What “Turn Down for What” and “Loyal” Reveal About Pop Culture
“Happy” is still in the #1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100, which I presume makes Pharrell Williams really…umm…happy. But there are other songs in the Top 10 that don’t put off such a positive vibe.
In fact, these two songs contain some of the worst images and messages we’ve seen in quite a while.
Let’s take a peek at what’s hitting many of our kids’ Spotify playlists this month.
Yes, I know, we just covered “the sexy songs” in the Top 10 on Billboard just a few weeks ago, but we’ve got a couple of new comers that really need to be addressed, especially given the influence music has over young people. We won’t cover all ten songs at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100, just the two new tunes that have cracked into the Top 10 of the Billboard, Spotify and iTunes charts.
Or, maybe they’ve just cracked the Top 10….
TURN DOWN FOR WHAT by DJ Snake & Lil Jon
This song is currently ranked #5 on Billboard (currently #7 on the Spotify Top 50) and continues to make its way north. It’s brought to you by the duo of DJ Snake (whose dance music isn’t known for having many lyrics…at all) and Lil Jon, the brilliant mind who previously gave the world songs such as “Act a Fool” and “Like a Stripper.” (Reading through the content of those two songs makes me wish that Lil Jon didn’t use lyrics, either.)
Speaking of lyrics, here are all the words that comprise Turn Down for What:
Fire up your loud
Another round of shots
Fire up you
Turn down for what
Turn down for what
Turn down for what
Turn down for what
No, seriously, that’s it. Those are all the lyrics for the entire 3 minutes and 36 seconds of this song. I’ve seen ingredient lists for grill cheese sandwich recipes that are less mundane than this song’s lyrics.
But don’t confuse mundane with mild-mannered. These lyrics are anything but. They actually preach quite loudly.
“Loud” is a street name for marijuana. “Turning up” is the act of getting drunk, high, reckless, or all of the above, so “turn down for what” is nothing more than a rhetorical question used in response to a request for someone to settle down. For example:
Girl: You too crunk. You need to turn down.
Guy: Turn down for what?
So by saying, “turn down for what?” Lil’ Jon is basically saying, “Why? There’s no reason to stop this partying.” In short, the song is saying, get high, get drunk and crazy, and don’t listen to anyone who tells you to stop. What reason is there to stop?
In addition to the party-promoting lyrics, there is also an exceptionally strange music video. By exceptionally strange, I mean, “largely pointlesss” and “visually insulting” due to a highly destructive penis and pair of boobs.
Wow, that was exceptionally strange just typing it….
You can watch the music video for yourself, but before clicking that link above, be warned: you will see plenty of footage focusing on a grown man’s crotch moving to the beat of the song, and him humping a TV set (along with other things), as well as a woman smashing stuff with her large, out-of-control boobs.
The more interesting subtle vibe the video captures is giving into the “who cares” and “go crazy” mentality when you feel the beat and don’t want to “turn down” or stop partying for anything. It’s Miley’s We Can’t Stop meets the visuals of LMFAO’s Sexy and I Know It. It’s not uncommon to see the “just do what feels good at the moment” message in today’s music. It’s almost as if today’s young people are just learning to “let it go… no right, no wrong, no rules for me…” Hmmmmmm.
Yeah, when it comes to “Turn Down for What” I suggest just turning the dial.
LOYAL by Chris Brown (Featuring Lil Wayne & French Montana Or Too $hort Or Tyga)
This song is currently in the #10 spot, but it’s also been climbing up the charts for the last few weeks. Chris Brown is the key artist behind this, umm, “gem,” but he’s joined by a host of other rappers depending on the version of the song.
The central theme of the song is that “Brown and Co.” are complaining that their women aren’t loyal to them. Take a look at one excerpt from the song:
Just got rich
Took a broke ni**a b**ch
I can make a broke b**ch rich
But I don’t f**k with broke b**ches
Got a white girl with some fake t***ies
I took her to the Bay with me
Eyes closed, smoking marijuana
Rolling up that Bob Marley
I’m a rasta
She wanna do drugs,
Smoke weed, get drunk
She wanna see a ni**a trapped
She wanna f**k all the rappers
When a rich ni**a want you (want you baby)
And your ni**a can’t do nothing for ya (nothing no)
These h**s ain’t loyal (no they ain’t)
These h**s ain’t loyal
Yeah, yeah, let me see
I’ve never seen so many asterisks in my entire life….
I can’t imagine why a woman wouldn’t remain loyal to Chris Brown and the rest of these guys. I mean, what lady doesn’t like being repeatedly called “bitch” and “hoe”? (Bear in mind that this is just a sampling from the song. The remainder of the lyrics are just as reprehensible and demeaning.) Unfortunately, this song has an accompanying video, and as of this writing, the lyrically-vile music video has been viewed more than 50 million times on YouTube.
Sadly, this song is nothing more than the latest evidence that Chris Brown is being “loyal” to his new image that includes the well-documented domestic violence case, as well as drug use, assault charges, and more.
Filtering Today’s Music
It shouldn’t go without saying: not all music is bad. In fact, there are even a couple of songs in the Top 10 this week that are healthy and positive like Happy, by Pharrell Williams.
But there are also songs like the two discussed in this article that cause youth workers to shake their heads and parents to fret over their kids’ iTunes accounts. Sadly, these kinds of songs continue to give hip hop a bad reputation, along with the artists who craft them. But we don’t have to toss out our song-laden cell phones just yet; it’s possible to filter out the junk in today’s music while enjoying the positive songs. Here are just two ideas to help.
- Make Google and YouTube your best friends. We at The Source for Youth Ministry are not music experts – we just know how to use Google and YouTube. When we visited Billboard’s Hot 100, iTunes and the Spotify charts this week, something we do regularly, we saw these new songs. Since I wasn’t previously familiar with them, I jumped on Google and searched for the songs’ lyrics, and found both of the songs’ lyrics in less than 30 seconds. I read through them – then went to Confession – and came back to search for any music videos on YouTube. As noted above, both of these songs have corresponding music videos, so I watched them to gain further insight to the meaning and message of the songs. (NOTE: A new song may not always have an accompanying music video upon its release.) It took me a matter of 9 minutes to do all the research required for me to make a decision about the appropriateness of these songs for my kids and my youth ministry. No thanks.
- Make use of our MUSIC DISCUSSIONS page. This resource is just another one of our free tools that thousands upon thousands of parents and youth workers use on a weekly basis. We take some of today’s most popular music, explore its message, and hold it up to biblical truth in order to analyze its meaning and influence. We even have a sister page dedicated to the same purpose for families. Granted, we don’t cover every song in culture; after all, what truth is there in a song like Loyal besides, “Don’t call girls, bitches”? But this ever-growing list of free resources will tackle some of pop culture’s biggest hits. It’s user-friendly, allowing them to search by title, artist, or topic. Bookmark this page, because we’re always adding to this important list.
In one sense, these two songs cause me to question the future of music and what constitutes music – not “good” music, mind you, but simply music in and of itself. Fortunately, you don’t write off all melody just because a few knuckleheads picked up a microphone. Just be diligent in monitoring the music that is available to your teenagers. That will help you turn the dial when music takes a turn for the worse.
Jonathan McKee, 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? Jonathan speaks and trains at conferences, churches and events across North America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live in California.
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.