Summer's Pop Music Meltdown

Want a primer on societal meltdown? Then turn on the Top-40 pop station in any town and sample the cultural depths to which too much of today's popular music has sunk. Summer time is often time for young people to take car trips with the radio blasting, off to the beach, or the movies, or a ball game. How many will fondly look back two or three decades from now and say, "I really loved those rap songs about thugs, drugs, and pimping"?

Much is being said, and done, about the so-called "shock jocks" polluting the public airwaves with their raunchy antics. Not enough is being said about the music itself. Even at the top of the Billboard charts, there are unredeemably smutty and/or violent songs you can't believe any responsible station manager would air.

Some songs about wild nightlife merely try sneak the sleazy lines past the casual listener. "Sunshine" by Lil' Flip carries a few sex lines, like "I need a lady in the streets but a freak in the sheets." Kevin Lyttle's "Turn Me On" sneaks by one eyebrow-raising line: "One hand on the ground and bumper c**k sky high...Got the Python hollerin' for mercy." Luckily, the singer's Jamaican accent obscures the line a little.

But then there are those lyrics designed to be as smash-mouthed and offensive as possible. For example, "Lean Back" comes from a rap group named Terror Squad, which probably should have thought about a new name after September 11. (Just ask the band formerly known as Burning Airplanes.) "Lean Back" is a big hit despite being chock full of profanity - the F-word and the S-word - not to mention the thug rappers' affection for the N-word and "faggot."

For parents of young girls, it's past time to worry about "Dip It Low" by Christina Milian, which unfolds like a tutorial on how to bring a man to orgasm. The chorus refers to the female pelvis: "Dip it low, pick it up slow, roll it all around, poke it out like your back broke - pop, pop, pop that thing, I'm'a show you how to make your man say ooh." There's no time in this song for love or commitment, just a sexual calisthenics class.

Why do songs like this get such heavy radio airplay? Because executives care only about what is "cool" on the street, what brings ears to the advertisements. In a similar (and rather pathetic) attempt to be cool, music critics evaluate only the music or thug atmospherics, and never, God forbid, pass any sort of a judgment on the moral content, or lack of it.

For example, Vibe magazine celebrated the female rapper in Terror Squad: "Remy's skillful flow and thug manner has put her name out there. From radio, to magazines, to TV, her raw lyrics are what everyone's buzzing about." Artists are rewarded for their "thug manner" and being "raw" with language. "Buzz" is the only goal. Shock is their only value.

Station managers haven't seen parents assembling in the streets, or sending letters to their legislators. The Federal Communications Commission struggles hard and long enough to fine obnoxious shock jocks, so any hope of expecting Washington to look at dirty song lyrics is misplaced.

But if a campaign were to begin, its theme song might just be the worst of this summer's hits, from a rapper appropriately named Juvenile, and his pal Soulja Slim. Their song "Slow Motion" carries an inaccurate title. By song's end, they're pleading to hurry up to the sex and drug use: "Less money we spend on bull--, the more for the weed."

Soulja Slim begins the boasting: "I'm a d**k thrower, her neck and her back hurting, cutthroat will have her like a brand new virgin...Hop on top and start jiggy-jiggy jerking." Juvenile then gets sleazier than that, bringing up menstruation and domestic violence: "If you going through your cycle, I ain't with it, I'm gone, you must've heard about them hoes that I beat up in my home, they wasn't telling the truth baby you know they was wrong."

The titans of commercial radio and the music industry hope youngsters like primordial sludge like this. And in this case, they were spot-on right. Billboard lists "Slow Motion" as the number one song right now in the United States of America.