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Top 40 Radio Examined

I grew up in a comfortable little Christian subculture. I have gone to church just about every Sunday since I was born, I attended Christian schools all the way through high school and have sat through countless Catechism and Sunday school classes. I can’t count the number of times I had to sit through sermons and presentations about the evils of popular music. I remember being exhorted not to listen to Twisted Sister and Van Halen and so many other big bands of the 70’s and 80’s. I always shrugged-off these presentations. From the time I was a teenager I preferred Christian rock to mainstream, so listening to most of them was hardly an issue anyways. I often noticed that the bands we were warned about had been in the limelight years before and really were not at all relevant to my life.

This morning at church I noticed an invitation to attend a Media Awareness Seminar at a nearby church. They provided a link to the organization which provides these seminars and I decided to visit their web site. There is an interested section on that site where they break down the top 40 countdown from a certain popular radio station. The list is current as of May 18, 2004 – a little dated, but recent enough to be relevant. I am not easily shocked, but samples of lyrics from the songs on this list blew me away. Despite spending my life as a believer, I don’t consider myself sheltered, yet these songs still made my eyes bulge a few times. I don’t even know some of the words, though I can generally guess at their meanings.

I always promised myself that I would not be the type of parent to go on anti-popular-music crusades, yet after viewing this list I may have no choice when my children get a little older. Would you like to know what kids are listening to on the radio these days? Check out this list (featuring hundreds of strategic asterisks) is truly shocking. Do be warned that though the worst words are masked by asterisks, the lyrics are still absolutely vile. I realize that it is something of a worst-case list (not every top 40 list features to much rap music) but Kristin (our boarder who lives with us and is much more in-tune with pop culture than I am) assures me that these songs are popular and widely listened-to.

To be honest, what shocked me most was the fact that even in my day, which really wasn’t all that long ago, songs like this were extremely rare and were certainly not played on the radio. I remember a certain band releasing an album that was only available by request at most music stores because the lyrics were so vile. Today these albums are played on the radio, on TV and are available for anyone who wants them. Of course I’m sure that the songs I listened to in the 80’s are substantially worse than the songs my parents enjoyed in the 50’s and 60’s. It makes me shudder to think of what the songs will be liked in 10 years when my children are teens, and in 30 or 40 years when their children are teens. There isn’t anything easy about parenting, is there?

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