Despite not even being in the same stratosphere as their target demographic, I like this band, I even have a few of their songs on my workout playlist. So when their new song called Perfect came on the radio, I figured I might like it, too. There I was in the car with my daughter, tapping the steering wheel to the beat, and then the lyrics started to sink in and catch my attention, and I stopped tapping. Less tapping, more jaw dropping and “what did they just say?” and “did you know they said that?” Because my daughter knows me so well, she sighed and said “we’re going to have to talk about this, aren’t we?” Yes my dear, yes we are…
Artists from the music world have yet to consult me when writing lyrics (which is weird, because I’ve totally got the time). Once my daughter took an interest in popular music, and somehow knew every lyric to every song (I’ve told her that if she could major in song lyrics, she’d graduate top of her class), I took notice of what she was hearing. And I instantly felt a kinship with the parents of the 50s and 60s who didn’t approve of Elvis Presley’s hip thrusts or the Beatles’ shaggy appearance. And in fairness to One Direction, there are groups and songs that make them sound like gospel singers. Seriously, some of the songs out there are absolutely atrocious. But they are a lot more conspicuous, so I’m not surprised by them and we don’t listen to those groups or the stations that play them and they are banned on our music streaming apps. Because there are songs that don’t catch me off guard, it annoys me when there are songs that do.
My point is that I realize I can’t change popular culture. I can (and do) complain like it’s my job, but the music industry, raunchy lyrics and all, is going to march on with or without me. Instead of screaming into the wind, I need to focus on what I can do instead of what I can’t. And what I can do is be a parent who is aware of what is influencing my daughter, and make sure my influence is stronger.
I will be the parent who talks about what our family’s values and beliefs are. Often.
I will be the parent who calls the bluff of song lyrics (“they talk about how cool it would be to just hook up, and how they wouldn’t keep any promises – is that the kind of guy you want? How do you think girls who do that end up feeling?”).
I will be the parent who points out that a song is really catchy, but it is just a song. I understand why she likes it, but it makes it sound like it’s normal to approach relationships in this way, and that’s just not true – and I will explain why I would never want that for her.
I will be the parent who remembers to keep conversations light-hearted and ongoing, not long-winded and overly serious.
My daughter’s middle school did an awesome thing. They conducted an anonymous survey on the topic of substance use. They asked the kids if they were personally drinking or using illegal substances, and then asked them if they believed that their peers were using them. The result was that yes, there was a small percentage of kids who were using. But the big eye-opener was that most of the kids believed that their peers were using. So while the majority of kids were not using, they felt like they were in the minority – like it was normal to be using at that age and they must be one of the only ones not using. The school made posters to illustrate this point and hung them in the lunchroom. This is what we need to do with the sad hook-up culture mentality that exists. Songs (talking to you 1D), television, and movies all suggest that there’s nothing wrong with teenagers hooking up and taking sex and relationships very lightly. It makes me sad to know that, especially with younger girls, they may be making decisions that will deeply affect them based on what they think everyone else is doing.
So One Direction, you are certainly not the only problem, or even near the worst. But you snuck up on me this time, and I’m kind of mad of you for that. And it’s frustrating that you consume the thoughts of so many young girls – one of my daughter’s friends even claims to know all of your blood types (I wish I were kidding here). The bottom line is that you might have the attention of an entire age group of young girls, and you record songs that send out the message you know will sell. But you are no match for their awesome parents, and as long as we keep speaking louder than you, we’ll be the ones dropping the mic.