Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)
A Quick Music Discussion Guide
Main Point of Discussion: Avoid evil; be holy because God is holy.
The Song: “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)”
So, you were expecting Katy Perry’s newest video to feature her in a high-collared Victorian-era dress and gettin’ all jiggy with tea, biscuits, and polite conversation? No? Well, that’s a relief.
But interestingly enough, the music video for “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)”—closing in on 30 million YouTube views—does feature Perry very much against type. She plays her totally geeky alter-ego, Kathy Beth Terry, who manages to break out of her “brace face” shell, get transformed inside and out, and experience a night of debauchery that she won’t soon forget.
As such “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” was atop the iTunes chart at the time of this writing and jumped a whopping 32 spots on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week of June 25. Jonathan blogged about the track and video recently, noting that “an article on Billboard.com informs us that Perry has been ‘taking her Kathy Beth Terry alter-ego to the next level, launching Facebook and Twitter pages for the fictional eighth grader.’” He concludes with this declaration: “This video won't be going away anytime soon.”
IMPORTANT NOTE TO LEADER ABOUT DISCERNMENT: We at The Source for Youth Ministry believe that certain elements in our youth culture can serve as good discussion jump starters with students. At the same time, we would never hope to introduce students to a negative influence that they haven’t already encountered. This balance is a delicate one.
In our experience most students, churched and unchurched, keep pretty current with music and music videos. Thanks to YouTube, MTV.com, and iTunes, the most popular music videos and songs are free to access only a click away.
This insanely popular video is anchored by a lot of humor, as well as fun cameos by Kenny G, Corey Feldman, Debbie Gibson, Rebecca Black, and some of the Glee cast. But the humor in the music video—while portraying some of the immorality you’ve come to expect from Perry—actually softens the impact of the song’s completely decadent lyrics. It’s a frog-in-the-kettle strategy that controversial TV shows have used to gain widespread acceptance: Couch bad behavior in a humorous, non-threatening light, and the behavior gradually seems “normal” after repeated viewings.
Although your students have probably already watched the “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” video, it’s probably best to not play it for the youth group—there are enough objectionable visuals to stoke the ire of many a parent and senior pastor. But the audio version of the tune is pretty racy all by itself, and there’s really no viable “clean” version of the song available—the most censors have done is obscure the word damn while leaving the words screwed and ménage a trios…go figure. Use your discernment as to whether you should inform your pastor and parents that you’re planning a Bible study using this song as a discussion starter—and be up front about the lyrical content and how you’ll deal with the subject matter, just in case there are objections.
Assuming the adults are behind your plans, make sure you preempt the discussion by saying something like…
Introducing the Song
We’re about to take a deeper look at the worldview behind the big pop song “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.).” It’s a tune you guys are probably already familiar with—and it contains a lot of pretty raw subject matter, as well as words. We’ll get to all of that during our discussion, but let’s agree together, here and now, to keep our minds and eyes and ears focused on the quest for truth as we check out the song in more detail. (Pass out the lyrics and play the song.)
Song Lyrics: Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)
There’s a stranger in my bed
There’s a pounding my head
Glitter all over the room
Pink flamingos in the pool
I smell like a minibar
DJs passed out in the yard
Barbies on the barbeque
There’s a hickie or a bruise
Pictures of last night
Ended up online
It's a blacktop blur
But I’m pretty sure it ruled
Last Friday night
Yeah, we danced on tabletops
And we took too many shots
Think we kissed but I forgot
Last Friday night
Yeah, we maxed our credit cards
And got kicked out of the bar
So we hit the boulevard
Last Friday night
We went streaking in the park
Skinny dipping in the dark
Then had a ménage a trois
Last Friday night
Yeah, I think we broke the law
Always say we’re gonna stop
This Friday night, do it all again (2X)
Trying to connect the dots
Don’t know what to tell my boss
Think the city towed my car
Chandelier is on the floor
With my favorite party dress
Warrants out for my arrest
Think I need a ginger ale
That was such an epic fail
This Friday night, do it all again
“Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” is a catchy single that a whole lot of people love—but why is it so popular? Is it because of the music video? Is it because of the catchy melody? Or do a lot of listeners love Perry’s racy lyrics? The Bible definitely has a few things to say about the content of this song—as well as an infinitely better alternative.
Divide into Small Groups:
Let’s split into our discussion groups, and then afterward we’ll come together for a final word.
CLICK HERE for a quick training article on how to maximize your small groups using our small group format—a great resource to equip your small group leaders.
- AROUND THE CIRCLE: Before we dive in, everybody tell us your name and if you’ve seen the video for “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.).”
- ASK A FEW: For those of you who’ve seen the video, how does the video’s content match up with the song’s lyrics? (If your students are getting stuck, ask: In other words, if the lyrics are incredibly raw, why is the video mostly funny and cute? How does that combination affect your reaction to the overall song?)
Say, It can be argued that the humor in the music video is a marketing tool—one that softens the impact of the song’s very decadent lyrics. Have you ever heard of the frog-in-the-kettle phenomenon? (That if you put a frog in a pot filled with room-temperature water and gradually turn up the heat, the frog won’t attempt to escape until it’s too late…) It’s the same strategy that once-controversial TV shows have used to gain widespread acceptance: Couch bad behavior in a humorous, non-threatening light, and the behavior gradually seems “normal” after repeated viewings. In fact, it’s called “normalization.”
- AROUND THE CIRCLE: Okay, let’s name all the whacked-out stuff that Katy is singing about doing in this song—just shout ‘em out! (Leader—answers you’re looking for: Sleeping around with strangers, getting drunk, passing out, wild spending, rowdiness, deviant sexual experimentation [ménage a trois], breaking the law, property damage—and wanting to do it all over again next week!)
Leader Note: Use discernment whether or not you want to say the following statement to your group:
Say, In case you guys don’t know—and we can assume Katy either believes you all know already or wants you all to know—ménage a trois means sex between three people. Definitely not an action God’s thrilled with!
ASK A FEW: This tune is basically an admission of sinful behavior on many levels. What would you say is the primary emotion you hear in Katy’s voice as she sings these lyrics? (Leader—answer you’re looking for: Pride, happiness, joy…)
ASK A FEW: Do your friends tend to be proud of or happy about their bad behavior? Or do you notice the opposite?
ASK A FEW: Do you believe that most students you know can relate to this song—or even wish the song was about their lives on Friday nights?
ASK A FEW: Do you believe that this song is popular because of the lyrics or the melody or the video? Some of them? All of them? None of them? (If “none,” tell us why you believe the tune is so popular…)
ASK A FEW: Why do you suppose Katy added the line about doing it all again next Friday? Do you believe most people who spend their Friday nights behaving like this are out to repeat pleasure…or are they in a constant search to find pleasure they can’t quite attain?
Read the following passage from the Bible:
1 Peter 1:13-16 (NIV)
13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
ASK A FEW: In what state does Peter say our minds must be in order to set our hope on Christ’s grace? (Leader—answer you’re looking for: preparing our minds for action (alert) and self-controlled.)
ASK A FEW: Why do you suppose it’s important for us as Christians to have alert and self-controlled minds? Aren’t we saved even if we mess up? (Leader—answer you may be looking for: Sure, we’re still saved when we mess up, and God still loves us—but if we’re not completely ready moment by moment to hear God’s voice and do God’s work, there’s no point in receiving grace or even to follow Christ. It all would be a waste of time.)
ASK A FEW: What was different about our lives—and minds—in the days when we conformed (or gave in) to our own evil desires? (Leader—answer you’re looking for: We were ignorant then.)
ASK ONE: Is it possible for us to be holy in the same way God is holy? (Leader—answer you’re looking for: Yes! But only with God’s help!)
ASK ONE: How frequently are we to practice holiness? (Leader—answer you’re looking for: At all times—“in all you do”!)
AROUND THE CIRCLE: What can we do in our individual lives (and as a community of brothers and sisters in Christ) to steer clear of the behaviors and actions that Katy sings about in “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)”?
It shouldn’t surprise us that pop singers such as Katy Perry (and many others) have songs like this on the radio. Bad behavior and pop music go together like peanut butter and jelly—it’s always been that way, and it will always be that way.
But while we can’t stop these songs from being created, we can make choices about how we’ll respond to them as mature believers in Christ. Not that doing so is any easy task—it’s not! Today more than ever, it’s becoming harder to take a stand for Christ when so much of the world views Christians in a negative light. Fortunately, though, our job is to point out Jesus…not our own awesomeness.
Before we close in prayer, I want you all to close your eyes and think about friends and family members who are attracted to the things Katy Perry is singing about—people who would want to recreate the lyrical images in real life. Of course, we need only look at the news headlines to know that there are consequences to living in the manner Katy celebrates: You all probably heard about the famous Jackass MTV show member, Ryan Dunn, who last week left a club with twice as much alcohol in his system than the law allows, crashed his car at more than 120 miles per hour, and died with his car engulfed in flames. Dunn’s passenger died, too.
Let’s pray that God will lead us not into such temptation—and that we’ll be messengers of hope to all those who could end up being the next Ryan Dunn, searching for the pleasure they can’t quite reach, no matter how many Friday nights they spend going for it.
Close in Prayer
Written by David Urbanski