By Jeremy Essig
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Just three notes into the "Kidz Bop" version of "Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker Jr., Elliott jumps up and begins dancing; William gives a thumbs up and follows suit. Elliott happily informs everyone that "the 'Ghostbusters' song is something where they sing 'Ghostbusters'" and that it's from a movie, though he's unsure what happens in said movie. Don't worry, kid, there's plenty of time to fear Zuul.
We go through a few more songs. Wham!'s "Wake Me up Before You Go-Go" is met with boredom, and Nickelback's "Photograph" gets loud boos from kids and parents alike. Ava suddenly becomes shy and says that her favorite song is a secret; Jackson decides that maybe he really did like Wham!, and Jupiter has had enough of this stuff and wants to go home. We pause to dry tears and eat some Goldfish.
When we return, we try keeping the kids calm with the "Rockabye Baby!" version of Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind." The xylophone-laden lullaby generates interest from William and Jackson, and Jackson's mom, Audra, shares that they own most of the "Rockabye Baby!" series. We then play the original song, and Sloan squeals as she hears Jay-Z's voice. We have a feeling that girl will be clubbing every night once she's older.
We switch gears with Muse's "Stockholm Syndrome," an angry electronic symphony with plenty of keytar. Sloan happily shrieks, but Ava quickly gives it a thumbs down because it was noisy. Jupiter thinks the song is loud and sad, something many of the kids echo. Our heart breaks.
Suddenly, our nightmare situation happens. As soon as Psy's "Gangnam Style" comes on, nearly all of the kids jump up and dance with their hands in the air. They're rolling their heads and leaping around with their tongues hanging out so much that we feel like we're suddenly at a rave. This — this? — is the song that gets the best reaction?
We switch things up again and start playing some current pop. Taylor Swift's "Mean" gets some confused looks but tepid approval, One Direction's "Live While We're Young" is ignored, and Miley Cyrus' "Party in the U.S.A." nets blank stares and a few thumbs down. The kids dance to Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" while parents sing along. William and Sloan both give big thumbs up.
Time for the real test — how will the kids react to some of our favorite songs?
Jackson digs the Clash's "Rudie Can't Fail," but several children bum us out by giving the song a thumbs down. Fram and Robinson look dismayed when Jupiter and Ava turn their nose up at Elvis Costello's "Radio Radio," but Sloan excitedly shrieks as soon as she hears Napoleon Dynamite's voice, and Ben bops his head with satisfaction. The Go-Go's "We Got the Beat" fires everyone up, with Jackson surf-dancing and Ava giving it two thumbs up. The kids give Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" their approval, while a few of the parents wince.
So what does all of this mean? Does it matter that children like Psy but hate the Clash? Is our musical world doomed? Honestly, we're not sure. The only things we've learned from our little experiment are that kids will dance to just about anything, and they're happy to tell you exactly what they think about what you play for them. What we can advise is to simply hope for the best when you share your favorite tunes with your sons and daughters. That, and keep Goldfish crackers handy for bribes.