Issue 24: Music & Contemporary Culture
"Even though adults often think that swearing is unsophisticated, it helps bridge the gap between teenagers and social consciousness."
Censored Music at Tabor
Lainie Cederholm & Anonymous, Tabor Academy
Jan 31, 2019
Anybody who has been a high schooler knows that teenagers love to swear and talk about sex. Swearing, like little rebellions, pushes back on the societal rules placed on young people. Most kids start swearing in middle school, but on a small scale that gradually increases as they move into high school. Those few students who choose not to swear still hear their friends and peers swearing, if not their parents or other adults. Similarly, teenagers learn and start having sex as they move into high school. Although a taboo subject to discuss around adults, kids talk about sex amongst themselves regularly. So why do adults pretend that censoring music with swears or sexual content somehow benefits the kids in the community?
Often times, the music containing these “forbidden” messages is more appreciated for the beat and feeling it ignites in the listener rather than the lyrics themselves. One example is the 2017 JV field hockey anthem, Rockstar by Post Malone. From the get-go, this song contains questionable messages and lots of swears, but it got the whole team pumped up. Post Malone spends most of the song talking about his experiences with drugs, alcohol, and girls since he gained his fame. I struggled to find a need to stop us from playing this music because none of us are famous or have any desire to do certain things to girls as well as “pop pillies.” Hence, when adults tried to keep us from playing Rockstar on the field before a game, I was always frustrated.
Additionally, music which conveys powerful messages about social injustice or personal struggles often contains swears because it is the only way to capture the genuine exasperation and suffering across. It can be hard to engage young people on important social issues. These artists have to captivate us, and the perfect way to grab a teenager’s attention is with swears. The harsh language pulls the listener in to appreciate the language and message more. Even though adults often think that swearing is unsophisticated, it helps bridge the gap between teenagers and social consciousness.
If Tabor students already know about sex, drugs, and swears, why should it matter if we listen to music containing those ideas in them? The discomfort of listening to music with teenagers is not rooted in the content, but the divide between adults and teenagers caused by distrust on both ends. By listening to these genres of music, we as teenagers admit to knowing about certain “sensitive” topics, and it forces the adults to admit the same. However, the reality of the situation is that we just want to listen to good music without being trampled on by sensitive adults not ready to be exposed to certain themes.