A Musical Quandary

So here I am, a mom and a musician. And my quandary-of-the-week is… how do I deal with music and my son?  He is showing the same kind of love of music that his dad and I both have, that is, we listen to pert-near everything. I have particular passions for marches, Josh loves them too. I have a Celtic beat drumming with my heart; Josh knows all the words to “Wild Rover” and “Marie’s Wedding“. Steve has introduced him to The Outfield and Nirvana. We all listen to Country Music, and sing “Catch all the Fish” together. We love music around here.

So often, in the car going places, Steve will be scanning the band. He often ends up on the “top 40” station. Only they don’t call it that, anymore, I call it that, because that’s what it was back ‘in my day’. But you know the kind of music I’m talking about – all the popular pop stuff.

And one day, “S&M” by Rhianna comes on.  I nearly wrecked the truck. Because my son, my innocent, blond-haired, blue-eyed, obsessed with Star Wars and Legos baby of mine… sang. along.  To “S&M”.

For those unfamiliar, here is a portion of the lyrics….

Na na na
Come on
Na na na (repeat chorus a thousand times)

Feels so good being bad
There’s no way I’m turning back
Now the pain is my pleasure
Cause nothing could measure

Love is great, love is fine
Out the box, out of line
The affliction of the feeling
Leaves me wanting more

[Chorus x2:]

Cause I may be bad
But I’m perfectly good at it
Sex in the air
I don’t care
I love the smell of it
Sticks and stones
May break my bones
But chains and whips
Excite me

(skip to rest of song)


I love the feeling
You bring to me
Oh, you turn me on
It’s exactly what
I’ve been yearning for
Give it to me strong

And meet me in my boudoir
With my body suit on, on, on

I like it
Like it

Cause I may be bad
But I’m perfectly good at it
Sex in the air
I don’t care
I love the smell of it
Sticks and stones
May break my bones
But chains and whips
Excite me

(on to end of song)

I’ll give you a moment to clean the coffee off your computer screen….

Yeah, so there’s the lyrics. Every time I hear those “nanana’s” starting, I turn off the song. I don’t think it’s at all appropriate for a 7 year old to be singing. Frankly, I don’t think it’s appropriate to be playing on the radio. And I’m not one to be easily offended by music. I get music. I get that it’s an expression when sometimes you can’t find any other way to say stuff.

But whips and chains???

On the other hand, Steve thinks I’m being a prude. (my word, not his) He is of the mind that we should know the music that Josh listens to, that we shouldn’t ‘forbid’ anything, because suddenly it becomes something that he wants more than anything else. I get that. But I also get that I have to teach him that there is good music, there is bad music, and there is mediocre music – and why I think those things. This particular song falls into the “bad” category for more than just the lyrics. Personally, I don’t like very many songs that are ridiculously repetitive like this one. I have other reasons, too.

But I’m stuck. I don’t want him listening to this particular one – it’s off limits when I’m around, period. BUT… I also know he’s going to hear it in other places. The school bus. The pool. Friends houses. I’m not going to tell him he can’t. But by the same token, I don’t want him to think I condone the song.

What would you do?

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18 Responses to A Musical Quandary

  1. Joy says:

    Turn the channel when that song came on.

    I’ll answer more in the morning so I don’t get the “evil eye” because it’s my turn to bowl.

  2. Jason says:

    The biggest problem that I have with this song is that she(Rhianna) just got out of a very bad relationship where she was hit by her boyfriend (Chris Brown), and the media may a hayday over what he had done. And now she comes out with a song that basically says she doesn’t mind if things get rough. I don’t understand it!

  3. Sue says:

    That’s how I felt too, Jason. Her song with white rapper boy whose name escapes me right now made me think the same thing. I turn the channel b/c I don’t like listening to it with my kids. Trinity’s heard it on the bus and when she listens to the radio in her room and I’m pretty sure she’s not comfy with it either!

  4. Sue says:

    Oh! One more thing! Did you see her performance at the music awards a couple weeks back???!!! With Britney Spears??!!! Yeah, we turned that off FAST!

    • Jenny says:

      yes that was quite bad…the aweful pillow fight that they had to do. It was pretty cheesy. Rihanna’s a good singer and Britney is NOT. Well she doesn’t sing at all….

  5. Jenny says:

    When I first heard this song on the radio I was shocked. To hear those words in a song that are playing on the radio for all the kids to hear is NOT right! To have this song on a cd is one thing, but to be played on the radio I don’t think it should be allowed.

  6. SKL says:

    I would not play it. Yes, you know without a doubt that your kid will hear that and worse. And he knows that you know that (or he soon will). But when it comes to instilling values in your son, the buck stops with you. As soon as he knows that sort of music exists, he should know it offends you. (Or, at least that it offends you that the radio is playing it for all ages to hear.)

    What if the lyrics were “rape that bitch”? No-brainer, right? Because your son needs to know that his parents demand respect for women. The “openness” argument doesn’t apply to all music, does it? You have a right to say no to music selections that you don’t want to hear in your house, car, etc. And as for the irritating non-verbal aspects of the song – that’s even more reason to block it!

    I play some music that comes close to “the line” in my car, and my kids really like it, so they have requested it over and over and largely memorized it. Today they were asking me to help fill in the less clear lyrics of part of West Side Story. It was a part where the Jets (white gang) were singing about how they were going to dominate the Sharks (Hispanic gang). “The Jets are in gear, the cylindars are clickin’. The Sharks’ll steer clear, ’cause every Puerto Rican’s a lousy chicken.” Now, I’ve already talked to the girls at length about gangs and racism and ignorance and insecurity and stupid choices and so on with respect to this musical. When we got to the “every PR…” I first told them that I was not going to say those words because they were mean and stupid. (Plus, privately, because they have a Puerto Rican classmate.) But they kept trying to figure it out on their own (from memory), so I told them the words, and again stressed the foolishness of racism, etc. Was I right to even let them hear the song enough times to memorize it? I think so, because an intelligent person can look past the straight lyrics to understand the underlying point, which is positive and important. And I may be giving my kids a lot of credit, but I think they can understand this (with my help). On the other hand, at least this is a message they must learn at some point – which I can’t say of “chains and whips excite me.”

    Then again, I laugh because this is their favorite song, which they sing almost accurately, though they have no idea (yet) what some of the words mean:

    Dear kindly Sgt. Krupke, you gotta understand
    It’s just our bringin’ upke that gets us outta hand
    Our mothers all are junkies, our fathers all are drunks,
    Golly Moses, naturally we’re punks!

    Dear kindly judge your honor, my parents treat me rough.
    With all their marijuana, they won’t give me a puff.
    They didn’t wanna have me, but somehow I was had.
    Leapin’ lizards, that’s why I’m so bad.

    My father beats my mommy, my mommy clobbers me,
    My grandpa is a commie, my grandma pushes tea,
    My sister wears a mustache, my brother wears a dress,
    Goodness gracious, that’s why I’m a mess!

    Dear kindly social worker, they tell me get a job
    Like be a soda jerker, which means like be a slob
    It’s not I’m anti-social, I’m only anti-work.
    Glory-osky, that’s why I’m a jerk

    Oh, officer Krupke, we’re down on our knees
    ‘Cause no one wants a fella with a social disease
    Officer Krupke, what are we to do?
    Gee, officer Krupke – KRUP YOU!

    There are in-between verses that clarify the context … and I have to say, this song is one of the awesomest summaries of the range of “wisdom” on juvenile delinquency you will find anywhere.

  7. Joy says:

    I’ve never heard this song and I can’t say that I’m very sorry about that. I’m at the stage that I can have the channel on the one I want. I think this is just one of those things were you get to pull rank. If it were me, and I’ve been there, I’d just say “I don’t like this song” and turn the channel. I personally don’t feel we need to give an explanation. I mean the first time, which I’m going to assume has already happened, if you almost wrecked the truck, Josh knows you don’t like this song. I’m not sure if he knows “why” you don’t like it. I agree with Steve in the fact that the second we “forbid” something, it makes kids want it all the more and deep down, they might not really want it but it’s going to “get you.” The harder you push kids one way, they want to run to the other way so the less importance you put on this song, the less he’s going to really care about it. I think he’s pretty young for the “truth” behind this song. He’s just singing and most likely not paying any attention to what the words mean. For NOW.

    Yes, he will hear it other places but you sure can’t change that. You can’t prevent him from that and that’s really okay too. There are a lot of things he’s going to do when he’s not with you but that will show him how to respect you and what you like. But as his parent, I think you can turn that channel without bringing much attention to it. He may hate a song and ask you to change it and that would be fair to him if you did that for him.

    I’m the one in the front of the line when it comes to banning things. But I do agree if something has a warning label on it and you need to be a certain age to buy it, it shouldn’t be allowed on radio channels without changing or burring out some of the words. Remember that song with Kid Rock and Cheryl Crow? They blurred out “cocaine” in that song while on the radio. So I’m not sure who does that. If it’s the radio or what.

    I know though when something just doesn’t feel right. I remember a few years ago and Trinity seemed like such a little girl and she was singing along to Katie Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl and I Liked It”, it felt so wrong but also, I didn’t draw attention to it.

    • SKL says:

      I agree that when kids get older, telling them you don’t want them to do something is likely to spark rebellion. However, young kids are much more open to and even want to understand their parents’ views. So I think that if the child is old enough to understand the offense and young enough to be open to mom’s opinion, that’s an opportunity to pass along values. In general, if we don’t do this while the kids are young, it will be a lot harder later. On the other hand, I would not want to discuss S&M with a 7-year-old, so I could see why one would simply change the station without explanation in this case.

      Youth rebellion aside, when it comes to MY car, or MY house within my earshot, then it’s about MY comfort. I make no apologies for that. I will grant requests out of kindness, but not out of obligation or some expectation of equality between adult and kid. The time for that is when they have their own house/car. I can understand a desire to be “in tune” with your child, but there’s no reason why that shouldn’t go both ways.

  8. Nikki says:

    I would simply turn it every time, but not make a deal over it. Don’t even say anything. I go through phases with music, and right now I’m all country! My son on the other hand is all about the rock and roll! So far, it’s been fine. If I ever heard him singing a song I thought was inappropriate, I would just ask him to not listen to it. But he’s almost 11 and actually still listens to me! When he gets older, I’m sure there will be music I will not like….it’s easier when they’re little. Keep his ears innocent as long as you can!

  9. Phyllis says:

    Laura, I say stick to your guns and don’t allow the song. There’s a lot of what passes for music out there, but that doesn’t mean WE need to listen to it. I, too, enjoy music of all kinds, but I haven’t any qualms about turning off those things that I find offensive for one reason or another. Music should be an uplifting sound, again just my opinion. I don’t have any time for things that sound like dirges (not sure that’s spelled correctly or not) or songs that bring on feelings of sadness, anger, etc! Maybe you could discuss it by saying you believe it gives a wrong impression on things in life. That would definitely be true. Hopefully, if Josh knows you don’t approve of it (turning it off whenever it plays), he will continue to turn it off at this point.

    We do need to protect our kids from the seediest parts of life for as long as we can. And only when they’re little do we really have a chance to stop stuff like this from infecting them.

  10. Laura says:

    Thanks, everyone… I’m on the same page as you guys are. My “battle”, if you will, is with the other half of the equation. Steve loves the station that plays that song, and there is a lot of questionable stuff on it. It’s his ‘go-to’ station, and the minute we get in the truck, he turns it on. It doesn’t seem to matter that most of the songs grate on me, or the message that the songs portray isn’t exactly the straight and narrow (we heard “ET” by Katy Perry & Kanye West the other day, and the lyrics were just as bad). I just wish we could agree to eliminate that station from our listening rotation, but he won’t hear of it. I just wanted to make sure that I wasn’t out of line here, not wanting to listen to the Rhianna song, and others in a similar vein. I know that Josh is going to be exposed to them, if not this summer at the pool (where he’s not listening to the words anyway), on the school bus (they have all ages on there), or at friend’s houses or whatever. But I also want some influence over how he perceives them. I guess I’ll just keep turning those that bother me OFF when they come on, and try not to make too big a deal when someone turns them right back on….

  11. Phyllis says:

    Laura, I don’t want to start any stuff, but surely Steve can respect (though not agree with) your desire to keep Josh’s radio experience nicer by merely switching off the unsavory songs when they come on. Just as you respect his appreciation of the station.

  12. SKL says:

    Well, I’ve lived with people who like TV that I don’t consider appropriate for my kids. I simply say: my kids are in this vicinity for a maximum 2 hours per day, and only on some days. You can watch your stuff any other time, but when my kids are around, it needs to be off.

    So to Steve, the parallel might be that he can listen to that music all he likes – at home, in the car, wherever – provided Josh isn’t right there to hear it.

    Or you could think of something Steve would not want you to do around Josh, and ask him how he’d like it if you did that. Whether it’s cussing in long strings of swear words, running around the house in your underwear, . . . .

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