Youth Culture Window
On a current Billboard Top 10 song, the lead singer boasts, “I make them good girls go bad.” For three and a half minutes, he brags about his ability to woo ladies into a one night stand. Given how successful the song has been, he could be right.
Good Girls Go Bad is the latest (and best known) song from the relatively new group that calls themselves Cobra Starship. Led by the audacious – and apparently very confident – front man Gabe Saporta, they’ve been in the pop/dance genre for about four years. Their third album Hot Mess is the record that contains this hit song.
At this writing, Good Girls Go Bad is ranked #9 on the Billboard charts, though it’s down from #7 last week. iTunes ranks it at #6 on their most-downloaded songs’ list, but it’s #5 on their list of most-purchased ringtones. The song also features a music video, and iTunes has it holding the #17 spot.
In other words, lots of teens have heard this song and encountered its lyrics.
The song employs an interesting “symmetry.” Saporta sings a verse about his coercion capabilities on the opposite sex, and moments later, the female vocalist affirms a very similar sentiment. Like a snake responding to a charmer, the girl plays her part… right into his hands. Take a look for yourself.
I make them good girls go bad
I make them good girls go
Good girls go bad, good girls go bad
I know your type, you’re daddy’s little girl
Just take a bite (one bite)
Let me shake up your world
‘Cause just one night couldn’t be so wrong
I’m gonna make you lose control
I know your type, boy you’re dangerous
You’re that guy I’d be stupid to trust
But just one night couldn’t be so wrong
You make me wanna lose control
Feel free to check out the lyrics to the entire song.
As previously mentioned, the song has also made quite an impact as a music video. It contains everything a music video requires in order to be a smash hit today: crowds of sexy people dressed in sexy clothing doing sexy dances with each other, a special guest star appearance by a sexy heroine, in this case, Leighton Meester of Gossip Girl fame (or infamy), and of course, girls kissing one another at the end of the video.
By the way, has girl-to-girl kissing become a prerequisite of some sort for music these days? Katy Perry’s hit single was all about it. The newest song by The Black Eyed Peas – which is STILL dominating the top of the charts – features an all female make out scene. And Cobra Starship’s video includes a lesbianism/bi-sexual kiss at the very end.
Although you can view the music video for yourself, I suggest you let Saporta sum it up in this on set interview:
“Concept was real simple, right? We’re Cobra Starship. We’re running a speak easy. It’s a deli, but it’s a front for a club with gambling, and drinking, and debauchery. Leighton Meester from Gossip Girl runs the club. She’s sells us out to the police. We go to jail.”Ahh… I love a happy ending, don’t you?
A Snake in the Grass
Most snakes take advantage of natural camouflage, slithering along undetected, until they can strike their prey. Likewise, the lyrics in Cobra Starship’s song may be masking a dangerous message for girls. I don’t want to make a mountain out of a mole hill, so let me be crystal clear: this catchy and well-produced song contains no “explicit” lyrics, the video doesn’t have any nudity in it, and if you play the tune backwards, you won’t hear “worship the devil” or “kick cute puppies.” But is it harmless dance music?
When I listen to the song, I ask myself, “What does a teenage girl really hear when she listens to this song?”
A. Just one night can’t hurt.
It’s easy to see what message girls will hear after listening to this song on their iPod’s.
B. You make me lose control of myself.
C. All good girls go bad at some point.
D. All of the above.
This is not a band that struggles with self-esteem. From the title of their first album, While the City Sleeps, We Rule the Streets, to their bio which revolves around Saporta’s egotistical “big head,” to the cocky lyrics of Good Girls Go Bad, the band maintains a high opinion of themselves because of their success.
Unfortunately, I’m not so sure their success will be positive for girls’ self-esteem. We already know that a majority of girls have significant struggles with their ailing self-esteem. We also know that music has a huge influence over teenagers’ behavior.
So what should we do to ensure more damage isn’t done by songs with these kinds of subliminal messages?
I remember standing in a field in S. Africa last year that had recently been scorched by a big fire. I asked if it had been an accident of some sort given the proximity to a few homes. “No,” my friend said. “We burn off all the grass so we can see the snakes.”
That made me immediately look down where I was standing. “So, uh, what kind of snakes do you guys have here?” He nonchalantly replied, “Brown mambas. Cobras. Puff adders.”
But I think we can learn a lesson from my friends in S. Africa. Realistically, we can’t remove all the snakes from our cultural landscape; we can’t even de-fang them. But, we can take action that will at least help us see them coming.
Similar to my friends in S. Africa, parents and youth workers must be aware of the snakes that are roaming about. We can’t pretend they aren’t around; that just leads to pain. Knowing they are present, we must “burn the field” so our teenagers can learn to spot them.
To that end, always be familiar with the music that is being listened to by the teenagers in your life. If it means you need to check out Billboard.com each week, then do it. If it means searching online for a song’s lyrics or video, then do it. If it means looking through playlists on mp3 players and/or cell phones, then do it. If you don’t have time to do the research yourself, subscribe to articles and blogs that talk about these influences. You must be able to see the snakes that are coming… and if you aren’t looking, you won’t.
Further, keep talking with teens about healthy music choices. You need not begin the dialogue with a lecture-like warning about the evils of today’s music; you can start off by asking simple questions.
- What’s the name of that song?
- Who sings it, and what other music have they made?
- What do you like about that song?
- What do you think that song is about?
- How does that song affirm or contradict the teachings of Jesus?
Asking questions almost always grants us permission to have important conversations with our kids about their music consumption. As we navigate the music of today’s youth culture, just remember, it’s a whole lot easier to prevent the venom from ever entering than it is to suck it out.
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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