Overreacting or Interacting about Rihanna’s #1 Song

Posted on: 11/8/11 2:57 PM | by Jonathan McKee

It’s almost like Rihanna is in the mind of today’s teenage girl, looking for love in a hopeless place. Maybe that’s why her song, We Found Love, is still the #1 song across all the charts (#1 on Billboard’s Hot 100, Nielsen, and on iTunes).

Why is this song connecting with young girls especially? Think about it…

  • Do today’s teenage girls ever feel hopeless? Check.
  • Do they ever enter bad relationships because of low self esteem? Check.
  • In their quest for love and acceptance, do they ever engage in dangerous and risky activities like drinking, doing drugs and having sex? Check. Check. Check.

Rihanna’s new song and video are connecting with a generation that is looking for love in a hopeless place. Sadly, the gratuitously explicit music video (watched by tens of millions) isn’t offering any answers other than hoping the good stuff will numb the bad. Her words?

“And when it’s over and it’s gone, you almost wish you can have all that bad stuff back so that you could have the good.”

If your kids have seen this video, it’s a powerful springboard for discussion. Let me give you a deeper look at what this song and video are communicating.

This video is actually very compelling. In the same way the despondent Solomon cries “meaningless” in the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, Rihanna sounds a cry of desperation through this music video, painting a graphic picture of an unhealthy relationship where two people find each other, make out, do drugs, have sex, do more drugs, lose all their money on a gambling spree, shoplift, fight, have angry sex, do more drugs, give each other tattoos, fight more, break up… and then feel the pain of being alone (lot’s of graphic imagery there).

It’s in this vulnerable aftermath, feeling alone, reflecting back on the relationship that the opening words to this powerful video are spoken by Rihanna… a message of hurt, a cry of desperation, and in this hopeless moment, an admission that she’d almost be willing to go through all that pain and risky behaviors… if she could just feel that temporary comfort of the “good” moments one last time! A real perspective, shared by many no doubt.

The music video opens with Rihanna saying these words:

It’s like screaming and no one can hear

You almost feel ashamed that someone can be that important

And without them you feel like nothing

No one will ever understand how much it hurts

You feel hopeless like nothing can save you

And when it’s over and it’s gone you almost wish you could have all that bad stuff back so that you could have the good.

Two months ago we probably could have sat around speculating whether this video would resonate with a generation of young girls that feel hopeless and are looking for some “good” moments in relationships, in drugs, in sexual activity, in drinking, etc. But fast forward to the present and we have our answer. This generation loves this song. I’d go on a limb to say that people are “connecting” with this song.

Sadly, the answers from this song are “temporary thrills.” The summary of the music video is basically… even though I feel hopeless, empty and in pain, I almost would do it all over again just so I could have those good moments.

This temporary thrills mindset is a great discussion provoker. Last weekend in my Parenting the Texting Generation workshop I told the parents attending, “This is tricky. You really don’t want your kids watching this video, but if they have seen it, it would be wise to not overact, but instead interact with them about what they heard.” Maybe even ask question like:

Is there a love that has more to it than temporary thrills?

Is there a love that doesn’t end in disappointment?

I’m not happy with all the images I see in this video. I’m even more disturbed that this generation relates to this feeling. But I’m hopeful that parents and caring adult role models can respond with “interaction” instead of “over-reaction.”

What about you:

Have your kids seen this video?

Do kids in your community feel like this?

Can you, like Paul in Acts 17, use these words of the “pagan poets” to steer toward a conversation about Christ, teaching Biblical truth?

4 Replies to “Overreacting or Interacting about Rihanna’s #1 Song”

  1. Hey Jonathan. As usual, you nailed it. The song (and the video) are connecting with students at a very real “she knows how I feel” level. While our first instinct as parents, youth workers and believers is to shake our head in disgust at the video’s portrayal of sex, drugs, abuse and despair, we HAVE to come back and see it through our students’ eyes. We blogged about the video on the interlinc blog (and then again about the variety of reactions to it) and have had some great comment conversations about the tension of (as you put it) overreacting or interacting. Thanks for continuing to push us towards honest conversations with our students.

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