4 Pop Songs I Want My Kids to Listen to (and 1 I Don't)

Take Charge on 01.08.13
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Photo: Shlala/Creative Commons

We were driving to a party in the park; the kids were in the backseat and the radio was turned up. I was singing along happily and began to sing louder when one of my favorite songs came on. “California, knows how to party!” I wailed with Tupac. My husband quickly changed the station and gave me a disapproving look.

“What are you doing?” I demanded.

“Do you really think that’s appropriate with the kids in the car?”

I flipped the station back on and assured him that I’d listened to that song when I was in high school and it was on the radio, therefore, it was fine. Two lines of lyrics later I quickly snapped off the radio and hoped I wouldn’t have to explain the word “hoochies” to my six year old. “Funny, I don’t remember Tupac being quite that obscene,” I said.

Music sounds different when you become a parent. Songs I’d thought were fun and cool suddenly become inappropriate when played to younger ears. Lyrics I didn’t think twice about take on much deeper meaning when I hear them coming from my children’s mouths. I don’t consider myself an especially conservative parent, but even I find I’m censoring Top 40 radio stations these days. That being said, there’s no doubt that music has power, and even pop music sometimes belts out a message that I actually want my kids to hear.

P!nk - Perfect

There is a radio edit and an uncensored version of this song. Personally, I prefer the original, not-so-clean edition, but I happily share the swear-free version with my daughter. In fact, I hope she memorizes the words in this song about how absolutely perfect she is. (And I wouldn’t be at all sad if she grew up to idolize Pink.)

Bruno Mars – Just the Way You Are

A love song that isn’t sexual is a rare find on today’s charts. And of course, I’m a big fan of the idea that we are all good just the way we are.

Phillip Phillips – Home

It’s not about having a romantic relationship or what you look like, which itself is a relief. Instead, this is a song about the sense of belonging and safety that I hope to create for my kids. “Trouble, it might drag you down. If you get lost you can always be found. Just know you’re not alone, ‘cause I’m going to make this place your home.” I can only hope.

The Script – Hall of Fame

My husband loves this song and actually did make both kids watch the video, which probably guarantees they’ll never listen to it on their own. But I can’t say that I blame him; the message of perseverance, hard work and ambition is definitely one that resonates.

On the other side of the coin, there are, not surprisingly, dozens of songs I cringe to imagine my children learning. Besides the obvious – songs with excessive profanity and overly sexualized lyrics are a definite no in our house – there is one popular song that I hate to let play in front of my kids. My husband things I’m being silly.

One Direction – What Makes You Beautiful

“When you smile at the ground it aint hard to tell you don’t know you’re beautiful,” One Direction croons. No problem there. But then they go on to say, “You don’t know you’re beautiful, that’s what makes you beautiful!” I loathe this ideal of feminine beauty that is rolled up in insecurity. I feel like women aren’t allowed to embrace our strengths, physical or otherwise, and that’s a roadblock we have to overcome when we try to get ahead in the real world. Insecurity isn’t beautiful. Confidence is beautiful, and there’s nothing wrong with knowing you’re pretty.

What chart toppers do you share with (or try to keep from) your kids?

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