Tagged music

Music lyrics have power. How do you talk with your kids about music lyrics?

It’s More Like “Girl Crash!”

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Yesterday my daughters, ages 6 and 11, and I were driving down the road on our way to a doctor’s appointment about 50 miles away. I flipped through radio stations on the way, stopping when something met our fancy. At one point I landed on a station and heard an unfamiliar melody sung by a smooth female voice. I stopped and listened.

Frequently I can listen to an entire song and focus so intently on the music, the voice, or the harmony line that I completely miss the lyrics. For whatever reason, this time I caught the words.

Music lyrics have power. How do you talk with your kids about music lyrics?

The song was Girl Crush, and I suppose I was somewhere in the middle of the second verse when I clued in to the fact that this song was about Girl A who envied Girl B because Girl B was with a boy that Girl A wanted. I think I had just gotten to the following part.

“I want to drown myself

In a bottle of her perfume.

I want her long blonde hair.

I want her magic touch.

Yeah, ‘cause maybe then

You’d want me just as much.”

I’d like to say something really intelligent and insightful came out of my mouth at this point, but that would be a lie. Instead I blurted, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!” and clicked to a different station. Then the 11 year old voice in the back seat said, “No kidding! I was thinking the same thing.”

Whoa, I didn’t realize she’d been listening, taking all of that nonsense in. The immediate image that came to mind was of the Sirens. You know, the sultry crooning mythological creatures who lure you with their sweet song until you’re shipwrecked on their island and you meet your ultimate demise. We were lulled by a pretty song and drifted lazily along until we snapped to and saw the sharp rocks ahead.

                        “I got it real bad,

                        Want everything she has…

                        I don’t get no sleep.

                        I don’t get no peace.”

 

No! No! No! Hell to the nah!

I’ve got an eleven year old girl in the backseat. She starts junior high next year. I don’t want her drowning herself in anything, much less some other girl’s identity. My mind started racing, processing all the things that were wrong with this picture.

I want my daughters to be able to admire and respect other people without desiring to become them. It’s a good thing to be able to appreciate another person’s talent or beauty, but recognizing that another person has some positive attributes should happen in conjunction with recognizing your own talent and beauty. “They have it all, and I have nothing” is a messed up equation. It’s not balanced and we aren’t studying that kind of math. The idea of shape shifting into someone else’s image so you can be “good enough” or “acceptable” is not where we want to go.

Not to mention, the attributes that are touted as desirable for adoption in the song all had to do with physical appearance or sexual prowess. And, the tone of the whole darn thing was acquisitional. (i.e. “How can I acquire her long blonde hair, her magic touch, her whisper, so the guy will want to acquire me?”)

Yuck! I don’t want my daughters to view themselves as a commodity to be marketed. Likewise, I don’t want them to buy in to some caricature of masculinity that suggests men only chase blondes with magic fingers and throaty whispers.

I get that the song probably wasn’t written with an 11-year-old audience in mind, but that song wafted through the speakers of my Kia Sorento carried on the waves of a Top-40 station. I guarantee when she walks into junior high in a few weeks, 90% of the 6th grade will have heard it. I wondered just how far the song had burrowed into her brain, so this morning I asked her if she remembered the song we heard on the radio yesterday. Her response: “You mean the one about the girl wanting to drown herself in some other girl’s perfume and steal her blonde hair?”

            Yep, that’s the one.

So, here’s what we’re gonna do. My husband and I can’t shield her from the reality that our society depicts and encourages images of people and relationships that we find to be inaccurate and unhealthy. We can use some of society’s distortion as a starting point for a conversation in which we share our perceptions about healthy women and men. We can ask questions about the underlying assumptions that would inspire a person to create a song like that, and then we can share our foundational beliefs about people’s worth and identity.

My hope is that conversations like this when my daughter is 11 will prevent her from polluting the airwaves with songs like this when she’s a young adult.

Great tips to get your kids hooked on good music!

A Parent’s Guide To The Ultimate Playlist

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Great tips to get your kids hooked on good music!I think in all journals and blogs, themes begin to emerge.

A theme that you may see reoccur in my writing (even though this is a parenting blog) is the impact of late 80s, early 90s John Cusack movies.
You see, if you were raised in the Sony Walkman generation, then you know all about the connection between music and life – and the power of music. One of those moments came when John Cusack played his boombox for the girl he loved, stretching his arms in the air, so the music could be the heard at the utmost level.
I made similar moves in my courtship of my wife, I know, not very original, but I found it to be highly successful. And though those years are over, (minus the daily car serenade). I am still connecting music to life and constantly making the ultimate playlist for my family.

THE MAKING OF AN ULTIMATE PLAYLIST:

CAUTION: If making a playlist consists of finding your favorite genre of music on Spotify, and clicking shuffle all, read no further. This is NOT for you!

Make no mistake, the makings of a great playlist is an art form, and rules definitely apply. In the words of John Cusack in High Fidelity: “You’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel.” My top five rules for making a playlist for your own family are as follows:

Parenting guide to a mixtape

RULE 1: INTRODUCE YOUR KIDS TO A VAST AMOUNT OF MUSIC

There have been hits and misses when introducing music to my kids. For about 2 years, Adelaide was obsessed with The Beatles. She learned even the obscure songs, like “You Know My Name, Look Up The Number.” She loved when all the teenagers screamed at Beatles concerts, and even picked up a favorite Beatle: Paul. We watched the movies, and liked all of them, except Help.

But as successful as The Beatles introduction was, countless others were met with: “Turn that down!” And “Why do they sound like that?” And even “This song is for people who don’t like music!”
Some things will stick, and others won’t, that’s just how it goes.

RULE 2: DISCUSS THE MEANINGS OF SONGS

How many times have the kids corrected my lyrics? Countless. The key is to know the meanings of songs, and have discussions about what they mean. This will help someday, when you finally introduce them to the poetry of Bob Dylan, or the enigma of Milli Vanilli.

RULE 3: ORDER IS IMPORTANT

Consider that ‘shuffle’ is your true enemy. It’s like shuffling the events of your day, in random order. Let’s see, I wake up, do the dishes, cook dinner, get dressed… come on. There’s order to things – and it matters. Start with some energy. It’s a hook, then, more energy – but don’t blow the roof off, pace it out after that. Save the slower, longer songs for the end.

RULE 4: BE TRUE TO YOURSELF

Don’t allow your family playlist to include music that raises your blood pressure and sets your teeth on edge. So what if your kids love “Let it Go”. When you have tuned it out after the 4,386th listen it no longer has a place on your playlist. You are part of your family too and your opinions and taste matter most. And also, you set the tone. Allow your (obviously superior) tastes to gently guide the still impressionable and therefore malleable tastes of the younger, more inexperienced members of your household.

RULE 5: SHARE YOUR MUSIC

Compilations are meant to share- and sharing a playlist was never this easy. When I was a kid- you’d have to go to great lengths to make the same mix tape for multiple people. Now, it’s a link. Take advantage of this, and share your playlist in the comments section.

Here is my playlist with some detail, but the importance of a playlist is to share it.

  1. All Is Love – Karen O & The Kids

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ND8RfApgGIA

Karen O + kids music = plain awesome. She made the soundtrack for Where The Wild Things Are, and it’s a masterpiece with just the right amount of rebelliousness, mixed with sweetness, and innocence, yet full of heart that is always longing, and searching for more.

  1. Raindrops on the Kitchen Floor – Mason Jennings

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2s3Ek38DN4

If I could only choose from the catalog of one artist to create our family’s playlist, Mason Jennings would be that guy.  He captures beautiful moments and incredible feelings in his songs – yet has a way to make them a part of everyday life.

  1. Don’t Slow Down- Matt and Kim:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_xr_oio_0I

When this song comes on in our car, look out because the kids are using whatever they can reach for drums, and singing along is not optional. Matt and Kim are THE FAVORITE in our cars.

  1. Dance, Dance, Dance – Lykke Li

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQEJ5BhxTxc

Sweet, loving, soft, and the best message ever, about being shy, but still having this overwhelming desire to dance.

  1. Body Movin’ – The Beastie Boys

Dance party song, gets all the energy out!

  1. Butterfly Nets – Bishop Allen – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jcp3nPN74cM

Time to come back down with something softer. The singer’s voice is so sweet, so sincere, and again, it goes back to the innocence of youth.

  1. Young Lion – Vampire Weekend

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=og77RKz1_ec

Vampire Weekend has so many amazing songs, but this one is special for our little guy, and his learning, whether it be to walk or to jump. It all takes time, and it’s hard to wait, especially when you have an older sister.

  1. I Feel It All – Feist

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_v1DGyKCbc

Love this song – and emotions are a big thing in our house – all emotions are allowed and we truly do feel it all.

  1. Violet – Thao & The Get Down, Stay Down

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MvQ1pZqaqU

This was quite possibly the first song Adelaide learned enough lyrics of to be able to sing along.  That’s some kind of milestone, and besides that, Thao is simply The Shizzle.

  1. We Can’t Be Beat – The Walkmen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9r2DHgfa1Y

Dad rock at its best.  Sometimes, your life evolves seemingly in sync alongside a favorite artist.  It’s nice to grow older together.

  1. Just Try – Mason Jennings

The perfect end. Sunshine in life. Just try and say that this happens everyday – just try-and see- if that flies.

How about yours?