Does Sexy Music Really Affect Me?

Posted on: 08/30/17 1:30 PM | by Jonathan McKee

I guess it’s a good time to ask this question when the No. 1 song on the charts articulates, “I want to show my mouth your favorite places, let me trespass your danger zones until I make you scream.”

Whenever I speak to parents I tend to provide them with a glimpse into the world of youth culture: the apps young people frequent (on their smartphones at an average of 2 hours and 38 minutes a day), the games they’re playing (teen boys play an average of 56 minutes per day), and the music they’re soaking in (at an average of 1 hour and 54 minutes per day) (Media Use by Tweens and Teens, page 19 and 31). Sometime I even play YouTube videos or paste lyrics of the top dozen songs right on the screen for parents to see firsthand. The reaction is always the same:

“I didn’t know it was this bad!”

Well, I’ve been doing this two decades now… and I’ve never seen the top 12 songs this bad.

Honestly. I thought it was pretty bad earlier this summer… but today… literally 11 of the top 12 songs are sensual, overtly sexual, or about hookups (and that’s not even considering the violence, language, etc.).

Does this affect young people? I’ll show you the research, but first, allow me to give you a quick tour. Why? Because once you get a sample of what kids are hearing, I think the research will make perfect sense. And if you’re offended by these lyrics—good! I hope you are. Because these are just the most popular songs (literally) that young people are listening to right now on their devices.

Here’s the top 12 on the charts right now:

Billboard magazine does the chore of translating what they describe as “less than innocent” lyrics. Lyrics like the ones I posted above, or “I want to undress you in kisses slowly, firmly in the walls of your labyrinth.” (I’ll leave that interpretation up to you.) The music video is ridiculously sensual.

I guess we shouldn’t expect much from a song that opens with Rihanna singing, “…know you wanna see me nakey, nakey, naked.” But yeah… it gets worse, like when Bryson Tiller kicks in:

I heard that p**sy for the taking
I heard it got these other n**gas goin’ crazy
Yeah, I treat you like a lady, lady
f**k you ’til you’re burned out, cremation (burned out)
Make it cream, yeah…

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more explicit than Wild Thoughts, ex stripper Cardi B chimes in bragging about her expensive shoes, her accomplishments and what she will do with your boyfriend. She gets specific:

I might just feel on your babe, my p**sy feel like a lake
He wanna swim with his face, I’m like, “Okay”

It’s nice to see this song in the top of the charts, literally the only song that isn’t about hooking up, shooting someone, or bragging how rich they are.

Take a breath… it’s the only one on the list.

The music video for this is very sensual; the song, tame compared the rest of this list. It’s just a story of a girl who is trying to get the attention of a guy she broke up with by putting on a sexy dress and “going round every party in LA ‘cause you knew that I’d be at one.” No solutions, just drama.

But what do we expect? After-school-special solutions? I don’t think songs about “doing your homework” or “sharing your lunch with a homeless guy” are making the charts right now. (I’d settle for a song about walking your beagle? Anyone? Couldn’t that be a hit? Maybe not.)

In this song Swae Lee sings about a girl who is unforgettable in his mind. And that’s when he gives you a glimpse into his thinking, sadly, the kind of thinking this world is slowly adopting more and more:

I need to get you alone.
Why not?
A f**king good time never hurt nobody…

Shawn Mendez doesn’t hold back confessing his feelings in this song. In fact, he pretty accurately describes the way many young men respond to sensual stimulation. Nothing profane, like many of the other songs on the charts, but apparently Shawn has given in to losing control:

Oh, I’ve been shaking
I love it when you go crazy
You take all my inhibitions
Baby, there’s nothing holdin’ me back
You take me places that tear up my reputation
Manipulate my decisions…

And just in case you wondered if he was feeling bad about this loss of control…

‘Cause if we lost our minds
And we took it way too far
I know we’d be alright…

If I only had a dime for every song that talks about “losing control” being a good thing.

Bruno’s catchy beat and smooth vocals make this one hard to not tap your foot to. Sadly, Bruno is a self-described “player”, and he never shys away from sharing about his sexual escapades or objectifying women, like in this song when he addresses a girl like this:

Baby girl, what’s hatnin’?
You and your ass invited
So gon’ and get to clappin’
Go pop it for a player, pop-pop it for me
Turn around and drop it for a player, drop-drop it for me…

Pop and drop are dance terms—“dropping it” is a sexy move where girls drop low provocatively.

Bruno spends the rest of the song listing off all his expensive real-estate, cars and jewelry and offers, “I’m gonna give it to you,” along with, “sex by the fire at night.”

The title of this song gives you a peek at it’s premise, a hook up because the singer loves “the shape” of a girl. He tells the whole story:

The club isn’t the best place to find a lover
So the bar is where I go
Me and my friends at the table doing shots
Drinking fast and then we talk slow
Come over and start up a conversation with just me
And trust me I’ll give it a chance now…

He goes on to tell her that he loves her shape and the smell she left on his bed sheets after sleeping with her.

Whenever you see the name “Nicki Minaj” on the label, you know the song is going to be sexually explicit…. and this one is no exception.

This self-described “strip club anthem” is basically about all the money Yo Gotti’s throwing at strippers, so much that they have to rake it up. He describes sex with strippers and paying and even praying for the “p**sy.”

Then Nicki comes in, describing doing the splits on a man during sex, her vagina getting wet (like a “tsunami”) and all the men wanting her once she gives them her “punani.”

One Direction’s Liam takes a hiatus from the band to pursue this solo hit written by, surprise surprise, Ed Sheeran (Shape of You). This song is probably an amalgam of every hit above: do whatever your heart desires, drink, party, watch girls dance provocatively, and hook up with them. Here’s a tame sample of the lyrics:

I just wanna have fun and (get rowdy)
One Coke and Bacardi (sippin’ lightly)
When I walk inside the party (girls on me)
F1 type Ferrari (6 gear speed)
Girl, I love it when your body (grinds on me)

The chorus is him telling the girl to “strip that down,” “hit the ground, and “put your hands on my body.” From this list of tracks, apparently this is all girls are good for.

Since many of these tracks are already degrading to the ladies, I guess 21 Savage wraps up the top dozen well telling us exactly what they think:

I buy a new car for the b*tch (for real)
I tear down the mall with the b*tch (for real)
You can’t even talk to the b*tch (no)
She f*king with bosses and sh*t (on God)…

This guy uses the word “bitch” more than a dog breeder. Then he goes on to brag about his cars, clothes and guns, degrading women even more:

Please proceed with caution, shooters, they be right with me (21)
Bad b*tch, cute face and some nice t**ties…

Then comes the chorus where he simply counts his millions and then his guns:

I got 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 M’s in my bank account, yeah (On God)
In my bank account, yeah (On God)
In my bank account, yeah (On God)
In my bank account, yeah (On God)
In my bank account, yeah (On God)
In my bank account, yeah (On God)
I got 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 shooters ready to gun you down, yeah (fast)
Ready to gun you down, yeah (On God)
Ready to gun you down, yeah (On God)…

My Thoughts
Let’s do a little counting of our own.

  • 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11 misleading songs in my smartphone
  • 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 songs about sex or hooking up
  • 1-2-3 songs referring to women’s genitalia
  • 1-2-3 songs describing oral sex
  • ZERO songs talking about the consequences of this kind of sexual activity… even though consequences are at an unprecedented high right now.


Why not talk about ramifications?

Is it because no one wants to think about these things? (Suppressing the truth, Romans 1:18-20). Isn’t that a little misleading?

That’s what these songs are—misleading. They don’t tell the whole story. They only tell us what we want to hear—do what we want, and it’s fun.

I’ve been looking at the charts for several decades and typically I see two resounding themes:

  1. Do whatever feels right, lose control, no worries, no consequences.
  2. Why does this hurt so bad?

Funny, right now I’m seeing a lot more of category 1. Maybe it’s a pendulum swing from Adele and SIA’s depressing anthems. Who knows. All I know is that our world is embracing the idea of doing whatever feels right, and they’re suppressing the truth to do it.

So what are the ramifications of all these sexy tunes?

The Ramifications
In my brand new book to teens, The Teens Guide to Social Media and Mobile Devices, I spend an entire chapter talking about the entertainment media young people stream from their devices. In that chapter I share a little research and a little common sense. The result of the research isn’t surprising. Basically, the more sexually charged music in our diet, the greater the likelihood of engaging in risky the sexual behaviors.

In the book I cite two studies, an earlier one from The American Academy of Pediatrics revealing:

“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.”

Then in 2015 researchers from the University of Central Florida tackled a project examining the relationship between sexual content in music lyrics and music videos, and the sexual behaviors of young people. They discovered:

“Exposure to music containing sexual content is associated with engagement in risky sexual behaviors.”

Is this really surprising?

Think about it. If our little Chris and Brianna are listening to Nicki Minaj and Cardi B talk explicitly about their sexual encounters… for two hours a day… chances are Chris and Briana are going to be thinking about said sexual encounters.

We probably don’t even need a doctor to tell us that.

Our Response:
So how should Mom and Dad respond?

We should become offensive.

No, I don’t mean we should offend. I mean we should do the opposite of being defensive—we should be offensive against this attack.

Here’s how:

Instead of just trying to block away all the lies—make sure you are exposing your kids to the truth.

I’ve met countless parents who spend all their energy trying to find the perfect monitoring software that blocks out porn and restricts access to bad apps or raunchy music. Sadly, no block is foolproof. Your kids could always look at their friend’s phone at school or soccer practice. Your kids will hear the songs above at Wal Mart and their sports events.

In a world so overflowing with lies, Mom and Dad need to look for opportunities to engage their kids in dialogue about truth. Not just one talk—ongoing conversations.

Stop avoiding “the sex talk.” And I don’t mean one talk. I mean more than just the talk. If you are in the car and you hear Swae Lee singing…

I need to get you alone.
Why not?
A f**king good time never hurt nobody…

Simply ask: is he right?

Don’t lecture. Ask questions.

If you hear Bryson Tiller sing…

I heard that p**sy for the taking
I heard it got these other n**gas goin’ crazy
Yeah, I treat you like a lady, lady
F**k you ’til you’re burned out, cremation

Simply ask: He said he was going to treat her like a lady, but then he said he was goin to have sex with her until she was burned out. I’m confused. How does he think you treat someone like a lady? How do you think you should treat someone like a lady?

If these exchanges don’t come easy, then use resources to guide you through these conversations. Dads, take your son through the book Sex Matters and use the discussion questions at the end of each chapter to engage them in a dialogue about what they read. Moms, take your daughters through The Teens Guide to Social Media and use questions at the end of each chapter to dialogue about what kind of pictures they’re posting or what kind of comments they’re making.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying don’t block out bad content. It’s okay to say, “Sorry, we’re not listening to this.” It’s probably a pretty good idea, considering above. But don’t forget to tell them the why.

The why is what will help them when they are in a college dorm in a few years and they are making the decision for themselves. So get to the why. Take them through Colossians Chapter 3 and ask them questions about what it means.

  • What does it mean to be “raised to new life with Christ”?
  • What are some of the sinful things lurking within people today?
  • What are some of the sinful things you struggle with?
  • How can you “put them to death”?
  • How can strip off our old nature?
  • What are some of the old nature things we might need to strip off?
  • How can we put on our new nature?
  • What are some of the new nature things we should put on?
  • What does that look like this week?

“In a world of explicit truth, today’s kids need parents who aren’t afraid to tell them the explicit truth.” – Dr. Kevin Leman, about More Than Just the Talk

5 Replies to “Does Sexy Music Really Affect Me?”

  1. Jonathan, I’ve been in youth ministry for over 35 years and I’ve always been aware of songs high up on music billboards that were offensive but the list of songs you mentioned shocked me to how things are today compared to when I began in youth ministry. Thank you for keeping tabs on youth culture and reminding us older youth ministers that music and social media plays a big part in teens lives and certainly has an influence on all concerned.

  2. Simply, Thank You for your leadership with teens. I have 3 of my own and work with many more.

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