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1. Country Roads

What it is: In a Super Bowl ad, Beyonce announced that she is releasing new music—and the lead singles, “Texas Hold ‘Em” and “Sixteen Carriages,” hit with a country twang.
Why it makes perfect sense, actually: Country is having a moment—and the Texas-born Beyonce is in prime position to be a crossover success in the genre. Luke Combs, Kasey Musgraves, Morgan Wallen, and many other artists of the genre dominated the charts 2023 with earnest lyrics, sentimental melodies, and big vocals. Americana and a heavy dose of Southern sensibility have always been a part of Beyonce’s brand, and she’s been no stranger to belting out a country ballad in the past. (She even performed at the CMAs back in 2016.) Loyal Beyonce fans have already expressed their delight at this new musical direction, praising the lyrical depth of “Sixteen Carriages,” in particular.
Continue the conversation: Why do you think country music is so popular at the moment?

2. Who’s Paying?

What it is: For Gen Z singles, the expectation that men will pay for dates, especially first dates, seems to persist—even as other gendered expectations around dating fall away.
What young people have to say about it: In a recently published survey of 552 college students, researchers found that men paid for all or most of the bill on a first date 90% of the time. On later dates, men and women were more likely to split the check, but men still paid a majority of the time. Interestingly, only 55% of women surveyed expected men to pay on the first date, while 80% of men assumed they’d be paying. Reporting for the New York Times suggests that some women expect men to pay because men typically make more money than women, and because women need to spend more of their own time and money getting ready for a date. However, the full and deeper reasons that this gender norm persists are likely much more complicated than the cost of makeup and the wage gap.
Continue the conversation: Should men expect to foot the bill for a first date? Should women offer to split it?

3. Language Arts

What it is: “The Five Love Languages,” by Gary Chapman, first became popular in evangelical Christian circles. Now, the book has become—and remains—a mainstream phenomenon on television, dating apps, and TikTok.
Why people are talking about it: The five main love languages that Chapman originally proposed are physical touch, receiving gifts, acts of service, quality time, and words of affirmation. He created these categories based on his notes as a practicing relationship counselor. Researchers in Canada recently dove into the “five love languages,” looking to identify if there is evidence to back up the main concepts of Chapman’s book. They concluded that highlighting one love language over another wouldn’t necessarily lead to a happier relationship, writing, “Love is not akin to a language one needs to learn to speak but can be more appropriately understood as a balanced diet in which people need a full range of essential nutrients to cultivate lasting love.” They also found that couples who shared the same “love language” might not necessarily be happier. While the concept of “love languages” may not resonate with everyone or improve every relationship, there’s no argument that its key ideas have been useful for many marriages. In response to this new paper, Chapman says (among other things) that the more research on this topic is done, the better.
Continue the conversation: Have you ever thought about what your love languages might be?

Song/Slang/Resource of the Week

CARNIVAL by Kanye West and Ty Dolla $ign: After a lengthy hiatus (or exile, depending on who you ask), Kanye West has returned with the first of three planned albums in collaboration with Ty Dolla $ign. The first album, titled “Vultures 1,” reflects Kanye West’s wide range of frustrations: with the world in general, with his critics, and with women. Kanye’s history of antisemitic remarks and bizarre public behavior hasn’t tanked the album’s popularity, and lead single “CARNIVAL” is at the top of the Apple and Spotify charts. The song is full of reductive language toward women and an unabashed fixation on certain sex acts. At one point, Kanye does acknowledge how porn has created an overly-sexualized culture, but that moment quickly passes. From a musical perspective, “CARNIVAL” has all of Kanye’s signatures, with beat-driven verses, and a memorable melody. For lyrics, click here (strong language and sexual lyrics/imagery).

Deep Dive: On Love and Loneliness

Each year, Valentine’s Day comes and goes, leaving a wide variety of emotions in its wake. For some, the day of love is a chance to spend quality time with a partner or with friends (see: the rise of “Galentine’s Day”), but for others, the day can be a painful reminder of loneliness or an occasion for jealousy.

On this week’s episode of the Deep Dive, we discuss the ways culture places a higher value on romantic love than any other kind of relationship, and how this imbalance can be isolating and confusing for teens When every male/female friendship we see on television is framed as a placeholder until the main characters finally kiss, and when countless movies are set up to imply that single men and women are doomed to a lifetime of loneliness, teens see that—and their takeaway may be that their young lives are nothing more than a race to get to the altar. Even Christian culture can be guilty of sending the same message, with a constant emphasis on  marriage as the only end goal worth pursuing once a young person’s early twenties come around.

Marriage is a good gift given by God, but singleness is not a curse. Young men and women, including teens, can feel like finding a spouse is the key to entering adulthood, and that their “real lives” won’t really get started until this goal is accomplished. As caring adults, we can push back against the media narrative and model a deeper truth by treasuring partnership as something unique and irreplaceable, but also prioritizing friendships, family relationships, and neighborly connections.

For the full episode, [click here]. In the meantime, here are three questions to help spark conversation with your teens:

  • How have you observed romantic relationships being portrayed and talked about in culture?
  • What would you say are some examples of healthy dating relationships, on TV or in real life?
  • What does the Bible say about God’s relationship with humanity and with His Son?