The Song: “Airplanes” by B.o.B. (with Haley Williams)
Main Point of Discussion: Tune out static that forms barriers to hearing God… and find God in gentle places.
Vital Info Before You Get Started: (The following should help you contextualize this very popular song so you can have a great discussion about it with your kids.)
- We at The Source for Youth Ministry believe that certain elements in our youth culture can serve as good discussion jump starters with teenagers. At the same time, we would never hope to introduce them to negative influences they haven’t already encountered. This balance is a delicate one. In our experience most youth, 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.
- Some have said Haley Williams’ faith is important to her. But only God knows the truth about such assertions. So in case your kids have strong opinions about Williams in this regard, make sure to direct them back to the song’s popularity and the song’s lyrics—and discourage discussion about her faith (or any artist’s faith or lack thereof). We see but micro-fractions of others’ spiritual states at any one time and making judgments based on what we see in those short moments is ill-advised as we’re not seeing the massive remainder. The best solution: Live out your Christianity as if others are always watching (Titus 2:7-8); realize you never have enough data with which to pass judgment on others (Matthew 7:1-3).
- B.o.B.’s “Airplanes” (from his album Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray) has spent a lot of time in the top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100—so most kids are familiar with this hip-hop/pop song. It’s a short and simple tune, with a monotone, repeating chorus (sung by Williams) that quickly gets into your head.
- There’s one blatant curse word toward the end of the song, which is muted on the official music video; beyond that his “h*ll of it” reference is probably tame enough for most young ears—but as always, use songs with discretion.
- Above all, 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.
The Music Video:
The song’s video can be found at the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2OeptDm1-A
Can we pretend that airplanes
In the night sky
Are like shooting stars?
I could really use a wish right now (wish right now, wish right now)
I could use a dream or a genie or a wish
To go back to a place much simpler than this
Cause after all the partyin’ and smashin’ and crashin’
And all the glitz and the glam and the fashion
And all the pandemonium and all the madness
There comes a time when you fade to the blackness
And when you’re staring at that phone in your lap
And you hoping but them people never call you back
But that’s just how the story unfolds
You get another hand soon after you fold
And when your plans unravel
And they sayin’ what would you wish for
If you had one chance
So airplane, airplane sorry I’m late
I’m on my way so don’t close that gate
If I don’t make that then I’ll switch my flight
And I’ll be right back at it by the end of the night
Somebody take me back to the days
Before this was a job, before I got paid
Before it ever mattered what I had in my bank
Yeah, back when I was tryin’ to get into the subway
And back when I was rappin’ for the he** of it
But nowadays we rappin’ to stay relevant
I’m guessin’ that if we can make some wishes outta airplanes
Then maybe, yo, maybe I’ll go back to the days
Before the politics that we call the rap game
And back when ain’t nobody listened to my mix tape
And back before I tried to cover up my slang
But this is for the Cada, what’s up Bobby Ray
So can I get a wish to end the politics
And get back to the music that started this s**t
So here I stand and then again I say
I’m hopin’ we can make some wishes outta airplanes
Three Simple Questions (with Answers You May Be Looking for):
Q: What’s the message of this song?
A: B.o.B. wants to get off the merry-go-round of his musical career, take stock, and make sure he’s not kidding himself about the lure of success (and the demands that come with it).
Q: How do you suppose we—as serious Christ-followers—should react to this song?
A: The stuff of this world doesn’t ultimately satisfy—and Christians aren’t the only ones noticing! It should also remind us that we need to tune out static barriers to hearing God and remember Christ as our first love.
Q: How can we move from healthy, Bible-based opinions about this song to actually living out those opinions?
A: Perhaps entering into accountability partnerships in which participants tell each other how they’re spending their time, what they’re pursuing, and if any of it is a pathway to Christ. By reaching out to others through the lyrics of the song, discussing its deeper meaning, and breaking down what their lives look like in light of the message of “Airplanes.”
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.)
Let’s examine this song’s messages and look at how they hint at what Scripture says about examining our lives, where God can be found, and staying close to God after you find him.
More Discussion Questions:
- HAVE ALL YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS ANSWER: Let’s go around the circle and tell each other the last time we wished time could go in reverse—and what period of our lives we wanted to return to.
- ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: In the song, B.o.B. wants to return to a simpler time in his life—even though that means giving up all his fame and fortune. Have you ever felt that way about your spiritual life?
- ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Where do you usually expect to find God when you’re looking for him?
Read the following passage from the Bible:
- 1 Kings 19:9-13
The LORD Appears to Elijah
And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
- ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: When Elijah finally reached his destination, he explained to God the reason why he came (verse 10). In verse 11, God replied—kind of. Does anything about God’s “reply” to Elijah strike you as odd? (Parents—answer you may be looking for: God didn’t take pity on Elijah, ask for more information, etc.; instead he just offered direct access to him)
- ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Why do you suppose God couldn’t be found in the natural events—in other words, the earthquake, wind, and fire?
- ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Why do you suppose it’s significant that God was found in a whisper?
Heading Toward the Wrap Up…
- HAVE ALL YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS ANSWER: Let’s go around the circle and share one thing that we discussed tonight that made you think.
Wrap Up—SAY THIS:
It’s not uncommon to wish to revisit an older, “more innocent” time in our lives. It’s a natural reaction to negative forces in our presents. In “Airplanes,” B.o.B. is doing just that—even though his present reality is generating a ton of fame and cash. (Anyone want to trade places with B.o.B. and his bank account—even for just a day?)
Such longings also happen to us spiritually from time to time. We get caught up in all the activity glued on to our daily schedules, and we realize we’ve gotten into a habit of forgetting about Jesus—our first (and only) love.
What things in your life are holding you back from hearing God’s voice whispered lovingly? What’s taking up your ear space—and drowning out God? Your eye space—and obscuring God? Your head space? Your loyalty? Your admiration? Your time and attention? What can you do about those obstacles?
Let’s think about those questions as we pray and close our time together.
Close in Prayer