The following appeared in the March 4, 2001 St. Benedict's Church Bulletin


The recent Grammy Awards Presentation was a terrible indictment of the state of the music industry in the United States.
To refer to the lyrics of current popular songs, especially rap, as vulgar, tasteless or inappropriate is about as effective as trying to hammer a railroad spike with a feather.
The word "obscene" is inadequate. The lyrics of the songs which your children have on tapes and CDs, and to which your children listen constantly are blasphemous in references to religion, perverted in references to sex and hate-filled in reference to social relations and to minorities.
Normally, if one wishes to make such accusations, one should be prepared to give examples to prove one's case.
If I were to do so, hundreds of copies of this bulletin would be on the Bishop's desk in the morning with demands for my immediate removal.
The most offensive four letter words are sprinkled around like punctuation marks.
Suggested behavior defies normal imagination. Your children are thoroughly familiar with these lyrics and with the visual images which accompany them on MTV and, to a lesser extent, on VH I.
What do you, as parents, know about these lyrics and video tapes? Have you ever really listened, not just to a few seconds, but forced yourself to listen to two or three complete songs?
Are you willing to sit through fifteen minutes of MTV? If you care about your children, make yourself do it.
And, then what? Will your response be any of the following: All his (her) friends are doing it and I can't have my child singled out. They don't really pay attention. (If younger) They don't really know what those words mean. It's the real world; they can't avoid it. If it is, know that those who want to save the whales and the baby seals, or want to hug trees care more about their causes than you care about your children.
Wake up, parents! Have the courage to say NO! Our religion constantly calls upon us "to swim against the tide". As Bishop Sheen used to say: "Wrong is wrong, even if everybody does it, and right is right, even if nobody does it."

Monsignor John Ryan
Pastor, St. Benedict's Church

Save some outrage for 'clean' pop music

By Tonya Jameson

After all, family, gay and women's rights advocates will be outside the Staple Center protesting a blond, foul-mouthed rapper not Britney Spears or 'N Sync. But family and women's organizations need to examine today's sex-lucratively suggestive teen pop that objectifies women and implies sexuality.
The "Marshall Mathers LP" has been the center of amoral tempest since it dropped last May. The disc topped critics' lists as one of the best albums of 2000, and with nearly 8 million copies sold it was the second best-selling album of the year. It also enraged parents, women's and gay-rights advocates because it glorified violence against women and gays.
Targeting Eminem is easy. A cursory listen to his vile lyrics makes denouncing his music and persona obvious, but the moral brigade has ignored the subtle impact of today's "squeaky clean" pop acts whose songs and racy choreography also influence children.
The way he's going, Eminem will be gone in less than a year. His rhyming skills can't eclipse his penchant for controversy - during his European tour he pretended to swallow Ecstasy on stage and in Michigan he faces felony assault and weapons charges. Eventually his label and his fans will tire of his antics.
Teen pop, however, has a stranglehold on the industry. The music isn't violent, misogynist or homophobic, but it's just as influential. Look at a few nominees:
Spears is up for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Best Pop Vocal Album. At last year's MTV Video Awards, she ripped away her cutaway man's suit to reveal a sheer outfit during a strip tease dance routine. At her Charlotte performance, she seductively danced around a pole. The biggest hit from her sophomore disc, "Oops! I did it again," is about deceptively shedding her innocence.
Aguilera is nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Best Latin Pop Album. Her outfits aren't as notorious as Spears', but on awards shows and at her Charlotte concert she displayed plenty of suggestive dance moves. "Genie in A Bottle," a hit single off her debut album, encourages male suitors to rub her the right way.
Sisqo's vying for the Best New Artist, Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, Best R&B Song and Best R&B Album. His omnipresent "Thong Song" was one of the most morally corrupt and excessively played songs of the year. His ode to underwear had preschoolers singing "thong, thong, thong" all summer. And had elementary school girls panning Wonder Woman briefs.
Still not convinced all this winding, grinding and cooing is influencing children? Attend a grade school dance.
A couple of weeks ago I chaperoned an elementary school dance and was sad to see how many fourth- and fifth-graders were begging the DJ to play the "Thong Song." When the DJ granted their request, kids who had spent the night playing tag rushed the dance floor. Pre-pubescent girls did their best imitation of Spears and Aguilera, winding their pelvises like strippers in training.
When the DJ played Da S.W.A.T. Team's "Tootsie Roll," a circle of boys smacked imaginary rump just like 'N Sync did in their show-stopping MTV Video Music Awards performance last year. Worse, several parents and chaperones encouraged their naughty moves.
Apparently the school dance was nothing compared to ones in other parts of the country where administrators are grappling with what they call freak dancing-guys grinding behind girls and girls bouncing in boys' laps. Dirty dancing seems to be a bigger problem in middle and high schools, where boys and girls aren't too shy to dance with each other. In December, 40 deans and assistant deans from Washington area private schools gathered to address the problem. Public schools are also dealing with inappropriate dancing.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg school officials say freak dancing isn't a problem here. If that recent Valentine Day's elementary dance is any indication, it's only a matter of time. On BET, rap videos feature half-naked women shaking their bottoms and tops. On MTV, nearly every teen act has choreographed dance routines with undulating women.
Make no mistake, Eminem's lyrics are troubling and offensive, and no responsible parents should let their children listen to him, but we can't afford to overlook teen pop's impact. Telling boys not to hit girls or homosexuals is simple compared to teaching young girls self respect when the objectification of women is rampant in our culture.

"Republished with permission from The Charlotte Observer. Copyright owned by The Charlotte Observer."
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