Music & Lyrics

We rarely listen to traditional radio. You can tell because Warren is fascinated when I turn it on and he actually hears commercials. Instead we listen to our iPod in the car and the internet radio on the computer. While we’re home, we usually do a mixture of kids’ songs and regular ones. In the car, it’s mostly not something from Sesame Street. Annoying radio ads aside, I’m mostly leery of all that is out there and the rotten stuff that they play on the airwaves. Stuff you don’t even realize is bad until you’re well into the song.

Some time back, before Maddie was even around, I was in the car with Warren when he started singing along with the song playing off our iPod playlist.

“…illuminate the no’s on their vacancy signs…”

The song? It’s Death Cab For Cutie‘s “I’ll Follow You Into the Dark.” Pretty deep lyrics, I never imagined that he’d pay attention to, let alone remember the words.

It got me thinking about what kinds of songs I’m personally exposing to my kids.

Even with our hand-picked playlists, lyrics sometimes pop up that take me by surprise or make me wince that Warren has noticed.

“Mama, why do her eyes burn like cigarettes?” he asked after the 100th time he’d heard “Short Skirt/Long Jacket.” Oh, Cake, you and your quirky lyrics and fun sound. I’d forgotten about your subtle questionable word choices.

“I don’t want to fake it I just want to make it,” Warren absent-mindedly sung out of the blue one day. Another Cake ditty we frequently play. Guess they don’t believe in that particular catch-phrase.

So, despite noble intentions, providing musical variety definitely requires more careful attention on my part. I’ve found that Pandora‘s explicit lyrics filter can only do so much. Even turned on, it doesn’t consider the theme when filtering, just the actual lyrics. That’s why when ‘Kids With Guns’ came on my hip hop station, Warren was a little distressed.

“That’s a bad song, Mama,” he said as he rated it “thumbs down.” At least he recognizes it now. What will he think in 10 years? In 5? Will he want to censor such songs or will he consider them benign?

I’ve realized even more how inspiring music really is– for good or bad. What we hear–the music and lyrics–sticks with us, sometimes permanently. Putting an idea to music is a surefire way to recall it later. And so what are we trying to remember when we listen to songs? What am I choosing for myself and my family to ingrain into memory? What are the messages I want to be pondering in my subconscious as the music floats around in there?

It’s made me look at the music I listen to in a greater light. Something I thought I had covered, but perhaps needs more refining. I’ve also tried to play church music more often in our home.

I’m not naive. The bad stuff can’t completely be avoided. The kids will hear it– their friends will play it, they’ll hear it in the stores and on the streets. I just hope that, as they think about the music played on our stereo, the songs that come to mind are positive ones.

7 thoughts on “Music & Lyrics”

  1. Love this post! 2 songs came to mind that you have to look up (I know you’re not a country fan, sorry)…Both are sung by Rodney Atkins, “I’ve Been Watching You” and “You’re Gonna Miss This” 😉 Maybe afterwards you’ll add a few country songs to your iPod 😉

  2. We had a discussion about this on Sunday. I tend to stick to Putumayo, because I know I don’t know the songs well enough to filter well. Dad obviously doesn’t. Even on the playlist he made for the kids we’ve been surprised a couple of times. I don’t know how to navigate this one well. I think we’re back to the drawing board.

  3. So…(and this is sincere, unlike some of my other comments) I’m unclear if you’re worried that Warren is singing those Cake songs, or if you’re just highlighting that he’s picking up lyrics word for word. Which is it?

    1. You’re funny, Ryan. It’s not so much the Cake songs (they’re not bad) but the fact that he’s already memorizing lyrics at such a young age and I haven’t always been careful about the content. This quote from President Monson sums it up for me:

      “Music can help you draw closer to your Heavenly Father. It can be used to educate, edify, inspire, and unite. However, music can, by its tempo, beat, intensity, and lyrics, dull your spiritual sensitivity. You cannot afford to fill your minds with unworthy music.”

      Thomas S. Monson, “Preparation Brings Blessings,” Ensign, May 2010, 66

  4. I really like this post. A lot to think about. It is true, there is a delicate balance between choosing music you like but that doesn’t have questionable lyrics. I’m sure I’ll be noticing that more and more…

  5. Yes, nothing like children to clean up your act. I have experienced as my children have gotten older which is why my music station has gone to almost exclusively gentle singer-songwriter stuff. Try the Adele station on pandora, pretty good.

    Most recently I have actually had to filter the books I read so Bridget doesn’t steal my teenage fiction so I even have had to raise my standards there. Or lower them because Amish Romances are not THAT great in the writing department…

    I miss you!

  6. I got another song for this thread: this morning I was listening to “Cowboy Cassanova” by Carrie Underwood. Marielle asked “Why does the snake have blue eyes?” I told her, “That’s what she calls a guy who looks pretty, but is really mean inside. Like Gaston.” I hoped the Beauty & the Beast reference would put this in terms she could understand. She took another look at Carrie Underwood and then said “Yeah, but that’s not Belle.”

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