Music and Message

I like music with a message; as I tend to learn lyrics very quickly, I also tend to know what songs talk about. I have, in fact, I have blogged about music on human trafficking before. I don’t necessarily choose all music by the lyrics; some stuff is just fun to dance to. On the other hand, it is worth thinking about how music socializes people and how the messages effect what we think of ourselves and the world. I believe this is especially true when thinking about the messages that children receive.

This comic was published in the newspaper put out by the Santiago Metro on Saturday. I couldn’t help but think about the fact that it was funny because it was so true!


Translation: The stage says “No more violence”, the person in the first scene says “We don’t understand where this macho violent culture comes from! That’s enough! We are raising awareness in this festival!” The second scene the person says: “And for the first number, the king of reggaeton! Applause for Daddy Papi!!” The final scene shows a singer singing: “Get naked, I’m gonna give it to you, you are going to like it, black hot bitch! Take off everything or I am gonna hit you…”

The comic made me think of two moments which I would like to share.

The first was a year ago when I went to a conference in San Diego on human trafficking. Probably the best session that I was attended was given by one of the investigators of the FBI’s unit on internet crimes against children. He spent sometime talking about pimps and prostitution. Throughout his presentation, he used the lyrics of 50 Cent to illustrate how demoralizing prostitution is and how pimps break girls down. Here are the lyrics to one of the songs that he quoted.

The second incident was a couple weeks ago. I was walking with a friend, who in general dislikes pop music, rock music, reggae, or anything that isn’t jazz, classical, or folk. During a moment of silence on the walk home, he started singing Atreve-te, a popular hip hop song by Calle 13. Lyrics here. Once I got over the shock that he knew the words, he asked if I had ever really listened to them. In this case, I hadn’t. I knew the song, but just from hearing it at clubs or in the background at noisy restaurants. The song is so popular, in fact, that it best short video version for a song at the Latin Grammys. My friend, it turns out, knew the song because it is played on the bus that he takes weekly to go to Santiago– in fact, the video is shown. Once we had discussed the sexism and violence embedded within the message (really, I am talking to the choir when talking to him), we had to discuss the video. Mostly, the dancing. How do those women dance and walk he asked? After searching for it on youtube, my questions are 1- how to women learn to wear those heals and not break their ankles? and 2- how do young girls and boys internalize the messages they are seeing here?

In both cases, the songs (while having a good beat) perpetuate the idea that women are objects, to be used up and thrown away. That being a descent girl is just a show and that all a man has to do is beat it out of her because really wants it (sex, violence). In both cases, adolescents are the target audience of the musicians. I know some people will say that I am over reacting and they are just songs. But they are messages that are getting put into peoples heads; they are invisible forms of socializations and sexism; and they make me sick.

Isn’t it about time that we question this type of socialization and search for something better?


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