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Youth Culture Window

Bottoms at the Top
Popular Music Focuses on Female Assets
An article from David R. Smith at TheSource4YM.com
9/26/2014


Dynamic ImageOne of the top songs atop this week’s chart is titled Booty. No, it’s not about pirate treasure or spoils of war. Another song is called All About That Bass; it’s not about sound systems or types of guitars.

Both are about girl’s butts…and both are incredibly popular.

2014 has already produced some music with questionable messages; there was Jason Derulo’s Wiggle and a few other sexy songs. Sadly, this week has more of the same. Here’s a quick look at two songs that have captured the attention of millions of young listeners, and a few ways you can engage them about a song’s appropriateness.

Booty (Jennifer Lopez feat. Iggy Azalea or Pitbull)
This song is a collaboration between Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull…or a collaboration between Jennifer Lopez and Iggy Azalea; you get to choose because there are two versions of this tune. The version featuring Iggy Azalea is much more popular, probably because the two songstresses are known for their…umm…assets.

In the version featuring Iggy Azalea, she offers the following lines:

They begging me to drop down on it but right now Iggy on the top
The last time the world seen a booty this good, it was on Jenny from the block
I got 'em going crazy lately
But baby knowin' that only make me
Wanna tell all of my ladies to get up on the floor and just shake it, shake it
Ya'll know what I've been on, ya'll know that I've been on
I'm queen big booty Iggy, now find me a bone to sit on
Girls with the cheeks, put 'em hands in the air
Then pop that, pop that, let 'em know that you there
See everybody wanna get a taste
You know that we've got enough to share
But fact we girls with the big fat booty too fancy to ever play fair

In both versions, Lopez offers little in the form of lyrics, but much in the way of “form” itself. The full song’s lyrics fall far short of profound, but it’s the music video, which we’re not going to link, that has attracted millions of fans.

Currently, Booty is sitting at #18 on Billboard’s Hot 100, but it’s only been on the charts for 1 week. It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see where this one’s going: higher up.

Right where the other song can be found….

All About That Bass (Meghan Trainor)
The 20-year-old behind this catchy “doo whop-meets-pop” #1 hit is a newcomer named Meghan Trainor. She’s been writing music since she was 11, but it wasn’t until the release of Bass that she found her niche.

I just can’t figure out what that niche is.

I’m not talking about the unique fusion of musical genres the song offers to listeners; I’m talking about the conflicting messages found inside her lyrics. The (really) catchy song starts off with this admission by Meghan:

Because you know
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass

But she’s not talking about low-sounding beats; she’s talking about butts. Plus-size butts. If you don’t believe me, check out the music video; it removes any doubt about the song’s meaning.



Listeners won’t even get past the first verse without scratching their heads over which side of the fence Trainor is on when it comes to female sexualization. The same cute blonde who sings this positive message…

I see the magazine workin' that Photoshop
We know that sh*t ain't real
C'mon now, make it stop
If you got beauty building, just raise 'em up
'Cause every inch of you is perfect
From the bottom to the top

…is also the empowered young woman who resigns females to an existence where their value and purpose is based solely on appearances:

Yeah, it's pretty clear, I ain't no size two
But I can shake it, shake it
Like I'm supposed to do
'Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase
And all the right junk in all the right places

Why does she feel like she’s “supposed to” shake it? Did she learn it from her mom?

Yeah, my mama she told me don't worry about your size
She says, "Boys like a little more booty to hold at night."
You know I won't be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll
So if that's what you're into then go ahead and move along

Though Trainor might be confused about the messages she’s sending young girls, no one is confused about her current influence. Bass is currently at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart and has racked up more than 90 million views on YouTube. Its “happy-go-lucky” sound and quirky video will ensure its enduring popularity for weeks to come.

So what are some ways you can ensure your kids are filtering their music choices?

A Bottomless Amount of Bottoms
Sex sells. It has for thousands of years. That means your kids will have plenty of access to sexualized messages, songs, and videos like those discussed above. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to help them filter out the filth.

  1. Stay informed about current music. Popular music can change with the tides; it’s imperative you know what’s out there seeking your teenagers’ attention. Fortunately, the Internet makes research a snap; all you need is two websites, Google and YouTube. When you hear a new song at the grocery store, at the gym, or as a co-worker’s ringtone, take about six minutes to check it out. Just go to Google and search for the song’s lyrics. After reading through the lyrics, move over to YouTube to see if the song has a corresponding music video. (The world’s most popular music almost always has a corresponding video – it’s just another way to make money, after all – but sometimes the video is released after the song itself.)

  2. Ask lots of questions. “Asking questions” is the best way to spark dialogue. “Asking questions about music” is the best way to spark dialogue with a teenager. Here are a few questions I’ve posed to teens about the two songs above:

      Booty
      (Just for fun) Would it be awkward to watch this music video with your grandma? Why?
      Why do you think these two highly talented artists would write a song about booties?
      What does this song reveal to you about our culture?

      All About That Bass
      Why does Meghan Trainor refer to her booty as “bass”?
      Is her message a good one or a bad one for young girls? Why?
      Do you think guys and girls interpret this song in the same way? Why or why not?

  3. Use music to teach spiritual truth. It can’t always be done, but from time to time, a song works its way to the top of the charts that offers parents and youth workers the opportunity to teach absolute truth. The Source for Youth Ministry has a long list of songs on its MUSIC DISCUSSION page for this purpose. Each of these totally free resources include a popular song, a relevant Bible passage on the song’s topic, and some easy-to-use questions for discussion. Check it out on a regular basis because we’re always adding free tools to the site.

It’s sad that today’s artists have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to make it to the top of the charts. Just make sure you’re doing all you can to help your teens make wise choices when it comes to their musical entertainment.


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

   Dana Che         9/29/2014 6:10:53 PM

You have no idea how much I appreciate this article! As a youth inspirational speaker, I have been preaching this message loud and clear! It's so important that we as leaders and parents (I have teens of my own) stay current and relevant and are able to give an answer for the hope we have in Christ. Kids desperately need direction, and I am not going to trust my kids to JLo or Iggy or anyone else. I am sharing this article and I pray you continue shining the light about the truth behind the music.



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