I remember feeling horrified when, at 9 years old, I heard my Aunt Debi listening to "Mambo No. 5."
This was a song that friends were singing at school (and making dirty parodies off). This wasn't a song that middle-aged women on the Atkins diet listened to. But, yet, there she was, perched in the front seat of her car, lifting her arms dangerously from the steering wheel and wagging them at us as she pulled up in the parking space adjacent, listing off Lou Bega's lovers right along with him.
My mom seemed unfazed. She had no idea what "Mambo No. 5" was. I, for one, was shocked -- as if my aunt had lifted the 1999 hit off my school lunch room table, where I sat with Ricky and Mary (whose name appeared in the song), and popped it into her own, grown-up cassette deck so she could swivel her butt around in her car. I thought I would never get over it.
I got over it.
A few weeks ago, the feeling came back. My mom, whose best known musical endeavors include following rock bands around the North America in the '80s and trying to find the Van Morrison CD I hid from her in 2005 (sorry, but Magic Time is no Moon Dance), entered the living room, rapping to me with the flow of Nicki Minaj.
"Oh. My. God. Look at. Her. Butt," she sang, parading around in front of me with the strut of a mating pigeon. Her derriere wagged this way and that as she recited Nicki's "Anaconda" a capella. I had no idea how she had even heard the song, mostly due to the fact that I doubted her ability to find the Top 40 station on the radio dial. "Who's that girl who sings this?"
I dribbled out the name of our Queen Barb, which incited flashbacks of the bounty of booty in the "Anaconda" video. I saw thongs, jungles, Nicki eating a banana, Drake getting a lap dance, and then I saw my mom in front of me, declaring, "Yeah, I like her. She's cute."
Cute? Nicki is not cute. Nicki is a bad-ass, fire-spitting, sometimes-terrifying, motha-f--kin' monster! I didn't know what to think. I was proud of Nicki's success -- that she had permeated the strongest outer barriers of pop culture and made her way into my mom's living room. I was also just really scared.
But I figured I could share, just like she did with me, showing me the ways of Van Morrison, injecting our car rides with doses of rock history and Elvis and Bill Withers and Elton John and Joni Mitchell. If Nicki has enough power to make it into our house in the woods and make my mom's bum sway, she deserves her place in history next to those guys. If I could have the greats of my mom's generation, she could have the greats of mine.
Here are some more times our parents tried to be hip with the cool kidz:
I'm not the only child who has been shocked by a sudden living room rap verse. I asked my friends at MTV if this has happened to them. Here's what they had to say:
'Nice Guy' Pitbull
"My mom is a major Pitbull fan. I called her and literally the only question I asked was 'Hey mom! Why do you like Pitbull?' and she said, 'When I’m out, when his music comes on, it makes me dance. He makes fun, danceable music. He seems like a nice guy.'" -- Rachel Paoletta
The Ever-So Sensual Usher
"My mom is obsessed with Usher, like seriously obsessed. For years she would sing his song, 'Twork It Out,' which is a super racy and sexy song, and definitely not something you want your mom to be singing in the car as she takes you to school. Oh, and she could never remember the name, so she would constantly ask my sister and I, 'What's that Usher song I like so much?' and we would always respond with 'Maybe it’s "Yeah" or "DJ Got Us Falling In Love?"' to make for a less embarrassing moment, but she couldn’t be fooled. My mom's dreams did come true last year when I took her to see him in concert…unfortunately he didn’t play her favorite song." -- Christina Garibaldi
"My mom always calls Nicki Minaj 'Miss Ninja' for some reason. it’s like an anagram of her name that wasn’t needed." -- Jonathan Goldner
The Notoriously Matronly B.I.G.
"I was a sophomore in high school when the Notorious B.I.G. released Ready to Die. The impact of that album was huge, especially for those of us growing up in Brooklyn at the time, but it wasn’t just my generation that loved Biggie; my mom was a fan too. She’d regularly walk through the house singing 'Juicy' and the lesser-known-but-equally-great 'Everyday Struggle.' When my friends would come over, they couldn’t believe that my mother was rapping 'I don’t wanna live no more/ Sometimes I hear death knocking at my front door' while cooking dinner. I definitely got cool points for that and everyone wanted to hang out at my house after school.
"I already knew Big was great, but once I found out my mom was a fan that really cemented his greatness for me." -- Rob Markman
"Sadly, my mom doesn’t even know how to turn on the boom box I bought her." -- Gil Kaufman
Which artists do your parents have an embarrassing obsession with? Let us know in the comments!