Lance? Totally not gay.

I had a good thing going for about 20 years.  From 1982 until 2002, my finger was firmly on the pulse – the PULSE! – of pop music.  From avid New Wave fan (in elementary school) to teeny-bopper obsessed with pop, Open House Party, and everything on Casey’s countdown (junior high, early high school) to an early adopter of Nirvana (late high school), to a DJ and music director at my college radio station, to an all-around fan of staying current, from the Backstreet Boys to the Butthole Surfers.  And now? I know noth-ing.

At work today, on my streaming Slacker.com, I listened to a station called “Indie Hits.”  Oh, the dozens of bands with clever names I’d never heard of.  Even the bands I thought I sort of “knew,” such as Of Montreal or And You Shall Know Us By the Trail of the Dead (really? seems so cumbersome) would begin to play and I didn’t recognize the song.  Okay, fine, you say, that’s what “indie” rock is all about, and after all I am listening to this station to spread my horizons.

So I come home, plop on the couch with a box of Triscuits, and dig into the latest Rolling Stone – Jimi Hendrix on cover … I think I may have heard of him.  Flip to the back page, and lo and behold, my favorite feature – From the Vault – the cover and the top hits of many years ago (in this case, 10 years).   And I could hum any of them to you right NOW.  Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name.”  CELINE’s “That’s the Way It Is.”  Sisqo’s “Thong Song.”  Hey – they may not be good, they may not be classics, but they are firmly in my memory.  On the March 30th, 2000 RS cover?  Why, the lovely boys of NSYNC.

I peek above to the current top-10.  I know … four of them and haven’t even heard of all the artists.  And three of the four songs with which I’m familiar are simply f*cking sh*t-yourself awful.  Justin Bieber dominates Twitter every damn hour of every damn day and OK Go has only sold 25K of its latest album.  People are putting punctuation marks in their names, and not in the cool way that Wham! did.  I furrow my brow.

Am I ignorant, or just curmudgeonly?  Or maybe the descent into apathy began when I stopped driving everywhere and began devoting the majority of my headphone time to Stern instead of Seacrest.  Perhaps we are all just overstimulated with CHOICES now … Internet radio, satellite radio, build-our-own channels, NPR, iTunes single of the week … Or perhaps music today, at least the “popular” tracks, aren’t worth knowing.  Will Jason Derulo’s “In My Heart” have the staying power of “All Right Now” or even “One Thing Leads to Another” or even “Damn, I Wish I Was [sic] Your Lover?”  Is music really this bad, or am I just this old?  Can we ever hope that one artist can swoop in and radically change the landscape so much that a new renaissance is born (thank you, Kurt, and R.I.P. always)?  Or must we choose one of two paths … the Pitchfork-loving, obscure-act-seeking, blog-cruising fan of “alternative”rock, or the Top-40 statistician?  I remember when it was possible to be both.

Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars.