Trainor, Minaj and Lopez: A message gone horribly wrong

The Good

The latest craze sweeping across the music industry is the ladies with ‘booty’ as Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull states (the video features Iggy Azalea) in the single “Booty”, or as Meghan Trainor says it’s ‘all about that bass, no treble’ in her song “All about the bass” or as Nicki Minaj says ‘buns’ in her song “Anaconda”. While I can appreciate that they trying to say that ladies no longer have to subscribe to the ‘silicone Barbie doll’ image according to Trainor, with perfect bodies and the like, which is often a photoshopped version of the real person in order  to feel attractive or special. I also appreciate that they attempt to encourage people to be comfortable in their own skin, even if they have a ‘big booty’.

Part of the good is that these are real women ‘who ain’t no size two’ according to Trainor, who has a ‘big, big booty’ according to Lopez and with ‘much back’ according to Minaj, who’s sending this message. It helps to enforce the message that other ladies can see that these ’stars’ are women that’s comfortable in their skin. The fact that it’s famous and influential people sending this message gives it even more weight (excuse the pun). These people are on all the radio airwaves, MTV and music video shows, I’m positive these tracks and videos are on young people’s mp3 and mp4 players as well cell phones. So the message has credibility, influence and access.

The Bad

That brings me to some of my concerns. These people are the influencers of our young due to their credibility, influence and access. While the general message may be positive, a closer look at the lyrics and the music videos tend to undermine the whole message they are attempting to send. Eventually the ‘medium becomes the message’ and the lyrics soon become some background noise. The medium is just as important as the message especially in our youth culture where the visual has a prominent and influential place. Surely, there can be a better way to send such a positive message to people especially our impressionable young people.

For example, in Mehgan Trainor’s lyrics, she says, ‘boys like a little more booty to hold at night.’ For Trainor, how you look matters only because of how the ‘boys’ will respond by looking for something ‘to hold at night.’ The sad part of the song is that this message is given to her by her mother. While it might just be lyrics, the role a parent plays in the self-esteem and self-worth of their kids is vitally important.

Nicki Minaj’s lyrics are too explicit and scary to even talk about but her message echoes that of Trainor’s. Ultimately, it’s all about the boys and how the boys want a girl with ‘buns’, ‘he wants something he can grab’. The song further deteriorates into sexual explicit language and actions which is only to satisfy the boy.

Jennifer Lopez says the exact same thing, but this time says the boys not only want a girl with a ‘big booty’ but that boys will have a better time with a girl who has a ‘big booty.’ Lopez also says that the girl exists for the boy to show off, at the mall, at the club or wherever you may find yourself. Lopez also says that girls don’t really have a say in the relationship as they must just give him whatever ‘he ask for’ as it’s ‘his birthday.’

The Ugly

  1. This kind of message degrades women into being objects of a man’s desire and want and reduces them to pleasure toys. How does songs like these help encourage girls to look good and feel good in their own skin when the message in the end boils down to an anti-feminist, abusive and oppressive relationship and culture that is aimed at satisfying the man only? The women in most of these videos are scantily dressed displaying provocative and sexual dance moves which are to allow the viewer to feast on the show that is presented to him or her. There are no limits to the affection between people as they are encouraged and have the right to touch and rub up against anyone. I wonder how that speaks into the context of protecting especially our women and children in this sexually violent context.
  1. The truth of the matter is that the music industry is merely a competing game, as these videos are released within weeks of each other. Each video tries to better the other by either having less to wear, except in Trainor’s case, or better twerking moves. Again, the media wants to make millions and sell more albums at the expense of our vulnerable. There is no symbiotic relationship here; it’s parasitic as one always comes off worse than the other. It takes no amount of imagination who will be the worse off in this case.
  1. Our media and especially our music speak volumes of youth culture, but the sad part of it is that while it speaks volumes of our youth culture it is also a major influencer of the culture. So while our music reveals culture, it also paves the way in which culture will follow and we all know that our young are the target market of most culture. How do we protect our young when the influencers are looking to extort them?

 

 Caution: The lyrics of these songs contain profanity, yet these are the songs our youth are listening and watching.

Youth Rally – Part 3

So now that I have given both positive (good) and negative (not so good) opinions, let me attempt providing some alternatives.

But before I do, let me reminisce a bit about my days at youth rallies and coffee bars. I remember days at Silvertown, Athlone, Battswood, Grassypark, Westridge Baptist Churches and Presby Bridgetown, Docks Mission in Belgravia and so many other churches that evades me right now, with fond memories. Many of my Facebook friends are a lifetime of these very people who I have met at these events. It was filled with fun and excitement and yes there was coffee and doughnuts. What is a youth event without coffee and doughnuts? I remember the WABY song festivals and people like Colin Johnson, Ron Lomax, Linzay Rinquest, Johnny Cyster, Rodney Readon and this list can just go on and on. It was great events, it changed me in so many ways. I was a believer of youth rallies. And it was extremely effective, bringing so many youth groups together from different walks of life and denominations. And many young people came to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through such events.

But the question remains, is this the most effective means of getting youth groups together? I do suppose it rests upon the purpose of the event hey? But let’s stick to youth rallies here.

  1. The purpose: I suppose apart from presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ to young people and with this I might suggest bringing the devotion (the 10 min sermon) as close to the beginning as possible – someone who may have never heard the gospel before might be in need of that and if relegated to the end we might miss that opportunity completely. Furthermore I would imagine that the event would be to allow young people to expand their friendship base and foster relationships, both new and old ones. So let’s give more time to relationship building and networking. Lets end the evening earlier and offer coffee and whatever has replaced doughnuts, let’s help young people develop the ability to grow socially.
  2. The event and items on the programs should be kept to a minimum (note point 1), preferably for an hour, so that maximum time can be given to young people to meet others. With regard to “items” done on the program, as much as possible try to screen what is to be done. We don’t want to send a message that is contradictory to what we would want to accomplish. Yet, let’s not miss the opportunity to showcase the talents that our youth may posses, it may be the only platform available to them to show the world what they have (reality is that many won’t make it to idols).
  3. More adult supervision. It’s quite sad and disconcerting to see so few adults at theses events. Either the adults are afraid of being in the same vicinity with the youth or they are just not interested. It may help adults to better understand a part of youth culture. It is also at such events that we can challenge the whole generational theories that might be out there. Young people need adult supervision and input in their lives, so let’s take every opportunity that exists.
  4. The venue? While it is understandable for the venue to be a church, as it is usually the church’s youth group that is hosting the event, i think a more neutral venue should be used so that we could attract youth that are unchurched as well. In this case, I would want to even encourage for a combined effort of more than one youth group when hosting the event. If we could network and combine our resources, we could reach so many more young people and be so much more effective. (I think the days of solo youth ministry has passed and if we continue down this track we might even become more obsolete than we already are.)
  5. Youth Participation is important and while they may love music and being entertained, I think that them being involved would be a more valuable experience than just sitting in the pews and sponging things in. I think we need to create events that allows for more interacting and crowd participation. This generation is wanting to give what they have and we should help them do exactly that, if we will not utilise them and their gifts and talents in church circles then we can be rest assured that they will use it elsewhere. Why not allow them to live for something worth living for.

So, the question at the end of it all, if we are wanting such results, should we look at alternative models? Should coffee bars have a come back? Will there be a place for it?

After all is said and done, I think that there should be a rehash of what coffee bars were and what it should be to meet the current generations needs. I think the name youth rally should be completely dropped and be replaced by something sexier 🙂 and more relevant in terms of getting the message and purpose across of what we are wanting to say. But beyond everything I think our aim at such events should be to foster a community experience in which all or most of those attending would be able to give in terms of their talents and gifting.