When I was six years old, I won a Debbie Gibson cassette tape at a birthday party. It was the first piece of music I owned that wasn’t for kids, and my world exploded when I pressed play on my boom box. Music became a driving force in my life (piano, guitar, singing, performing, and eventually, a job in the music industry) thanks to that cassette, and I was constantly listening to the radio and begging my parents to buy me new music. I didn’t know it at the time, but my mom actually listened to all of the music I liked so she could be in-the-loop when I had questions — and I definitely had a lot of questions about songs and what they meant.
Nowadays, my 4 1/2-year-old daughter Annabel is OBSESSED with Taylor Swift. She’s pretty safe for a musician these days, but like myself all those years ago, Annie is asking what the songs are about. At first I tried to explain (and let me say, explaining to a 4-year-old what “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” means was … a challenge), but soon I realized that it would be better if I just followed her lead. I started saying, “Well, you’re listening to the song, what do YOU think it means?” Her answers were very literal to the words, which was just so cute and funny that I had to start writing down the answers. Sometimes she surprised me by totally nailing it …
“This is about breaking up with a boy, because I heard Daddy tell you all her songs are about breaking up with boys.”
Fancy by Iggy Azalea (the clean version, of course)
“She’s fancy like Fancy Nancy! Wait. Is this a song about Fancy Nancy? I think it is!”
“Did she say she was gonna dance until she died? That’s funny!”
“This is the Minion song! They’re happy because they found the bad Minions and everyone is safe now.”
“He’s saying that he cut himself, and he’s bleeding, but he doesn’t know how!”
“She’s saying she doesn’t want to get into trouble. See? Not trouble!”
“Is this song about Buzz Lightyear?” (It took me three listens to realize she’d heard the line where Beyonce says “and delivers me to a destiny, to infinity and beyond.”)
Gold Digger by Kanye West (The Glee version)
“This song is about digging for gold at the beach! All the kids are at the beach with the babies and mamas and they’re playing in the hole in the sand.”
“She’s letting go of her powers, like … shoooosh! Shoosh! She’s not holding them anymore!”
“There’s a girl whose really beautiful, but she doesn’t know she’s beautiful, so these boys are telling her.”
I actually like Annie’s interpretations better than the real ones! For now I don’t think there’s any point in trying to explain concepts to her that are over her head. Instead, I’ll sit back and let her enjoy the music for what it is — a bunch of songs about Fancy Nancy, not wanting to get into trouble, and Buzz Lightyear.