Back when I was in high school, I became close friends with two girls. They were Baptist. They taught me that God really loved me, that I could talk to Him like I talked to my best friend, and that most music played on the radio was evil.
In fact, one friend went so far as to rip out all the tape from her secular cassettes and musically fasted for a year on Amy Grant and Steven Curtis Chapman.
While I never was so bold as to toss my music, I sorta saw her point. For a while. ‘Till, in later years when we all changed our minds again (as most teenagers do) and the floorboards of our cars were strewn with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Spin Doctors, Belly and P.J. Harvey (don’t ask), along with Indigo Girls, James Taylor, Cat Stevens and Crosby Stills Nash & Young.
We prided ourselves in our diversity.
We’d roll down the windows of my un-airconditioned gray Honda and turn up the volume as loud as it could go, belting out lyrics on the way to and from school. Whatever had happened recently always related – a boy we liked, a boy we didn’t like, a heart full, a heart broken. That music Mattered. So. Much.
So, in recent years, as my children have gotten a bit older and interested in music, I’ve wondered again. What DO we listen to? How should we handle this as parents. I know, very well, that music is powerful, and influences moods, increases emotions and even stirs up feelings that weren’t really there to begin with. It’s powerful stuff. It’s worth giving attention to.
After a three weekend love affair with our local community theatre’s production of Les Miserables, with my 7 year old running around the house, loudly singing “Look DOWWWWN, look DOWWWWN…”, I decided I needed an emotional break from the heart-wrenching drama of Les Mis.
So I popped on the radio in the car, on my way home from the store a few days ago. Alone. Thankfully. I do listen to the station fairly often. Mostly amused. Often singing along. Sometimes switching from the annoying, pointless and less-than-well-written stuff. Feeling old and not caring.
And this newish song came on. ‘The Other Side’ by Jason Derulo.
Catchy. He had a nice voice. Starts out singing about a nice girl, ‘chilling in the photo booth’ with him. Spending time ‘talking all afternoon’. Aw, how sweet, I thought, turning the corner into my neighborhood.
And then this:
‘Tonight we’ll just get drunk
Disturb the peace
Find your hands all over me
And then you bite your lip
Whisper and say, “We’re going all the way.” ‘
But that’s not all. That’s not what made me snap my volume dial with one angry twitch of my wrist. It was this:
“This could be perfect (yeah)
But we won’t know unless we try (try)
I know you’re nervous
So just sit back and let me drive”
YOU. HAVE. GOT. TO. BE. KIDDING. ME.
‘Let’s get drunk? Oh, you nervous? Just sit back and LET ME DRIVE???!!!’
And I had flashbacks of cassette tape ripping and the sugary sweet airy voice of Amy Grant and thought, “My God, what poor girl has listened to this song?”
And “Who is this guy and where is his mother?! Jordan Sparks, what do YOU have to say about this?!” And “Did not one single person in that recording studio think that maybe this isn’t okay? Certainly one of them has a daughter. Or a son.”
And “Why is this okay? I’m all about free speech and stuff, but ‘hey young thing, let’s go to the carnival, take pics in the photo booth, get drunk, and let me force myself on you while you’re inebriated.’? No.”
My anger over this song, and the many like it out there, has only risen over the past few days. I’ve sought out a solution. I’m a ‘doer’. There has to be something I can DO about this – a solution to protect my kids and every other one out there from this trash.
But I have no answer.
Except to be angry.
I don’t think I can go the route of exclusively playing Gregorian Chant for the next 15 years. Kids will hear music anyway. Pretending it doesn’t exist isn’t the answer. They’ll grow up a bit, be more on their own and then go to college and have to deal then. I’d rather be with them for a bit while they deal.
So, what can I do? I can’t go shake the sense into Jason Derulo or Mylie Cyrus. And if I did, there’d be some other punk who’d show up and take their place.
I don’t think there IS a simple answer, as much as I’d like there to be.
And maybe that’s the point. If there WAS an easy answer – a one-click solution we could pop together and then let our kids move on – then we’d stop paying attention.
We’d stop listening.
We’d stop wondering what it’s like to be them, a 13 year old girl growing up in 2013. We’d stop reflecting on the influence of the media, of their friends, of their clothes and what they read.
We’d stop paying attention.
And even in the midst of all their adolescent angst, that’s really the LAST thing our kids want us to do.
We parents have to be watchful. We have to know what’s up. We have to connect and try to relate. We have to actually turn on that radio station and hear what’s there. We have to find the good from the bad (and there is good out there, and people DO like it!) and point it out.
And when we find ourselves in that magical moment, when the kid is sitting next to us in the car, and we’ve had a good day, and they’re actually in tune with us for once, then we go for it. We’ll ask them if they’ve heard this song (or whatever the issue of the day is). We’ll ask them what they think. And we’ll talk and share and open our hearts and be that anchor for them. Right then, on the way to the grocery store. We’ll teach them about beauty and show them, again and again, where to find it, how to love it and how it can overpower everything, even the awful lyrics of the latest Jason Derulo song.
‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ – that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. – John Keats
Oh, and – Hey Jason, If you ever want to talk, I’ve got plenty to say…