Tuesday, August 14, 2007

It's a Love Beat?

Culture is a very strange beast.

Very recently, in the span of less than 24 hours, a song that I haven't heard (or heard mentioned) in probably 20 years, was mentioned twice, in two different conversations. I always find it strangely entertaining when things like that take place.

The song I refer to is a song called Jesse's Girl, and was sung by Rick Springfield. If you're anywhere near my age, you know the song and you either hated it immensely, or you loved it (even though you got sick of the over-play on the radio). The ironic thing is, I hadn't even thought about this song again since the conversations a few weeks ago - and then I heard it today while flipping through the radio stations while running errands. While it sort of made me chuckle, a few thoughts came to mind about this song.

For various reasons, it was a huge hit with the teenybopper crowd when it came out. Part of the charm of it I suppose was that Springfield was on the soap General Hospital as Dr. Noah Drake, and he had that adorable, boyish sort of face that teenage girls found heart-throbberish. (If that's not a word, it is now.) Another part of the charm of the song was also that it was just a simple, easy song to sing along to. Say what you will about bubblegum pop music, it works and the music industry knows it and they maximize on it at every opportunity.

The thing about this song though that always bothered me, was that the story was so ridiculously unbelievable. Here's this cute (sort of in the Donny Osmond/Tony DeFranco category. Surely you remember Tony DeFranco?) guy singing this angst-filled song about a girl he likes but can't tell her - because she's his friend's girlfriend! Give me an extra large break. Every teenage girl who liked this song put Rick Springfield into one of two categories. He was either beating girls off with a stick, or he was a complete fake and was gay. There was just no middle ground and we all knew it. (Keeping in mind 16 year old girls just know these things, because they know everything).

It gets worse though. See, there were millions of teenage girls that would have happily stepped up, jumping up and down screaming "pick me, pick me, I don't have a boyfriend!" Forget about Jesse and his girlfriend, there were plenty of single teenage girls that would have been more than thrilled to get ole Rick's attention and make him forget all about Jesse's girlfriend. Now if you think about that for a half a second, it's actually pretty pathetic. Even back then it was a topic of discussion among my friends about how low-class it was that so many girls were flubbity-headed over this singer, and this song. "Get a moral, would you?" was a comment we used to make. (Bearing in mind we were also 16, and like all other 16 yr old girls, we knew everything).

So by now you're probably wondering what the point of it all is. Why, you're asking yourself, is she dedicating an entire blogpost to something so useless, as this? Well, on the surface it may sure seem useless but I assure you it's not. Proof of this is the fact that the DeFranco song Heartbeat is now going through your head.

Music is powerful and we all know it - I've written on that before and I wont do that again just now. Music, whether good or bad (and we all have our opinions on what is good and what is bad) is a most influential medium in our culture, from the very very young to the oldest member of society. Wee little kids learn their ABCs by singing a song (yes, obnoxious & repetitious little songs do work) and the oldest person you could find would be able to tell you about their favorite song - and I'd bet it would be one you've never even heard of.

I can't speak to how pop music influences the thinking of boys, but I can sure speak to how it works on girls. As much as teenage girls know everything, they don't realize how an attitude or a moral message in a song is seeping in and grabbing hold of the way they think, act, react, and speak to people. It's hard not to look back (as much as I'd prefer not to, thank you very much) at my early 20's and see the most glaring example of this. The music that me my circle of friends listened to, literally defined who we were. Big hair and lots of it, and plenty of black leather to go along with it too. Were we listening to disco? No, those people needed to be strung up. Country Western? Um... no. Top 40? Absolutely not. It was Metal all the way, and it affected EVERY area of our lives, from the way we spoke, the way we dressed, what we conversed about, where we went and what we did. We were headbanging metalheads and we were that way because of the influence the music had on us. Sure we had brains (contrary to the opinion of some) and we had the ability to make the choice not to act like that, but that sort of music appealed to the wretched sinners in us and like a hook, pulled us in and gave us our excuse to be metalheads. Now this might be a rather excessive example but that doesn't mean the other more subtle influences aren't just as bad.

On the way home from picking up the kids at VBS today, I was doing what I often do and scanning through the radio stations. I love music and the van is the only place I ever really listen to a variety of different kinds. A song came on called Big Girls Don't Cry. No, it wasn't by Frankie Vallie, but Fergie. Now to be honest with you, I don't know the first thing about Fergie, I had to google her to get a little background - and I wasn't all that impressed by what I read. I'll leave it at that.

However, I do like her voice. She has a soft, husky voice that reminds me of Janis Joplin in a way, and I like that sound. Janis, as we all know, also didn't live a life that was very impressive either. Point being...

The content of the songs we listen to. Like ole Rick Springfield singing this upbeat, fun song about slobbering over his friend's girlfriend, causing millions of teenage girls to wish they were Jesse's girlfriend so he'd be slobbering over them (great message, eh?), Fergie sings this song about dumping her boyfriend so she can "center" herself and get some clarity. Yeah yeah, clarity is all well and good but something about the message in this song just ruffles my feathers as a Christian mom raising daughters. Do I want my girls to be influenced by a message that says it's okay to be close to a person then dump them for some ME time? No, not really. I mean relationships are tricky at times to be sure, but it makes a whole lot more sense to me, to figure out who you are and what you want before you ever go into a relationship, to begin with. If you have to dump someone for peace and serenity, maybe you shouldn't have been in the relationship with them to begin with, eh?

I'm not picking on Fergie - although I could and it would be really easy. I'm just a mom having issues with the messages in the music that young people listen to. Yep, I sound old and I don't care. It's the same criticism my mom had of my music (and she was right) and her mom had of her music (and she was right) and so on. Moms know this stuff, even more than 16 yr olds who already know everything.

I guess if there's any real meat to this post, it would be that if you're a parent, know the lyrics of the music your kids are listening to. (Oh man I am so having a Tipper Gore moment!) Go online & check it out. Listen to the songs, and ask your kids what they think of what they're singing along to. Use it as a springboard to discuss stuff that matters. Don't just rail about "kids and their music today" but know what you're talking about when you tell your kids why the message is completely anti-God and/or anti-Biblical, in their favorite secular songs.

Someone's gotta be the bad guy, right? In the culture that we live in where music will shape the way your kids think (and you'd be one ignorant potato to ever assume it doesn't), someone better be in there countering the message that tosses Biblical morality out the window.