Thursday, August 30, 2012

Adult music, kids, and All the Swears

My eldest daughter, A, has excellent taste in music, if I do say so, and not, I gather, typical for her age. She's aware of her difference in this regard, and somewhat heartbreakingly canny about the implications of it; recently, the teacher in her class asked the kids to divide into groups based on their favourite singer or group, and A joined the sizeable Katy Perry contingent; "not," as she later told me, "because she's my favourite - she's OK I guess, but not my favourite! - but I knew no-one else would like what I like, and I didn't want to be by myself."

A likes the kind of music her Dad and I listen to. She likes lots of 80s and 90s bands - Cyndi Lauper, early Madonna, Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, Hunters & Collectors, and Paul Kelly are all on her hit list. In contemporary music, she likes folk / country and alternative music. And her two most beloved, most favourite bands of all? The Indigo Girls and Mumford & Sons.

Now, both the Indigo Girls and Mumford & Sons are excellent groups who produce melodic, thoughtful, folk (ish) music. Well and good. But both are adult bands, producing music for grown ups. The themes of their songs can be difficult for a 9 year old to come to grips with; and, while neither are particularly potty mouthed, both groups do, when the occasion demands it, make use of profanity to underline a point, complete a rhyme, or just because, really, it's the most appropriate word to express the sentiment. (To wit: Shame On You. Or, indeed, Little Lion Man.)

I'm not puritanical about language; I think swearing has a place in the rich gamut of human expression, and I am often admiring of the pithy amplification of mood that a writer or an artist can achieve with a well-placed f-bomb. I am not, myself, averse to dropping the occasional swear if the circumstances warrant it. I'm not a huge fan of non-stop effing and blinding, because, on the whole, I find it aggressive and off-putting, but that's not a moral judgement, more a tonal one, if you like. The deployment of swear words in music is, therefore, not remotely problematic for me as an adult listener.

What, though, should I make of my 9 year old enthusiastically listening to, drinking up in fact, music with adult themes and All the Swears?

Well, I am taking the view that, at 9, she is old enough to make the distinction between the socially appropriate and inappropriate uses of curse words. She understands full well that f-bombs are fine for Amy and Emily to sing on her stereo, in context, but that doesn't make them fine for her to say at Nanna's house. I think it's actually healthy for her to hear people using swears judiciously, deliberately, as the best (and selected) word to express their sentiment. Swearing is part of language and part of life. I would rather she learns its nuances in a variety of adult contexts instead of picking it up merely as an exciting but meaningless taboo on the back oval at school.

1 comment:

  1. I have gone through exactly the same here. The girls love Mumford and Sons and till we got the CD where the f word is used they didn't really know what was being said. They too however quickly worked out that while mum and dad were fine with them singing along at home, when in company they were to sing along to the radio edited version.