The baby boomers are trotting out the celebrations for the 40th anniversary of the "Summer of Love," complete with all that soggy and groggy Woodstock nostalgia. Perhaps the singular statement of that summer was the music and the open celebration of "free love."
All of which, believe it or not, is preferable to what is on the air this summer.
Start with the big hit "Birthday Sex," which brought quick fame (which is to say, infamy) to a singer named Jeremih. (Why must these people always celebrate illiteracy?) His basic lyric is "Don’t need candles and cake / Just need your body to make / Birthday sex." But Jeremih also elaborates about how he wants sex in the kitchen, on a waterbed, and so on. It’s an audio porn movie.
Interestingly, and sadly, few can be found to disapprove of foisting these "adult situations" lyrics on children. Radio station managers are, as a group, completely apathetic. But school administrators? The Chicago Public Schools enlisted their newly famous alumnus Jeremih in an online Twitter campaign to urge Chicago teens to go back to school this fall.
At least the Chicago Sun-Times was bold enough to disagree with this campaign. "We know CPS kids will listen to ‘Birthday Sex’ and far raunchier tunes whether Jeremih is a CPS spokesman or not," the paper editorialized. "We also know CPS must do all it can to deal with its horrific dropout problem. But that shouldn't include implicitly promoting the message in ‘Birthday Sex,’ no matter how appealing the messenger."
Jeremih was not alone in the gutter. The rapper who calls himself Flo Rida unleashed a big hit with "Right Round," which celebrates oral sex: "You spin my head right round, right round / When you go down, when you go down, down." He’s not talking about spinning his eyeballs around.
Dirty lyrics don’t keep an "artist" from appearing on the network morning news programs. They’re fine with it, too. On the August 14 Today show, the rapper also performed a previous hit song, "Low," with lyrics like this: "Shawty was hot like a toaster / Sorry but I had to fold her / Like a pornography poster."
Flo Rida granted an interview to NBC anchor Matt Lauer, who buttered up his guest by asking if his mother deserved credit for inspiring him to ascend from the rougher neighborhoods of Miami. Flo Rida’s answer was even more offensive in its hypocrisy: "I mean, most definitely. She always taught me to dream big, put God first, you know, sacrifice and the sky's the limit."
I wonder what God thinks of that.
It’s not just men who behave like pigs. The dance diva named Lady Gaga had a hit song titled "Love Game" that repeatedly celebrated the male anatomy: "Let’s have some fun, this beat is sick / I wanna take a ride on your disco stick." A newspaper in the Philippines put the perfect spin on her concert there: "Lady with Legs Wide Open." Her songs aren’t just a smash on the radio: they star on TV shows like "So You Think You Can Dance" on Fox.
These songs are not the cutting edge. They are the mainstream. The Culture and Media Institute studied 29 songs that were listed on top 20 airplay charts posted by Mediabase from June 10 to July 22. A large majority (69 percent) of the songs made at least one reference to sex, alcohol, drugs, or contained profanity. Nearly half (46 percent) of the songs contained sexual lyrics and 31 percent of the songs referenced drugs or alcohol. Profanity occurred in 41 percent of the songs.
Dr. Brian Primack of the University of Pittsburgh Medical School studied more than 700 ninth-graders and found in a study earlier this year that sexual songs lead to more sexual activity by teens: "High exposure to lyrics describing degrading sex in popular music was independently associated with higher levels of sexual behavior. In fact, exposure to lyrics describing degrading sex was one of the strongest associations with sexual activity." This might seem like an obvious finding, but no one in the music business bats an eye.
If tobacco companies can be blamed for lung cancer, and oil companies can be blamed for global warming, why aren’t radio stations and record companies that churn out pornographic music blamed for teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases?