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Shake It Off
A Quick Music Discussion Guide for Parents
01/15/2015

Dynamic ImageThe Song: Shake It Off by Taylor Swift

Main Point: We have to be careful how we respond to criticism in life. If it’s constructive, we should take it into consideration. If it’s hateful or destructive, we should just shake it off.

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 like this one. Thanks to YouTube, MTV.com, and iTunes, the most popular music videos and songs are free to access only a click away. If you decide to use this, do so by catering it to fit your family’s needs.

  • Shake It Off added yet another #1 hit to the career of Taylor Swift, a young woman who’s accomplished so much in such a short time. The song basically describes Taylor Swift’s strategy for dealing with the naysayers in her life: when it comes to undue criticism, or unfair negativity, Swift just tries to “shake it off.” The lyrics are simple and a little immature, but otherwise harmless.

  • The music video features Swift singing and dancing against a backdrop of experts in their respective fields, for instance ballerinas, cheerleaders, dancers, singers, etc. As a consequence, Tay Tay comes off as quite imperfect up against their polished moves and abilities, but she seems OK with her shortcomings, and more importantly, seems able to shake them off.

  • NOTE: Some may consider the music video a bit risqué because of all the shaking of booties so you’ll have to be the judge about appropriateness for your family.

  • 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 Song:
I know you guys are familiar with Taylor Swift’s song “Shake It Off.” It was a smash hit for her, but it contains some interesting advice for us to consider in our real lives. When it comes to handling criticism directed at her, Tay Tay has a unique way of dealing with the “haters.” Let’s take a look and see what it is.


The music video can be found online at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfWlot6h_JM



Song’s Lyrics:

I stay out too late
Got nothing in my brain
That's what people say, mmm-mmm
That's what people say, mmm-mmm

I go on too many dates [chuckle]
But I can't make them stay
At least that's what people say, mmm-mmm
That's what people say, mmm-mmm

But I keep cruising
Can't stop, won't stop moving
It's like I got this music
In my mind
Saying, "It's gonna be alright."

'Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off
Heart-breakers gonna break, break, break, break, break
And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake
Baby, I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off

I never miss a beat
I'm lightning on my feet
And that's what they don't see, mmm-mmm
That's what they don't see, mmm-mmm

I'm dancing on my own (dancing on my own)
I make the moves up as I go (moves up as I go)
And that's what they don't know, mmm-mmm
That's what they don't know, mmm-mmm

But I keep cruising
Can't stop, won't stop grooving
It's like I got this music
In my mind
Saying, "It's gonna be alright."

'Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off
Heart-breakers gonna break, break, break, break, break
And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake
Baby, I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off

Shake it off, I shake it off,
I, I, I shake it off, I shake it off,
I, I, I shake it off, I shake it off,
I, I, I shake it off, I shake it off

Hey, hey, hey
Just think while you've been getting down and out about the liars and the dirty, dirty cheats of the world,
You could've been getting down to this sick beat.

My ex-man brought his new girlfriend
She's like "Oh, my god!" but I'm just gonna shake.
And to the fella over there with the hella good hair
Won't you come on over, baby? We can shake, shake, shake

Yeah ohhh

'Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate (haters gonna hate)
I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off
Heart-breakers gonna break, break, break, break, break (mmmm)
And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake (and fake, and fake, and fake)
Baby, I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off

Shake it off, I shake it off,
I, I, I shake it off, I shake it off,
I, I, I shake it off, I shake it off
I, I, I shake it off, I shake it off

Shake it off, I shake it off,
I, I, I shake it off, I shake it off,
I, I, I shake it off, I shake it off,
I, I, I shake it off, I shake it off


Three Simple Questions (with Answers You May Be Looking for):

Q: What was the main message in Taylor’s song?
A:
It was completely clear: when she is criticized by others, she just “shakes it off” and goes on with her life.

Q: Taylor says she just “shakes off” what others say about her. Is that a good idea or not. Why?
A:
If it’s unnecessarily harsh criticism, yes, we should shake it off. If it’s good advice that was a little tough to hear, maybe we should think twice before shrugging their words away.

Q: What’s the benefit(s) of “shaking off” unfair and harsh criticism?
A:
There are lots of reasons we should ditch other people’s harsh criticism of us. For starters, we don’t need to be burdened by their version of our lives. Second, it’s probably not even true. Further, we need to be thinking about more important aspects of life.

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 and looking at what the Bible has to say on the subject, the following discussion guide can help take you there.)


Want help getting your teenager engaged in conversation? CLICK HERE for a helpful article from our "Parenting Help" page providing you with 3 Essentials to Talking with Today's Teens.

Transitional Statement:
Shake It Off is one of Taylor Swift’s more fun music videos. As you saw, she surrounds herself with people who really know what they’re doing, which makes her lack of knowledge and expertise stand out so much more. But, instead of letting others bag on her, or getting depressed, she just tries to “shake it off.” That’s actually a pretty good strategy in life. Like her, we have to be careful about how we respond to criticism. Sometimes, the correction is constructive, so we should take it into consideration. But other times, it’s hateful and destructive, so we should just do what Swift does: “shake it off.” The Bible has lots to say about how we respond to others. Let’s take a look at one passage to see how we should pattern our lives in this regard.

More Discussion Questions:
  1. HAVE ALL YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS ANSWER: As we get started, let’s all take a second to say whether or not you’re a fan of Taylor Swift.

  2. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Think back over the lyrics of the song, or look at them if need be. What were some of the things Taylor says folks criticize her about?

  3. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Have you ever felt like Taylor, criticized or spoken about in a negative manner? If so, can you share how that made you feel?

  4. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Is it easy or hard to “shake it off” what others say about you? Why?

  5. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: When it comes to criticism, not all of it is bad/negative. Sometimes, we receive criticism that we need to hear so we can straighten out an area of our lives. The big question then becomes, “How do we tell the difference between constructive criticism and negative criticism?” So, how do you decipher between the two?

  6. Read the following passage:

      Proverbs 13:1-6 (NIV)

      A wise son heeds his father's instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke. 2 From the fruit of his lips a man enjoys good things, but the unfaithful have a craving for violence. 3 He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin. 4 The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied. 5 The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked bring shame and disgrace. 6 Righteousness guards the man of integrity, but wickedness overthrows the sinner.

  7. ASK A FAMILY MEMBER: How does the writer compare a “wise” person against a “mocker” in this passage?

  8. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: The writer of this passage was King Solomon. Do you think he knew anything about “being criticized by others”? Why or why not?

  9. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: After reading these few verses, do you think King Solomon would have agreed with Taylor Swift that a good way to deal with negativity and criticism is to “shake it off”? How do you know?

  10. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Have you ever internalized or held on to someone’s unfair criticism of you instead of just “shaking it off”? If so, how did it affect you? What do you wish you’d have done instead?

  11. HAVE ALL YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS ANSWER: If you’re able to share, what’s something you need to “shake off” immediately?

Wrap Up:
The song we listened to tonight isn’t just catchy; it also contains a pretty important message. Simply put, we have to be able to “shake off” the rude, crude, and hateful criticism that comes our way in life. And trust me; it will come into your life at one point or another….

One of the first things we must do when others criticize us is determine if it’s criticism worth receiving…or if it’s just verbal hate trying to derail us. The Bible passage we looked at gives a good reference point. Let me remind you of what it said:

    A wise son heeds his father's instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke.

Instruction is good. Its aim is to make us better. When someone – whether a teacher or friend or someone else – gives you instruction, you should probably take it in and reflect on it. After all, that person is just trying to help you learn something. They might say something like, “Maybe you should find a more suitable sport to play.” Although that statement might cause some initial upset, they’re just trying to help you. When that’s the case, consider thinking about what they have to say.

On the other hand, if a person you know says, “You suck at sports so badly you ought to just give up,” you need to recognize this as unhelpful criticism. Unlike instruction, which is meant to help you grow, this harsh critique is meant to hurt. This is the kind of input you need to shake off.

And when we talk about “shaking it off,” let’s not fool ourselves. Let’s not say, “Oh, I don’t even think about what she said,” or “Who cares what that person said?” when we know we’re lying to ourselves. When someone says something mean or hurtful to us, we need to keep our cool and not try to retaliate. Next, we need to ask God to help us forgive that person for saying something so hurtful in the first place. And finally, we need to let God have the final word on us. Yep, others have spoken about us, and sometimes in harmful ways, but we need to let God have the last word on us. Ask Him to reveal to you how He would have you live. He will speak to you; all you have to do is listen.

Shaking off the hurtful criticism isn’t always going to be easy, but it will be worth it. We can’t carry around the verbal baggage others have saddled us with. We have to “shake it off.”


Close in Prayer

Written by David R Smith

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