45rpmMy two young sons were arguing recently. It wasn’t an unusual occurrence. However, when they
settled down, my youngest son turned to me and, with a huge smile, sang, “Now we have bad blood, it used to be mad love.”

Innocent enough. But what do I say when he asks me about the lyrics with more mature themes? What do I say when he starts quoting Justin Bieber?

Don’t want for us to end where do I start
First you wanna go to the left and you want to turn right

-Mama, what is he singing about?

-Oh, um…he’s just confused and doesn’t understand his girlfriend’s driving directions. Yeah, he’s just lost.

Is that the right response? Probably not, if I were talking to a teen. But for my 3 and 5-year-old, it’s good enough.

Of course, my concern isn’t anything new. From Elvis’ gyrations in the mid ’50s to Madonna’s videos that mixed religion and sexuality in the ’80s and ’90s – parents have always been concerned… and always will be…

…Like when I was nine years old, my mom was concerned about my watching the television drama/musical FAME – a show about teens at a performing arts school. It was my absolute favourite. I just really loved the dancing and the singing. I loved how they were going to live forever…how they were going to learn how to fly…HIGH.” But, at the same time, I also really enjoyed watching Fables of the Green Forest, an animated show about talking woodland animals.

The fact that I was still watching cartoons suitable for a toddler, should have comforted my mom – that there wasn’t anything to worry about. If anything, she should have been more concerned about my developing “starving-artist mentality,” rather than any of the “mature themes” discussed.

We Built This City…

Truthfully, in spite of some of the lyrics and videos, I like the music played on the radio today. So, really I’m the reason my kids know the songs and the lyrics. And, if I was really concerned about it, I would simply turn the radio off. But, I also know how important pop music is to young children and teens. Music unites kids. It’s what they talk about in the school yard. And it’s what makes the childhood memories so much sweeter.

My fondest memories of growing up are inextricably linked to the music of the 80s. The soundtrack to my life features Michael Jackson, Olivia Newton John and the Mini Pops…as well as some ’70s music….a little Earth, Wind and Fire and the Spinners. My brother and I loved dancing and choreographing routines. When I hear Point of No Return, by Nu Shooz, I close my eyes and am immediately transported back to our warm tv room…the sun shining in onto our golden-coloured shag carpet, while we hold our, like totally fresh, totally gnarly impromptu dance sessions. And truth-be-told, they were Solid Gold-worthy. No guff!

ballet class
This is as far as I got to fullfilling my career as a dancer.

Papa Don’t Preach

By today’s standards, the songs I sung and listened to back when I was nine, were relatively tame. And, the issues discussed on sitcoms and dramas of the past would be considered “not sexy enough” for today’s lineup. A quick google search for FAME’s episode summaries revealed “safe” and “inoffensive” story lines like: jealousy, competition, following school rules, managing a job and school work.

In another 30 years, my sons may have children of their own and they’ll also think wistfully back to how great Taylor Swift’s music was and how they just “don’t write good music like that anymore.” Until then, however, my husband and I will have to be aware of what our kids are listening to and encourage conversation, awareness and understanding.

My mom should have had the talk with me…she should have let me know that it was going to take more than a few pairs of leg warmers and off-the-shoulder shirts to make it as a dancer in New York City.