Middle school kids are listening to a lot of music every day. It’s difficult to give an estimate of just how much as a lot of the time they are engaged in other activities while music is playing in the background. Not all of the music they are immersed in is objectionable, but a good amount is. There is a conflict in many Catholic families over the music kids are listening to. Parents need help monitoring who their middle school youth are choosing to listening to. The kids wish they would just leave them alone because as they say – “It’s just music!” As Catholic youth leaders we need to be aware of the current music our middle school youth are listening to so we can help parents and the kids navigate the current music culture.
Music has power in the lives of middle school youth. Walt Mueller of CPYU says “Like all other media, music shapes the lives of teens in powerful ways. It’s a time of uncertainty that’s filled with questions. In a world where the traditional institutions of family, school and church no longer shape young people as powerfully as they once did, kids are going elsewhere by default to find their way through adolescence and into adulthood. Music meets them right where they are to provide guidance and direction to a group that desperately wants and needs both. It teaches them what to think, how to think, and how to live. It interprets and defines life for teenagers. It shapes their worldview.” So I asked some middle school kids who they were listening to these days. So let’s take a look at 20 current artists who may be shaping your middle school kids worldview.
1. Jason Derulo - His debut single, “Whatcha Say”, was released to radio in June 2009. The song became a huge digital hit, selling over 2 million records and reaching #1 in the US and several other countries. DeRulo followed up with the single “In My Head”.
2. Kanye West - is a Grammy award winning rapper, producer, author, designer and singer. Current singles “Heartless”, “Love Lockdown” and the explicit lyric “Stronger” are currently his top songs.
3. Drake - is a Grammy award nominated Canadian actor, rapper and singer. He has released three mixtapes, 2006’s Room for Improvement, 2007’s Comeback Season, and 2009’s critically acclaimed So Far Gone. His explicit lyric song “Forever” is his most popular single. Most of his music is explicit lyric and objectionable.
4. Jonas Brothers - are an American pop band. Hailing from New Jersey, the band consists of three brothers: Kevin Jonas, Joe Jonas and Nick Jonas. Their current songs – “SOS”, “Burnin Up”, “Look Me in the Eye” and “Year 3000″ are all popular.
5. Eminem - Marshall Bruce Mathers III (known by his primary stage name “Eminem”, or by his alter ego “Slim Shady”), is an American rapper, record producer and actor. His current hit “Till I Collapse” features explicit lyrics and like most of his music is objectionable.
6. Taylor Swift - released a self-titled debut album, Taylor Swift, which produced five hit singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts. Her follow-up album Fearless was released in November 2008 and charted at #1 in three countries. On November 22, 2009, she received the American Music Award for Artist of The Year. Current hits are “Love Story”, “You Belong to Me” and “Fifteen”. Taylor Swift is especially popular with girl teens.
7. Lil’ Wayne - is an American rapper. Songs “Got Money”, “Mrs. Officer” and “A Milli” like most of his music are all are objectionable and have explicit lyrics.
8. Lady Gaga - is a flamboyant singer, songwriter and musician from New York. Her current hits include “Bad Romance”, “Poker Face”, “Just Dance” and “Paparazzi” are all popular.
9. T-Pain - is a Grammy winning American hip hop artist and producer known for his use of auto-tune. His songs “Buy U a Drank”, “Can’t Believe It” and “All the Above” with Maino are all familiar songs to kids today.
10. Black Eyed Peas - the Black Eyed Peas are an American hip hop/pop group from Los Angeles. The group is currently composed of will.i.am, Apl.de.ap, Taboo and Fergie. Current hits include “I Got a Feeling”, “Meet Me Halfway” and “Boom Boom Pow”.
11. Jay – Z - He is regarded as one of the most prolific and successful American blend artists of the mid-90s and early 2000s and is known for his use of metaphors, freestyling abilities, word play, flow, and blending of street and popular hip hop. Current songs include – “Run This Town” and “Empire State of Mind” both feature explicit lyrics and are objectionable.
12. Justin Bieber - Is a Canadian pop/R&B singer. He began his professional career on YouTube. His songs “One Time” and “One Less Lonely Girl” are breakthrough songs for this 15 year old.
13. Soulja Boy - is a Grammy nominated rapper, dancer and producer. His songs “Kiss Me Thru the Phone”, “Crank That” and “All the Way Turnt Up” are hits for this artist who debuted on YouTube and MySpace.
14. Kris Allen - is the current winner of the popular television series ‘American Idol’. His debut album feature song is “Live Like We’re Dying”.
15. Rihanna - Robyn Rihanna Fenty, known by her stage name, Rihanna, is a Bajan singer. Her song ‘Umbrella’ was one of the highest-selling songs of 2007 and her 3rd album “Good Girl Gone Bad” was critically acclaimed, helping propel her to superstar status. Her current hits “Disturbia” and “Hard” are both familiar to kids. Caution with Rihanna as many of her songs and collaborations with other artists on our list are dark and feature explicit lyrics and are objectionable.
16. Pink - is an American singer-songwriter who gained prominence in early 2000. She has so far sold over 10 million albums in the United States, and over 32 million worldwide, and has won two Grammy awards. Her current track “Sober” is popular with teens.
17. Owl City - reached the “Top Unsigned Artist” position on Myspace, having over 10 million total plays. Owl City has since been signed by Universal Republic, releasing Ocean Eyes on iTunes July 14, 2009, with the physical release following on July 28, 2009. His songs “Fireflies” and “Vanilla Twilight” are currently on girls play lists.
18. Kelly Clarkson - is a Grammy-winning American singer-songwriter and occasional actress. Clarkson recorded her debut album with RCA Records after she won the highly-publicized first season of the television series American Idol in 2002. Clarkson’s songs “My Life Would Suck Without You” and “Already Gone” are currently getting a lot of play.
19. Beyoncé - is an American R&B singer, songwriter, record producer, actress and model. Tracks “Single Ladies”, “Halo” and “Sweet Dreams” are all popular.
20. Miley Cyrus - is an American singer, songwriter, author and actress who rose to fame after starring as the title character in the Disney Channel series Hannah Montana. Her songs “Party in the USA”, “The Climb” and “See You Again” are popular especially with middle school girls.
It’s a pretty diverse group of musical artists – even if the middle school kids don’t like all of them, they are aware of them because their friends may be listening. There are many more artists as kids musical tastes vary depending on where your parish is located. Hopefully you were familiar with some or most of these artists. If not don’t worry too much as kids only ask you to be authentic, not the coolest or most up to date person. As a guide be aware of music so you can at least have discussions with kids and parents pointing them toward music that is not filled with explicit lyrics or objectionable content. While middle school youth don’t admit it at first – they eventually will come to the conclusion that what they listen to does matter.