Let’s Dance! But to what shall we dance?
My children LOOOVE to dance, but it is nigh on IMPOSSIBLE to find current or recent music that does not make me twitch. The music might be great, but the lyrics!!!
They attend a dance school, and are exposed to many current hits. They enthusiastically jive away, for the most part blissfully unaware that the song is about getting wasted in a pub. The teacher is pretty careful of the songs she uses, especially with the very young hip hop classes, so we are spared the overly sexy or violent, or sexy and violent ones. It must be tough for her…slim pickings!
Every so often a lyric catches my attention and I am hopeful the kids don’t pick it up. But the same song is played week after week for warm up and before long they know all the lyrics.
So far we have ‘paid bills’, been ‘dynamite’, ‘happy’ and ‘blue’. We’ve Roared, and let it go, we’ve been daughters by the water and danced to the tale as old as time. Over and Over and Over and Over and Over.
One song, from the advanced ballet class, we’ve had on repeat is Ed Sheeran’s ‘Perfect’. What a lovely song. This was my introduction to Ed Sheeran. Who I have since discovered (in 2018, I’m on the ball!) is a rather famous artist. This song was sweet, a love ballad, his voice is lovely and it is an easy listen and makes for very graceful dancing. Not knowing the story behind the song, I found myself feeling a bit weird about some of the lyrics. For example ‘follow my lead’, a theme in the song as the couple dances. It seems to imply not just in the dance, but in the life he is planning for them. He mostly refers to her as a girl, whilst referring to himself as a man, but never a boy. Her heart is “all I own” (if he’d spent more than a day* on this song, he might have used ‘know’ instead). Her value is her appearance, and potential as a wife. He refers to ‘her home’…obviously where her place will be because she will ‘carry’ their children. No pressure. No choice.
Whilst all this seems romantic, superficially, and would mirror most young love dreams and feelings, it is all based on a patriarchal tradition. Even the reference to being barefoot could stem from this. It could also be to reflect innocence and simplicity, but the more I listen, the more I twitch. He may be simply telling his story, and she may very well feel just the same. It’s just a song, afterall. Don’t overthink it.
So I decided to explore the apparent awesome of Ed Sheeran. Who is this master of the love song? This crooner who has won ears and hearts the world over and is one popular chap! The next song of his I discovered was another great sound: “The Shape of You”.
I tuned into the lyrics.
I stopped the song just after the taxi ride.
Crickey! What on earth was that tripe?
If this song reflects the kind of person Mr Sheeran is, or indeed the kind of themes that sell so are ‘good’ to write, it is no wonder it is so hard to find good songs to expose my children to. This revolting song not only objectifies his ‘love’ interest, but perpetuates the rape culture so apparently glorified in pop music. Somehow the ‘sexual revolution’ left morals behind. The lyrics in this song are poison served in a beautifully presented dish. Such lyrics make their way into the psyche of young and impressionable minds. They may not understand it on the first, or hundredth listen, but it is laying pathways that will shape the way they interact in the future.
In both these songs Mr Ed seems to focus on appearance, not the depth, ideas or feelings of his counterpart. His concern is his own feelings, his own needs being meet, his own dreams being lived. I don’t wish to discover any more of his songs. Even if I do stand alone.
Sheeran’s sentiments are mirrored, less sentimentally, by (seemingly) nearly every song in recent pop music. Women are objectified, sex is paramount, gratification is instant! This is what they are selling, and this is what is being bought. Even the female artists are under this money making spell. Even the self titled feminist artists. Objectify yourself before others do, call it liberation and laugh all the way to the bank. No concern for the many impressionable youths trying to emulate this glorified, pornified, violent and narcissistic vitriol.
Children will listen to these songs on repeat. As a parent it is vital that I am a gatekeeper of their innocence and what will shape them into healthy, compassionate and fulfilled adults. As they become aware of the meanings, I can talk to them about the content, why I do not approve and offer alternatives. Just because the herd is listening, does not make it worth listening to. This may be a first world problem, but is not less because of this. It is perhaps greater. We need the next generation to be compassionate. To see the whole world and value it. And all the clothes Ed Sheeran has donated* do not change the poison underlying his lyrics.
*i read the wikipedia article. I’m all over it!