My three-year-old sings Lady Gaga on repeat sometimes. She sings about how she wants someone’s disease and she wants their loving. She’s been doing this since she was two. This song always tops off our nightly dance party and it drives us crazy, but we let her listen to it because it makes her happy. We let her listen to it because we want her to love all types of music. We want her to determine her likes and dislikes early in life.
Most of my mommy friends purchase Disney Princess or Dora CDs and listen to them in the car, at home and in their heads, all day long. You know you’re on Disney overload, when you’re humming Whistle while you Work, during a day of chores. At the end of the day you reach for a glass of wine to numb the high-pitched, princess voices on repeat in your head.
My husband and I let our daughter listen to whatever we do, within reason. She doesn’t understand the meaning behind the lyrics. She’s listening to the music and making up her own words, as she sings along. Disease is a “minease” to her. Revenge is a “mivenge” to her. Word and meaning association hasn’t fostered in her, when it comes to music.
When I was a toddler, I listened to the Grease album until the scratches on the vinyl made it intolerable to play. The lyrics had no meaning. I simply loved the music and I loved how the words rhymed in my head. As far as I was concerned, John and Olivia were acquaintances that became best friends by the end of the record. It was nothing more and nothing less.
Rizzo wasn’t worried about pregnancy; she just liked singing in the school corridor, while watching her friend fix his car. Sandy liked writing letters and throwing them into the kiddie pool, while she sang about being devoted to someone or something. I had no interest in knowing whom that someone or something was. Their songs struck a chord in me and that was enough.
Some parents ban the popular songs out there, like the reverend in Footloose, because they’re afraid it will affect the decisions of their children in the future. I can surely tell you that I never hooked up with a gang like the T-Birds and I never let a friend pierce my ear with an unsterile earring, while the other girls sang nasty things about me in the next room.
I wasn’t listening to Iron Maiden, but I’m not sure that would have made a difference, either. I can’t judge because I wasn’t interested in those bands. And, the farthest my parents went was to purchase Grease and BeeGees 45s. Like I said, I listened to all varieties of music, within reason.
I don’t think my daughter understands what the magic dragon in Puff the Magic Dragon was probably puffing. I never did. I loved that song as a child. My parents were born in another country, so they didn’t put two-and-two together. They probably thought it was about a “silly”, magic dragon too.
To me, music has always been poetry with my own translation. Who cares what the songwriter’s thoughts were when they penned the piece. It has always been about what I hear and feel, when I listen to the song. In my opinion, any kind of music fosters our own imagination. We decide exactly how it affects us.
I went through a period where I only listened to Metallica in college. That one month, I never understood why the sandman was entering, but it gave me a feeling of empowerment to listen to it. That music made me feel like I could accomplish anything. It took a positive turn for me. Harsh lyrics and music don’t only taint us; they raise us up with their heightened surge in sound. They pump us up.
I like to ask people, “Do you listen to the music or the lyrics first, when you hear a new song?” The answers vary so widely. Some listen to hip hop, just because they feel they can bust a mental or physical move. It makes them feel alive. Others listen to groups like The Smiths or Death Cab for Cutie because they feel like they’ve found a kindred, who understands their thoughts. Music has many meanings. Do we limit that meaning for our children, in hopes that they won’t listen too hard and copy the writer’s thoughts?
I teach my daughter that music is what she wants it to be. I tell her to enjoy the music, but not to let the music make her. She has the ability to make the music her own. Exploration is the key to figuring out your own identity.
She listens to every type of music: hard rock, pop, classical and even opera. Turnadot can empower her to feel good, even though Puccini may not have had that intention. Music is what you make of it. As long as you don’t abuse it to justify any negative actions, it’s always positive, in my opinion.
If worrying about the message lyrics impose on our children is a concern, then are princess records the best choice? Someday My Prince Will Come isn’t exactly modern-day thinking. She’s waiting for someone to save her. I’d rather have my daughter think that It’s a Beautiful Day or have a “Mad Momance”, than think someone will save her and that she doesn’t have to save herself.
But, I think Disney songs are great too. She doesn’t really understand the lyrics. It’s just another reason for her to dress up, dance and sing. It’s just another wonderful reason for her to appreciate music. As long as we communicate with our children, we will notice any warning signs that the music is guiding them in the wrong direction. It’s when the communication stops that we have to worry.
I’m sure there are studies out there that people will post in the comments. I’d love to read them. I’m always open to discussion and I never claim I won’t change my mind.