Hollywood is not America

Posted on: 05/12/08 11:24 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Here’s a little song that’s climbing the charts.. and Wow, does this song have a powerful message! (Parents will really miss out if they hear the word “Centerfold” and just change the station.)

The song is called Hollywood is not America. It’s about a girl that is looking for fulfillment in all the wrong places.

Here’s a glimpse of some of the lyrics:

Born Helena Jane
With a restless soul
She moved west to California
Became a centerfold

But once you change your name
Well the pieces fall
Now she hardly recognizes herself at all

And there’s never any rain, when you want it
A hollow little game, and you’ve won it
Looking for a thrill but you’ve done it all

And then part of the chorus…

So long, put your blue jeans back on girl
Go home
Remember Hollywood’s not America

(complete lyrics here).

This is one of those times when when I’m glad that teenagers DO listen to the lyrics. The song’s message is such a contrast to the other songs at the top of the charts right now ike Usher’s Let’s Make Love in This Club (sometimes titled Love in This Club) or Lil Wayne’s sexually explicit Lolliipop. Instead, Ferras’ Hollywood is not America deals with the cold reality that sometimes our pursuits are meaningless and hollow.

The song is growing popular fast. Today it’s #48 on iTunes (that’s of ALL songs mind you), and it’s 41 on Billboard’s Pop 100 and climbing. According to the Ferras website

The multi-format radio hit, tipped as a USA Today “Pick of the Week” and an Entertainment Weekly “Download of the Day,” has sold nearly 100,000 copies since its release eight weeks ago. The video for “Hollywood’s Not America,” directed by Paul Brown… is one of only three videos in “Love” rotation at The N, the “VH1 Top 20 Video Countdown” and also MTV Hits, Music Choice and LOGO’s new music show, “New Now Next.”

You will definately be seeing a write up from us on our MUSIC DISCUSSIONS page next week.

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Beyonce’s “Hoochified” Fashion Line for Kids

Posted on: 05/9/08 2:42 PM | by Jonathan McKee

It’s Beyoncé… no, it’s a streetwalker… no, it’s… a four-year-old?!

Yes, Beyoncé  is at it again. This time she’s not raising eyebrows with a low cut top or her “ghost thigh-master” dance move in her newest music video… this time it’s her clothing line for kids.

People are a little upset. And by “people” I don’t mean Falwell or Dobson. I mean the secular fashion world:

Beyoncé Knowles and her mother Tina launched the House of Deréon clothing line in 2004 and tagged it “where the sidewalk and catwalk meet”. The clothes they market display a mix of influences, from hip hop to the very stylish and feminine air of more traditional designer clothing. The brand was quickly expanded by Beyoncé’s younger sister Solange and by the singer’s fiancé / rumored husband, hip hop star and business mogul Jay-Z, who launched the junior line Deréon, aimed at teens and even young children. And it’s here that the controversy emerged, with a glossy magazine ad for the Deréon Girls Collection that led to a lot of raised eyebrows.

The ad depicts a series of young girls aged around 7 or 8 seemingly playing dress up, using what looks like their mother / older sister’s 5 inch high heels, wearing lipstick and posing in a slightly disturbing, overtly mature way. We could, of course, argue that the ads are simply about a bunch of trendy kids who can’t wait to wear mommy’s heavily embroidered sparkly outfits and have found the House of Deréon clothing line to be the answer to all their prayers. Mostly, however, these ads have been perceived as more than a little inappropriate, particularly the little girls’ attitudes and mature posing in front of the camera.

Blogs are popping up everywhere with nothing good to say about this little endeavor from the superstar.

“High heels, on a 4 year old?!”

“All I can say is like Hell!”

“Someone is going to buy this trash for their child, that is the saddest part.”

For years Beyoncé  has got away with showing up at different Music Award shows flaunting “the twins” in a “J-Lo” dress and no one has made a fuss. But now she has messed with their kids. Has she pushed the envelope too far this time?


Hip Hop, Where “Thug” Must Be on Your Resume

Posted on: 05/8/08 9:59 AM | by Jonathan McKee

“I’ve been shot seven times!”

“I did hard time!”

And these are… good things? Maybe not, but they always seem to capture the attention of today’s generation. Maybe that’s why recent Hip Hop star Akon lied about his background, adding a little bit more “thug” to his resume than was actually there.

Atlanta Journal – Constitution’s Cynthia Tucker shares an enlightening perspective about this thug culture:

You’ve heard of resume inflation? You’ve heard of people who lie about having Ph.D.s or Ivy League pedigrees in order to get ahead?

The world of thug culture has its own perverse equivalent, in which middle-class men with minor legal transgressions exaggerate their bad behavior, claiming to be hard-core degenerates to impress youngsters looking for outlaw role models. In this destructive environment, the more violent and predatory you are, the more heroic you seem.

That helps to explain why a metro Atlanta hip-hop star known as Akon wove a tall tale of malevolence and criminality, claiming to have spent three years in prison for running a “notorious car theft operation,” a story he’s been telling for years. In fact, he has apparently never served hard prison time. The Smoking Gun Web site recently exposed Akon as a thug wannabe, a “James Frey with … an American Music Award.”

American popular culture has always had a tendency to romanticize hoodlums, whether Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde or Tony Soprano. But the hip-hop world’s celebration of savage violence, educational failure and misogyny has been one of the worst influences on American youth, especially black youth, in decades. If you want to ruin a nation, a society or an ethnic group, persuade its members that the highest form of achievement is committing crimes.

This is a huge mistake for Akon. To today’s generation, no insult could be worse than “phony.” Authenticity is huge today. Kids don’t care if you’re a thug or in rehab. Those things are fine… as long as you “keep it real.”


(Thanks to Youth Culture Window guru David for this article)

Nickelodeon’s “Zoey” beats NBA Playoffs

Posted on: 05/7/08 9:03 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Ever wonder what tweens are watching?

The pregnant Jamie Lynn Spears’ show “Zoey 101” drew huge numbers last Friday night for its serier final, beating everything else on cable last week, including NBA playoff coverage.

Media Life Magazine reports:

“Zoey” drew an average 5.1 million total viewers for the hour-long finale last Friday, May 2, at 8 p.m. Another half-hour rerun that followed averaged 5.05 million, making them the two most-watched shows on cable last week, well ahead of NBA playoff coverage and the first new episode of “Hannah Montana” since Miley Cyrus’ controversial Vanity Fair pictures were released…

And if you think controversy doesn’t attract attention…

The finale was nowhere near the 7.3 million total viewers who watched “Zoey’s” third-season finale in January, shortly after the 16-year-old announced she was pregnant. The show has regularly finished No. 1 among tweens this season.


Interactive Sermons Via Cell Phone

Posted on: 05/5/08 2:26 PM | by Jonathan McKee

This is a great idea for youth workers. I received an email with this submission to our Openers page recently and thought it was pretty creative, especially in line with our cell phone discussion we had in late March.

Opener Idea: Text-a-Friend

Description: Start your message by saying “if you have a cell phone, please turn it on silent mode” then proceed to say “I want you to text two people in your address book this question ” …whatever pertains to your topic. How does prayer work? etc. then continue your talk for a few minutes then ask who has a response. build off of their responses. This make for a great illustration for any topic. – Jason Meredith

Thanks Jason. Great idea. I love incorporating current culture and modern technology to our ministry.

I can totally picture talking with kids about a topic like evangelism and then asking them, “What do your friends think of God or the church? Text them right now and ask them, ‘Would you go to church if I someone invited you? Why or why not?'” What a great way to poll current attitudes and feelings of those just one degree of separation from your youth group.

This makes me think of the one suggestion we heard in a comment in that “Cell Phone Use at Youth Group” blog. Kenneth commented the following: 

i don’t understand what the big deal is about cell phones. i’ve been yp at a church for a couple years now, and the first i did was to change the “no cell phone” rule to “have your cell phone rule.” are the phones really a distraction to you or are they a hit on your pride because you can’t keep their attention?

unless the phone is making noise every time they get a text or call, i don’t worry about it. can you see the head pastor calling out a member in the main service every time a man or woman pulls out their phone?

as far as trips, if a kid would rather talk or text on his phone at a retreat or camp than listen to me, i let him. when jesus was teaching, i can’t see him always pulling judas back in to listen to him even though judas was more interested in counting the money outside the meeting.

but for those who need an idea, here’s one that i got from a pastor in washington that works quite well. i have the kids text me any questions that pop into their minds while i teach. when i’m done teaching, i read the questions aloud and answer them. i usually leave around five minutes to answer the texts.

you do have the occasional “why are you wearing that shirt tonight?” or “why does poop stink?”, but overall it’s a very productive addition to the lesson. most of the students listen more closely because they want something i say to spark their interest so they can text me a question. this is a great opportunity to enter their world with the message and not make them stay in ours. it also allows me to answer their questions about my lesson as soon as i speak it. how many times have we prayed for a response from our kids? i’ve found this to be it. after all, as yp’s, aren’t we all about being as relevant as today’s paper?

you’d be surprised at how this catches on and the texts start pouring in over the weeks. just remember to put your phone on silent while you teach, or else you’ll have to confiscate your own phone. lol

Kenneth was pretty bold with this comment in a sea of comments instructing us to “collect” cell phones at the door or confiscate them. But more importantly… I love his idea of getting feedback or questions about your talk right then and there. Fantastic idea.

Thanks Jason and Kenneth for these ideas… good food for thought.


Douglas Gresham Stepson of C.S. Lewis

Posted on: 05/1/08 3:44 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Next week I get a quick chance to interview Douglas Gresham, the stepson of C.S. Lewis, also the Co-Producer of the upcoming Narnia film Prince Caspian.

I’m reading every interview ever done on the guy… stumbled across this video on YouTube. Pretty cool. (love his voice!)


I’m diving into his new book Jack’s Life: The Life Story of C.S. Lewis. Good stuff. I’ve already heard some incredible stories…

And yes, you’ll catch our interview with him in an upcoming podcast.

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