Let’s talk for a moment about reason no 453 why having children can make life more difficult: it completely ruins any technology platform based on algorithmic recommendations. Hear me out on this, please.
YouTube now offers me equal amounts Cookie Monster videos (which I watch with my daughter) and 90s pop-punk videos (which I watch when slightly drunk and trying to pretend I’m still young). On car journeys, Spotify is convinced I want to listen to The Wiggles, even when my daughter is safely ensconced in nursery and I’m running late for a meeting and need some Danish black metal.
And Baby Shark, a song I don’t ever need to see or hear while alone – or in fact ever again – is presented to me on every turn, every platform, every device.
It’s odd, then, to see Spotify leaning into the mangled experience that is parental streaming. Its new feature, Family Mix, presents anyone with a shared family Spotify plan a combination of everyone’s music – a playlist that uses sophisticated technology to guarantee that precisely no one ends up happy.
In a family with teenagers, all this means is that parents will be baffled by incomprehensible tunes they’ve never heard of, while kids will be aghast at the lame rubbish their folks listen to. The Spotify website claims the feature is “filled with music the whole family can enjoy together”, while the reality is likely to be everyone feeling their time is being wasted and their ears assaulted. Amazing.
Isn’t it nice that we all like different things? It feels like an important rite of passage, getting heavily into pop-culture stuff that entirely confuses your elders. A friend of mine has a family portrait from when he was 17, and while the rest of his family are dressed up smartly, he’s glowering at the camera in a System Of A Down shirt. His parents never got into nu-metal, despite his ongoing enthusiasm for it, but they still (presumably) love him.
“What a bloody racket!” and “Surely this is just noise?” are phrases that confirm you’re becoming an adult, capable of curating your own tastes. Patiently (or grumpily) explaining to your parents that Limp Bizkit are doing some really clever things, actually, and Fred Durst’s lyrics will be around a lot longer than their “Beatles” nonsense, is just what you want to spend the rest of your life cringing at.
“Being told that what you’re listening to is garbage is part of growing up.”
Can’t we just talk about what we all like to listen to, rather than have it foisted upon us by Spotify? Access to the platform’s dizzying current and back catalogue is great for sharing and discovering, but ideally in a slightly more personal, involved way than an algorithm saying, “Your dad likes this, so you should listen to it, too.”
When my daughter is a teenager and gets into whatever ridiculous future sub-genre 2030s kids are into, I look forward to being entirely confused by it – and not indulging any more than I have to. For the love of God, Spotify, I won’t want to listen to it. I’ll probably hate every second, so please don’t make her inevitably-awful favourite crunk-metal opus come up on my iPhone 20 while I wheeze my way to another stressful meeting.
Plus, if I’m honest with myself, I used to listen to a lot more Avril Lavigne than the Danish black metal I mentioned above to sound cool – and I don’t want my mask to slip for her. Leave me my lies, I beg you.