September 11, 2015

KidzBop Music: Annoying...or Kinda Great?

Is it bad that I like the KidzBop versions of a lot of today's popular songs better than the originals?

Not so much the vocals, but the lyrics.

I realized this yesterday when driving around with my kids listening to the Kidzbop station on SiriusXM. I caught that moment in a song where they've noticeably changed the words. And I felt...relieved to not hear whatever degrading line had been altered...and not just because my kids were in the car. I realized that I didn't want to hear that junk either.

And that realization got me thinking, and then asking: Does liking KidzBop versions of some songs better than the originals mean that I've lost my edge? Or does it mean that I've wizened to the impact of the words we spout freely to the rhythm of fun dance music. As I see it, the beauty of KidzBop is that they remove the misogyny without removing the fun dance beat.

As I get older I find myself offended and disappointed on a regular basis by the lyrics in popular music (and not just the music of today...there was a ton of it back when I was in my teens and twenties too). It happens all the time-- I get excited by a fun, upbeat, new song...and then I listen more closely to the words and sigh with disappointment.

Why does our culture support this?

I know I sound a bit like a grumpy old man. I know it seems harmless. It's just songs. It's all in good fun, right? But it's not. Music is the undercurrent of culture. It expresses and supports a belief system. And this music reinforces the denigration of women. It says we are pieces of meat. Playthings for men. Nothing but eye candy and sex toys. And then we have boys who grow up believing that to be true. And even worse, we have girls who grow up believing that to be true.

Why does this not outrage us more?

There was a time when this did not bother me. I loudly sang along with these kinds of songs all the time. It was fun.

Then I got older.

Then I had kids.

And something changed.

I started listening...really the words in so many of these songs and I realized what I was singing along with. I realized that these are not the messages I want either of my kids internalizing. Frankly, I don't want myself internalizing this stuff either.

Now, I would never, NEVER support the idea of censoring artists. That's not my thing. What I'm questioning isn't really the artists, it's the society that supports their work. If our society wasn't okay with the denigration of women in popular music, most popular artists wouldn't do it. In fact, had they been raised in a society that didn't accept or support that kind of thinking, it likely wouldn't even come up in their creative process.

That's what I want to change. I want to change our cultural norms. I want it to be unacceptable to most anyone in our society to sing and dance to words that we would never say to our moms or wives or best friends or daughters (at least I hope we wouldn't).

The funny thing is that I don't have a problem with singing about sex or lust or love or those feelings and emotions or drinking and partying, either...not everything needs to be kid appropriate, G-rated or Disneyfied subject matter. If you need to drop an f-bomb in your song, I get that. (I still don't want my young children to hear it, but I get that sometimes the f-bomb is the only word that works.)

It's the lyrics that degrade women that I have a problem with.

It's the message that it sends. The message that it reinforces-- that women are less than. It's a way of keeping us in our place, keeping us controlled. It's more about power and dominance than it is about sex, anyway. If you can sing about sex and attraction with lyrics about two people who are equals, then I say have at it. (There are plenty of songs out there that already do this.)

Sexuality is part of who we are as human beings.

But misogyny is not.

Until next time, I challenge you to give this idea some thought. Think about yourself, your friends, your mom and wife and sons and daughters-- all the people you love. Think about how you want those people that you love treated by this world. And think about how all the components of our culture influence how they are treated. Then think about the lyrics in the songs you listen to and the impact those word have. And maybe, just maybe, get a little outraged.

As for me...I guess you can find me in my car...with the kids...rockin' out to KidzBop Radio.

Okay, I'm stepping off my soapbox now. Peace out.

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