Teacher Professor

August 11, 2010

Music and Lyrics

Filed under: Home Things — Teacher Professor @ 6:50 am

Life is for to dance, baby!” -17 Reasons Why

Movies and music are just no fun now that I’m a parent and a grownup.

I just watched the movie “Grease” with my kiddos- I have fun memories of singing along, and lusting after John Travolta, and wanting to BE Olivia Newton-John and doing the Hand Jive… and now?  Now, I watch a young girl become someone she’s not (and smoking cigarettes?  Ewww!) just to get the guy.  I watch gossip and image ruin someone’s self-concept.  I see how the girl caved and changed while the man did not.  I see under-aged drinking and teenage pregnancy.  sigh… I found myself saying stupid parent things like “Now, you know, you shouldn’t be drinking in high school… They really should be thinking about college.”  I listen to myself and wonder “Who is that person saying those things?” 

I’m in a bit of a quandary.  I love music.  No, I mean, I really, really love music.  I hear rhythm, I hear beats, and my hips start shaking and my toes start tapping.  I don’t play music- I dance to it.  I dated wonderful musicians for most of my 20s.  I was in clubs, underage, truly, just to hear the music.  Rock, country, reggae, world beat- I love them all. I hear a strong bass line, a groovy drum line and fabulous guitar riff, and I am lost… lost to that place that music takes me.  

I have distinct memories of strutting to “Brick House” and aching to be “Jesse’s Girl” in middle school.  I still remember the echoes of moaning “Love to Love You, Baby” in the stairwells in high school- the acoustics were fabulous.  We dressed like Madonna and rolled our eyes at the grownups who wrung their hands at how the youth were being corrupted with the drugs/sex and rock-n-roll.  And let me assure you- despite the lyrics, despite the times, despite the clubs- I was quite the good girl.

Elizabeth likes music, but Ray- Ray LOVES music; Ray loves music the way that I love music- down deep in his soul.  He pulsed in his car seat.  We often have the radio on in the car because it “soothes the savage beast”.  He hums himself to sleep.  He’s been singing “We Will, We Will ROCK YOU” since he was a baby (when it was “We Will, We Will WOCK YOU!”).  Raffi was fine for a while, but he, and I, are attracted to that beat- that bass line, that confluence of riffs and rhythm.  “Sister Goldenhair” was his favorite song for a long time, and after that, “I Had a Bad Day”.   Now, he’s hearing what is played around him- and he wants more.

He’s got that “ear” now for the new, the happening, the hip beat, the one that is it.  They’re starting to bring me songs; they’re starting to request songs they hear around them.  Which means that as my children’s repertoire of music expands beyond Dan Zanes and Raffi, I am torn between listening to the lyrics as a parent and shaking my groove thing to the music.  And the explaining of the meaning of the music to my oh-so-literal minded children is beginning to get a bit dicey…

Example: California Gurls by Katy Perry.

AMAZING tune- Played during the World Cup-danceable, hummable, catchy, poppy, and just light and fun.   Well, except for that whole “Sex on the beach” part… that makes it a bit challenging to explain.  (a friend of mine said that I should just explain that it’s a drink- not a good replacement, I think!) I downloaded it for my IPod, and then, realizing that maybe it wasn’t the best of things to listen to as a family, downloaded the Kidz Bop version.  Even I can say that their version is… well… boring.

So, we had the conversation of “You will hear words around you that are not said in our house.  You will not say those words in our house.  You will not say those words in school.  You will not say those words around other people.  You will not be respected if you use those words…” Meanwhile, I’m hearing the “California Girls/ We’re undeniable/ Fine, fresh fierce/ we got it on lock” dancing around in my head.

So now, I’m making the calls- music good?  Lyrics acceptable?  And what exactly IS “acceptable”?  And does a killer groove trump inappropriate lyrics?  In the case of California Gurls, yes- yes it does.  In the case of any song by Lady Gaga, no- no it does not.  In the case of “Airplanes” by B.O.B., a request from my son, why, there’s actually an interesting message in that one.  

This is new for me- balancing my love of following the beat with my role as guiding as a parent.  I also know that my children are beginning the long drift away from me, towards their generation, towards what is new and what is theirs, and not mine.  I know that my job is to help them ride those rapids of cultural shift and to stay grounded.  The best way to stay grounded is to stay connected, so Ray and I can recently be found bopping our heads together in rhythm as we download and listen.

And that rhythm in music is where he and I can find our shared togetherness. 

Meanwhile- that middle-aged woman cranking up “Tik-Tok”?  That would be me…

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