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)

Why Do One in Four Teen Girls Have an STD?

Posted on: 04/15/08 5:07 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Last month we saw articles in every major newspaper about the new report that one in four teen girls has an STD. People were shocked. This week we’re asking for your response and I’ll be blogging about the subject all week.

I have to admit… I wasn’t surprised by the results of this report in the slightest. What has surprised me in this highly sexualized culture is that we haven’t seen this report sooner.

If you missed the report, here’s a snippet from U.S. News:

More than 3 million teenaged girls have at least one sexually transmitted disease (STD), a new government study suggests.

The most severely affected are African-American teens. In fact, 48 percent of African-American teenaged girls have an STD, compared with 20 percent of white teenaged girls.

“These numbers translate into 3.2 million young women nationwide who are infected with an STD,” Forhan said. “This means that far too many young women are at risk of the serious health effects of untreated STDs, including infertility and cervical cancer.”

These common STDs include human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, herpes simplex virus and trichomoniasis, Forhan said.

So who is to blame?

It’s probably not too difficult to guess who Planned Parenthood is blaming:

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the study shows that “the national policy of promoting abstinence-only programs is a $1.5 billion failure, and teenage girls are paying the real price.” Huffington Post, 3/11/2008

Let’s hold off any analysis of abstinence education for a second… but we will be returning to the subject.

What about the influence of the media? Are they to blame? You might remember last month when I blogged  about lyrics and I noted that in 2007, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) revealed that “teens who listened to lots of music with degrading sexual messages were almost twice as likely to start having intercourse…as teens who listened to little or no sexually degrading music.” (Houston Chronicle)

But is that where the blame rests? Just the media?

Where are parents?

Let me assure you. The BEST abstinence and or sex education of any kind is from parents who talk with their kids honestly about sex– an ongoing conversation. Sure, we, as a society can’t count on this communication to always happen at home, so we need to provide sex education in other venues as well. But do parents really see this ongoing communication in the home as their responsibility?

What best equips kids for these sexual decisions? What kind of sex education can prevent 1 in 4 girls from getting a disease that will probably have permanent consequences?

I ask you this, because this week in this blog we’ll be looking at the effectiveness of abstinence education, the influence of the media and other issues that contribute toward this “1 in 4” stat.


Worship on American Idol?

Posted on: 04/11/08 10:38 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Okay… I am constantly shocked by TV, but last night was a totally different kind of surprise. If you saw it, you were probably as surprised as me. American Idol opened up their show last night (Thursday) with the “Top 8” singing the worship song, Shout to the Lord.

Yes… the first words sung on American Idol last night were, “My Jesus, My Savior, Lord there is none like you.”

Check it out! (if you are receiving this in an email, click here to see it)



Yes… last week (with Dolly Parton) we heard them sing about Jesus in a couple of songs. I was a little suprised then. But wow… two weeks in a row? And Shout to the Lord? Wow.  (Did I mention, “Wow!”)

But then I discoverd something interesting on the internet this morning. This was the SECOND time they sang this song.


Yeah… I missed the first time also. For the rest of you who have TIVO like me, when we watched Idol Gives Back, your recording probably ended without hearing the closing number. But if you go on YouTube today you can view the closing number of Idol Gives Back (Wednesday night) where the “Top 8” are wearing white outfits and singing Shout to the Lord. (followed by Ben Stiller coming on stage for a final word where he drops a few cuss words that have to be bleeped out- talk about a contrast)

Wait… this gets more interesting. In that previous version, they start with the words, “My shepherd, my savior. Lord there is none like you.”  That’s right. They left Jesus out of it. Check it out (if you are receiving this as an email, click here to see it).


It’s funny. Yesterday the internet was filled with blogs of ticked off Christians ranting about “Why did they take Jesus out of the song!” People were outraged.

Sure, I wouldn’t have liked it (if I had seen that version of the song first). But it doesn’t surprise me at all. What surprises me is that Jesus made it back in!!!

So what happened overnight that put Jesus back in the lyrics? (because I know Fox wasn’t listening to those whiney blogs)

Does anyone know why Jesus was voted back in just before Michael was voted off?

Save the World Madonna Style… Have Sex

Posted on: 04/7/08 8:03 AM | by Jonathan McKee

I’ve noticed two trends out of numerous musical artists and celebrities lately.

  1. Become more sexualized
  2. Care about the world

Why not do both? That’s what Madonna is proposing (along with Justin Timberlake and Timbaland) in her new song “4 Minutes.” Check it out.

The video speaks for itself, and the words of this catchy song convey a message that Madonna has been preaching for years. “If you feel it, It must be real.” Isn’t that good advice? Get in the back seat with your boyfriend/girlfriend and go with “what feels right” at the moment.

Here’s an excerpt from a Madonna lyric site:

Madonna and Justin:
If you want it, You already got it
If you’ve thought it, It better be what you want
If you feel it, It must be real just…
Say the word, and I will give you what you want

Madonna: Time is waiting
Justin: We only got 4 minutes to save the world
Madonna: No hesitating
Madonna: Grab a boy
Justin: Grab a girl
Madonna: Time is waiting
Justin: We only got 4 minutes to save the world

So, are our kids actually listening to this? The answer is a recordbreaking “yes.”

“4 Minutes” sits in the #1 spot on iTunes right now in “Top Songs” AND “Top Videos” AND “Top Ringtones.” This song helped Madonna surpass Elvis Presley from his standing as the artist with the most top 10s (This is Madonna’s 37th top 10). Billboard reports that “4 Minutes” jumped from 63 to #3 last week on their Hot 100 chart. That was spurred by over 200,000 downloads the first week of it’s release along with Mariah Carey’s “Touch My Body” (surprise surprise). has the highly sexualized video readily available on the front page. iTunes has the song and video, along with a pre-order for her new album Hard Candy (already ranked #9 in downloads right now, and it’s not even available yet… what’s that tell you?). YouTube has it. Verizon had it as a “Verizon Exclusive” digital download… and yes… if you haven’t figured it out by now, most kids now have it in their phones and iPods.


Food for thought as we talk about abstinence and the “1 and 4 girls have an STD” statistic next week.

Mariah Carey “Touch My Body”

Posted on: 04/2/08 9:24 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Can you say eye candy?

Well, Mariah is at it again, selling what sells. And our kids are watching.

If you jump on (like our kids do) and look where your eyes lead you on the front page today they will drift to the video picks. The number one slot is filled with Mariah Carey’s “Touch My Body.”


 (I’m preparing you for my blog in the next few weeks where I will be addressing the issue of teens and their decisions about sex)

The “Kids Choice Awards” Winners Clean?

Posted on: 04/1/08 8:43 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Miley, Avril, The Jonas Brothers… do these names mean anything to you? Because they mean a lot to our young kids & tweens.

If any of you have young kids that watch TV, last weekend you probably noticed that Nickelodeon’s Kid’s Choice Awards were on Saturday (If you were watching Sponge Bob, you were given glimpses of the Awards at every break).

I’m torn when it comes to these awards. On one side of the spectrum I’m relieved that most of the winners selected are pretty innocent, as today’s culture goes (I’ll list the major winners in a minute and make a few comments). But on the other side of the coin, I’m NOT a big fan of this show. Two reasons:

  1. It’s a bunch of kids trying to grow up WAY too fast (little girls trying to be hoochies and boys copping the attitude of rock stars!) 
  2. As innocent as this content is, compared to its older sibling, The Teen Choice Awards (Every year I write an article about these awards as well)… the Kid’s Choice Awards still will award celebrities that are far from positive role models for questionable content.

Right now if you click on the Kid’s Choice Awards web site you will hear the live performance of Naked Brothers Band singing “I Don’t Want to Go to School.” (Hey kids, you can have a bad attitude and a hit band before you even hit puberty!) Watching this concert gave me a flashback of Pinocchio’s trip to “Pleasure Island.” (Remember the land where the kids ran free and were allowed to do everything they wanted?)

But I’ll admit, I was pleased with the actual awards they gave out. Some years I’ve cringed at some of the recipients, but this year, with a couple exceptions, they were a pretty clean lot.

Here’s a glimpse of a few of the winners:

Favorite:  Alvin and the Chipmunks
Animated Movie:  Ratatouille
Actress:  Jessica Alba
Actor:  Johnny Depp
Voice from an animated movie:  Eddie Murphy (Shrek the Third)

Group:  The Jonas Brothers
Female singer:  Miley Cyrus
Male singer:  Chris Brown
Song:  Girlfriend (Avril Lavigne)

Reality show:  American Idol
Show:  Drake & Josh
Actress:  Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana)
Actor:  Drake Bell (Drake & Josh)
Cartoon:  Avatar: The Last Airbender

Obviously there are a few weird ones in the bunch (Can you say Captain Jack Sparrow?), but most of these selections are pretty clean.

I have no complaints about Miley, Drake & Josh, The Jonas Brothers, and movies like Alvin and the Chipmunks and Ratatouille. I actually was quite relieved when I saw the list of the winners. Miley, if anything, has been a really positive role model. I’ve blogged about her a bit already if you want to know more about her. And the Jonas Brothers seem to be a clean cut crew. David R. Smith is writing a YOUTH CULTURE WINDOW on them right now that you’ll be seeing soon.

I guess my biggest “sigh” was Avril Lavigne. As I was reading the list of winners on a plane, I had the plane’s headphones on and Avril’s “clean version” of her song Girlfriend played. The word “clean” is relative. Sure, the “clean” version is nice enough to edit out the “f” word for us… although most 8-year-olds have no problem figuring out what she says when she sings, “I’m the mother(silence) princess.” Let me give it to ya in context:

I think you know
I’m damn precious
And hell yeah
I’m the mother f***ing princess

It doesn’t take much of a parent to realize that those lyrics probably aren’t the best to be awarding on a kids’ show.

But this is nothing new. I’ve shared my 2 cents on Avril before.

Chris Brown is another one to watch. Chris is one of the most talented young men on the charts right now. Not only can he sing, but he drops jaws with his dancing. He’s the new Michael Jackson or Usher. His stuff has stayed away from the explicit lyrics, but definitely focuses on more mature themes (and when I say more mature- let’s just say- MORE MATURE THAN MY 10-YEAR-OLD, okay!)

But when all is said and done, when I look at that list of winners, I am actually pleased. I’ve seen a lot worse.

Wow… I developed such high standards. (Sigh)


Miley’s Faith

Posted on: 02/28/08 8:08 AM | by Jonathan McKee

I don’t know if you saw the Oscars… I don’t know if you even cared. But Miley Cyrus was one of the presenters, and one of the few to be interviewed by Barbara Walters on her famous post-Oscar interview show. I thought you might like to hear what she said about her faith.

Miley’s the hottest thing in the world of young girls right now. I’ve blogged about her before, about her popularity, and her as one of the biggest trendsetters in 2008. There’s no question why Barbara interviewed her. Miley is THE draw for young girl audiences right now.

The interview was short, but I thought Miley did well. She talked about her faith a little bit, and might have been perceived by some as a little cocky, once almost sounding a little condescending… but she’s young and I think she did fairly well for her age and degree of difficulty of the questions she was being asked.

We don’t know much about her faith, just that she uses the word “Christian” (which means nothing these days- 81% of Americans claim to be “Christian”) referring to herself, and she seems to reflect good morals (a breath of fresh air today) in the midst of a world full of poor role models. Barbara asked us about this.

We transcripted a snippet of the interview for you:

Barbara: Miley, you’re living here in California and you’re 15 years old and you pick up the papers and every day practically, you read about another young star, some of whom were Disney stars, how can you be certain that what happened to Brittney and Lindsay and to Jamie Lynn Spears won’t happen to you?  What will be the difference?

Miley: For me, as I know, that some people don’t have a family to fall back on like I have and that’s when something greater than even that comes in and that’s faith and that’s what I have for me it’s what keeps me strong.  And I know that some of these people you know do have Christian families and they’re just, you know, not seeing that they’re so much greater than the materialistic things that are there right now than, like, you know, going out and the parties and whatever, but the people that are the ones that you want to hold on to are the people that tell you the truth and that’s your family and that sometimes you know can be a little bit harsh and can you know say things that have to be honest and that can hurt sometimes.

Barbara: What do you think about Jamie Lynn Spears?  I mean she’s pregnant, she’s only 16.  Can you imagine that?

Miley: No, and I think, you know, it’s definitely hard when it’s your friends. Jamie Lynn is you know a friend of mine. But also I know how strong she is as a person. I just think it’s pretty cool that she has stepped away cause that’s what I would have to do.

Barbara: You know Jamie Lynn Spears?

Miley: Mmmhhmmm. I know basically all of those girls, which is really crazy to see that.  But, my main goal for me is the reason that I also feel pretty confident that I won’t end up like that is because I can go out there and be kind of like a light to them and make them want to live the way that I, you know, long to live.

Barbara: Your birth name is Destiny Hope. What’s your destiny?

Miley: The reason my dad named me Destiny Hope in the first place is because he always said it was my destiny to bring hope. And I think that’s kind of the thing that I want to do. There’s been so many people that have come up to me and say, you know, the hour that we are watching your shows are the times that my kids are happiest, they’re smiling, they’re laughing.  And that is what I long to do, is to be the person that you can, open up a magazine and see my face and there’ll be something, you know there’ll be a quote that’s so positive and that will be like, you know I’m having a hard day today, but you know what Miley said will get me through it. And so that’s what my destiny is.


She’s Like So Whatever…

Posted on: 02/12/08 3:06 PM | by Jonathan McKee

On March 5th Avril Lavigne kicks off her two-month-long tour, named in true Avril fashion, “The Best Damn Tour.”

If you don’t recognize her name, don’t worry… your kids do. Or you might have heard her lyrics in the checkout line at Wall Mart:

She’s like so whatever
You can do so much better
I think we should get together now
And that’s what everyone’s talking about

Hey hey, you you
I don’t like your girlfriend…

Or, maybe you heard the “unedited” version that hides in the “Favorites” section of many of our kids’ iPods with these lyrics:

Don’t pretend
I think you know
I’m damn precious
And hell yeah
I’m the mother f***ing princess
I can tell you like me too
And you know I’m right…

Avril has been on my mind lately. I was just reminded of her when I heard her mentioned in our recent podcast– Episode #11 about women in ministry– Danette, Brandon and I commented about Lavigne and some of her recent choices. We like her spunk, and she’s really talented. But like most celebs of late, she seems to be ignoring the fact that children (yes, literally children) everywhere look up to her as a role model.

She doesn’t seem to mind that bad press. Last Summer she opened the door to more criticism when she showed up “almost topless” on the cover of Blender Magazine (a shot of her topless with a banner blocking her chest saying, “Hell Yeah, I’m Hot!”). MTV news interviewed her in this May article for the truth behind the cover:

Lavigne has certainly come a long way since her innocent days as punk princess of the mall. In recent months, she’s been known to spit on and flip off paparazzi. She’s also bragged about booze-soaked nights — “I wrote ‘Girlfriend’ when I was drunk,” she told us back in February. And now she’s taking it all off?

The blogosphere is abuzz this week over the June cover image for Blender magazine, in which the singer appears to be naked from the waist up. What really lies beneath that strategically placed headline?

Truth be told, Lavigne revealed to us before taking the stage last night, the photo shoot was a little more innocent than you think. “Actually, I’m not topless on the cover,” she said. “I was wearing a tube top, and they just kind of put a banner on top of it.”

Anyone who looked the popular music magazine would probably argue otherwise.

Her tour is catalysted by the success of her recent album, “The Best Damn Thing” which debuted at the number 1 slot on the ‘Billboard 200’ album charts, an album that included the #1 hit “Girlfriend.”

Keep your eyes on Avril… our kids are.

You Mean… the Lyrics DO Affect Me?

Posted on: 02/7/08 12:04 PM | by Jonathan McKee

It’s really not that hard to figure out. It’s amazing that so many are blind to it. But here it is, plain and simple: More raunchy music means kids having sex earlier. And the more a song refers to substance abuse… yep, you guessed it… the greater a chance kids will try those substances.

Think about it for a second. If you’re a kid who listen’s to an average of 2.4 hours of music per day (that is the average), and the typical song you’re listening to is talking about stuff that goes on in the bedroom… how do you think this will influence you?

Our kids will tell us, “It doesn’t affect me!”  (If you want to ask them yourself, join us in our survey from this blog and post your results within the next week or two)

Opinions are a dime a dozen. What do studies show?

This article from a while back summarized it pretty well, tying raunchy music to losing virginity sooner:

Teenagers whose iPods are full of music with raunchy, sexual lyrics start having sex sooner than those who prefer other songs, a study found.

Whether it’s pop, rock, hip-hop or rap, much of popular music aimed at teens contains sexual overtones. Its influence on their behavior appears to depend on how the sex is portrayed, researchers found.

 Songs depicting men as “sex-driven studs,” women as sex objects and with explicit references to sex acts are more likely to trigger early sexual behavior than those where sexual references are more veiled and relationships appear more committed, the study found.

Teens who said they listened to lots of music with degrading sexual messages were almost twice as likely to start having intercourse or other sexual activities within the following two years as were teens who listened to little or no sexually degrading music.

Excellent article, I recommend reading the whole thing. There are plenty of good articles out there on this subject. Some tying TV to teens starting sex early.

But what about the use of substances? Does music really affect that?

The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine just published a new report analyzing the 279 most popluar songs our kids listen to. 33.3% portrayed substance abuse, with an average of 35.2 substance references per song-hour.

Here’s what the experts in this study said:

“There is convincing evidence that exposure to certain media messages increases substance use in adolescents. For instance, viewing smoking in movies prospectively predicts a substantial proportion of adolescent smoking initiation. Similarly, exposure to smoking-related media promotions is associated with smoking initiation. Alcohol use in movies and promotions is also linked to actual alcohol use. While the most frequently studied genres for this research include movies, television, and advertising, health behavior theory strongly supports a link between music exposure and substance use. According to the social learning model, human beings learn not only by direct experience but also by exposure to modeled behavior, such as that represented in popular music.”

And they rapped it up well…

“Music is wellknown to connect deeply with adolescents and to influence identity development, perhaps more than any other entertainment medium.”

Side note: that report was phenomenal. It broke music down by genre. I wasn’t surprised to find that hip-hop and rap were two of the top three that contained the most mention of substance abuse (Country was also very high).

Am I picking on hip-hop and rap?


Why? Well, it happens to be the most popular genre by far. I’ve gone into great detail about this in past articles for sure… and if you don’t believe me, just look at the top 10 Billboard songs or the top 10 iTunes downloads any day of the week. The influence of hip-hop still dominates.

So What Can We Do As Parents and Youth Workers?

1. Find out what your kids think. Ask them yourself. Join us in our survey from this blog and post your results within the next week or two– your results will help us help you!

2. Talk with your kids about this. Note: I didn’t say, “PREACH TO THEM ABOUT THIS!” The emphasis here is more about LISTENING than talking. As a parent, I’m always looking for opportunities to dialogue with my own kids about anything. As a youth worker, I’m always looking for real issues that kids want to discuss. Music is something that they will often be excited to talk about. Use this an open door to discuss our character. (we even linked some great discussions you can use in that blog mentioned above)

3. Parents: Don’t be afraid to take the advice I offered at the bottom of this blog about television. I recommend using two bottons on your remote control often: The pause button, and the “Off” button.