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Wings
A Quick Music Discussion Guide for Parents
08/13/2013

The Song: Wings by Macklemore

Main Point: Even though the world defines people by the clothes they wear, Christians cannot make that mistake. As Christ’s disciples, we must not allow the way we love or value people to be influenced by the clothes or shoes they wear.

Vital Info Before You Get Started: The following info should help you contextualize this very popular song so you can have a great discussion about it with your kids.

  • IMPORTANT NOTE TO PARENTS: We at The Source for Youth Ministry believe that certain elements in our youth culture can serve as good discussion jump starters with students. At the same time, we would never hope to introduce teens to a negative influence that they haven’t already encountered. This balance is a delicate one. In our experience most teens, churched and unchurched, keep pretty current with music and music videos. Thanks to YouTube, MTV.com, and iTunes, the most popular music videos and songs are free to access only a click away.

  • This song is the product of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, a rapper and DJ who partnered together to make music several years ago. Although they didn’t really become a household name until they released “Thrift Shop” in 2012, they’ve been making contemplative music since 2010.

  • This song, like “Thrift Shop,” denounces pop culture’s infatuation with designer styles. The song “Wings” was an earlier version of that same idea. The two musicians are basically trying to get across a message that states consumerism shouldn’t define us as individuals. People must be more than the clothes they wear.

  • The song never quite broke into the Top 10 in the US, but the music video has still been viewed online more than 30 million times! Be warned; the song has two mild swear words in it, although neither of them are too intelligible.

  • Don’t appear as if you have a “canned” discussion in your head and rattle off questions like a teacher giving a pop quiz—your kids get enough of that in school. This is a guide, primarily—not a verbatim script. Just familiarize yourself with the content here and start a conversation in the most natural, unforced way you know how.

Introducing the Music Video:
You guys are familiar with the music of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis; these two artists partnered together several years ago, and have been producing music that makes us think about ourselves on a fairly deep level…while also making us tap our feet at the same time. This song, like “Thrift Shop,” denounces fancy, flashy, designer clothes and our desire for them. This slightly older song is less well-known than “Thrift Shop,” but it’s even more thought-provoking. Take a listen to the music video and familiarize yourself with the lyrics.


Wings:
The video can be found online at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAg3uMlNyHA



Song Lyrics:
    Wings

    I was seven years old, when I got my first pair
    And I stepped outside
    And I was like, momma, this air bubble right here, it's gonna make me fly
    I hit that court, and when I jumped, I jumped, I swear I got so high
    I touched the net, momma I touched the net, this is the best day of my life
    Air Max's were next,
    That air bubble, that mesh
    The box, the smell, the stuffin', the tread, in school
    I was so cool
    I knew that I couldn't crease 'em
    My friends couldn't afford 'em
    Four stripes on their Adidas
    On the court I wasn't the best, but my kicks were like the pros
    Yo, I stick out my tongue so everyone could see that logo
    Nike Air Flight, but bad was so dope
    And then my friend Carlos' brother got murdered for his Fours*, whoa

    See he just wanted a jump shot, but they wanted to start a cult though
    Didn't wanna get caught, from Genesee Park to Othello
    You could clown for those Pro Wings, with the Velcro
    Those were not tight
    I was trying to fly without leaving the ground,
    Cause I wanted to be like Mike, right
    Wanted to be him, I wanted to be that guy, I wanted to touch the rim
    I wanted to be cool, and I wanted to fit in,
    I wanted what he had, America, it begins

    I want to fly
    Can you take me far away
    Give me a star to reach for
    Tell me what it takes
    And I'll go so high
    I'll go so high
    My feet won't touch the ground
    Stitch my wings
    And pull the strings
    I bought these dreams
    That all fall down

    We want what we can't have, commodity makes us want it
    So expensive, damn, I just got to flaunt it
    Got to show 'em, so exclusive, this that new s**t
    A hundred dollars for a pair of shoes I would never hoop in
    Look at me, look at me, I'm a cool kid
    I'm an individual, yea, but I'm part of a movement
    My movement told me be a consumer and I consumed it
    They told me to just do it, I listened to what that swoosh said
    Look at what that swoosh did
    See it consumed my thoughts
    Are you stupid, don't crease 'em, just leave 'em in that box
    Strangled by these laces, laces I can barely talk
    That's my air bubble and I'm lost, if it pops
    We are what we wear, we wear what we are
    But see I look inside the mirror and think Phil Knight tricked us all
    Will I stand for change, or stay in my box
    These Nikes help me define me, but I'm trying to take mine, off

    I want to fly
    Can you take me far away
    Give me a star to reach for
    Tell me what it takes
    And I'll go so high
    I'll go so high
    My feet won't touch the ground
    Stitch my wings
    And pull the strings
    I bought these dreams
    That all fall down

    It started out, with what I wear to school
    That first day, like these are what make you cool
    And this pair, this would be my parachute
    So much more than just a pair of shoes
    Nah, this is what I am
    What I wore, this is the source of my youth
    This dream that they sold to you
    For a hundred dollars and some change
    Consumption is in the veins
    And now I see it's just another pair of shoes

Three Simple Questions (with Answers You May Be Looking for):
    Q: What was the big idea behind Macklemore’s song?
    A:
    His whole point was that so many people are defined by their clothes. They think that if they have the latest and greatest, they will be happy. If they don’t have the latest and greatest, they won’t be happy. The song is about how Macklemore came to see the folly of that misconception.

    Q: In his last line of the song, Macklemore says, “Consumption is in the veins and now I see it’s just another pair of shoes.” What do you think he meant by that?
    A:
    He probably means that he’s seeing clearly, now. Instead of believing the hype about how a pair of shoes can make or break us, he understands that they created the hype to make money. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Q: Should value and identity be assigned to a person based on the clothes and shoes they wear…or for that matter, the kind of car they drive, the size house they live in, or the amount of money in their bank account?
    A:
    No, the value of a person is immeasurable, simply because they are created in the image of God and are loved by Him. Nothing can compare to us as His creation. We are of the highest value in the world regardless of what shoes we wear.

Where to Take It from Here:
Wherever it feels natural. If these questions lead to a longer discussion on the topic, wonderful! (There’s a guide just after this paragraph that helps you do just that.) If your kids are barely uttering grunts, don’t get discouraged—the next time it feels right, try out another song. Keep engaging them.

For Deeper Discussion: (If your kids seem into diving in deeper, the following discussion guide can help take you there.)

CLICK HERE if you want to look at a quick training article on small groups and drawing questions out of young people—you may find much of the information applicable as you go through this subject with your family members.

Transitional Statement:

This song is fairly thought-provoking. In it, Macklemore talks about the influence a brand of shoes had on him as a kid. A brand of shoes! He – along with millions of other boys – longed for a certain style of Nike sneakers. But when he actually got his first couple of pairs, he saw what kind of liabilities the shoes brought into his life. For starters, one of his friends was killed for his shoes. Then there was the fact that his life was defined by his shoes. Either he wore the cool shoes, and was cool, or he didn’t wear the cool shoes, and he wasn’t cool. He even delved into the subtle nuances of consumerism and how the rich built an empire by creating cult-like desires in him and his friends. What Macklemore finally realized is something that Christians have known for a long time: even though the world defines people by the clothes they wear, it’s wrong and he shouldn’t do it any longer. In fact, he wanted to take his shoes off. Likewise, as Christ’s disciples, we must not allow the way we love or value people to be influenced by the clothes or shoes they wear.

More Discussion Questions:

  1. HAVE ALL YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS ANSWER: As we get started, let’s all take a second to share our favorite musical group.

  2. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Macklemore used a certain kind of Nike sneaker to make his point in this music video, but what are the trends/desires being sought after right now by your friends?

  3. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Why does our culture chase after certain brands and labels?

  4. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Let’s turn the conversation toward our Christian faith for a moment. Do you know Christians who judge others by the clothes/shoes they wear? Why do you think they do that?

  5. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Do you judge others by the clothes/shoes they wear? If so, why?

  6. Read the following passage:

      James 2:1-10 (NIV)

      My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong? 8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

  7. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: In what ways did James say the same thing that Macklemore said in his song?

  8. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Why does James label “favoritism” as “sin”? I mean, is “favoritism” that big of a deal? Why or why not?

  9. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: James asks, “Is it not the rich who are exploiting you”? In what ways do major brands and companies exploit people, especially the poor?

  10. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: In his closing line, Macklemore comes to this realization: “What I wore, this is the source of my youth this dream that they sold to you for a hundred dollars and some change; consumption is in the veins and now I see it’s just another pair of shoes.” In what ways have your eyes been opened to the influence of brands, logos, labels, or icons?

  11. HAVE ALL YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS ANSWER: Macklemore makes this declaration after seeing the separation and bitterness and jealousy that came from designer clothes and shoes: “Will I stand for change, or stay in my box? These Nikes help me define me, but I’m trying to take mine, off.” In other words, he’s going to make a change. What change are you going to make right now?

Wrap Up:
During our discussion, we watched an insightful music video by a rapper who asked a very different question than most other rappers: Why do we value people by the shoes they wear?

Macklemore realized EVEN AS A KID that shoes cannot define a person. Sneakers are not the “make or break” facet of our lives that we are told they are. In fact, no article of clothing can do that. His message was “take those shoes off” because they don’t make you who you are. That’s a pretty powerful lesson for us to be exposed to, especially in our day.

Can you imagine how our community – and our own family! – would be different if we actually did that? If we actually do what James commanded us to do, which was to love everyone, including the poor who cannot afford $300 shoes, our neighborhoods would change within days! There wouldn’t be jealousy over sneakers. There wouldn’t be bitterness between “the haves” and “the have nots.” There wouldn’t be kids getting killed for the shoes off their feet. There wouldn’t be people defined by their clothes, but rather, by their character!

But that change has to start with you and me. We have to see people the way Jesus saw people: as someone we’re willing to make a sacrifice for. We need to see them as valuable, like Jesus sees them. We cannot show favoritism to anyone, but we must love everyone.

I assure it won’t be easy. Since the dawn of time, there have been the rich and the poor, the cool and the uncool, the popular and the unpopular. If you go messing with the status quo – which I hope you do! – you will be scorned and ridiculed.

But that’s the only way to treat people. The way Jesus treated people.


Close in Prayer

Idea by David Hallahan
Written by David R Smith


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