Katy Perry’s new album Prism has been out for just a couple weeks, and it already landed a number one spot on the Billboard charts. But this doesn’t seem to be the same Katy Perry we once knew. What can we expect from this new album? Or more specifically… what kind of guidance can we offer our kids who want to download it?
Without a doubt, whenever someone purchases my book, Candid Confessions of An Imperfect Parent at one of my parent workshops, I always see them turn straight to Chapter 6: Dad, Can I Download This Song? Parents are looking for ways to help our kids make good media decisions.
I think it’s a good sign when kids feel safe to talk with their parents freely about music. Today’s “poets” share a lot of heart and feelings in their music, and kids often resonate with the messages shared. Whether we like it or not, our kids are inundated with these messages daily. Parents are smart to respond the same way the Apostle Paul did in Acts 17, and use these messages as “springboards” for discussion.
Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying let your 12-year-old download all of Pitbull’s music as long as you talk about it. It’s okay for a parent to say, “Sorry, no.” What I’m encouraging parents to do is have the conversation. Many parents just set a weak guideline like “Don’t download anything explicit.” This legalistic morality teaches our kids, “Cuss words are the only unacceptable element in music.” Is cussing all you are worried about? What kind of content is in today’s top songs? Take a peek for yourself—Google some of the lyrics of the non-explicit songs in the top 10 right now. (Try Pitbull’s song Timber for size. How’s that for “non-explicit”?)
So what about Katy Perry’s new album Prism?
First, realize that most kids don’t want to discuss every song they want to download. If they are asking you about a song (which was a rule in my house when my girls were in their early teens—we must talk about any song before you download it), then they are really just looking for a “yes.”
Second, realize they probably don’t think the lyrics affect them. Experts would disagree. The Journal PEDIATRICS spells the research out clearly, the lyrics affect young people, something you’ve heard me echo again and again, like in my post, Dad, Can I Download Nicki Minaj?
Third, don’t go looking for dirt. When you approach music, approach it with an open mind. What is this song really communicating? What are young people truly taking away from this song?
When we look at Katy’s new album, we’re going to find some really positive elements. Katy seems to have matured in the last few years. The overtly sexual, and blatantly raunchy (even by the world’s standards) Katy might be a thing of the past. I noted this metamorphosis a year ago. The new Katy doesn’t seem handcuffed to sexy pop gimmicks, instead she is more about empowering people to not let others bring you down.
Take her new song, By the Grace of God. She’s honest:
Thought I wasn’t enough
Found I wasn’t so tough
Layin’ on the bathroom floor
We were living on a fault line
And I felt the fault was all mine
Couldn’t take it anymore
She shares her story of fighting through depression:
By the grace of God (there was no other way)
I picked myself back up (I knew I had to stay)
I put one foot in front of the other
And I looked in the mirror and decided to stay
Wasn’t gonna let love take me out that way
But this doesn’t mean her entire album is inspirational. Katy, like many artists today, still sings about partying and sleeping around. Take her song, This is How We Do:
This one goes out to the ladies at breakfast in last night’s dress
Uh-huh, I see you
Yo, this goes out to all you kids that still have their cars at the club valet and it’s Tuesday
Yo, shout out to all you kids, buying bottle service, with your rent money
These lyrics concern me as a parent. Am I going to plug my kids’ ears if they hear it while shopping at Wal Mart? No. But I don’t think I would want my kids listening to this one over and over again through their earbuds.
I think of it like this. If Katy was my next door neighbor, I would have her over for dinner and talk with her whenever we pass by. But I probably wouldn’t be happy if she turned to my daughters and said, “By the way, I think it’s a good thing if you spend the night at your boyfriends house, or get drunk and have to leave your car at the club…”
And these are good discussions to have with our kids about her music.
So even though your kids might not be excited to talk with you about music, and don’t think it’s necessary… have the conversation anyway. Here’s a few tips:
- Don’t make it a monologue- make it a dialogue. No kid wants to hear us pontificate about all our wisdom and experience with music and entertainment media. Ask questions. Asking questions transforms our lecturing into listening. And more importantly, asking questions puts the burden of thinking on them. Ask them to explain what they hear from the song and what they think it means. Ask them how they think most young people will respond to that message.
- Give age appropriate trust. If your 12-year-old daughter wants to download Katy Perry’s song, This is How We Do, then have her print out the lyrics so you can look at them together and you decide. If your 15-year-old wants to download it, maybe you don’t require her to bring the lyrics to you, but ask her about the lyrics, ask her what she recommends and then you make the final decision. If your 17-year-old, however, wants to download it, talk about the song, tell her to make the choice and then tell you what she thinks of her choice a week later. (I talk about this incremental independence style of parenting more in my post, Parenting 17-year-olds Like 18-year-olds.)
Are you having the conversation?