Micah & Jett-
I wrote this a year and a half ago when the both of you started to sing along with the lyrics of songs on popular radio. Music is dirty. My guess is that by the time you read this, top 40 music will have been replaced with passages from 50 Shades of Grey.
As a parent, I spend more time afraid each day than I did in ten years pre-conception. Most of this fear is wholly irrational. The involuntary palpitations of the heart, and wild muscle spasms when either of my boys gets within 15 feet of a street, cactus, stranger’s dog, beer bottle on a counter, or any piece of technology valued at $20 and above is enough to ensure I don’t escape my twenties without at least one heart attack. Even imagining these scenarios has me grinding my teeth and sweating bullets…
Conversely, some of the fear I have is completely justified especially the fear I have about the type of music that will be influencing my beloved sons’ adolescence. Recently, Rihanna’s “S&M” came on the radio. My jaw nearly fell off as I listened to her typical “na-na-na” lyrical bastardization lead into the following chorus:
Cause I may be bad, but I’m perfectly good at it
Sex in the air, I don’t care, I love the smell of it
Sticks and stones may break my bones
But chains and whips excite me
My wife noticed me staring at the stereo in a state of bewilderment and offered that “The subject matter isn’t any different from our childhood, artists just aren’t smart enough to creatively mask it anymore.” Her point got me thinking- was this true? Are modern artist just too stupid to come up with a clever metaphor for the desires of the flesh, or is pop music devolving at such a rapid rate, that we’re five years (or less) away from just listening to real-life auto-tuned sex noises that result from Ke$ha’s one night stand with a Sasquatch? I decided to examine Billboard’s Hot 100 from this week against what was trending in the exact same slots when I was 14 (when music really started to have an impact on my life), and when I was the age of my boys (to gauge what my kids may be able to expect when they’re 27).
April 5th, 2011, Billboard #1-: “E.T.” Katy Perry/Kanye West. Raciest Lyric: “Tell me what’s next, alien sex I’ma disrobe you, than I’mma probe you”
April 5th, 1998, #1: “All My Life,” K-Ci & JoJo. Raciest Lyric: “Close To Me You’re Like My Brother.” (I know… WAY out of context).
April 5th, 1986, #1: “Rock me Amadeus,” Falco. Raciest Lyric: “Rock me Amadeus.” (I’m guessing here, this may be a bit of double entendre…?)
April 5th, 2011, #3: “F**k You,” Cee-Lo Green. Raciest Lyric: Really? I’ll give you one guess…
April 5th, 1998, #3: “Nice & Slow,” Usher. Raciest Lyric: “I got plans to put my hands in places I never seen girl, you know what I mean.”
April 5th, 1986, #3: “Kiss,” Prince. Raciest Lyric: “I just need your body baby, from dusk ‘till dawn.” (Author’s note- this song is epic)
April 5th, 2011 #6: “No Sleep,” Wiz Khalifa. Raciest Lyric: “waking up in the morning: two hoes laying next to me, plus I heard an officer arrested me, good weed and cold drinks: that’s the motherf****** recipe.”
April 5th, 1998 #6: “Let’s Ride,” Montell Jordan/Master P/Some other guy with a dumb rap name. Raciest Lyric: “Make that head board squeak, Up and down ’till you reak, Cuz a thug like a freak.”
April 5th, 1986 #6: “What You Need,” INXS. Raciest Lyric: “This is what you need, I’ll give you what you need.” (More Cowbell?)
April 5th, 2011 #8: “F***** Perfect,” Pink. Raciest Lyric: As with Cee-Lo, we’ll go with the title.
April 5th, 1998 #8: “Getting’ Jiggy Wit’ It,” Will Smith. Raciest Lyric: “Yo homes, smell ya later!”
April 5th, 1986 #8: “Let’s Go All The Way,” Sly Fox. Raciest Lyric: The title, again.
April 5th, 2011 #9: “Down on Me,” Jeremih/50 cent. Raciest Lyric: Literally, all of it. The whole thing. If Fiddy was my kid, he’d be rapping about how he ate 9 bars of soap, not how he got shot 9 times.
April 5th, 1998 #9: “Gone till November,” Wyclef Jean. Raciest Lyric: “If you don’t wear condom you see that red line oo oo you sucka.” (I’ll vouch. He speaks truth)
April 5th, 1986 #9: Addicted to Love,” Robert Palmer. Raciest Lyric: It’s not racy, but I am a bit annoyed that at one point, Palmer says the title of the song 13 times in a row.
Conclusion: I have no idea. I can definitively say popular music has gotten worse, but is it really all that much more horrific, lyrically? The point of popular music is that you don’t have to make an effort to appreciate it; you just have to have earholes and the ability to recognize when something is “catchy.” Popular music is a lot like fast food; the restaurants that make the most money are the ones putting the least culinary effort into creativity and innovation… but why would they? People keep showing up and buying what they have to offer.
Last year at the kids choice awards, Rihanna sang a song called “Rude Boy” at Nickelodeon’s Kid’s Choice Awards, and was kind enough to change the lyrics questioning her man’s ability to “get it up” to “Is my love enough?” I guess I shouldn’t really worry about it, Rihanna is looking after my kid’s sensibilities so I don’t have to.