I haven’t censored my kids’ musical choices for years. I’ve always been of the mindset that a stable home, good communication and discussion will protect them against much of the material others might see as corrupting. To a certain degree, too, they need to maintain cultural literacy. I mean, where else will they learn key phrases like “the way I are” or “lil mama I’m peepin your style?” Nursing school doesn’t hand out that kind of education.
But my liberalism has come back to bite me. Because of that, no matter how painful the process, I’m baring my soul in the hope of preventing further victimization.
The occasion prompting this rant was yesterday’s drive home from school, when Timbaland’s latest song began to play on the radio. Frank and his cousins — as if as one — stopped arguing and asked me to turn the music up. Three adolescent males acting in unity? I know. I should have been suspicious right away.
Alas, my mind was on other matters. I fell down on mom-patrol duty.
To be fair, I don’t have great hearing. Too much loud music in my youth means I often miss details. For instance, I only just figured out that in all the latest hip-hop songs, those words they say at the beginning? The ones that remain nonsensical no matter how many times you listen to them? That’s the musical artist singing their name. Fantastic marketing technique, that. Or it would be if they didn’t all mumble.
Now you’re gonna laugh at me, but before I took the time to sit down and watch this video, I’d assumed this song was about the usual hip-hop stuff: How if you have big enough balls, money, and a grill, no matter how homely or menacing your appearance, gorgeous women will flock to you. They’ll strip down to their unmentionables in parking lots, offer to blow you at block parties, and think chunky jewelry is hawt. In other words, life in North America suburbia.
No harm in that. I can handle that. Except, did you notice the subversive message? Do you understand that underneath the backdrop of familiar misogyny and materialism, our children are being told to eat fast food?
I think this hit me particularly hard because I’d had a good day on the health advocacy front. A friend wrote a glowing post about her experiment with treadmill writing (go Becke!); I’d discovered a wonderful humus recipe with unusual flavors. I’d stuck with my own exercise program. In other words, I’d deluded myself into thinking the tide had turned against our toxic lifestyle.
What next? Will Lady GaGa’s disco stick turn out to be code for Freybe’s pepperoni? Will Flavor Flav turn out to be a front-man for Bulova?
If you’re feeling riled up right now, I don’t blame you. That’s where I was yesterday. However, once you move past emotion and are ready to take action, here are a few simple steps you might take:
1. Police your children’s musical choices. They may not thank you for it, but too bad. You signed on for parenthood, not friendship.
2. If an offensive song comes on, turn the channel immediately. Better yet, turn the radio off and embark on a discussion of the relative merits of Yugio versus Bleach. I promise you, it’s these kind of moments they’ll remember when they grow up, rather than the sight of their mother grinding to some serious driving bass beats.
3. Write to the artists that offend you. Ask them to clean up their act. Don’t be rude about it. Just remind them that their next paycheck depends on the public’s good-will.
Now you are a bright bunch, so let’s pool our resources. Can you think of anything to add to my list?
And while we’re here, got any stories to share about a time you were shocked at the disconnect between a song’s intended meanings and your own understanding. 😉