Everybody’s Gonna Have a Real Good Time

This past weekend, serendipitously, I watched a swimming pool full of children between the ages of four and twelve sing and splash to LMFAO‘s I’m Sexy and I Know It.  As the opening notes sounded, a rush of kids emerged from underneath towels and off of chaises lounges;  into the pool they went, where for three minutes, they danced and carried on like the kids they were, completely oblivious to the underlying meaning of of the lyrics of that song. Half the adults in the pool were singing along, too. Say what you will about the artistic merit of the song, you can’t deny that it’s catchy. It puts you in a good mood. It makes you not-at-all sorry for party rocking, and that’s the whole point of that type of music. It’s fun.

I bet if you asked the average seven-year old what that song is about, they’d tell you: it’s about having a party. It’s about looking good.  My seven-year old certainly could care less about the lyrics beyond those which are readily discernible on a quick listen to the chorus (he might mention that it’s about shaking his bum, but he’s seven and anything to do with bums is REALLY funny).  My older one could probably tell you what some of the other lines in the song mean, but we’ve already discussed how babies are made and that – gasp – grown-ups do “it”. Of course, you’d have to get him to stop dancing in order to ask him a question about the song in the first place.

Still, it’s probably no surprise to him or to his friends that there are references “it” in songs. Grown ups talk about a lot of things that kids don’t talk about, which doesn’t mean that kids don’t listen: it just means that it doesn’t matter to them to hear it. The economy. Politics. Stocks. What to make for dinner.  Paying bills.  These are all topics which register with most kids as “things that grown ups say” and not “things I must understand RIGHT now”. And when they do tune in, you do the best that you can with whatever questions that come your way about what they’ve heard, as it doesn’t really matter what the source of the question is: as parents, we can’t completely insulate our children from the world, nor should we. Instead, I’d rather teach them to live within it, and give them the right information to be able to do so.

Those Kids and Their Music!

On June 5, 1956 teenage girls across the United States sat on their living room rugs with their bobby-socked feet tucked under them watching the Milton Berle Show transfixed by a handsome young man with slicked back hair rotating his mid-section while singing about a hound dog.

Thirty seconds later parents across the United States were flicking off television sets in their living rooms and bemoaning the lack of morality of this younger generation.

These same teenagers grew up to be parents who rolled their eyes at Mohawks and piercings and questioned the talent of the new British invasion.

So long as there are teenagers, there will be music that makes even the most open-minded parents cringe.

For all we know the ancient Greeks were throwing their arms up to the gods and begging them to make their offspring stop walking like Egyptians.

It was the Christmas of 1990 when I unwrapped two gifts from my parents that they most certainly regretted.  The first was a turquoise and grey Sony Sport Walkman with the newly released matching ear buds and the second was The Immaculate Collection, a compilation of Madonna’s greatest hits to date.

With my ear buds firmly tucked in and the volume far surpassing a healthy level, I would replay that cassette over and over, belting out the lyrics to Like a Virgin with a pitch and tone that could easily be confused for the sound of dueling raccoons.

I made it through the wilderness…. I didn’t know how lost I was until I found you. I was beat incomplete.  I’d been had.  I was sad and blue.  But you made me feel, oooh, you made me feel shiny and new!  Like a virgin!  Touch for the very first time!  Like a virrrrrrrign with your heartbeat, next to mine. (credit)

I was ten years old and completely oblivious to the meaning of these words.  In my naïve mind I thought that someone had pulled some girl named Virgina from the forest.

Yup.  I was a smart kid.

But rest assured that as the years passed both Seventeen and YM Magazines educated me to what Colour Me Badd was really crooning about with I Wanna Sex You Up, and my animated backseat car concerts that took place for the pure listening enjoyment of my parents, abruptly stopped.

As for today’s milieu of sexy performers with their risqué lyrics, my guess is that once the soccer moms start stripper-cizing to these songs, tweens and teens will tune out of their volition. Really, what could be more uncool than a middle-aged white woman listening to gangsta rap with the base cranked up and the mini-van windows rolled down?  A

And as for my little ones?  So long as they continue to think that Rihanna’s S & M is a song about their brother, S-A-M, than I am livin’ the easy life.

Because how am I going to explain that one?

Image credit

At Issue: They’re Not Sexy: Pop Culture and Our Kids

English: LMFAO at the Sunset Strip Music Festi...

English: LMFAO at the Sunset Strip Music Festival 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last week the New York Times’ Motherlode column featured  The Momoir Project founder Cori Howard’s article, She’s Not Sexy, She’s Seven. In it, Cori discusses the difficulty she’s had in deciding how much is “too much” when it comes to allowing her kids to listen to music with obvious, gratuitous sexual references.  After watching her daughter dancing to LMFAO‘s “I’m Sexy and I Know It“, Cori muses,

But — but — there is something very disturbing about watching your young daughter gyrating and moving her hands up and down her torso while singing, “Ah, girl, look at that body.” She isn’t sexy, she’s 7. And I resent the music that has her declaring her sexuality before she’s even old enough to have prepubescent hormones.

Difficulties ensue when the kids ask what the song’s lyrics mean.   Cori’s answers give rise to even more questions from her kids– ones that she doesn’t really want to have to answer…yet.

Cori’s not the only parent having to ask how far to  go in insulating kids from the messages in popular music, particularly those songs with violent or sexual lyrics.  This week, 4mothers explores the world of popular music. As a parent, where is your line in the sand when it comes to letting your children listen to songs with explicit or violent content?  Where is ours? Join us as we wiggle wiggle wiggle our way through this issue. As always, your thoughts and comments are welcomed.