Music Language and Kids

Like many kids, my 8 years old likes music. It’s a wonderful age and it marks the beginning of what one hopes will be a lifelong love of culture and the arts. Of course, at a young age, kids like what they hear on the radio, and what their friends hear on the radio, and so on. It was unsurprising then when my daughter asked if I get some recent pop songs, including Taylor Swift and Pink’s song “Try” on her iPod.

As a dad that wants his kids to reach a little farther than the mass marketed cotton candy that comes prepackaged for the countries youth, I was particularly pleased with the addition of Pink to the mix. I’m not an off the reservation, it has to be unheard of to bee cool, kind of guy, and anything to avoid Justin Beieber is my goal. That makes Pink a wonderful choice as an edgy, strong, take no crap, kind of female singer to go along with the sweetness of Taylor, and others, so I got her Greatest Hits. I also decided to throw in some Joan Jett, because, getting the classics during your formative years are important also.

Pink Explicit Lyrics

I myself happen to like all the above artists. However, I mostly listen to music while working. Working means writing, either words or code, and my brain doesn’t do so well with hearing other people’s words while trying to generate its own. That means most of the music I listen to is lyric-less.

As a result, the only versions of most Pink songs I have heard are the ones on the radio. As someone who came of age during the 80s and 90s, you would think I would have remembered the tendency of musicians to write an album version (complete with swear words) and a radio version. For crying out loud, I owned most of the albums that inspired Al Gore’s wife to go out and form the organization that ended up creating the Parental Advisory sticker that goes on albums to this very day. I still remember laughing hysterically at the difference between the radio version of, “Me so horny,” and the album version.

Which brings us to Pink. The song Perfect is an inspirational ballad that says you don’t have to be who other people want to be and that you will always be perfect to me. I like it. And, on the radio it is a great song for an 8 year old. The album version, or explicit version to put too fine a point on it, uses the f-word in a relatively unnecessary, but at the same time rather powerful way. The idea of it’s use in this context is for power and emphasis.

The other thing I had never paid any attention to is that when you download and album and put it on something like an iPod, it comes with the lyrics. So, it wasn’t long before she was out in the living room asking me what this word meant.

Now, I’m not a word freakout guy. I went to college at CU Boulder in the 90s, so I’ve had my fill of words you can’t say. On the other hand, this is the granddaddy of all words. The catch is to find a way to convey that it is at once OK to be using the word when, and if, you fully understand the implications and meaning of doing so, and that at the same time it is completely inappropriate at all times for an 8 year old to be saying.

So, my next move, of course, is to get the radio, or “clean,” version of all these songs, and then circle back with her regarding our language and how it is used. The trick is that I want her to understand, to not think any less of Pink, to not be confused about what that word works sometimes, and not others, and so on and so on.

I’ll let you know how that conversation goes.


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