Music Worth Humming

“Are they really singing about that?”

When my friend actually listened to the song lyrics of the popular remake she’d loved as a teenager instead of just dancing along with her pre-teen kids, she stopped to ask herself that question and then had to turn it off altogether.

This incident started a conversation between the two of us about how we guide our kids in music choices and a discussion with my own daughter.  “What do you do when you start listening to a song and realize that it’s maybe not all that appropriate?”

A front and center example comes to mind—the Katy Perry performance on American Idol on Wednesday, May 13. I’m not going to link to it. You can find it on you’re own.

My kids and I enjoyed watching American Idol together this season, evaluating the good and the bad together (and I don’t just mean the singing quality). Last week, though, I was happy they didn’t walk in the door from their youth group activity until the moment of the big announcement of the final contestants.

The angst my friend and I feel in helping our kids navigate the popular music world contrasts with another family music moment. On our usual Monday family night we followed up on some counsel from a leader in our church to read the preface of our hymnbook and look for the promised blessings of inspirational music. We underlined and counted 22 promises.

Here are a few of our favorites:

Music has boundless powers for moving families toward greater spirituality and devotion to the gospel.

The hymns can bring families a spirit of beauty and peace and can inspire love and unity among family members.

Hymns can helps us withstand the temptations of the adversary.

see LDS Hymnbook Preface or Church Music Web Site

The trick to this, my husband said, is to remember these things beyond family night. He encouraged our kids to download good music, and hymns in particular, onto their MP3 players. When I was their age, I would have just rolled my eyes at my parents, but now it’s me who’s sitting in that chair, and I hope they do it.

I finished off the week saying essentially the same thing in a devotional to the teenagers in my seminary class. I shared the hymn lyrics that Kathy Anderson quoted in a talk, “But undaunted, still he trusted in his Heavenly Father’s care.” We sang that hymn and read a scripture about strength in adversity, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me,” (Phillip. 4:13).

At the end of the class, we were cleaning up the classroom for the week, and one of the students began humming that tune. Maybe encouragement toward better music does produce some eye rolling, but in the end something stuck in their memories worth keeping.


  1. Sarah (GenMom)
    May 20, 2009

    I totally hear you! The other day I switched over to a country music station. My daughter immediately said, “Did they just say, ‘Nothing but the radio on?’ ” While I laughed, I quickly switched back to our upbeat inspirational music CD which not only had clean language but music that was uplifting and directing my children towards God not sex.

    It is hard and I agree that I thought I could handle all kinds of things as a kid and be fine. Now I am much more protective to my children but that is our role, right?

    Have a great day.

  2. Rebecca
    May 22, 2009

    I was thinking about this post today as I sang loudly to the radio in the car, trying to keep my baby awake for a few more minutes. I was horrified at what started coming out of my own mouth! I didn’t realize that
    1. I listened to songs with such bad morals, and
    2. I knew the lyrics to songs with such bad morals!

    It takes on a whole new meaning when your own child is being subjected to those lyrics.

    On the other hand, I’ve noticed over the past few months that I have most hymns we sing in church memorized. Maybe I need to learn even more hymns to replace the bad stuff!

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