Monday, March 28, 2011

A little "Too Close" for Comfort: Rethinking 90s Music Memories

To set the scene for this post, let's travel back in time... It's the 90s, and I'm sitting in the car gossiping with some friends in the back seat while my mom is driving us to a friend's house. A song comes on (Think Spice Girls "Wannabe" or "2 Becomes 1"), and we begin dancing and mouthing the words to each other. You may be thinking "What's so problematic about this scene?" (or you're thinking "Oh, Baby Spice was my favorite" which means you are missing the entire point of this post...)

Let's fast-forward a few years later to another conversation:
Me: What are you talking about?
Friend 1: Lena, don't you remember that song?
Me: No. Play it for me.... My friend begins playing "Too Close" by Next.
Me: Oh, yeah I remember it. 
Friend 1: Listen to the lyrics...
Me: Why...Oh...
To get my point, check out the video:

So the entire song is about getting "too close" to a member of the opposite sex at a party, and I, at 20 years old, just realized the true meaning of the song when I revisited it. The same thing happened when the Spice Girls went on tour again. I revisited the song "2 Becomes 1" and had another revelation about my childhood. What's problematic here is that I danced to these songs as a naive 14-year-old without recognizing the sexual innuendo, and the same pattern is continuing with 8-year olds replicating Lady Gaga's dance moves on Youtube. (Yes, there is a video of an 8-year old boy dancing to "Poker Face.")

For kids today, Lady Gaga is their idol, and yes, her songs are great to dance to, but there is something problematic about the messages these songs are telling young people. The songs over-sexualize young girls and tell them that to fit in they need to be "sexy." While I've said on my blog that there should be more open communication with young people about sex, another layer is to inform young people of the negative messages they are receiving from the music industry that lead them to uncomfortable sexual situations they are not prepared for. Yes, the songs are nice background music to dance to at parties, but the lyrics need to be problematized and seen as potential harmful manipulators of men and women's sexual behaviors.

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