Apparently, I am currently ‘I listen to the ‘Watercolors’ station on satellite radio on purpose’ years old, and I think I’m rather enjoying this evolution

OPINION: The cool sounds of smooth jazz used to drive me insane, and yet now, I find myself turning to the Sirius XM station that plays it all day long … every day.

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Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

I used to be a complete music snob. I’m much better now, which is to say that I don’t completely judge people based on their musical choices. People like what they like and that’s OK … ish. With that said, there was a time in my life when I absolutely hated the sounds of smooth jazz. You know what I’m talking about — the Kenny G model of music that was built to live as telephone hold music, elevator music and the stuff a certain demographic would play at dinner parties that I believe was supposed to highlight some type of jazz knowledge without actually knowing anything. 

Now look, I grew up on Kenny G and, at this point, have even come around to the fact maybe, just maybe, I’m actually a fan. But even that has been in spurts. I can’t really think of a single time in my life when I intentionally put on even a Kenny G song without reason, and definitely never just because I couldn’t think of anything else to listen to. That has started to change, however, as I’ve gotten older and begun to appreciate music that wasn’t cursing me out or reminding me of my youthful angst. Plus, I have children and you just can’t play Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” around little children. I mean, you can, but I imagine that even Dr. Dre would recommend against it at this point. And since I simply cannot listen to “Kidz Bop” or theme music from shows like “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” or “Beyblades” every day, I started perusing my satellite radio options, since I’m paying for it. 

Let’s take a quick detour. I remember one day hopping into an Uber with a cat who was trying to find some music to play for the lengthy ride we had towards the airport. Now, I’m guessing he was trying to size me up — was I a hip-hop guy or an NPR guy? He clearly didn’t know and somehow ended up playing the “Watercolors” station. I laughed a little because I’ve always thought the station was the least offensive but least listable station of all time (for me), but I found myself enjoying the smooth sounds of the saxophones and keyboards playing notes that I’d never remember once I got out of the car but made for a pretty pleasant and easygoing Uber ride … unlike that one dude who picked me up recently and played his personal, profane early aughts G-Unit hip-hop playlist. He went so far as to — and this is a true story — turn the volume down on certain verses so HE could rap them aloud. It was simultaneously the most disturbing and entertaining Uber ride I’ve ever taken. I wanted to give him zero stars for the car smelling like straight weed smoke and for his obnoxious music habits with customers, but I also enjoyed the music and I don’t want to contribute to an unemployed Black man — five stars.

Anyway, one day more recently, I was in the car with my kids trying to find something we could all listen to — with four kids the opinions range mightily — and when I decided I didn’t want to hear any of their options, I just hit the “Watercolors” station and all of a sudden I felt like I always thought a 43-year-old would feel — easy breezy. Sure I didn’t really like anything I heard, but I didn’t not like it either. I just … enjoyed it. It didn’t require any thought and nobody in the car asked to change it. Then I noticed I would go to the station on my own when I got in the car by myself. Essentially when I’m not listening to podcasts, I’m now listening to the smooth jazz stylings of whoever is on the playlists at the station. It’s like listening to the old Weather Channel local weather breakdowns they’d do back in the ’90s. The music was jamming in a hard-bottoms-and-linen-to-the-club kind of way. I don’t own any hard-bottoms yet but I did stare extra longingly at a pair two weeks ago. I just might go out and buy some super wide-leg pants next week. 

I think that’s what “Watercolors” does to you; it brings out your inner older chap, but you know what? That’s fine. I mean, it HAS to also reduce road rage. You just can’t be supremely pissed when you hear an alto sax go all in over some programmed drums and chimes. 

I’ve evolved. I’m older now, and while the music of my youth will always reign supreme, it turns out that my tastes are changing, or maybe I’m just enjoying not being challenged one iota by my music. Whatever it is, “Watercolors” is where I’m at and it’s where I think I’ll stay. 

Be cool.

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).

Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download it here.