‘Lost in the Game,’ produced by Durham Academy’s a cappella group, XIV Hours, featured fourteen songs chosen by the students themselves that served the purpose of displaying the “unhealthy sexual relationships and gender stereotypes contained in the messages of popular music and culture.” Each member chose a song that they would like to present; only after reviewing the lyrics were the songs all categorized as “something [the students] could never perform at a school function,” the reason being their controversial messages.
The majority of the songs chosen by the students have been featured on Billboard’s top 100 lists at some point; some have even dictated the number one spot. For example, Kesha’s 2010 hit, ‘Tik Tok,’ that holds the record for the longest time that a 2010 single spent at number one. ‘Tik Tok’ has mature themes, particularly pertaining to its repetitive references to alcohol use and intoxication. Kesha, the singer and songwriter of the song, was of legal drinking age when the song was released back in 2009. However, she had to have been aware of the audience to which she was appealing, most of whom were well under the legal drinking age of twenty-one. Despite the adult themes, the song was a hit, so much so that it was named on Billboard’s Hot 100 songs of All-Time.
So when the academy’s students wanted to present this popular song only to realize that the song’s references to alcohol prevented it from being acceptable in a school setting, was it their mistake for considering a song with profane lyrics? Or were they simply reflecting the modern genre of music to which they have been exposed to?
The answer is both; both parties are at fault. The music dictating the top of the Billboard charts is ultimately the most popular songs at the time. A song is made popular by the audience, and the appeal to the audience often depends on the beats in the background and the catchiness of the chorus. For that same reason, the songs at the top of the charts are not necessarily worthy of a PG rating.
The Durham Academy video also featured the song ‘Blurred Lines’ by Robin Thicke. In an interview with WNCN, Braden Saba, a member of the group, recalled the production of this particular scene referring to the lyrics as “appalling,” even more so “when you see a high schooler [quoting them].” Despite being the song that led the pop music charts for ten weeks in 2013 and being considered Billboard’s song of the summer, ‘Blurred Lines’ is very controversial. Written by Robin Thicke, accompanied by T.I., and Pharrell, the song arguably influences rape culture, with lyrics that rape victims recognize as the dialogue perpetrated against them. But again, this did not stop ‘Blurred Lines’ from winning Billboard awards for top R&B song, top radio song, as well as the top hot 100 song for 2014. Why? Because the song was, and still is, undeniably catchy.
The beats in the background have become "sicker", advancing over time. Meanwhile, the lyrics have completely changed course. Lyrics have become more explicit to the point where many students would not willingly repeat them in front of their parents. Once again, it is not the direct fault of the students but of the music industry for offering the beats that the public wants to hear at the cost of profane lyrics. As the industry adjusts to expose us to the music that will sell, the positive response of the audience only fuels the fire.