The One About Justin Timberlake (aka Branch)

Or: How I Learned that maybe everybody loves Justin Timberlake because the dude can write and sing a catchy tune and is actually a damn good musician.

So, one thing about kids that those without kids might not know is that they make you tired.  (To be honest, I don’t know where I was going with that statement – I had the idea for this post weeks ago and apparently I was very tired at the time and thought that would be a good starter but now I don’t know how to properly segue…)

Let’s try another tidbit of information that adults without children may not realize…the control of the radio is no longer yours.  Yes, there may be moments where they are happily distracted and you can listen to whatever you please.  More often than not, at least in my house, in the car, the radio, Alexa, and all other music spewing devices, are all under command of the kids.

“Play the porcupine song.”

“No, play the Glorious song.”

“No! I like the porcupine song!”

“I don’t like this song.”

“What movie is this from?”

To the educated, initiated, and fellow sleep-deprived parents, you know that my daughter want’s to hear “Set It All Free” (sung by Ash the Porcupine/Scarlett Johansson from the movie Sing,) and my son wants to hear “Glorious” (sung by Bodi/Luke Wilson from the movie Rock Dog.)  They both want to skip “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys, and both have never seen Back to the Future, because they have no interest in hearing Huey Lewis & The News (maybe they’re just too darn loud?).

For most, hearing Ash, Johnnie, Bodi, Rapunzel, Elsa, and all the other animated company belt out kid friendly tunes, wouldn’t be much of an issue.  And I guess saying it’s an “issue” is putting my kid’s taste in music in a worse light than it really is.  For the most part, these songs are catchy, enjoyable, and usually have some great motivational lyrics about conquering your fears, being yourself, and just generally having a good time.

For me…they’ve been more of an acquired taste.

I’ve always considered myself to be a sort of music aficionado.  I was ahead of the curve and above the masses when it came to “good music.”  I prided myself on knowing that I had their T-shirt back before they were cool (Death Cab for Cutie). I saw them open for the openers, and get booed in the process (Jimmy Eat World).  I saw them play at a roller skating rink to a crowd of roughly 100 college students (The Format – which then went on to become Fun.). When a band blew up and you heard their song everywhere, I quickly soured from the new sound that was too commercial and moved on to next indie/club scene darling until the cycle began again.

All of this is to say: I was a music snob.  A hipster.  Pop radio, for the most part, was a disease infecting the integrity of one of the truest forms of art.  One good-looking front man, neatly choreographed dance video (because calling it a music video would be too generous), and catchy hook at a time.  The top “hits” were missing an extra “s.”

To counteract this pandemic, I felt it was my fatherly duty to try and raise my kids with exposure to all kinds of music, and not just what they see on their movies.  Even before Netflix and the Beat Bugs were introducing kids, and probably some parents, to some of the greatest rock ā€˜nā€™ roll in history, I was already trying hard to make sure that my kids had some appreciation of music in general.

It was a proud moment when my older sister noticed my then 4-year-old son, playing trains and singing to himself:

“We all live in a yellow submarine, yellow submarine, yellow submarine.”

“Is he singing Yellow Submarine?”

I can only assume that the look on my face was equivalent to that proud-Dad look you get when your child takes their first steps, utters their first words, and finally picks up the tab for dinner, as I answered…

“Yes he is.”

In our house, before Frozen, there was Cars, Planes, and Planes 2 (or Dusty: Fire Rescue, as it came to be known). Eventually, every other animated movie with a protagonist that sings and has a music montage, made the rounds as the weekly favorite – as well as their new favorite song.

I started to become more acquainted with certain songs from Rihanna, JLo, Meghan Trainor, Shakira, and, of course, Justin Timberlake.

I’m fairly certain I could count on one hand how many times a JT song (we’re basically friends now, so I’ll just call him what I want) had been played at home…up until Trolls released.  That quickly changed as the “Dance, Dance, Dance song” electric-wavy-fied it’s way into our (almost) daily lives.

Something about music, in general, had changed though.  I knew that was JT singing, but at the same time, it wasn’t.  It was Branch.  The anti-hero Troll with a secret heart of gold.  So, I didn’t feel the least bit out of place joining my kids on the living room dance floor as everyone celebrated having some sunshine in your pocket…and not being not eaten.

The “dance” video, is just as entertaining as the movie.  Actually, trying to watch my kids mimic the dance moves that he can pull off is just as entertaining as the movie.  The dude can dance for a white man.  You don’t even need to add “for a white man,” because…the dude can dance.  You would think that since I went to same high school where “Footloose” was filmed, I would have absorbed what magic Kevin Bacon had bestowed upon that great land.  You would think that.  You would be wrong.  I can make the inflatable wavy-tube man look like he’s got rhythm.

That doesn’t stop me from making a fool of myself with my kids though.  When you’ve got kids that are laughing, not crying.  Singing and not whining.  I don’t really care who is singing the song or whether or not they actually wrote the song themselves.  I don’t really care if they can even play a musical instrument or that it’s already ten minutes past bedtime.  I’m not really paying much attention to the music, but more to the moment.  And to my kids.

So for now, it might be safe to say, that I’m somewhat of a fan of Justin Timberlake.  Not only was he was able to get this music snob up off the couch and enjoy some more moments with my kids, but he has given my kids one more song to dance and sing along with.  With what permeates the rest of modern pop/rock radio, I think I’ll hang to as much sunshine as I can, while I can.

I’m just glad there wasn’t a Miley Cyrus song on “Bolt” that my kids connected with.

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