Paying Attention to Popular Music
When you listen to the radio in your car, office, or home, do you actually listen to the lyrics of the songs you are listening to? A quick Google search will reveal the true meanings behind popular songs that play on rotation on the radio. What you might think is a playful catchy song about a relationship might turn out to be a song about objectifying women, stalking, obsession, and even doing harm to a partner out of jealousy. Teens are listening to this music, downloading it onto their phones and computers, so what is the message they are receiving about love, relationships, and how they deserve to be treated?
For example, you might be in your car, singing along to a song like “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke and not realize what the lyrics are to the song because you’re driving and paying attention to the road. But if you read the lyrics, you will see that it’s a song that compares a woman to a wild animal and as a sexual object. “Blurred Lines” spent 12 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2013. The video for the song also caused controversy because it depicts women naked or barely clothed, while all of the men are fully clothed, which sends a message to women that they are just sexual playthings for men only.
A song that has been on the Hot 100 list for the past 12 weeks recently is called “Animals” by Maroon 5. The song includes these lyrics:
Baby, I’m preying on you tonight
Hunt you down and eat you alive…
Maybe you think that you can hide
I can smell your scent from miles
Just like animals
The singer is comparing himself to an animal, and saying he can’t control his actions when it comes to the woman he is obsessed with. The video for this song is disturbing, showing the lead singer Adam Levine stalking a woman throughout the song, he even breaks into her house while she is sleeping to take pictures of her, and ends with showing his fantasy of kissing her passionately while blood pours over the both of them. How romantic?
There are songs about unhealthy relationships that women sing as well. Pink’s song “Please Don’t Leave Me” is about an abusive, destructive, co-dependent relationship, as shown in these lyrics:
How did I become so obnoxious?
What is it with you that makes me act like this?
I’ve never been this nasty
Can’t you tell that this is all just a contest?
The one that wins will be the one that hits the hardest
But baby I don’t mean it
I mean it, I promise
Another popular song that has been on the radio is Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass”, which isn’t directly about relationships, but about liking your body because a boy will like it too. It sounds a bit like a mixed message: you’re supposed to love yourself for someone else’s pleasure.
How Artists Can Influence a Change in Culture
Music is supposed to draw a person in, and invite you to feel the emotion that the person was expressing while writing that song. Yes, being sexual is human nature, but there has to be a way to send the message that it’s okay to see someone as being sexy but not objectifying their bodies. There also has to be a better way to show relationships as a partnership, instead of creepy, obsessive, and abusive. Teens are smart, and if they talk to an adult about what they hear in these songs, perhaps a dialogue can be started about what they are looking for in a partner when they start to date. President Obama urged the music community to join the movement to end domestic violence and sexual assault. We hope the music community as well as all of you will follow his lead and take the pledge to educate and create society free of domestic violence and sexual assault.