GUEST POST by Jonathan McKee. Jonathan is the author of numerous books including the brand new Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent, as well as youth ministry books like Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation. You can find his excellent blog here.

Would you like to get your thumb on the pulse of today’s youth culture? If you’re willing to invest just a few minutes into research but you don’t know where to look, just open up iTunes and take a peek at the top songs and videos at any given moment. You’ll find that the messages of many of today’s top songs resonate with today’s teenagers.

What’s this message they’re connecting with? After only a few minutes staring at today’s lyrics, I think you’ll find a few common denominators: the cry of hurt, regret and the search for happiness.

Don’t take my word for it, look for yourself. You’ll probably find some of Adele’s songs near the top of the charts. Songs like Rumour Has It or Someone Like You. Songs with lyrics like:

Nothing compares, No worries or cares
Regrets and mistakes, They are memories made.
Who would have known how bittersweet this would taste?

Or how about Rihanna’s We Found Love, (currently #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart) a cry of anguish from a girl who is willing to go through “all that bad stuff” again just to have a few moments of good.

Relationships are the common denominator in most of these hits. Of course many of the songs are dealing with breakups, lonely nights, or as Katy Perry’s new video for The One That Got Away reveals, reminiscent thoughts about an old boyfriend. (I find it intriguing when mankind expresses the God-given desire for love and relationships. Few would deny this need.)

Sometimes today’s songs provide an answer from the artist. “You’re hurting? I’ll take care of you.” Even foul rappers are showing their sensitive side. Lil Wayne with How to Love, or Drake teaming up with Rihanna in Take Care, with a chorus that says:

know you’ve been hurt by someone else
I can tell by the way you carry yourself
if you let me, here’s what I’ll do
I’ll take care of you

Yes, media shapes youth culture. But we’d be foolish to not recognize that it also reflects elements of our culture.

Simply put—the most powerful media is a two way street. It initially resonates with young people on some level, meeting a felt need, whether emotional or even carnal. The scary reality is, that once this connection is made, the young person is a captive audience. Teenagers feel like, “This artist understands me! They know what I feel. They know what I want.” So they listen to the artist, in turn.

What message are young people hearing?

Like I said… don’t take my word for it, take a peek at the charts yourself. Google the lyrics of the top 5 or 10 songs on iTunes today. Watch the top 5 iTunes videos on YouTube.

Question: Why are young people connecting with these songs? What messages did you hear? Share your thoughts here.


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