Youth Culture Window
As my daughter was making a break across the field with the soccer ball, a ringtone went off from the soccer mom’s chair next to me. It’s T.I.’s new #1 song, "Whatever you Like." I guess it’s not surprising to hear it as a ringtone. It is the #1 downloaded ringtone on iTunes right now, as well as the #1 song from his #1 album. An hour later at Wal Mart I hear Rihanna being played in the store speakers, at least until I got to the audio video section, where a Britney Spears video was playing on the big plasma screens mounted throughout the section. One more stop—the grocery store. Christina Aguilera’s song "Keeps Getting’ Better" is playing, a song currently at the #2 spot on iTunes.
Who are these artists whose tunes are being heard ubiquitously throughout our grocery stores and soccer fields… yes, even heard by our homeschooled kids!
MTV keeps a list they boast as the MOST POPULAR ARTISTS, the hottest of the hot. If you check iTunes, Billboard… and your kids’ iPods, you’ll find that MTV’s list is right on the money. These are the artists that are capturing our kids’ attention.
Curious to know a little more about them? Here’s some history… along with my two cents:
- Lil Wayne was born Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr. on September 27, 1982 in New Orleans, LA. Although adults may know him as “that scary looking guy with no shirt and his entire butt hanging out of his pants,” in some circles he is known for being an charismatic southern rapper. Lil Wayne became famous at a young age. He joined the Cash Money Records group as a teenager. Get It How U Live! by Hot Boys (1997) marked Lil Wayne’s album debut (at age 18).
Now, a decade later, Lil Wayne is not only MTV’s #1 MOST POPULAR ARTIST, he’s featured all over the charts. Currently, he’s got songs at #8, #12, #22, #24, #25, and #30 of Billboard’s Hot 100. And that doesn’t even include #47, Lollipop, a song still hanging on after 28 weeks on the chart, peaking at #1 for over a month.
Here’s a glimpse of the lyrics of his hit song, Lollipop:
Man, she ain't never had a love like mine
And man I ain't never seen an ass like hers
And that pu**y in my mouth had me loss for words
Told her back it up like erp erp
And I made that ass jump like jerk, jerk
And that's when she lick me like a lollipop (oh yeah I like that)
This young role model has been in and out of jail on various charges, the most recent being in January 2008 when the DEA searched his vehicle, turning up 105 grams of marijuana, 29 grams of cocaine and 41 grams of ecstasy and $22,000 belonging to the rapper. At least it wasn’t anything major!
And to think… he is one of the number one role models right now.
- T.I. grasps MTV’s number 2 spot as MOST POPULAR ARTIST, and many of you would agree, his music does sound like “number two.” T.I. was born Clifford Harris in Atlanta, GA on September 25, 1980. He was once called “the Jay-Z of the South” by Pharrell Williams. He established himself as one of rap’s “greats” as an MC during the early 2000s. He was in the cast of American Gangster a movie directed by Ridley Scott, and was given BET’s award for best male hip-hop artist in ’06 and ’07. He currently has several Billboard Hot 100 hits with #1 “Whatever You Like”, and he has #22 with ”Swagga Like Us”, and ”T.I. Vs T.I.P.” at #57 (which has been on the charts for 65 weeks and peaked at #1)
T.I. performed his current #1 hit ”Whatever You Like” at the recent MTV Video Music Awards, draping diamonds and furs across his lady as he sang the TV version of his lyrics, “I said you could have whatever you like (you like). Yeah. Late night sex so wet it's so tight.” That song not only hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, it also is on iTunes as the #1 song, ringtone, and album (but the video holds a measly spot at #4).
- Britney Spears, MTV’s number 3 MOST POPULAR ARTIST, was born December 2, 1981 in the small town of Kentwood, LA. At age 11 she joined the cast of The New Mickey Mouse Club (although the show was cancelled after only its second season). She is known for being the driving force behind the return of teen pop in the late ‘90s. (And the demise of jeans that actually covered a girl’s waist!)
Brittany’s first hit was “Baby One More Time” which released in late 1998. It entered the charts at #1 and stayed there for six weeks. Her first three albums all topped the charts. Brittany wasn’t just a star she was a “pop phenomenon.”
Like Madonna, Brittany has always used the power of sex appeal. In other words, Brittany isn’t afraid to “ho” it up. If you’ve seen any of her music videos, no explanation is needed.
Brittany swept the awards at the recent MTV Video Music Awards with her racy video “Piece of Me,” which, oddly enough, reveals several pieces of her. Her album “Blackout” currently resides in The Billboard 200 at #176 and her single “Piece of Me” at #64 in the Hot Digital Songs chart. Piece of Me also claims the #43 spot on iTunes music videos.
Brittany has always been a controversial figure because of her position as a role model for young girls. But Brittany chimed in on that years ago.
"These parents, they think I'm a role model for their kids, that their kids look at me as some sort of idol. But it's the parents' job to make sure their kids don't turn out that shallow. That's not my responsibility. I'm not responsible for your kid.”
(Britney Spears, Entertainment Weekly, November 21, 2003)
I think the big question now is… who is responsible for her kids?
Rihanna was born Robyn Rihanna Fenty on February 20, 1988 in St. Michael, Barbados. She started out her dance-pop career with her debut hit “Pon de Replay” in the summer of 2005, “S.O.S” in 2006, and then “Umbrella” in 2007… eh.. eh…eh. ”Umbrella” is what really defined her as a pop icon. It was the 2007 MTV VMA winner for the “Monster Single of the Year,” and held the number one Billboard and iTunes spot for… like one million years! Rihanna has had 11 Billboard chart entries, and has three songs that have made record leaps to number one.
She currently has a hit, “Disturbia” at #4, and “Take A Bow” at #27 in The Billboard Hot 100. Her album Good Girl Gone Bad still resides in The Billboard 200 at #14.
Rihanna is one to watch. I’ve blogged about her before. Her songs aren’t flat out raunchy like many of her MOST POPULAR ARTIST counterparts. If her videos would have aired twenty years ago, conservatives would have gasped, but now they are probably deemed nothing more than “a little bit racy.”
Chris Brown was born May 5, 1989 in Tappahannock, Virginia. This teen heartthrob is a pop-oriented R&B vocalist. He debuted with “Run It!” at only 16 years old in 2005. His smooth vocals and crazy ability on the dance floor launched him to immediate stardom. In 2007 Chris dropped jaws to the floor with his amazing dance routine at the Grammys. Boy’s got skills!
Currently, his song “Forever” is #13 on The Billboard Hot 100 chart, and #35 on iTunes.
Jonas Brothers probably need no introduction. These three brothers (Joseph, Kevin, and Nicholas Jonas) are originally from Wyckoff, New Jersey. They are one of the most popular teen-affiliated groups of the 2000s. Think “New Kids on the Block” of the new Millennium.
Nicholas began writing original material with the help from his two brothers early on. The brothers' songs impressed the president of Columbia (the record company, not the country), who ultimately signed the trio in 2005. In 2007 they released their second album “Jonas Brothers” with Hollywood Records (a Disney-owned label). This album is currently number 42 on The Billboard 200 album chart. They currently have songs at #58 and #76 on iTunes as well.
We’ve written a whole article about these three preacher’s kids here.
Pink, the #7 MOST POPULAR ARTIST on MTV's coveted list, has been around for a while. In 2000, Pink's name became known when she jumped into the Top Five of the charts with her hit song, "Get the Party Started." She's bounced around the charts since, recently rising to #1 with her angry new song, "So What" that she performed live at the recent MTV Video Music Awards. Now "So What," a song expressing Pink's reaction to hurt, is #2 in the Billboard Hot 100, #5 iTunes song, #3 iTunes video, and #3 iTunes Top Ringtone.
I wrote a MUSIC DISCUSSION using this belligerent new video of hers to talk with kids about ‘dealing with hurt.’
T-Pain, born Faheem Jajm, is an MC and vocalist who went pro as a solo R&B artist after he recorded “I’m F**ked Up” in response to Akon’s top ten hit “Locked Up.” Akon heard the recording and personally guided T-Pain into a contract with Jive-distributed Konvict Muzik label. He currently has “Can’t Believe It” at #7 in The Billobard Hot 100, he also has an album Epiphany in the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart at #87 (it peaked at #1 and has been in the chart for 61 weeks). He has two songs on iTunes right now at #20 (with Lil Wayne) and #67 (with Ludacris).
It’s hard for me to even comment about T-Pain. I grew up listening to hip hop… and can’t seem to figure out what people see in this guy. In all honesty, when I watch this video (especially Lil Wayne’s little section), I am amazed that people pay to hear someone this shallow. Here’s just a sample of the “poetry” from his recent hit, ”Can’t Believe It”:
Now I can put yo ass out,
Oooo keep runnin your mouth,
And if your girls come trippen I'm a show em wat these tear drops 4,
Shawty I was just playin,
Ooo but I could take u to the burnin... islands have u
Screamin and hollerin,
Gone be makin love on the beach
The people see wat we doin,
Aww they pointin and ooooin aww but we gone keep on doin, it like it just me and u ain't no one else around…
It’s a hit. Wow. I “can’t believe it.”
Christina Aguilera was born Christina Maria Aguilera on December 18, 1980 on Staten Island. Her father’s military career kept her family moving a lot during her childhood. Christina began performing in talent shows at age six. She, like Britney Spears, joined the cast of The New Mickey Mouse Club in 1992. In 1998 she recorded the song “Reflection” for the Disney movie Mulan. In the summer of 1999 she released her debut album and the lead single “Genie in a Bottle” was at the top of the charts for five weeks. The album sold over 8 million copies in the US alone.
She is well known for her start as a popular female pop sensation of the late ‘90s, her powerful voice and technical skills as a singer. She is probably even more known for being risqué. When she guest starred on NBC’s Saturday Night Live, they did an entire sketch joking about how “skanky” she was. (Wow, if Saturday Night Live labels you skanky, you must be SKANKY!)
Currently, her single, “Keeps Gettin’ Better,” is #2 on iTunes, and #21 on the Billboard Pop 100 Airplay chart.
Travis Barker was born in 1975 in Fontana, CA. He started in the punk-pop genre as a drummer with the Aquabats. He later joined the highly successful band Blink-182 in the late ‘90s. He released a number of remixes in 2007, putting his personal touch on Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and Soulja Boy Tell Em’s “Crank That” (both spending significant time at the #1 slot on the charts). Barker currently has a remix in the Hot Digital Tracks chart called “Soulja Boy Tell ‘em Crank That.”
Barker was one of the survivors of the recent plane crash in Columbia, South Carolina that injured him and DJ AM, and left four others dead.
These ten artists have our kids’ attention, and most of our kids don’t see any danger it. 73% of church kids that we surveyed confessed that they would still listen to the music they like regardless of the content. (You can read that entire article here.) That’s pretty scary, especially when you read reports like the 2007 study from The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) revealing that “teens who listened to lots of music with degrading sexual messages were almost twice as likely to start having intercourse…as teens who listened to little or no sexually degrading music.” (More of this study in my blog here).
So what can we do about this?
- Dialogue: I think one of the best ways to make an impact in the lives of our kids and their music choices is to dialogue with them about the subject. Music is dear to many of their hearts. Most of them like talking about it. We can use music as a doorway to meaningful conversation.
Our ministry provides a tool for these types of discussions on our MUSIC DISCUSSIONS page (imagine that). This page takes current songs and uses them as springboards for discussion. Every one of these discussions (written over the past two years) uses a music video or lyrics to jumpstart discussion about a certain topic. The discussions provide relevant scriptures, questions about the scriptures and wrap up talks. They are designed for a youth group setting, but can be also adapted for one-on-one time with our kids.
I constantly try to use questions from pop culture to jumpstart discussions with our kids. When Miley Cyrus was in the news a few months ago after taking those controversial pictures for Vanity Fair, I provided relevant discussion questions on my blog. Keep an eye out for these kinds of opportunities.
- Ask Questions, Don’t Preach: I have witnessed many a small group where an adult lectures on and on… basically saying, “Trust me, this music is bad! Burn those CD’s and just listen to Christian Music!” Not a bad message, but the delivery is usually met with a brick wall.
Learn to ask questions instead of lecturing. Kids love to talk, more than that, they love to be heard. Feel free to ask them questions about their music. If you are tempted to lecture, search for a question you can ask that might lead them to the conclusion themselves.
For example. If you’re a female youth worker sitting with a girl, you might find an opportunity to talk about what she’s listening to in her iPod. Let’s say that she shares with you how much she loves hip hop. You ask to see her iPod and you scroll through her list of favorites. As you encounter songs you don’t know, you ask, “What is this song about?” (If it’s hip hop, it’s most likely about one of three things: 1. I’m better than you. 2. Money brings happiness. 3. You’re a ho and I want to treat you like an object.) If the song was Lil Wayne’s ”Lollipop”, you could ask what he means when he says “she licked me like a lollipop.” If the song has the words “bitches and ho’s” in it, ask what she thinks of being referred to as a bitch or a ho?” Ask her to describe the kind of guy that she would like to date, and compare that to the artist who calls women “bitches and ho’s.”
In the same way we can use situations we see about celebrities in the news to ask kids questions, like the Miley example above. If you are meeting with a boy you could ask him, “Did you see that Kanye West got arrested this week? Why do you think he chose to react that way? How do you think he should have reacted? How can we react when people frustrate us?”
Jesus often answered questions with another question. We can do the same. Kids don’t need another lecture. But stimulating questions can really help them think.
Keep dialoguing with our kids about music and the artists that have their attention. This subject is an open door to meaningful discussions.
When’s the last time you had a meaningful discussion with one of your kids?
, president of The Source for Youth
Ministry, is the author of numerous books including the new
Should I Just Smash My Kid's Phone?
, and youth ministry books like
Ministry By Teenagers
Connect: Real Relationships in a
World of Isolation
, and the award winning book
Do They Run When They See You Coming?
speaks and trains
at conferences, churches and events across North
America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his
. You can follow Jonathan on
, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help.
Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live
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