By now you may have seen or heard about the YouTube viral video of the young teen singing her repetitive pop tune “Friday,” which has logged some 100 million internet hits in a few short weeks, and still counting. When I first saw the video, I thought it was a clever spoof on how inane pop music has become, with mind-numbing rap tempos and listless lyrics saying that today is Friday and tomorrow is Saturday and then comes Sunday – the sort of learning curve my youngest son followed in preschool. But apparently the song is not a spoof and kids are taking it seriously.
True, the music of the young is often disdained by their elders. I can recall my parents’ raised-eyebrow disapproval upon hearing the “Yeah, yeah, yeah” of the Beatles in the early 1960s, but at least the song “She Loves You” followed the traditional pattern of Western storytelling, starting with a problem (“You think you’ve lost your love”), a conflict (“She said you hurt her so”) and a resolution (“Apologize to her”). In contrast, the “Friday” video has no story, no personal conflict outside of the young people choosing “which seat can I take” and no resolution. The message is “Party … Party … Party…Yeah!”
I find it interesting that the video began to gain traction on YouTube on March 11, the first Friday of Lent. Throughout these 40 days, the “Friday” video has been amassing “hits” and serving as a sort of shadow negative to the Lenten message of fasting, abstinence and almsgiving. The YouTube teens are coiffed and scrubbed to perfection while they parade for one another in fancy cars, glamorous clothes, palatial homes and glittering ballrooms – with no apparent adult supervision.
Where in this scenario is there room for Lent? Fasting vs. fast cars. Abstinence vs. indulgence. Almsgiving vs. conspicuous consumption. Self-examination vs. self-absorption. Given these choices, what would most teens – or your teen – choose?
A common response of parents to the challenges of our culture is to say that you can’t keep kids in a bubble or protect them from every danger. While it’s true that bubble wrapping your youngsters is bad for their moral growth, you also don’t want to send them out in a thunderstorm without a raincoat. And right now the culture is pouring upon our children, and much of what is falling is like acid rain.
I admit that the juvenile “Friday” song is an easy target for parents, and it’s more a reflection of the culture than a destructive agent. After viewing the video for a few internet minutes, you may feel as though you’ve been smeared with soda pop and bubble gum, but no serious damage has been done to the soul. True music will survive this minimal assault, no matter how many more millions view it.
Yet the super-viral video is part of a larger media trend that is undermining the values that most parents – especially religious ones – seek to transmit to their children. With Holy Week upon us, we parents should assess the messages our kids are receiving from us and from the culture. What will we do – or what can we undo – to give our children the proper moral and religious foundation? In the popular idiom of our day, “Which seat will I take?”