Generally, pop music isn’t worth commenting on. It is so ubiquitous, and generally so ephemeral that it doesn’t warrant much response. Yet sometimes it is wise to give some attention to it, if only because of its ubiquity. It is easy to uncritically allow pop to be the sound track of our lives, without adequate reflection on what it is telling us about our lives, and our world.
One song that recently caught my attention (I happened to be in the gym of a hotel, and – as is invariably the case in gyms – MTV was on) is Lana Del Ray’s Video Games. The first thing that caught my attention was the melodic beauty of the song – the tolling bell and harp that open the track set this apart from the normal plastic pop. But my next reaction was a fairly visceral reaction to the lyrics.
At one level Video Games is simply a retelling of boy meets girl – the classic tale of falling in love. I’ve nothing against that! And I’ve certainly got nothing against faithful, serving love. But some of the underlying messages in the song make my skin itchy.
It's you, it's you, it's all for you
Everything I do
I tell you all the time
Heaven is a place on earth with you
Tell me all the things you want to do
I heard that you like the bad girls
Honey, is that true?
It's better than I ever even knew
They say that the world was built for two
Only worth living if somebody is loving you
Baby now you do
The major problem here is the way it locates personal identity in romantic relationship. Romantic relationships are important, and most of us desire them and enter into them, but to define ourselves by them is to sell ourselves short. Key to personal identity should be an understanding that we are made in the image of God, and that (if we have responded in faith to Christ) we shall one day be like God. That is a far more compelling message, and a much better place to get a sense of who you are, than, “I’m nothing without a boyfriend.”
A subsidiary problem is that the object of the song is a typical slacker male, sitting around drinking beer, wasting his time playing video games and leering after the bad girls. This is not the kind of man I would encourage any woman to devote herself to. She would do much better to find a man who works hard, doesn’t look at porn or fantasize about pole dancers (and expect her to act out these fantasies), and is faithfully committed to serving her, rather than having her run around after him.
Young women should have higher ambitions – and higher standards – than this. I wouldn’t want my daughters singing songs like this. After decades of campaigning for women’s rights we should be able to do better than this.