I swore to myself that it would never come to this. I promised myself I wouldn’t become a curmudgeon.

When my daughter, Toni, was born, I had high hopes that I could share some of my hobbies with her—at least a few of my passions. And there’s a whole bunch of things in this life that I’ve loved and continue to enjoy.

Jason Thorpe

Several times in these pages I’ve mentioned that I also write for Inside Motorcycles, a Canadian print magazine. I test motorcycles of all kinds, and I’ve had this gig for almost as long as I’ve been writing for the SoundStage! Network. While the forced isolation of COVID and my transition to work-from-home life has greatly curtailed that gig (together with an increasing sense of my own mortality and the realization that I can only roll the dice so many times before they come up snake eyes), motorcycles will always be part of my DNA.

The year Toni turned six, I signed her up for the Junior Red Riders off-road motorcycle training program Honda Canada used as an early brainwashing tool to do that Jesuit thing. “Give me a child till he is seven years old,” said St. Ignatius of Loyola, “and I will show you the man.” Get ’em while they’re young and instill brand loyalty. Then, after little Timmy whines incessantly that he wants a minibike and his parents take him to the Honda dealership to buy him one, they can sell Dad a lawnmower and maybe a car. It’s a stroke of genius.


Toni loved the Junior Red Riders session and, damn straight, I bought her a minibike with the hopes that we would ride together. But for one reason or another, it didn’t work out. I think she was trying to please me when she told me she wanted a motorcycle, and I bought right into it.

There’s still music, right? That was my next hope, but as the years passed, Toni showed no interest in records or the accurate reproduction of music. Especially my music.

I should have expected that. Toni has gone her own way concerning her musical tastes. And here’s where I wallow in a pool of my own crustiness: I do not like her music. She’s almost 13 now, and I guess this is the natural order of things—your parents are not supposed to like your music. Having musical tastes distinct from those of your parents is, I guess, a sign of emerging independence, the starting point for developing a unique identity.

My parents didn’t like my music: Led Zeppelin, Rush, Max Webster (it’s a Canadian thing—you wouldn’t understand), and King Crimson. My father was a jazz fan, and he just couldn’t find it in himself to even pretend to understand or enjoy the music I listened to. I didn’t mind jazz, and given the level of technical brilliance that’s baked into Rush’s music, I could find it somewhat backward compatible with the blazing speed of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. So there was that thread—my liking the music of my ’rents rather than them liking mine. I would imagine this was a good deal from my father’s point of view.

Venn diagram

Toni and I don’t see eye-to-eye on very much when it comes to music. Our Venn diagrams have a very thin slice in the middle where they intersect with rapper Eminem, whom we both enjoy. I know, I know—Eminem’s lyrics aren’t appropriate for a 13-year-old girl, but Marcia and I concur that she’ll hear worse language at school. And rather than prohibit vulgar music, we’d rather she be able to talk about it with us as opposed to consuming it on the sly.

Furthermore, Eminem’s a brilliant wordsmith, and we want her to appreciate good writing. His vocals and lyrics drip with emotion and rage. He’s got something to say, and he says it with barely restrained fury. He’s an inner-city reincarnation of Charles Bukowski, possessed by the spirit of Ted Hughes.

I’m a lifelong science fiction fan, but the authors who really speak to me, the books that I reread, must come to the table with more than just good ideas. The writing style itself has to have a poetic core. That’s why Asimov doesn’t appeal to me. His writing style is too dry. I’ll take Dan Simmons’s Hyperion novels over Asimov’s Foundation series any day of the week—the huge, open images, the lyrical weaving of English Restoration imagery with ancient alien civilizations is so evocative it makes me want to weep.

Likewise with many of Eminem’s recitations of momentous events that take place in banal settings. Eminem knits meaning into complex rhymes that alternate in kind between long-form doggerel and the occasional scrap of iambic pentameter. He’s not bound by convention, and he injects poetry into this music, which is in itself a form of rough, shambling spoken word.

Just last year, at the Montreal Audiofest, I arranged an early morning listening session with Jason Zidle, brand manager for DALI at Lenbrook Americas. Lenbrook was playing the massive, saturation-bomber DALI Kore speakers, which are capable of delivering rock music at concert levels without the slightest hint of strain.

The Eminem Show

“Hey JayZed,” I said. “Can I get you to play an Eminem track for my daughter? She’s never heard his music played on speakers like this. I think it’d be a real buzz for her.”

“No problem, JayTee, let’s make it happen,” responded the ever-affable Zidle.

At show opening on Saturday, Toni and I headed over to the Lenbrook room and grabbed a central seat. Despite the early hour, the room filled up quickly, and I gave Zidle the nod to get things started. With that, the opening beat to “Without Me” began to play, and it was quite loud, but not offensively so. The Kore speakers have this way with the leading edge—the attack—of bass notes, and this gave the simplistic beat and click track a sense of gravitas I had never experienced through the shitty systems I’d previously heard it on.

Toni was loving it, and so was I, although I did wince at a couple of the spicier lines. That said, there was one man standing off to the side who looked like he was going to have an embolism—he was just vibrating with fury. If I had to reverse engineer the reason for his anger, I’d say that he was offended by an exhibitor daring to play rap at an audio show. While it’s true that you don’t hear this sort of music at shows, the rest of the room seemed to be having fun, so fuck him anyway.

This was essentially the only time Toni and I bonded over music and hi-fi equipment. These days our shared listening experiences consist of me grinding my teeth to paste in the car as we drive along listening to what seems like the worst music in the world. To make matters worse, she’s starting to develop a taste for new country, and at this point, I’m not sure if she’s doing this entirely to troll me, so I try not to wince, forcing myself to remain impassive. But she’s aware I don’t enjoy her musical choices, and I guess, getting back to what I said earlier, this is the natural order of things, right?

OutkastPlayed once!

Problem is, because I like so many different forms of music, so many diverse styles—including some that pretty much everyone I know hates—I had high hopes that I’d be able to bond with my daughter over her music. Even if I didn’t like it, I hoped I’d find the worth, the value of it, and share in that.

DrakeI have no idea where this came from

I guess, to be fair, descent to the lowest common denominator has always been a factor in the world of popular music, and now we have groupthink tastemakers like TikTok and YouTube that exist to push the edges into the bottom of this soggy middle. So “artists” such as Yeat, XXXTentacion, and Ice Spice become flavors of the day, gaining a modicum of fame for their bland, mumbled, vulgar nonsense overlaid by shuffling drum tracks that were stale back when Phil Collins recorded “In the Air Tonight.” Another hurdle for me is my white-hot hatred for autotune, a pillar on which the entire genre seems to rest.

Doja CatThis actually isn’t bad

And—foolishly—I’ve let these experiences, these prejudices, sour me on modern hip-hop. As I said earlier, I’m something of a fan of Eminem, but I haven’t branched out much from there. I’ve welcomed a hip-hop rapper into my home and greatly enjoyed his music, but that’s pretty much it. I tried to get Toni interested in records by purchasing a Doja Cat LP, and there’s one Drake record in my rack, but I have no recollection of buying it and can’t imagine why I would have. There may be a couple more, but not many.

Just now, while writing this, I’ve been listening to The Eminem Show (16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, Aftermath Records / Tidal) via the Meitner Audio MA3 streamer and the planet-smashing DALI Epikore 11 speakers. I had the Hegel H30A amp spanking the DALIs and it sounded magnificent. I’m not familiar with the entire album, so I wasn’t really paying attention when it ended and Roon Radio took the controls with its dynamic playlist. I looked up as a stunning gospel-based song opened up in front of me. Rich, deep sound effects interspersed with the calm undertone of a relaxed R&B beat. It was stunning. I quickly flipped to the Roon app on my laptop and noted with surprise that this was “Ultralight Beam,” a song by Kanye West from The Life of Pablo (16/44.1 FLAC, Universal Music / Tidal). I’ve never given West the time of day because, well, he seems like a bit of a dick, and that—plus my dislike of the entire genre—meant I’ve never really looked over there.

The Life of Pablo

But this track piqued my interest, so—for research purposes—I loaded up the entire album and gave it a listen. Sure enough, the lyrics have sufficient coarseness and low vulgarity to make me shake my judgmental head, but it is also a brilliantly produced album, full of interesting effects and cool hooks.

About halfway through the album, Toni arrived home from school. She stuck her head downstairs and asked, “Is that Kanye?”

“Yeah,” I responded, somewhat startled that she immediately recognized it.

“Cool,” she said. “I like that album.”

Well, what do you know?

. . . Jason Thorpe