Vol. 2 Issue 34 | August 26, 2016
Three Things This Week
1. Frank Ocean
What it is: Frank Ocean’s first album in four years, Blonde, is an artistically styled, soulful, personal diary combining beautifully layered, smooth sounds with hard-hitting lyrics about sexual identity, racism, and materialism.
Why it's important: Artistically, the project is too good to ignore, with endorsements from Kanye and Drake and a list of musical credits ranging from Kendrick Lamar to The Beatles. However, the very name of the album (on Ocean’s site, it’s “Blond”; on Apple Music, it’s “Blonde”) speaks to its subliminal message. In French, “blond” is masculine while “blonde” is feminine. That Ocean’s new album could be spelled either way is a reflection of his own ambiguous sexuality (lyrics refer to relationships with both men and women). Because the album is so cerebral in its message and so sublime in its artistry, it’s no surprise that students are captivated by the sound, yet potentially unaware of the underlying ideas. Ask your students: What’s the balance between appreciating good art and “taking every thought captive”? Is it possible to enjoy music like this without being affected by its ideas?
What it is: A new “video yearbook” app by Facebook designed for teens to upload videos showing their likes, dislikes, best friends, etc. to other students at their school.
Why it's important: LifeStage offers teens exactly what they want: the opportunity to create dynamic video profiles to share in order to receive external validation. But safety experts aren’t so enamored: “There is no way to limit the audience of your videos. We can't confirm that people who claim to go to a certain school actually go to that school. All videos you upload to your profile are fully public content.” Meaning anyone of any age can view what your student shares online, compromising their privacy and identity. Ask your students: If you realized that anyone could access your photos/videos, would that change what you shared online?
3. D.R.A.M.’s “Broccoli”
Why it's important: Remember your mom telling you to eat your broccoli? Well, who knew that in 2016 “broccoli” is now slang for marijuana. Incidentally, when the song dropped, “Columbine” started trending in search engines, indicating that D.R.A.M.’s young listeners don’t understand his reference to the Columbine massacre when he raps, “Touch my gang, we gon' turn this s*** to Columbine.” The song normalizes profanity, violence, drug use, and misogyny, but according to D.R.A.M., “This song really caters to the youth more than anything.” Well, at least he’s honest. D.R.A.M’s hit reminds us that entertainers are “teachers with very loud voices” who are seeking to disciple the next generation.
Top 10 Songs This Week
When Plato wrote The Republic, he spent one paragraph on economics and forty pages on how music impacts society. In fact, one of Plato’s contemporaries, Damon of Athens, wrote, “Let me write the songs of a nation, and I care not who writes its laws.” Songs continue to shape the moral imagination of the next generation. Here are this week’s Top 10 songs.
1. “Closer” by The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey
Theme: The story of exes who run into each other after years, remembering why they were together in the first place, only to remember all the reasons they shouldn’t be together after sleeping with each other.
2. “Cheap Thrills” by Sia ft. Sean Paul
Theme: An ode to using partying and dancing on the weekends as an escape from reality.
3. “Cold Water” by Major Lazer ft. Justin Bieber & MO
Theme: Being a lifeline for someone who is struggling (good), yet normalizing drugs as a way to cope with problems (troubling).
4. “Heathens” by twenty one pilots (from the Suicide Squad soundtrack)
Theme: Celebrating everyday antiheroes. Since everybody has experienced rough things in their past, don’t be so quick to judge.
5. “This Is What You Came For” by Calvin Harris ft. Rihanna
Theme: A repetitive dance beat describing the “game” people play before they hook up with someone they meet at a club.
6. “Ride” by twenty one pilots
Theme: Contemplating what sacrificial love actually looks like and how that coincides with enjoying life’s enthralling journey.
7. “One Dance” by Drake ft. WizKid & Kyla
Theme: Using the excuse that “we’ve got no time” before we die to justify drinking, dancing, and having sex.
8. “Don’t Let Me Down” by The Chainsmokers ft. Daya
Theme: Crying out to someone for help (good), but also putting all hope and trust in that one person (bad).
9. “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” by Justin Timberlake (from the Trolls soundtrack)
Theme: Light-hearted dance song about giving in to one’s feelings and losing control.
10. “Send My Love (to Your New Lover)” by Adele
Theme: Releasing bitterness towards an ex and yearning for a deeper, more mature (sexual) commitment.