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It’s Good to Be Katy Perry
But Is She Good for Our Kids?
An article from Jonathan McKee and David R. Smith at TheSource4YM.com
8/19/2010

She’s the daughter of not one, but two, pastors. She says she’s a believer, and often prays…sometimes in tongues! She’s even released a gospel album.

Then why is it that she’s one of the worst role models for young people these days?

A Good Run
When she takes the stage nowadays, it’s as Katy Perry, even though she was born Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson in 1984. Regardless of what you call her, this young lady has had quite a run over the last two years.

On May 6, 2008, her smash hit “I Kissed a Girl” was released and quickly hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 (where it stayed for seven weeks). Her follow-up song “Hot N Cold” peaked at #3 on the charts very soon after.

More recently she’s offered the world her version of summertime pop in “California Gurls.” (No I didn’t misspell her title; that’s her way of invoking the Beach Boys without paying royalties.) It sits at #3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

August 2010 is proving a watershed month for Perry as well. On August 9, she hosted FOX’s annual Teen Choice Awards. Her latest photo op is the August 19 cover of Rolling Stone, where the lead feature article tells of “The Hard Road & Hot Times of a Fallen Angel.” Perry’s latest hit “Teenage Dream” is riding the #9 position on Billboard’s Hot 100 (and, depending on the day you look, usually #2 on iTunes’ song and video charts). Her highly anticipated new album (also titled Teenage Dream) drops this Tuesday, August 24.

Now you see why “it’s good to be Katy Perry.”

But does that make Katy Perry good for our kids?

Misguided Musician
Let’s just go ahead and say it: Katy Perry is one of the most dangerous elements within youth culture right now.

Her first hit “I Kissed a Girl” is a long way from the gospel music she originally produced. (But hey, if you’re gonna sell out, sell out big, right?)

Her next #1 tune, “California Gurls,” isn’t much better. When she performed this little ditty at the 2010 MTV Movie Awards, she teased the crowd with the same explicit hand gestures she uses in her music video (you can check out all the hubbub near the 2:06 mark).

“Teenage Dream,” her latest single, uses the same formula: Sex masquerading as music. Its lyrics should give parents and youth workers pause before downloading the tune for their teens. The following are just a few of the racy words:
    We drove to Cali
    And got drunk on the beach
    Got a motel and
    Built a floor out of sheets
    I finally found you
    My missing puzzle piece
    I'm complete

    Let's go all the way tonight
    No regrets, just love
    We can dance until we die
    You and I
    We'll be young forever…
Typical of many top songs today, “No cuss words, so it must be clean.” You can check out the rest of the lyrics or view the brand new – and incredibly sensual – music video to understand the point of this song.

Perry’s message has been unmistakable all along, but “Teenage Dream” says it most clearly: the quintessential teenage dream is filled with lots of sex and no regrets.

Those of us who’ve escaped our teenage years know that’s not realistic. For that reason, I call Perry a misguided musician.

But that’s not the only dangerous message she’s sending.

Misguided Theologian
I mention earlier that Perry adorns the current cover of Rolling Stone magazine. One glance at the glossy photo will make you wonder if Katy’s naked or not. A closer look will confirm that she is indeed clothed—though bra-and-panties-only hardly passes for fully dressed.

In the article entitled “Sex, God & Katy Perry,” she speaks about her fame, her romantic escapades with British comedian Russell Brand (who we’ve written about before), and her Christian upbringing—which she claims still influences her today. “It was not a ‘kumbayah’ atmosphere,” says Perry. “I knew about hell from the moment I understood a sentence,” (page 44). To this day, she considers herself a Christian, and like her father, even sports a tattoo on her wrist that reads “Jesus.”

As the article continues, Perry gives readers a deeper look at her faith-based upbringing. “Speaking in tongues is as normal to me as ‘Pass the salt.’ A lot of religions use meditation or chanting as a subliminal prayer language, and speaking in tongues isn’t that different—it’s a secret, direct prayer language to God,” (page 45).

But she also confesses great conflict over her beliefs. “God is very much still a part of my life. But the way the details are told in the Bible—that’s very fuzzy for me. And I want to throw up when I say that. But that’s the truth,” (page 47). Perry concludes her thoughts on religion with these ageless words: “I still believe that Jesus is the son of God,” (page 47).

But for Perry, it seems as though everything—including faith—has some sex attached to it…even when she criticizes others for the same offense. In reference to Lady Gaga’s music video “Alejandro,” in which Gaga crosses new lines of irreverence, Perry says, “I think when you put sex and spirituality in the same bottle and shake it up, bad things happen. Yes, I said I kissed a girl. But I didn’t say I kissed a girl while f-ing a crucifix,” (page 47).

Apparently in Perry’s mind, it’s okay to be crass as long as you’re not irreverent at the same time. And she excels at being crass. For example, in a discussion about her natural blonde hair color (which she always dyes black), the article reads:
    “Black just makes sense for me. My natural color is like…like….” Perry looks around, but doesn’t see anyone with the exact same hair color. So she starts to pull up her skirt. “You can just see it here!” she says.
    Thankfully, she drops the hem before she gets the whole way up. But for a second, it was anyone’s guess whether she would.
During a photo shoot that coincides with the writing of the Rolling Stone article, Katy is told by one of the journalists to, “Just refer to the camera like a friend.” She responds in her usual teasing manner:
    Perry cocks her head. “Like a Facebook friend?” she drawls. “Someone whose wall you look at from time to time but never f--k?”
During the interview, Perry takes the crew down the street to her recording studio. When they jump into her Audi, she turns on the air conditioner to make her guests comfortable, but soon regrets her decision. “The AC smells like stinky p-ssy. Need to get that fixed. Sorry about that.”

That’s Katy. (But don’t worry folks—at least she’s not irreverent.)

So many would call her music “clean” because it’s void of profanity and explicit sexual verbiage. Even the Rolling Stone article calls her a “good girl.” But it’s easy to see the gap between her self-professed faith and her behavior (on stage and off).

That sort of hypocrisy makes her theology as dangerous as her music.

Picking on Perry?
I’m not calling parents and youth leaders to grab their pitchforks and torches and go on a witch hunt for Katy Perry. In no way am I trying to misrepresent her music or her faith. But I do believe wise parents and godly youth leaders should pay very close attention to the messages she communicates on and offstage.

Any music released by Perry should be carefully and responsibly scrutinized. Most of her songs are built on the false premise of regret-free promiscuity. In conversations with young people, you may want to ask questions that help them realize there are always consequences for our actions.

As for her “doctrines,” any cursory glance at the Bible will refute most of what Perry claims. Unfortunately, she knows more than enough about the Bible to be more than just a little dangerous. Some of her beliefs are incredibly orthodox, but her actions (at least the ones trumpeted in headlines and music videos) typically contradict them. Again parents and youth workers would do well to hinge conversations with young people on the important relationship between our actions and our beliefs. (Here’s a great way to do that.)

Finally, avoid slamming Perry and bluntly dismissing her with your teens. It’s one thing to scrutinize her music and lifestyle; it’s quite another to come across ill-informed and non-thoughtful with kids who’re expecting that from adults. Even more, pray for Perry—and for the youth who’re attracted to her music. Because her messages may mislead teenage listeners along the same unfortunate path Perry’s chosen to walk.

Plus, enough prayer on her behalf may lead Perry back to the faith of her childhood, produce healthy music, and model a biblical lifestyle. Who knows?

It’s good to be Katy Perry. Not because she’s had multiple #1 songs. Not because she’s hosted live awards shows. Not because she’s graced the covers of magazines.

It’s good to be Katy Perry because Jesus loves her.


Jonathan McKee Jonathan McKee, president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over a dozen books including the new Get Your Teenager Talking, The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket, The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenager, and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the 10-Minute Talks series. Jonathan speaks and trains at conferences, churches and events across North America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live in California.



David R. Smith David R. Smith is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year, Ministry By Teenagers. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org. David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.



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Comments on this post

   Vicki         11/18/2010 11:49:02 AM

I work for an afterschool program and one of our biggest problems is music content. I am exhausted trying to explain that just because there are no swear words doesn't make it appropiate. The amount of sex and violence in music today is shocking and it's no wonder we have the problems we do with the youth. I wish I had an answer on how to help them when everything in their culture is against what is right.

   CRYSTAL         11/3/2010 3:54:34 PM

I had no idea she was a PK!!

   Linda Granato         11/2/2010 11:28:39 AM

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   Brian Childers         11/2/2010 8:42:01 AM

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   Joe Gough         11/2/2010 6:54:37 AM

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   diana         11/1/2010 8:52:00 AM

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