Bad song lyrics: suggestions for addressing the music your kids are listening to

Bad song lyrics: suggestions for addressing the music your kids are listening to

My tween has been busy this summer, and that's meant a fair amount of time in the car for the two of us. We usually have the radio on and holy cow, the lyrics of this summer's top songs are rather jaw dropping.

Daft Punk and Pharrell William's "Get Lucky" uses the phrase "stayed up all night to get lucky" more times than I thought possible in one song and Icona Pop's "I Love It" tells the story of dealing with a tough breakup through the lyrics:

I crashed my car into the bridge.
I watched, I let it burn.
I threw your s#*$ into a bag and pushed it down the stairs.
I crashed my car into the bridge.
I don't care, I love it.

I love the message of Macklemore's "Thrift Shop" about not spending $50 on a t-shirt, but why, WHY must be there be an F bomb, too?
"I'm hunting, looking for a come-up. This is f*#king awesome."

I only used symbols for those two letters because that's all that gets bleeped out on the radio. They're not fooling any tweens.

And Blurred Lines? Whoa. I just... I mean... Whoa. The song has been criticized for being "rapey" with lyrics I don't feel comfortable even typing but does include the use of "You know you want it" over and over over. I about drove off the road when my tween started singing that.  And the lyrics referencing pot are also fun:

"Baby can you breathe
I got this from Jamaic
It always works for me
Dakota to Decatur."

That said, there's no denying that these songs are catchy. They 're upbeat ear worms that get stuck even in my middle-aged head, but I worry that if kids take these songs to heart we'll have a generation of poorly dressed, sleep deprived mysogynists who keep causing traffic accidents at bridges.

My first instinct is to build a bubble around my kid, or ban all pop music, or at least cover her ears. Frankly, none of these are options. Sadly, Kids Bop just doesn't cut it any more with this age group. My tween is going to function in the world as it is, which means hearing these songs at the junior high dances, or even in the carpool. I don't think avoiding them all together forever and ever is a reasonable approach.

So what's a parent to do?

1. Listen. Listen to the music. Know what your tween is hearing. Know what messages the songs and the world are sending your tweens. You cannot counteract what you do not know. You also make it clear to your tween that you are aware and not living under a rock. Key.

2. Talk. Talk, talk, talk about the song and both of your opinions of it. The car is a great place to have such conversation.

  • Ask your tween what he/she thinks the song is about as sometimes the lyrics are hard to understand. Their take away may be different from yours. Apparently my tween thought "you know you want it" was something similar to how she felt about earrings she saw on her last trip to Claire's. Is she being entirely honest? It's possible, but also likely that she knows far, far more than she's letting on.
  • Talk about what message you think the song is sending and ask for your tween's opinion. Then refer to #1 - listen to what they have to say.
  • Tell your tween how you feel about the song. I've told my tween that I'm worried people will somehow think that driving a car into something is acceptable when that's never, ever true and can in fact be fatal, a fact Icona Pop conveniently ignores. We've talked about how the message of Thrift Shop is great (try to not be entirely negative) but she knows I don't like the language they use to deliver it. Stefanie Mullen of calls such talks Songversations.
  • Your tween may seem to not listen or want to change the topic. That's okay. Keep it short and sweet but make your opinions known and remember that no conversation with your child is ever a waste.

3. Set Limits. This is all about what works for you while also accepting that your tween is becoming a member of a soecity of which we may not always approve. Maybe listening on the radio is okay, but not when younger siblings or relatives are in the car. Or maybe there are certain songs or stations you just cannot stomach. If your tween is downloading music, insist that it be the "clean" version. Check to make sure it is.

4. Find Alternatives. While I realize that I cannot entirely shield her and I know that she'll hear the music at some point, it doesn't mean that there aren't options on which we can both agree that do not involve degrading women or foul language.

  • I hadn't purchased a cable that makes it possible to play my tween's iPod in the car because I'm cheap. I'm thinking that it's a small price to pay to listen to the songs on which we agree are better traveling tunes for us.
  • Movie soundtracks can be good options, too. We've gotten a couple of those on CD from the library that offer a nice musical break from the radio.

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Filed under: Parenting, Pop Culture

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