Saturday, July 26, 2008

Boomer culture?

There was a little article in the paper this morning headlined “Boomers to remain ‘cultural titans’ as they continue to age, author says”. Caught my eye, of course, being both a Boomer and interested in being considered a titan of pretty much anything.

Turns out the author of the headline is a historian who will be speaking at the World Future Society’s annual conference in Washington on Monday. I have no information whatsoever on the WFS’ history of successful prognostication because although they have been around for over 40 years and have a website with some bits and pieces of information, nowhere does it provide statistics on how well they tend to forecast. So I suppose I’ll have to just hope for the best on this titan thing.

The main focus of the brief newspaper article was a specific aspect of culture: music. The writer opens by saying “Get ready for more radio stations blasting golden oldies…”, but a few paragraphs later expounds on “the disappearance of a generation gap in cultural terms [with] the iPod overlap between parents and teens, usually finding 20 to 30 per cent of songs in common.”

Well, you can’t have it both ways. Either the Boomers want only to listen to songs from the 60s and 70s and will commandeer the radio waves to ensure they’re played in plenitude, or we’re open to music outside of those two tired decades. Or perhaps her message was that what she calls the “millennial generation” (those who began graduating high school in the year 2000) include our golden oldies on their iPods.

I think it’s probably some of each, myself. I do agree that whatever gaps exist between my generation and that of my children, music is not one of the bigger ones. Rap and hip hop are not generally big with the Boomers (although Ellen Degeneres, who is one of us, has gone a long way in broadening the comfort zone of the older women who watch her TV program, as she is a fan of hip hop and opens every show dancing to it.) But there is much more to modern pop music than rap. My kids and I do have a percentage of overlap on our iPods, and it goes both ways. When I was 20, I listened to very little but the Top 40 radio stations of the day. It's a wonderful thing that my progeny are much more open-minded. They enjoy and have on their iPods music from a wide gamut of genres and times.

So I don’t know about this idea of a proliferation of oldies radio stations. I think most of us Boomers are actually pretty done with listening to the same armful of songs from 30 or 40 years ago. Some of the music from our youth has proved enduring and classic, and that’s the stuff that’s on our kids’ iPods. But a lot of it is just horribly cheesy and inane and needs to be left in the archives. If we Boomers are to continue to be titans of anything as we clump into the senior demographic, I think music is a bad example. Frankly, and sadly, I don’t believe we’re going to be titans of anything at all other than the paycheques of Millenials who are trying to support our health care demands.

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