A stray thought hit me while driving home earlier this week. I was singing along to Heart's "Crazy on You," playing on ye olde classic-rock station.
Yes, I sing in my car. It looks ridiculous. I'm fine with that, thank you.
What I might not be fine with, however, would be having my 14-year-old son in the car with me with that song playing.
It's hardly the most explicit song in the pop/rock stratosphere, but I wouldn't exactly feel comfortable if Ann Wilson was singing about her sexual outlets with my son riding shotgun.
Of course, he's a teenager, so my son's heard far more explicit lyrics from modern music sexual, violent, drug and alcohol promoting. It's insidious and almost impossible to avoid.
And, yet, my stray thoughts lead me, it's nothing new. Not by a long shot.
After all, Marvin Gaye was crooning about "Sexual Healing" long before any current R&B singer or rap artist was touting their own sexual exploits. Maybe the sexual lyrics in the 1970s were more innuendo than raunchy (though not always), but no one was exactly in the dark listening to them.
When I first heard the lyrics to Foster the People's recent catchy-tuned hit, "Pumped Up Kicks," I was shocked. But the story about a kid and a gun hardly is fresh. Pearl Jam exploded onto the rock landscape with similarly disturbing lyrics in "Jeremy" two decades ago. Aerosmith sang about Janie and her gun almost 20 years ago, as well.
Katy Perry boasting today about "Last Friday Night" and all it's party- hearty debauchery maybe should shock a woman of a certain age, but I think the lyrics are funny and hardly to be taken seriously.
There were drugs and alcohol in the '70s, too, and the most popular of artists were singing about them. Eric Clapton's "Cocaine" was being blared on radios and on stereos and that's just one of a plethora of drug-celebrating songs, some of which date back to the '60s.
Yes, there is music today that goes way, way, way over the explicit line. Some is downright ugly. I'm not suggesting that graphically explicit lyrics are OK. That's a debate for those more astute on the issue. I'm just saying it's not new to the current generation. Or even the one before it.
Don't get me wrong I've banned songs from my son's iPod. Even had him delete music after he's bought it. He's had to print out the lyrics by one certain artist before being allowed to download his music. Some songs pass muster, others do not.
But what I learned is that he's not all that impressed with the explicit stuff. He's actually pretty scandalized by sexual innuendo and tends to steer clear of it on his own. Well, the stuff that doesn't go over his head, anyway.
Does it complicate matters for parents that today's teens listen to their music, literally, in their own worlds? Earphones and earbuds are, after all, ubiquitous and could lock parents out of the oversight equation if they don't police their kids' playlists.
Then again, back in the day, I had a set of giant earphones that I'd plug into the stereo in my room to block out what I was playing from my parents' ears, too. It may have been less mobile, but it was just as effective.
So, how different is the music of 2012 from, say 1976? Or 1984? Or 1992?
Um, well, the music of 1976 was better. There's that. And even my son has admitted it's true.
Ah, my work here, while not quite done, is moving along well.
"Top Chef" is back and all is right with the world. This season's cheftestants, two weeks into the competition, are waging battle in Seattle. Here's hoping this crew is more interesting than the one last season that cooked off in Texas. I never really warmed up to that group. Nor was there ever really any doubt who would win. As "Top Chef" seasons go, it was the one dud.
This is season 10 for the hit reality/competition show on Bravo. Man, time flies when you're watching fun.
Our Modesto boy Jeremy Renner was on the "Today" show earlier this week, talking about his appearance set for Saturday on NBC's massive national stage, "Saturday Night Live."
"Today" host Savannah Guthrie asked Renner if he was nervous about appearing on the pop-culture megashow.
"More excitement than nervousness," he said. "I don't know enough to be nervous yet."
So, what can we expect from Renner and the Not Ready For Prime Time Players on the show? He played it close to the vest, particularly when Guthrie asked about whether his musical talents would be displayed: "I'm not sure what we'll be doing on the show," he said. "You have to watch."
And so we shall.
Reach Scene editor Pat Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org.