[This piece was originally published by the now-defunct Just The Tape. You can find the playlist here.]
In recent years, the “Dad” archetype has often been mythologized thanks in large part to internet culture. There’s a veritable ore of Dad jokes coursing through Tumblr feeds, the relatively new sitcom Workaholics endows fathers with a mysterious “Dad strength” rendering men with offspring the sheer toughness to escape any situation unscathed, and there’s a verifiable mysticism to how Dads operate that’s continually documented by their children and shared with an almost celebratory tone that accompanies new findings of a mysterious culture.
The “Dad” isn’t specifically an abstract construct but rather a state of mind. They aren’t exclusively linked to a particular socioeconomic background or geographic location, though a Dad Island would probably be the most chill place on earth, and generally find themselves to be hilarious despite the questionable nature of their jokes. An example:
You: “I’m hungry.”
A Dad: “Hi Hungry, I’m Dad.”
It doesn’t matter if you acknowledge their humor, a Dad Joke hits with perfect accuracy every single time from sheer force of will. Beware that Dad Jokes are even more potent around other Dads. They are unstoppable, especially when they travel in numbers.
As with any culture, music adheres to its historical consciousness and Dad Rock is certainly no different. In recent human history, Dad Rock has become known as a genre largely associated with the music era in which modern Dads came of age, long before parenthood, when they were drawn to artists who stood in defiance of the music of their forefathers.
In pairing such music with the experiences they faced during the formative years of their lives, Dads are sometimes hypnotized when unexpectedly hearing these songs again later in life. Everyone’s Dad goes into a trance when Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like An Eagle” slides through their local Classic Rock station, where Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young regularly form together like a Dad Voltron and Sting is the Patron Saint of Cool.
Using current Dad Rock as a compass, I’ve created a playlist consisting of music that I believe will hold a similar effect on Dads in the next few decades. To the next generation, here’s what your Dad probably loves to listen to and why:
The Killers — “All These Things That I’ve Done”
The next generation of Dads will have grown up with Hot Fuss as perhaps the most transformative album of their high school career. Your Dad first heard “Somebody Told Me” on the radio when his friend’s older sister begrudgingly drove him and his dumb friends to the mall. He’d buy a copy at Sam Goody and listen to it a million times on a family trip to Oregon and start to live in the retro glam wave of Brandon Flowers’ crushed velvet aura. The only other time a single piano key sends a Dad into such a strong musical comatose is “Runaway”.
Maroon 5 — “Harder To Breathe”
Realistically, all Dads will have cursory knowledge of Songs About Jane, but “Harder To Breathe” is the most likely cut to replace that Santana and Rob Thomas joint from a while back, which is slightly neo-Dad Rock anyway. Your Dad will passively admit to likely some Maroon 5 songs but will die for this record, and this song in particular, because it reminds him of the moment he realized he wasn’t a child anymore, the first time a girl from his class stole his hat and wore it for a week.
LCD Soundsystem — “All My Friends”
When your Dad hears this, he’s experiencing time travel. The piano-driven undercurrent is pulling him through memories of being a bored high school student, hanging out with friends in a grocery store parking lot with nowhere to go, moving out for the first time, long-ago parties, the insipid feeling of being 22, and the fargone enchantment of open-ended Friday nights and a whole town to cover. He will remember his best friends, even the ones you’ll never know.
Drake — “Worst Behaviour”
Rap is by no means a new genre but Dad Rock is going to start incorporating it more heavily starting with the new generation. Drake is going to own that sector because a lot of relatively soon-to-be Dads are his biggest fans, mostly due to the fact that they see parts of themselves in Drake and vice versa. Bear in mind that, as loud as your Dad and his friends (probably a few close enough to the family that you call them Uncle despite having no blood relation) yell “MAAHFUKKAHS NEV LUHED US” they go twice as hard for “Hold On, We’re Going Home.”
Smash Mouth — “All Star”
To a Dad, “All Star” is the musical equivalent of a Hawaiian shirt. They’re both comfortable, noncommittal to any particular situation, and teeter between light-hearted fun and awareness that the grave awaits us all. You’re probably going to hate it the first hundred times but it will begin to live in your brain, rearing its head whenever you try to clear your mind. It doesn’t make sense not to live for fun, after all.
Bon Iver — “Holocene”
In college, your Dad wore woolen button-downs and let his facial hair grow out and Bon Iver not only catalyzed this behavior but he soundtracked it, too. Your Dad explored other music for a while but came back to Bon Iver during a year when a black cloud inexplicably hovered over his family. Cliche, perhaps, but true nonetheless. Every time he hears this song, he’ll kick himself for choosing to see Crystal Castles instead at some music festival back in ‘09. “It was just noise and screaming!” he’ll say.
Beyoncé — “Irreplaceable”
I hate to break it to you but your Dad probably won’t feel comfortable listening to Beyoncé around you because he associates her voice with your conception. He will, however, bump it during his morning commute and feel swells of emotion when the first few notes of “Irreplaceable” float through his speakers and, before he realizes it, is screaming “YOU MUST NOT KNOW ‘BOUT ME” while his supervisor looks on from the neighboring car.
Vampire Weekend — “Campus”
Based on how much Vampire Weekend were influenced by Paul Simon’s aesthetic when they recorded their debut album, it seems like their whole discography should align with Dad Rock ethos. Though they allude to studiousness multiple times on that record, “Campus” is the merging of academia and Real Life, when your Dad was headed to class and met your Mom for the first time by pure coincidence.
Kanye West (feat. Lupe Fiasco) — “Touch The Sky”
You probably grew up listening to early Kanye records because your Dad realizes you aren’t ready for Yeezus yet but you still need Kanye in your life. Like I said, Dads are going to start mixing rap into their musical intake and Kanye, being the musical voice of their generation, is going to sit at the core of Dad Rock starting to adopt more than just, well, Rock. This track exemplifies early Kanye perfectly; production centered around soul samples, cheekily packed wordplay, and a feature from Lupe Fiasco whose name causes your Dad to quietly shake his head.
Lil Wayne — “A Milli”
Dads everywhere are going to have to sit their children down at some point to explain why Lil’ Wayne is received with such unconditional reverence. He will tell you about how Weezy snapped, recorded all his written material in one session, and never looked back pushing him into his Mixtape Era, which honestly started to eclipse the actual Renaissance. Wayne then released a banging single with no chorus where he spits his way into oblivion and it caused your Dad to throw away all his music except Tha Carter III for an entire summer to reconsider his musical standards.
Best Coast — “Boyfriend”
I’m going to make a bold prediction here and create a subgenre of Dad Rock more concerned with DIY but not necessarily committed to the world of punk or emo. This subgenre of Dads ran a cassette-only label out of his dorm room, pressing only odd-numbered limited runs of his friend’s roommate’s noise project, Man-Fawn. Before he got to that stage, though, the Manic Pixie Dream Dad was smitten with French press coffee, ironic stick and poke tattoos, and early Best Coast singles.
Clipse (feat. Pharrell Williams) — “Mr. Me Too”
Your Dad will probably love all pop songs connected to Pharrell, who is likely the President of the United States by the time you come around, which explains why he was so into Hell Hath No Fury and gets into a fiery debate with nobody in particular about how well the album has aged and how it still sound completely futuristic. He will do his impression of Pusha T’s ad-libs and then pester you about whether or not you raised your grade in Biology yet.
Ciara — “Like A Boy”
The next generation of Dad Rock is going to involve a deep love of Top 40 R&B hits from the 00s and 10s, meaning Ciara’s “Like A Boy” is going to sit at the center of that universe. Your Dad will tell you about how he played this on his college radio station at a time when R&B wasn’t popular for their audience and, maybe an hour after listening to this song, mutter “Ciara deserved better” under his breath. Also applicable: Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor”, Aaliyah’s “More Than A Woman”, TLC’s “No Scrubs”.
Justin Timberlake — “Señorita”
Your Dad grew up in a boy band era where the Backstreet Boys and ‘N SYNC were engaged in an inescapable pop culture rivalry. By far the greatest crop yielded from that time, aside from Lance Bass’s short-lived career in space exploration, was the rise of Justin Timberlake. Dads are going to love Timberlake for different reasons, maybe because of his involvement with The Lonely Island sketches on Saturday Night Live or the flawless bromance between him and Fallon, but it all started with the first track of Justified. President Pharrell Williams also produced this one so make sure you salute while it’s playing.
Animal Collective — “My Girls”
Given its lyrics, “My Girls” is conducive to Dad Rock in almost embarrassingly obvious way. When you and your friends are buying Merriweather Post Pavilion print Chuck Taylors, your Dad is going to have a good laugh and probably be all like “Huh, yeah, four walls of adobe slab my ass” and grumble about mortgages. Still, he fucking owns that on vinyl and probably sang it to your older sister when she was just born.
Daft Punk (feat. Pharrell Williams) — “Get Lucky”
The self-admitted cheesiness of this discoteque throwback is going to rule Dad Rock stations. Pharrell certainly carries his own weight, but having the electronica duo of his era redefine themselves with a perfect song for dancing to the embarrassment of his children is like Dad-nip. As an added bonus, he’ll have it stuck in his head weeks later. See also: “D.A.N.C.E.” by Justice
A$AP Ferg (feat. A$AP Rocky) — “Shabba”
Even though mainstream rappers have a better chance of being inducted into the ever-changing genre of Dad Rock, I have to believe tertiary rap personalities are going to shine through in unpredictable ways. Maybe Dads are going to strongly connect with Lil B’s infinite tracks stuffed with words of encouragement or Peewee Longway drops an absolutely fire single about back-pain or Migos become a powerful aid in helping children say “MOMMA” for the first time. Regardless, my vote goes toward A$AP Ferg because it would truly be a thing of beauty to have this track pop up during a roadtrip to your grandparent’s house and, in the midst of your Dad rapping every single word, your Mom hits the “MASTER BRUCE” ad-lib and they exchange loving gazes. In that moment you’ve never felt so fortunate.