Is there a more noticeable gift and curse in the entertainment industry than your celebrity parent's last name? A handle like Lennon, Dylan or Coppola often affords someone instant access to credibility. But its implied assumptions of greatness are open invitations for hate: The original version was better. Your mom was a better singer. Your dad was a better writer.
Earlier this month, the 35-year-old James McCartney—the only son of Paul and Linda McCartney—released Me, his debut album after a steady string of EPs. The voice sounds familiar, graced by the same easy and winning lilt as his father's. The songs are decent, too, offering a wide-eyed approach to rock 'n' roll after The Beatles.
McCartney's current tour, which stops in Durham Thursday, will put him on several large stages: He'll play Bonnaroo in June and San Francisco's Outside Lands in August, major festivals that should put his work, and not his pedigree, to the test.
We took McCartney's visit to imagine the rock star children of the future and to consider which current music stars might produce the most dreadful musicians.
While accepting the Grammy for Best Rock Performance in 2012, Dave Grohl lobbed a tacky bomb toward electronic music and heavy-handed digital production, suggesting that his win confirmed the survival of "the human element" in music. He subsequently recanted, alliteratively claiming he loved all music—"from Kyuss to Kraftwerk, Pinetop Perkins to Prodigy, Dead Kennedys to Deadmau5." But let's face it: Grohl is the highest priest of rockism, a dude who guards rock 'n' roll through screeds and deeds like it's his Christlike calling. ("I bought a Killing Joke T-shirt ... I was converted. I was no longer one of you," he said at this year's South by Southwest.) Grohl is currently the father of two children surprisingly not named Robert Bonham Grohl or Geddy Peart Grohl. But do they gather around the Sunday dinner table for a devotional that includes readings from Shakey and Keith Richards' Life? Do they shake hands only with heavy-metal horns? And if they themselves become rock stars, will they too be pedants about how much this all matters?
Have you heard what Marcus Mumford's done to his metaphorical Sons—Ben Lovett, Ted Dwane and Winston Marshall, the post-ampersand members of Mumford & Sons? He's led their charge from amiable and somewhat charming folk-rock into fully cloying rhapsodies that flog with feeling. So think about his actual sons or daughters. Sure, they'll begin as good-natured kids with hobbies such as lepidoptery or vintage vest design, but with Dad's steady training, they'll become spasmodic brats who don't simply wear their feelings on their sleeves but on their entire English bodies. As adults, they will pay homage to their father with a sequel to his hit "I Will Wait." It will be called "I Will Wait for Nothing (Because My Dad Was Famous, So Fuck You, Too)," and it will be catchy.
You can call Chris Brown a lot of things—singer, rapper, actor, abuser, whiner, walking questionable tattoo, terrible tweeter, bar fighter, total dick. But here's hoping no one ever has to call him "Dad," as no child deserves to be left behind with such immediate post-partum baggage. If Brown does have a kid, perhaps said offspring will rebel against its father and became a saint, a flower growing from the rubble of a battle zone. More likely, though, it will simply be the new-and-improved generation of entitled and angry, presumably taking the stage name "Christ Brown" when it makes the inevitable decision to follow in its father's dastardly footsteps.
How many concept albums would Swift write about her kids? Certainly there'd be one about pregnancy and perhaps one about childbirth itself; there'd be an infant LP, a toddler LP, a kindergarten LP, a Platinum-selling tween LP, a teenager blues LP and, inevitably, an empty-nest LP titled Swiftly Grown. At least that narrative would replace the current talking point of Swift's revolving-door love life, but is that even the lesser of the evils here? The true danger of the Swift kid, though, is that she or he would follow Mother's familiar coming-of-age-in-public arc, with Mom's albums about the child dovetailing too easily with the child's own string of early hits. Question is, when you're 13 and somebody tells you they love you, do you actually believe them?
Contrary to popular belief, Toby Keith's three children are neither named Red, White and Blue nor U, S and A. In fact, his youngest daughter, Krystal, released her debut EP just last month, keyed by a maudlin and arguably creepy piano ballad about marriage called "Daddy Dance with Me." Let's hope she stays on that romantic if awful path at least: Country music of late has run somewhat counter to Daddy's xenophobic, badass-American fare, thanks in no small part to Brad Paisley. But can a sweet-singing daughter of Keith's convince modern country radio once again that it's A-OK to be an ignorant, jingoistic asshole for money? Lord, let us pray that we won't need to find out.
Remember how grand LCD Soundsystem made its own demise, effectively turning its end into a spectacle that selfishly insisted the band's finale deserved a send-off as grand as Jay-Z in 2003 or Michael Jordan after his second three-peat? Should former LCD Soundsystem James Murphy have a child who was interested in forming a band, the development of said band would likely be a production with licensing deals and simulcasts and a camera crew turning the teenager's first garage-band concert (at Terminal 5) into a major theatrical event. DFA FOR KIDS is an imprint that does not need to happen.
These days, Bob Dylan tours from town to town, stopping in mid-size amphitheaters and minor league ballparks to deliver new songs and re-engineered versions of his classics. His band comprises aces, but his voice is a sighing, scratchy whimper. But it's Bob Dylan, and it's actually exciting to be in his presence as he plays something that sounds like "Visions of Johanna." But will there be a sadder sight than Jakob Dylan in 2043, as the once-bright-eyed son tries to deliver "One Headlight" from behind wrinkles and in a voice that has weathered like his father's? Actually, yes: Jakob, who has four children, always had to deal with the obvious barb that he wasn't as good as his father. Imagine, then, his kids dealing with the complaint that they're not even as good as their father. Maybe, as they say, genius skips generations, and one of his kids is actually the next Bob Dylan? Or maybe, as Bob might say, we're all just full of "half-wracked prejudice." May the children of The Wallflowers be forever spared.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Pro-choice."