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Youth Culture Window

The #1 Hits of 2011 (Part Two)
The Biggest Names in Music Left A Big Mark
An article from Jonathan McKee and David R. Smith at

So far, we’ve covered half of this year’s top music. Sadly, we have some of the grittiest of 2011 ahead of us yet. But understanding today’s music will help us better understand our teenagers.

We’re in the middle of our annual review of the year’s top songs that rose to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. We’ve got the last half of the year to go, but if you missed Part One of this Youth Culture Window article, take the time to go back and read it first. You won’t want to miss what young people heard from the first eight #1 songs of 2011.

Now let’s take a peek at the second half of 2011.

Give Me Everything (Pitbull, featuring Ne-Yo, Afrojack, & Nayer)
Though this song only reigned at the top for one week, July 3 through July 9, it’s gotten plenty of play through lots of mediums since then. For example, the music video has been viewed 184 million times on YouTube. It had staying power on iTunes’ Chart Singles because of the massive amounts of downloads, and the hip hop gang also got a chance to strut their stuff in a live version of this song at the MTV VMAs. Heck, this song even got print when Lindsay Lohan sued Pitbull for the “irreparable harm” his lyrics caused her.

And what are some of those lyrics? Unfortunately, much of the same ol, same ol. Take a look:
    Excuse me, but I might drink a little more than I should tonight
    And I might take you home with me, if I could tonight
    And, baby, Ima make you feel so good, tonight
    Cause we might not get tomorrow
    Tonight I want all of you tonight
    Give me everything tonight
    For all we know we might not get tomorrow
    Let's do it tonight
Nope. You’re not excused. The irresponsible references to alcohol and the brazen – and repeated – references to sex found in the rest of the song’s lyrics make me glad this song was only at the top for one week.

Pitbull is a perennial chart topper. This wasn’t his first #1; it probably won’t be his last. But when he was dethroned, it would be by a brand new group who would set up a dynasty at the top.

Party Rock Anthem (L.M.F.A.O., featuring Lauren Bennett and GoonRock)
If people were to choose just one song from 2011 as the most memorable, there is little question they’d name Party Rock Anthem. This song went #1 on July 10th and stayed on top for six weeks straight. But to say that this song only stayed on top for six weeks is a misrepresentation of its appeal. This song has been at the top of iTunes song and video charts almost the entire second half of 2011. As I write this, it is still the third most downloaded iTunes video. Around Thanksgiving, the song finally exited the Top 10 on Billboard, and is in the 12th position as I write.

Who is LMFAO? The duo is comprised of two guys who go by the names Redfoo (Stefan Kendel Gordy) and SkyBlu (Skyler Husten Gordy). They are actually uncle and nephew to one another, and both are related to Motown label founder Berry Gordy.

LMFAO (which stands for “Laughing My Fu**ing A** Off”) became a household name this summer with the release of Party Rock Anthem. You may not recognize Party Rock Anthem by its title, but I know you’ll recognize it from those toe-tapping Kia Soul car commercials with the big dancing hamsters. The song still gets plenty of play time in gyms, malls, retail stores, and even schools across the country; and if you watched the American Music Awards, you got to see them perform it live, spouting these lyrics:
    In the club party rock, lookin' for your girl? She on my jock
    Nonstop when we in the spot, booty movin' weight like she on the block
    Where the drank? I gots to know, tight jeans, tattoo 'cause I'm rock 'n' roll
    Half black, half white, domino, game the money, op-a-doe
    Yo, I'm runnin' through these ho's like Drano…
LMFAO would rise to #2 on the charts again later in 2011 with their controversial song and music video, Sexy and I Know It (it’s actually still #2 on the charts today). If you haven’t seen the music video for this song, you might want to read our article about it, first. (I’ll leave you with two simple words: penis waggling). The song Sexy and I Know It never hit #1 on Billboard, but remained #1 on iTunes for months. Its music video is still #2 (as I write this today).

Last Friday Night (Katy Perry)
It’s sad that Katy Perry’s most irresponsible song is the song that made history. In last week’s article, I pointed out that Katy Perry made Billboard Hot 100 history with Last Friday Night, the fifth song of hers from one album to go #1, making her “the first woman, and second artist overall following Michael Jackson…to send five songs from an album to No. 1.”

The message of this song is clear; the lyrics speak for themselves.
    Last Friday night
    We went streaking in the park
    Skinny dipping in the dark
    Then had a menage a trois
    Last Friday night
    Yeah I think we broke the law
    Always say we’re gonna stop-op
Perhaps she learned her lesson, right? Well, the next line clears up any doubt:
    This Friday night
    Do it all again
    This Friday night
    Do it all again…
This is another example of a music video propelling a song up the charts. This funny, creative video, chock full of cameos, went viral shortly after its release. Realizing its popularity, and its ability to help teach an important truth, we fashioned it into a terrific MUSIC DISCUSSION STARTER about holiness.

Will Katy deliver more irresponsible music in the future? I’m sure she’ll take her own advice and “do it all again.”

Moves Like Jagger (Maroon 5, featuring Christina Aguilera)
It’s been a little while since Maroon 5 – the band behind hits like Wake Up Call, Won’t Go Home Without You, This Love, She Will Be Loved – has been in the Top 10, let alone, the #1 spot. But on September 4th, and then again on September 18th, they captured the coveted position and held it for 4 weeks, total.

Moves Like Jagger seems to be about front man Adam Levine’s ability to impress a particular girl with his “Jagger-esque” dance moves, hence the name of the song. The song’s lyrics have a few sketchy lines here and there (“…take me by the tongue and I’ll know you, kiss me till you’re drunk and I’ll show you…”) but the music video shows the band – and a bunch of wannabees – simply channeling their inner Mick.

The song received solid reviews, and several critics really liked the pairing of Adam Levine with Christina Aguilera. Their presence on the hit NBC show, The Voice, no doubt helped launch the song (iTunes launched a version that they performed on The Voice and it quickly went #1 as well on iTunes). Interestingly, Adam Levine, the lead singer for Maroon 5, would also get a lot of hype this year for the help he gave Gym Class Heroes in their song Stereo Hearts. This catchy tune peaked at #4 on Billboards’ Hot 100, and we thought the message contained in it was worthy of making it a MUSIC DISCUSSION for you to use for free.

But Maroon 5 would be one of the first to learn that the new girl on the musical block was here to stay…and she would finally give Jagger the dagger.

Someone Like You (Adele)
On September 11th, and then October 9th because of the brief interruption by Maroon 5, Adele captured the #1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 with Someone Like You. Like Rolling in the Deep before it, this song was about trying to cope with, and move on after, losing at love. Again, Adele employed strong vocal ability and heavy piano sounds in her newest ballad.

Perhaps the song’s success was due (in part) to the sentimentality of a nation in remembrance, itself. The day it went #1 was also the day we celebrated the anniversary of the terror attacks of 9-11.

Someone Like You proved to be another huge hit for Adele. It’s helped seal six nominations for her at the Grammys. Saturday Night Live recently used her song in a funny sketch about people going through tough times. Hey, her music touches people deeply because of her honest assessment of pain.

That said, I’m sure 2012 will be as good for Adele as 2011 was.

We Found Love (Rihanna, featuring Calvin Harris)
On November 6th We Found Love hit #1 on the charts and hasn’t budged since. The song has been a hit since it first landed on the charts three months ago; it also graces the #1 spot on Billboard’s “Radio Songs” chart, and “Pop Songs” chart. It’s been bouncing around the first and second positions on iTunes for the last two months as well.

The song seems to be resonating with young girls especially. The chorus simply repeats the phrase, “we found love in a hopeless place”, a message that offers hope in the midst of pain. No question, most people don’t stifle thoughts of finding love and “good times” together with someone special. But the music video gives a little more insight into the theme of the song.

The music video is probably one of the most powerful videos released this year. Much like 2010’s Love the Way You Lie, Rihanna’s earlier hit with Eminem, We Found Love expresses pain, confusion, and an almost nostalgic look back at the “good times,” wondering if they justified the bad times. The video is a flashback of these good times: sex, drugs, partying, dancing, drinking, getting a tattoo, stealing, more sex, more drugs, angry sex…. Soon we see fighting, more anger, yelling, more fighting, then packing and leaving. The final scene of the video is a shot of Rihanna alone, curled up in a corner, crying.

One might think that the music video is a warning, showing the consequences of this kind of living. But pay attention to some of the opening words to the video:
    And when it’s over and it’s gone
    You almost wish you could have all that bad stuff back
    So that you could have the good.
I blogged about this song two days after it went #1, commenting that, sadly, the answers provided from this song are “temporary thrills.” The summary of the music video is basically: even though I feel hopeless, empty, and in pain, I almost would do it all over again just so I could have those good moments.

Maybe that’s why the song is still #1.

* * *

Looking Back

As I look back over many of the top songs of 2011, I see two common denominators: temporary thrills and pain.

The songs about temporary thrills are very misleading. They seem to hint that these brief moments of fun are the answer to life’s problems. Consequences are rarely seen or discussed.

The songs about pain are often genuine and authentic. They seem to convey true hurt and regret.

Sadly, no one is connecting the dots that many of these very temporary thrills lead to the very pain and regret being sung about. Since no one is making that connection, go ahead and assume that responsibility for yourself.

Looking Forward
To know where you’re going, you often have to look at where you’ve been. Hopefully, that’s what this peek at the #1’s of 2011 has helped you do. If we could stress one action plan for you to implement, it would be this: know the music your teens are listening to, and how it impacts them.

Parents, talk with your kids about their music choices before they start downloading. Ask them questions about the song’s lyrics, meaning, message, and impact on their faith. Often times, teens simply want a song because it sounds cool. You’ll have to carefully, and frequently, remind them that music is a powerful force in our lives, so we must show discretion in what we choose to listen to. I can’t emphasize having these conversations enough; done correctly, they will stick with your teenager long after the desired song has dropped off the charts.

These big time artists are driven to create music that leaves a big mark on the lives of young people. Unless you understand that music, and help your teenagers navigate it, the mark might be a painful one.

Jonathan McKee Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices, If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, and You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.

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, David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.

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Comments on this post

   Ray Lee         1/3/2012 7:12:09 AM

Great stuff on youth culture that equips, reminds and arms us as we minister to our youth! Many thanks again for all you guys do!

   Nick O'Donnell         12/22/2011 10:26:36 AM

Hey I just want to thank everyone at the source for all their hard work, and keeping youth pastors like me up to date on youth culture! Keep up the great work merry Christmas and happy new year guys

   Tonya Berry         12/21/2011 8:10:10 PM

Great job once again you guys! You hit another one out of the park. What would us youth leaders do if it weren't for your articles about modern music. We'd be clueless! Especially those of us who have chosen to only surround ourselves with Christian artists. But - I would still love to see some articles highlighting some Christian artists so that people know they exist! I think that would be great...they do not get the publicity that they deserve.

   David R         12/21/2011 9:23:18 AM

I admit, I look forward to this article(s) every year because I don't take the time throughout the year to keep up with every song. But here it is, all in one place combined with what I need to know about in a nutshell. Ya'll make this to easy... But can you gift wrap it next year and send it down the chimney? haha. Thanks again, David.

   Jake         12/21/2011 8:02:00 AM

Great job, as usual guys! I like to surprise my teens on long trips and ask if we can play their ipod through the can learn a lot about a student through the songs on those things.

   John Pearson         12/21/2011 1:46:04 AM

This analysis is extremely well done, yet so totally depressing when I think about the popular musical world that my own two high schoolers are trying to survive. Here's a thought for you -- how about a positive spin on music to end the year? Why don't you not just expose us to the #1 hits to avoid . . . why don't you give us the exact same level of expert analysis on the #1 hits to fill our minds with? I'm talking about the #1 Christian songs of the year! I think it would be awesome to hear what you guys have to say about the themes, lyrics, and lives of faith behind all of the best songs of the year put out by the bands that we WANT our kids to listen to! That would be such a fantastic push in the positive direction -- Phil. 4:8 all the way! Help us fill in the gap after we talk to our kids and students about how so many popular songs lead them away from Christ . . . with songs that can lead us all closer to Christ!!! Over 30 parents in our church love what you write -- we've discussed several of your blog articles, watched some of your videos, and we're even studying your Imperfect Parent book together . . . and we'd love to hear you build up the Christian music industry more and the incredible ministry these bands and their songs can have in our lives!

   Benjamin Spears         12/20/2011 6:00:54 PM

A great overview of the not-so-great music our teens are soaking up. Big props to you guys for encouraging people to actually pay attention to the message behind the beat!

   Michael Taylor         12/20/2011 1:16:30 PM

Thanks for the amazing ministry tool's given through these reviews!

   Karen Friemel         12/20/2011 12:46:54 PM

So appreciate your reviews and I share them with my family, as my teen girls are learning to be discerning themselves about what is worth their time and mental 'space'. Thanks

   stephen page         12/20/2011 12:44:51 PM

well said. Always appreciate the insights and we certainly can't underestimate the effect that this music (and other media) have on all of us. Thanks again.

   Tiffany Manley         12/20/2011 11:13:43 AM

Great article I really enjoy what you share! THAnks :)

   James Huenink         12/20/2011 8:30:52 AM

Interesting mix of songs. Thanks for the overview.

   Chad         12/20/2011 7:58:17 AM

Thanks for the review. I try to at least have some idea what my students are listening to. It also helps when I'm driving our van and kids want to listen to certain songs.

   Casey         12/20/2011 7:39:43 AM

Enjoyed the article about the top hits of the year. I've struggled with these songs this year with my teen daughter and it is really good discussion with the youth group as well. I listen to the music today and I just keep wondering what has happened to music since I was a youth. "Take on Me", "867-5309" and countless others were great without having to resort to the F-bomb every 10 seconds or talking about sex. Maybe it's just nostalgia and our music was like that too. I don't think so though. My daughter has started liking country again. Needless to say, though I still have to keep a bit of an eye on it, I'm thrilled (and I don't really like country). :)

   Bryan M         12/20/2011 7:36:22 AM

These lists are some of the most helpful things you guys produce each year, imho. Thanks for all your hard work!

   Jennifer         12/20/2011 7:24:56 AM

It's good to know what the charts are. I haven't heard my students mentioning these guys, but it's interesting how much music is out there today... I think there's a lot of variety in what they listen to, much more so than when I was a student.

   Starla         12/20/2011 7:22:28 AM

I am a big fan of your site and your blogs. It is kind of freaky though because it seems like every time I am thinking something...on a topic or going through blog about it! I almost want to tell you to get out of my head....even up to the blog on your daughter's posted that the same week I had to decide to put my dog down!! :) thanks for your posts! As a youth pastors wife....I appreciate what you do and what you offer to us for our ministry!!

   Grant Byrd         12/20/2011 7:07:41 AM

I always learn so much from you guys about youth culture. Thanks for helping an old youth guy...

   Tim         12/17/2011 11:38:45 AM

Interesting that the songs about the temporary thrills are usually full of lies, but the songs about pain are very real.


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