I don’t remember what triggered my love for pop music exactly, but it probably happened around grade 6 or 7. Of course, even before that I had a general idea of what was popular in terms of bands and singers just from hearing about it through other kids and on television. But it wasn’t until I was in middle school that I really started following the trends. And I mean, pretty obsessively — writing down what was in the top ten every week and keeping a binder, or printing off the charts on our black and white Macintosh computer.
My pop music phase only lasted a couple of years, but it was pretty intense. And so when I noticed that my younger brother Kale (he’s 12, I’m 26) had become riveted in the same way, I was curious as to what his thoughts were about pop music today. Aside from the almost compulsive need to track and monitor the charts that a lot of pre-teens (at least, the generations in my family) experience, I wanted to get a better idea of how he saw the world of popular music at an age where one starts to become more discerning and critical. So I went home to visit my family in Guelph one recent weekend, sat Kale on my parent’s bed, flipped on his favourite radio station (Virgin Radio 99.9) and asked him some questions.
Claire: How’s it going, Kale?
Kale: It’s going pretty good.
Claire: Okay, so we’re here to talk about top 40 and pop music. When did you start listening to top 40? Do you remember?
Kale: Uh… probably like about last year. My friend was really into 99.9, which is like, the pop station. So then I started getting really into it and its the only station I listen to, really.
Claire: Who was it?
Kale: It was Zac.
Claire: He would just like, play it at home when you guys were hanging out or something?
Kale: Yeah, yeah.
Claire: …And talk about it?
Kale: Yeah, and then he’d be like “Oh, I hate that song. That song’s so annoying,” and I didn’t know what he was talking about. But then I started listening to it, and that’s kinda what introduced me.
Claire: So that was the first radio station you ever listened to?
Claire: Do you listen to any others?
Kale: Uh, like that and 91.5…
Claire: What’s that one?
Kale: The Beat – it’s like a Kitchener station.
Claire: Which one do you prefer?
Claire: How come?
Kale: I dunno, the Beat sorta plays older music but like, I dunno. Just yeah… it’s different.
Claire: So is radio the only way you find out about new music?
Kale: That or just talking to my friends and they’ll be talking about the new music or whatever and then I’ll learn about it; I’ll look it up or whatever.
Claire: So, would you be able to tell me what songs are in the Top 10 right now?
Kale: Uhh… last time I checked I think it was like, Bruno Mars and Rihanna and Katy Perry, like the same as usual. Like, “It Will Rain”, “Last Friday Night” and… that other one. With Calvin Harris… What’s it called? “We Found Love.”
Claire: I remember, you always knew what was number one –
Kale: That’s cause I used to listen to the countdown every Sunday.
Claire: How long did you do that for?
Kale: I dunno, like, a couple months I would listen to it, like, every Sunday. Just the top 10, 20.
Claire: I used to do that too in grade 7, I would listen to it every…Tuesday night? At 8?
Kale: Yeah! And every night on this one they have like, the top 6 most requested songs or whatever.
Claire: Right. Because I was going to ask you, if you knew which songs were in the Top 10 and then I was gonna check, just to see. But we can check later just to see what’s in the top 10.
Claire: So you all of your friends listen to the same music?
Kale: No. Definitely not. Uh, Jon and uh Michael, they are like ridiculously, anti-pop-music. Michael more than Jon, but Michael considers it not even music, so he doesn’t like it at all. And Alex likes dubstep and stuff. But yeah, they know all the songs.
Claire: If they were asked the same question as you, what would they say? “Oh Kale likes…”
Kale: Like hip-hop, rap, that kind of stuff.
Claire: What are you favourite artists, groups right now?
Kale: Well, I kinda got more into Skrillex. I started buying more of his songs and stuff…
Kale: But he’s really popular at our school now..
Claire: All the kids like him?
Kale: Yeah. That and like, I dunno.. my iPod’s been dead for a while so I haven’t listened to a lot of music. Mostly like, the songs that are getting caught in my head are the songs that I hear on 99.9.
Claire: Such as?
Kale: That “Call Me Maybe” song, “Good Feeling”…
Claire: You got a couple CDs for Christmas…
Kale: Yeah, I got the Eminem CD…
Claire: Lil Wayne?
Kale: No, but he’s awesome.
Claire: Are there any artists you like that you really look forward to their stuff coming out? You like, follow their careers?
Kale: Uh…yeah. I mean, I dunno. I don’t really have a favourite.
Claire: What were some of your favourite songs of 2011?
Kale: Oh, well.. I like those two LMFAO songs. “Party Rock Anthem” and “Sexy and I Know It.” Those were huge. Definitely. That was also the year that I got introduced to like, Skrillex, dubstep, that kind of thing. That was like his first big year.
Claire: What kind of styles/genres do you notice on the radio right now that are popular?
Kale: Uh, like really electronic like almost no singing. Like, maybe, they repeat it over and over again.. like this song ["We Found Love" is playing in background]… like, dance music. That and a lot of rap that’s coming out now, like Drake-type rap. Like, slower.. like more melodic.
Claire: What styles/artists are you really sick of right now?
Kale: Oh. Wow. There’s a lot. Katy Perry, Bruno Mars… really a lot of those annoying newer songs. Like “Call Me Maybe.”
Claire: Any particular style?
Kale: Like really lovey songs.. like girls singing, “Oh, I love you.” They have a lot of those out now. They get annoying.
Claire: How long do you think you’ll listen to 99.9?
Kale: Oh, well… I’m sure I’ll get out of it in a while… But right now, it’s my station. I’m sure I’ll like a different one soon.
Claire: What about guilty pleasure songs?
Kale: Oh uh… [laughs] sometimes I can’t help but sing along when certain songs come on. And my friends are like “Don’t sing that,” but I’m like, “It’s so catchy!”
Claire: Such as?
Kale: Any that I know the words to, I’ll sing. But anything you hear too much, it gets annoying.
Claire: Can you imagine the next couple of years of pop music?
Kale: Probably like even more electronic.. or maybe that will become totally out of style.
Claire: What about right now, how someone like, David Guetta — he’s not a singer or a rapper — but he has so many #1 singles.
Kale: He’s getting all the credit…
Kale: I like it! Maybe the people who sing in it should get more credit, though.
Claire: What do you think of auto-tuning?
Kale: A little is okay. If you overdo it, it can be annoying. Like T-Pain. I do like T-Pain, but he can be a bit…much.
Claire: Do girls and boys that you know like the same music?
Kale: Yes and no. Depends. There are a lot of kids in my class that haven’t really caught up to like, all these new songs. They’re super into like, AC/DC.
Claire: What do they play at dances?
Kale: Usually the same stuff they play on this [99.9] And maybe a few older ones. A couple slow songs I’ve never heard before.
Claire: How do you get music on your iPod?
Kale: Well, I used to use Limewire. 2/3rds of my songs are probably from that. But now, I just hit 100 songs that I’ve bought – like, purchased, with iTunes cards.
Claire: Do you think its important to pay for songs?
Kale: I prefer free, but it’s better if the artists get the money. But also, that’s $100.00 right there just for those songs. They’re like $1.29 now per song.
Claire: Is there anything you like that isn’t played on your favourite stations?
Kale: Sometimes older rock songs that I have on my iPod. Indie rock, or DJs that people don’t really know.
Claire: Such as?
Kale: Like, Girl Talk wouldn’t be played.
Claire: I used to love 103.5 in middle school, and for me it was grade 7 and 8 that I was into that style. But in high school things changed. And only now do I follow pop music again — I’ve found that I can appreciate things in it. If 99.9 somehow shut down, what would you do?
Kale: I have back-up stations, but they aren’t as good.
Claire: Do you talk about music with mom and dad?
Kale: A bit. I catch them singing songs from the radio – just from hearing them so many times with me in the car..
Claire: Do they hate/not understand any music that you really love?
Kale: I think stuff like, dubstep and electronic and rap. They don’t like that. And dubstep is getting pretty big. Lots of new artists.. like deadmau5.
Claire: Who do you think is a really unique artist on the radio?
Kale: I’d say like, Adele. She’s almost like, classical. Drake seems different… his style. But I’ve noticed others that sound like him lately. Every time I go to the Ward [an indoor skatepark in Guelph] the guys there are playing songs off of Youtube — new rap music. Like Rick Ross, and A$AP Rocky and stuff like that. They were cool. Or like, the Weeknd. Or Odd Future. I found out about them through the skate magazines I have.
Claire: What do you think about Britney? She got big when I was around your age.
Kale: It seems like she’s coming back. She has a weird voice though.
Claire: What did you think about the Whitney Houston thing?
Kale: I knew it was like, a big deal. But I’ve only heard samples of her songs in other songs. [Her death] wasn’t a big deal to me.
Claire: Well, those are all of my questions. Thanks, buddy.
Kale: Ha, cool.. okay you’re welcome.