Teenagers of Montgomery County and vicinity, I’m concerned.
I know I’m not your cool older cousin or your college radio DJ buddy at the University of Maryland, but it’s clear you don’t have an influence like that in your life. I know this, because I saw you at the sold-out Mac Miller show at the Fillmore Silver Spring on Thursday.
You’re gonna hate me in five minutes, but please know that I’m only trying to let the tough love flow because music is important, youth is fleeting and I think you’re totally blowing it on this one.
This was the single worst concert I’ve been to all year — and I go to four shows a week. But you guys were going cray! (Do you say “cray”? Or is Kanye old-people music?) I know Miller’s new album, “Blue Slide Park,” debuted at No. 1 last month, and I know he’s earned some phantom credibility as Wiz Khalifa’s protege. But seriously, guys. He’s a 19-year-old from Pittsburgh who raps about how much he likes bagels with cream cheese. You deserve better.
Resonant, meaningful songs about being young are rare, while the dash to adulthood feels faster than ever. That’s why I can’t argue with Miller’s mission statement/tag line: “We just some [bleeper-bleepin’] kids!”
But I hope you saw the red flags when he started rapping about being “too old to be chillin’ at the playground.” If you are too old to be chillin’ at the playground, aren’t you also too old to admire a rapper whose life goal is to no longer chill at the playground?
I heard you cheer when Miller shouted, “My music is an expression of my life!” Maybe he’s expressing your life, too: being bored, skipping class, craving fun, beer and weed. But music can also be that magical thing that shows us how life can be so much bigger, so much more complex than what we already know. If we’re talking about teenage rappers, I hear some of that right now in the music of Main Attrakionz and certain Odd Future songs.
I hate to admit it, but the only reason I kinda liked Miller’s “Party on Fifth Ave.” on Thursday was because it sampled DJ Kool’s 1996 party-starter “Let Me Clear My Throat.” Annoying. It’s like I’m wagging my finger across the generation gap, telling you how much better it was Back In The Day. (I’m not. It wasn’t.)
I’m 32 — old enough to remember when OutKast’s “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik” first landed, but young enough for older hip-hop heads to tell me how much better it was back in their day. All I know is that Andre 3000 and Big Boi both turned 19 the year they dropped their first album, and I’m still listening to it 17 years later.
Will you still be into “Blue Slide Park” in 2028? I’m willing to bet my cassette copy of “August and Everything After” by the Counting Crows that you won’t be. That’s a tape I spent countless hours listening to at age 14 — hours of my precious adolescence I will never get back. See what I’m getting at, here?
We still haven’t talked about the part of the show where Miller played the medley of songs on his guitar. You guys went nuts! Next time, stay cool. You’re going to meet dozens of idiots who do this at college. They will ruin your parties by turning off the stereo so they can sing “Santeria” and “Sweet Home Alabama” all out of tune. Don’t applaud them. Ever.
Here’s when you should applaud: When the concert ends and you want the guy to come back for an encore. Don’t start texting your dad, telling him to pick you up in front of Panera in 15 minutes. You have to make some noise before the DJ says, “If you want one more song from Mac Miller, make some noise.” But he came back to perform “ Donald Trump ,” anyway, so no biggie.
Oh, and that intermission where Miller brought out two members of his road crew so the guy could propose to the girl? Now that was incredibly sweet. No matter how old you get, witnessing a marriage proposal amid a throng of strangers will always be a thrill.
I hope what I’m about to say doesn’t sound like a corny graduation speech — you’ll have to sit through one of those soon enough — but I need you to promise three things.
Promise that you’ll take risks on adventurous music and seek out the stuff that not only reflects who you are but who you think you might want to be.
Promise that you’ll download the first OutKast record.
And if you ever see a bro playing “Wonderwall” on an acoustic guitar, promise that you’ll remember what John Belushi did to that guy in “ Animal House .” (You also have to promise to see the movie “Animal House.” So, four things.)
Doing none of the above is fine, too.
I’m still mad at Rolling Stone for some bad advice they gave me in 1993 when they told me to check out Counting Crows.