Blurred lines – how music bridges the generation gap

Peter Robinson
Do you feel lucky, punk? Today’s youth have never had it so good when it comes to musical options. Photograph: Alan Powdrill/Getty Images

When it comes to the way families consume music, some rituals have always been sacred: the tribalist mentality that pits one brother or sister’s favourite act against another’s; the solidarity achieved when siblings come together to rebel against their parents’ taste; that belief that if you’re older your taste is more sophisticated, and if you’re younger your taste is more cutting edge.

Then there’s the legendary tableau of the long family car journey: trips in which one adult may wish to listen to the radio while the other demands a carefully chosen playlist, only for the kids to inevitably win control of the stereo, even though they’re both plugged into tablets.

But that’s changed. There’s no point in feuding over contemporary acts when they all collaborate with each other anyway. Parents may now wait until later in life to have kids, but they seem more reluctant than ever to lose touch with what’s current and pick up tips from their kids. Those kids, meanwhile, find their own musical cues in the parts of their parents’ record collection that weren’t, rather regrettably, car-booted a decade ago; they cream off the best bits, look them up online and add them to their own playlists.

There was once an untraversable gulf between mainstream and alternative music – and their respective audiences – but genre lines are now brilliantly blurred, meaning those hostile car journeys are easier than ever before. Families are now free to concentrate on more important issues, like why it should have been obvious that was the right turn-off, how if the passenger wishes to take over driving they are more than welcome, and how nobody on the back seat could have anticipated the wisdom of a pre-trip toilet visit.

But does any sort of generation gap still exist when everything’s available all the time, when 20th-century music is seen as authentic rather than old, and Drake – 2016’s most streamed artist on Spotify – borrows heavily from the sounds of 1970s Jamaican dancehall, as well as UK funky? And when you’ve got Kanye and Rihanna working with Paul McCartney, can you even factor grandparents into the equation?

Well, kind of … To a parent whose idea of successful UK hip-hop is PJ & Duncan, the more exciting portions of the Stormzy album may seem a little extreme, while a mum who grew up with Take That might reach for the off button when she realises that Little Mix’s last No 1 starts with an unambiguous comment on faked orgasms. Pop would be in a sorry state if there weren’t still songs that are Kryptonite to 95% of over-30s – and teens still need to define their own space through music.

Yet there’s still plenty of cross-generational enjoyment to be had, especially when so much of today’s music is influenced by so much of what came before. Take Cloudbusting, the current hit from Just Us, which will remind 80s kids of Kate Bush’s original, 90s kids of Utah Saints’s Something Good, 2000s kids of the hit Van She remix of the Utah Saints’s track, and the kids of today of, well, last Friday night.

Equally, the recent collaboration that saw 70s disco master Giorgio Moroder collaborating with 90s/2000s pop queen Britney Spears on a cover of an 80s hit by Suzanne Vega is likely to hit three generations at once. It also stands a chance of infuriating different generations for different reasons, but those long car journeys would be boring if someone wasn’t getting angry about something. And if all else fails, remember: everyone loves Abba.

To sign up for Spotify Family – which gives you six Premium accounts for family members living at the same address – head to Spotify.com/family and click on “Start my Spotify Premium.”

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes