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Help Kids Take a Stand Against Unconscionable Songs

Gun violence. Prescription pill abuse. Narcotic and alcohol dependence. Graphic sexual references about “hoes.” Is this a police report from a twisted crime scene? No, our culture just has a new #1 song.

With “Rockstar,” Post Malone is the latest artist to reach the coveted top position on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart. Fellow rapper 21 Savage joins him on the single that’s now America’s most popular song. In case you have no idea who these guys are, allow them to introduce themselves via the oft-repeated chorus:

Ayy, I’ve been f**kin’ hoes and poppin’ pillies
Man, I feel just like a rockstar (star)
Ayy, ayy, all my brothers got that gas
And they always be smokin’ like a Rasta
F**kin’ with me, call up on a Uzi
And show up, name them the shottas
When my homies pull up on your block
They make that thing go grrrata-ta-ta (pow, pow, pow)

The song’s message is clear: These guys want the sex, drugs, and money that accompany a celebrity lifestyle. (They even reference the shenanigans of rockers of yesteryear.) The rest of the lyrics are equally foul and vulgar, but you may want to check them out for yourself just to ponder how such a song could climb so high.

But “Rockstar” isn’t just the country’s top record; it also shattered records, becoming the most-streamed hit (more than 25 million!) in a single week on Apple Music.

Everything We Love to Hate (or Hate to Love)

Our culture boasts that it hates the right things. We’re outraged by sexist, insensitive, and politically incorrect comments, right? I guess I’m having trouble reconciling this song’s sexually skewed lyrics with the uproar about sexual harassment by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and a growing list of powerful men. After all, here’s how these rappers speak about women:

I’ve been in the Hills f**kin’ superstars
Hit her from the back, pullin’ on her tracks
And now she screamin’ out, “No mas” (yeah, yeah, yeah)
Your wifey say I’m lookin’ like a whole snack (big snack)

Amid such gratuitous immorality, those lyrics clearly objectify and debase women. Is that something to be enraged about…or entertained by?

Let’s keep going.

Malone repeatedly echoes that he’s “poppin’ pillies,” or using prescription drugs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdose deaths caused by prescription pills quadrupled between 1999 and 2015. Are those 183,000 lives (including many big-name celebrities and singers) something to mourn…or something to ignore?

Unfortunately, there’s more.

Recent mass shootings have ended and devastated many lives. Yet every time “Rockstar” is played, listeners tolerate multiple mentions of gang-related violence distributed at the business end of semi-automatic weapons:

F**kin’ with me, call up on a Uzi
And show up, name them the shottas
When my homies pull up on your block
They make that thing go grrrata-ta-ta (pow, pow, pow)

Again, we can’t have it both ways. It’s the height of hypocrisy to publicly denounce gun violence only to privately embrace it through our musical choices. I’ll skip over the song’s ubiquitous weed and alcohol references—even though young people routinely struggle with both—and simply say it’s time to decide: Will we denounce this filth…or download it? Our duplicity isn’t only unbecoming; it’s embarrassing.

Learning to Discern

Sadly, there’s been a recent escalation in vile, sex-saturated songs. When “Rockstar” topped the charts, it replaced Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow (Money Moves),” another reprehensible song filled with explicit themes. But any adult with an internet connection and courage can help teenagers avoid unhealthy music and its consequences. Here’s how:

  1. Do your homework.

    It takes only a few minutes to research a song’s lyrics, video, and meaning. Do a Google search, read through the lyrics, and then go to YouTube to see if the song has an accompanying video. If it does, take the three or four minutes required to watch it. Those simple steps usually offer more than enough information about a song’s meaning to make a decision. In short, you must take the time to be aware. Then…

  2. If necessary, take a stand.

    If you discover an unacceptable message, theme, or meaning, be courageous—and compassionate—enough to take a stand. (After all, having information does little good unless you do something as a result of it.) I’m not advocating censorship,—I’m simply encouraging you to address your findings with teenagers. Take the time, together with your students, to explore the themes and values in popular songs. Guide them in this exploration, and many of them will take their own stand against objectionable music. This practical resource will help you lead kids toward responsible parameters.

Just because a song exists or is topping the charts doesn’t mean young people have to be subjected to it. Do everything you can to help them steer clear of foul and derogatory musical messages.

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Help Kids Take a Stand Against Uncons...

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