone. As in Nina. I sang her Beatles songs when she was in her mother's womb and made certain to switch the radio station if I heard the opening riff of a song that does not meet the cut.
Part of this concern is out of self-interest. I cringe at the thought that when I drive her around in ten years, she will be asking me to turn off my Modest Mouse album so that she can hear whoever 2023's edition of Justin Bieber might be. But there also still exists that high school mindset within me, that personality is molded by one's taste in music.
I am unsure if taste in music comes from nature or nurture, but I wasn't going to take any chances. The first song she ever heard might shape her entire ethos. So we thought long and hard about what should be the first song she ever heard. Mazzy Star's "I've Been Let Down"? Maybe a little too negative. The Beach Boys' "God Only Knows"? Might encourage her to join a Bible study group.
We thought we had plenty of time, but childbirth is chaotic. Sometimes labor starts before you get a definitive playlist. There is a lot of pushing and assuring and little bodies coming out of orifices. Suddenly the soundtrack is not the foremost thing on your mind.
There is now a new body in the universe. She's in the nursery, where you look into her eyes, and you can't wait to play for her Leonard Cohen's "So Long Marianne" or maybe Yo La Tengo's version of "Big Sky." And then you notice the nurse has turned on the radio to the easy listening station where the first lyrics your daughter is ever exposed to is Richard Marx singing "Right Here Waiting For You."
There is a lesson to be learned here, about parenting and expectations and control issues. Most importantly, when we get home, we're making sure the first movie she ever sees is Caddyshack.