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Losing Love, Finding Lust
The Messages in This Week’s Top Music
An article from David R. Smith at TheSource4YM.com
7/27/2012


The battle between love and lust is quickly becoming one-sided in today’s culture. While the truth about love is becoming extinct, the approval of lust is gaining traction with millions.

For evidence of this reality, you need to look no further than this week’s top music.

A Popular Message These Days
Every parent and youth worker – regardless of age or marital status – knows two truths: love is difficult but lust is easy. True love is tough to find (and give), but gratuitous lust can be found as easily as a puddle after rain. The rarity of love is enough to lament on its own, but the problem is compounded by the abundance of lust.

Unfortunately, this is the reality in which today’s young people are forming their opinions about both.

Take today’s music for example. Love is still the celebrated way of life, but little by little, it’s also being subtly twisted and/or labeled as unattainable. Meanwhile, lust is advertised and flaunted as the simple alternative to love. Why struggle with love when lust will get you (most of) what you want?

As I perused the top ten songs on iTunes and Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart this week, I found four songs that undermine love or accentuate lust (or both). That’s right; 40% of this week’s most popular music is providing young people with a message that’s less-than-good.

Here they are, with some brief discussion, in order of their Billboard ranking.

Payphone by Maroon 5 (Currently #2)
You never really know what you’re going to get with Maroon 5. They’ve made some healthy music in the past, and they’ve made some destructive music, as well. Regardless of how healthy their music is, all of it is popular, including this song that reveals the singer’s latest frustration with love.

If "Happy Ever After" did exist,
I would still be holding you like this
All those fairy tales are full of sh*t
One more f*cking love song, I'll be sick.

I've wasted my nights,
You turned out the lights
Now I'm paralyzed,
Still stuck in that time,
When we called it love,
But even the sun sets in paradise

From these lyrics alone, it sounds like the singer has several misconceptions about love. He’s holding out for a fairy tale, but seems pretty raw in the meantime. By the way, this song easily earns its explicit lyrics warning…and that’s without referencing the utterly filthy and expletive-laden bridge sung by rapper Wiz Khalifa. (Jonathan has tweeted and blogged about Khalifa, his lyrics and his perpetual pot smoking before, including this recent bit in this post about the MTV Movie Awards)

The song’s music video is interesting to say the least; it’s set during a bank robbery and shows the singer saving a girl’s life in spite of their current feelings for each other. The telling part is that the video has been viewed 42 million times on YouTube. Even the animated version of the video (which includes lyrics) has been viewed almost 60 million times.

So, what message(s) about love are millions of young people getting when they download, watch, and listen to this song?

Whistle by Flo Rida (Currently #6)
In this Top 10 song, rapper Flo Rida has just one question: “Can you blow my whistle baby?” Take a look at the song’s chorus:

Can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby
Let me know
Girl I’m gonna show you how to do it
And we start real slow
You just put your lips together
And you come real close
Can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby
Here we go

Nobody’s confused about what Flo Rida is really talking about here. His sly lyrics have nothing to do with the iconic tool hanging around a gym coach’s neck; his song is about oral sex. If you have any doubt, you can watch the song’s racy music video or just read the lyrics from Verse 1:

I'm betting you like bebop
And I'm betting you love freak mode
And I'm betting you like girls that give love to girls
And stroke your little ego
I bet I'm guilty your honor
That's just how we live in my genre
Who in the hell done paved the road wider?
There's only one flo, and one rida
I'm a damn shame
Order more champagne, pull a damn hamstring
Tryna put it on ya

I’m not sure which part of this song I hate the most. Is it the part where he disguises oral sex as blowing a whistle? Or is it his request to be excused because “that’s just how we live in my genre”?

Jonathan blogged about this popular song a couple of weeks ago, but since then, it’s rocketed to the #1 position on iTunes Top Charts (due to massive downloads). Billboard has acknowledged this trend, and even though they list the song at #6 on their Hot 100 Chart, they still credit Whistle with the title of “Digital Streaming Gainer.”

Sadly, that means millions of young people are listening to this song…and its message(s).

Scream by Usher (Currently #9)
No, this has nothing to do with the comedy/horror movie franchise by the same name from the 90s. Scream is hip hop sensation Usher’s latest tune, and unlike Flo Rida, he makes NO attempts to be sneaky about his desires.

I see you over there, so hypnotic
Thinking 'bout what I'd do to that body
I'd get you like ooh baby baby
Ooh baby baby, ah-ooh baby baby ooh baby baby
Got no drink in my hand
But I'm wasted
Getting drunk on the thought of you naked
I'd get you like ooh baby baby
Ooh baby baby, ah-ooh baby baby ooh baby baby
And I've tried to fight it, to fight it
But you're so magnetic, magnetic
Got one life, just live it, just live it
Now relax, and get on your back

This lyrical excerpt isn’t the song’s only overtly sexual part. The tune is filled with blatant references to sensuality, as the rest of the song’s lyrics will attest. If you actually take the time to read those lyrics, you’ll discover that there is plenty to dislike about this song. For instance, he makes references to being “wasted” and “drunk” at the “thought of you naked.” He also goes on to actual descriptions of sex, for example, “get on your back” and “I wanna take off all your clothes and put something on ya.”

By the way, I don’t think he’s talking about a wedding ring….

But we’re still not done yet.

Blow Me P!nk (Currently #10)
After learning that Whistle is about oral sex, you might assume this song falls into the same category. But in fact, this song’s full title is Blow Me (One Last Kiss), and centers on lost love, angst, and raw emotion…which is exactly the stuff P!nk is known for producing. This song is essentially P!nk’s way of calling it quits. Take a look at how she feels after striking out at love:

I think I've finally had enough, I think I maybe think too much
I think this might be it for us (blow me one last kiss)
You think I'm just too serious, I think you're full of sh*t
My head is spinning so (blow me one last kiss)

This visceral song actually has a music video on YouTube that includes its lyrics. But just know, that she continues (and repeats) her vulgarities throughout the song:

I am sick, whiskey-d*ck, no more battles for me
You'll be calling a trick, cause you'll no longer sleep
I'll dress nice, I'll look good, I'll go dancing alone
I'll laugh, I'll get drunk, I'll take somebody home
Just when it can't get worse, I've had a sh*t day (No!)
Have you had a sh*t day? (No!), we've had a sh*t day (No!)
I think that life's too short for this, I want back my ignorance and bliss
I think I've had enough of this, blow me one last kiss.

Her message is a simple one: calling it quits is easy, so let’s just do that.

Saving Love
After looking at these four songs in the Top 10, many may get discouraged and think that love is irreversibly losing out to lust. We’re certainly headed in that direction, but I’m not ready to throw in the towel on love just yet. I think there are several important steps we can take to ensure love’s longevity while also curbing lust’s growth.

  1. Model love and avoid lust. Practicing what you preach is always the best way to influence others. So when it comes to teaching young people about the benefits of love, SHOW them those benefits in your own life. When it comes to teaching them about the dangers of lust, SHOW them how serious you are by avoiding them, yourself. Both of these can be fleshed out in how you speak to your spouse, what TV shows you watch and don’t watch, what websites you visit and don’t visit, and yes, what music you listen to and don’t listen to. Speaking of music….

  2. Reveal music’s messages by asking good questions. Each time I write about today’s music, I always encourage parents and youth workers to ask the same general questions about songs. One, what do you think this song is really about? This question comes in handy with songs like “Whistle.” Two, what message(s) are in this song, good or bad? Again, bear in mind, those messages may be subtle. Three, how will listening to this song affect our relationship with God?

    Those are the “standard” questions, but let me provide some more specific questions you can ask the young people in your life who may want to listen to these four songs mentioned above.

      Payphone
      • The singer compares “love” to a “fairy tale.” Who said love was supposed to be a fairy tale, anyway? Is that even realistic? Why or why not?
      • Listening to the song’s actual lyrics, do you think he ever experienced love the way the Bible defines it in 1 Corinthians 13? Why or why not?

      Whistle
      • We know the song is really about oral sex. Is God OK with us having oral sex outside of marriage, or not? Why?
      • What do you think guys hear in this song, and do girls hear the same thing?

      Scream
      • Why do you think Usher only references the girl’s body in his song, instead of her whole person?
      • Is Usher’s description of sex the same as God’s description of sex in the Bible? How do you know?

      Blow Me
      • What destructive tendencies does P!nk verbalize in this song?
      • Sometimes love does end, but it doesn’t have to end as horribly as she makes it sound. What are some ways we can love each other to ensure we don’t hurt one another later?

    Love and lust are no longer on a level playing field. If we don’t like the direction things are headed, then it’s up to us to make changes. Fair warning: you’ll have to be tireless in your efforts because there will be more music (and movies, TV, etc.) coming in the future with the same poisonous message. But our efforts will be worth it in the lives of the teenagers we love.

    
    David R. Smith David R. Smith is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year, Ministry By Teenagers. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org. David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.


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    Comments on this post

       Greg         7/27/2012 2:07:50 PM

    Great article David. I'm totally using these questions with my kids (sadly, they hear that Whistle song all the time)



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