MGMT, the indie-pop band behind the hits “Kids” and “Time to Pretend,” the band that soundtracked non-Greek college parties for years in the late aughts, is dad rock now.
Before you call me a dumb youth (thank you) or say I’m acting out for attention (yes, duh), know that this isn’t my decision. The ruling came from 2018’s Now That’s What I Call Dad Rock, a three-disc, 59-song compilation in the Now That’s What I Call Music! canon (currently up to Now 107).
Nestled among expected dad artists like the Rolling Stones, Queen, U2 and Bon Jovi were a few — how do I say this without offending millennials? — aughts-era “cool” bands. We’re talking blink-182, the Killers, Sum 41 and, yes, MGMT.
The news sent (synth) waves through Twitter, where thirtysomethings recoiled at the inexorable march of time.
Did you “wanna feel old”? No? Sorry, but I must inform you that MGMT’s signature track “Kids” is a full-blown teenager now. The single was released in 2007; college seniors in 2007 are now turning 36. If it’ll help you process this news, put on your best American Apparel zip-up and H&M skinny jeans and blast Oracular Spectacular off your Crosley record player from Urban Outfitters.
Then again, this track list — featuring Hozier and the Lumineers alongside Avril Lavigne — prompts an obvious question: What the hell is dad rock?
Not to defend Gen Y, but the Now compilation doesn’t feel very cohesive. Are these songs that dads liked when they weren’t dads? Are they songs dads tend to listen to now? Or are they classic rock anthems that dads shared with their dads, containing dad appeal for every generation of dad? Here we have Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” (1974), Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn” (1997) and the 1975’s “The Sound” (2016) all on the same playlist. Who is the dad listening to all three — and why do I just know he drives a Dodge Caravan?
Historically, dad rock is code for ’80s- and ’90s-era rock — bands like Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, R.E.M. and Bruce Springsteen. The guys your Gen X father puts down his reading glasses to watch when they stroll out on an award show while you pick up your phone to ignore it.
But time makes dad rock bolder. Even children get older, and I’m getting older too. The genre will perpetually expand to include artists who were edgy a decade ago; I can’t wait to get owned when Lorde lands on Now That’s What I Call Dad Rock 2028.
There’s a certain blessing in realizing your favorite artists are no longer cool. They’ve made it, which means (hopefully) you’ve made it. Congratulations, you’re no longer a twentysomething perpetually fearful of the world, pretending they like staying up until 3 a.m. You might even have a plentiful savings account and a favorite Instant Pot recipe. (If you do have the latter, please share.)
In fact, I’m jealous. You don’t have to know what the cool kids are up to. TikTok? Forget about that app. Olivia Rodrigo? Don’t worry about that name. Just go listen to another MGMT record (there are only so many!) and embrace the joy of not having to try anymore. Just let me know if you need help picking out your 401(k) beneficiaries. I have a name in mind.