So Glad I'm Not 18

On a recent night out, I asked one of my friends about her 17-year-old daughter. I knew that she had just started college and was wondering how things were going. We talked about the number of life changes at that age and how difficult it was to keep priorities straight. We also talked about this being the age when people met their first love. The trials and tribulations of being 17, I was told, had led to a mother-daughter argument about time management. Mother had offered her daughter some unsolicited advice, and daughter had resented the interference. My friend told me that, mid-row, all she could think about was Alice Cooper's song, "I'm 18."

The song played in my head until the next day when I looked up the lyrics. Of course, I'd remembered the music and refrain, but, I confess, not the lyrics.

I got a baby´s brain and an old man´s heart
Took eighteen years to get this far
Don´t always know what I´m talkin´ about
Feels like I´m livin´ in the middle of doubt
Cause I´m eighteen
I get confused every day
I just don´t know what to say
I gotta get away

Was it because I was too involved with being 18 to understand, or was it because I couldn't relate to Alice Cooper, an old guy, telling me what it was like to be 18?

At any rate, I may not have remembered the lyrics, but I certainly recall how important music was to me when I was growing up. Whether it was folk, new wave or progressive rock, music was my way to discover life and the outside world while growing up in a conservative small town. I was more inclined, however, to listen to the music rather than the lyrics, and I just recently discovered why.

I thought about the general theme of love and relationships in mainstream music, as they are often on the minds of young adults, and decided to research some of the lyrics to songs about hooking up when I was a teen. I was both amused and repulsed by what I discovered.

The first song that came to mind was an old folk rock tune, which probably still plays ad nauseum on classic rock stations. This song must have turned off a lot of women in search of a monogamous relationship.

Love the One You're With (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young)

If you're down and confused
And you don't remember who you're talkin' to
Concentration slip away
Cause your baby is so far away.
Well, there's a rose in a fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can't be with the one you love
Love the one you're with
Love the one you're with

I had a good laugh at the "rose in a fisted glove." The rose, a symbol of love, but in a fisted glove. Scuse me, what's with the glove? Anyway...Correct me if you disagree, but I can't imagine a woman writing a song about a moment of weakness and it still getting airtime 40 years later. Some will say it was a time of free love...Whatever!

The other song that came to mind took me back to my early teens, and again, it received airtime for years after it was initially released in 1979-- You're All I've Got Tonight (the Cars). Here's some of it:

i don't care if you hurt me some more
i don't care if you even the score
you can knock me and i don't care
you can mock me and i don't care
you can rock me just about anywhere
it's alright
'cus you're all i've got tonight
you're all i've got tonight
you're all i've got tonight

Now, as I recall, a lot of women liked the Cars and new wave music. However, this song did not offer a very appealing picture of hooking up for either party. I'm starting to see why I remembered the music, but not the lyrics.

The next song, a progressive rock tune by the hugely popular Supertramp, was loved by everyone. Even our parents used to sing along to these songs on AM radio, but listen to the opener of the title song from Breakfast in America.

Take a look at my girlfriend
She's the only one I got
Not much of a girlfriend
I never seem to get enough

Hello! Sounds to me like love and relationships were strictly male focused, and these three songs were tame AM radio material. Wait a minute? Weren't most of the musicians and songwriters male? Yep. The record producers? Yep. The people who decided how much airtime these songs received? Yep. No wonder I couldn't remember the lyrics. I couldn't relate to the point of view.

Have things changed since then? Not according to Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown, the authors of Packaging Girlhood:Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers' Schemes. To counter the objectifying and degrading portrayal of women in pop music, they suggest that parents explain to their daughters that the music industry is overwhelmingly made up of men.

Point out the maleness of the world of pop music. For the most part, men own the companies and produce the artists and the CDs, control what gets airtime, and film the MTV videos. They're also overwhelmingly the ones in bands (U2, Green Day, Simple Plan, Yellowcard, Death Cab for Cutie, Maroon 5, Korn, and so on). (p.154)

Yes, there were women in pop music when I was a teen, but they were not nearly as successful or had the same longevity or amount of airtime as their male counterparts. There are, however, more women making money and enjoying success in the music industry today. The Madonnas, Christinas, Brittneys and Avrils have indeed become superstars, but how many of their equally successful male counterparts have had to sex it up, take off some clothes or go blond to maintain their market shares? Ah, none.

But this post was about lyrics wasn't it? Are there lyrics about love in mainstream music today that are written from a woman's perspective? Are these lyrics sex-positive without objectifying women? Please tell me about them. Maybe I will be able to remember them for once.

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Our Hypersexualized Media: How to Help Our Children

The Gold Standard of Beauty: Targetting Insecurities

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JWL | September 12, 2009 at 9:39 PM

Carol King, Peggy Lee, Laurie Anderson, Annie Lennox, jennifer Warnes, are among my favourites and occupy many slots on my iPod. And of course my all time favourite Emmy Lou Harris.

Heather | September 13, 2009 at 3:51 AM

Hmmm. All of these women are much older than I, but I do share your love of Emmy Lou Harris. Yes, I imagine that these women have written some sex-positive lyrics that do not objectify women, but I was looking more for lyrics in pop music or mainstream music today.

I know they are out there. I just don't think that they get the airtime unless they are sexed up. I'm looking for these singers to introduce them to my daughter. Sorry, Although her songs are beautiful, Peggy Lee is a hard sell to a 7 year old.

Sumal | July 6, 2015 at 7:54 AM

It is good that you are not 18.

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