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Is Lady Gaga Bad for Kids?

The Coloradoan recently ran a piece about whether or not parents should let their kids listen to Lady Gaga’s music, referring to a quote by Yahoo! parenting editor Mira Jacob, who thinks of Gaga as “Madonna on steroids.”

I remember listening to Madonna as a kid, happily singing along to “Like a Virgin,” completely oblivious to the meaning of the lyrics.  I knew Madonna felt like she was being touched for the very first time, but I thought she meant emotionally.  And who knew that “Papa Don’t Preach” was a song about reproductive rights?  When Madonna told her father she was going to keep her baby, I figured that meant she was going to stay with her boyfriend even though her Dad didn’t like him.  Finally, let’s not forget, “Oh, Father,” her cheerful 1989 release about child abuse.  I could hear the pain in her voice as she wailed, “Somebody hurt you, toooooooooo!”

Sure, Madonna never posed half-nude on the cover of Rolling Stone with machine guns blazing from her breasts, but her Vogue-era cone bras were just as provocative in the early 90′s as Gaga’s costumes are now.  I think Gaga’s music is tamer and more superficial than most of Madonna’s hits, and while Gaga’s videos are certainly filled with imagery sure to make a minister blush, they don’t top Madonna’s in controversial content.  As a parent, the adult content in Lady Gaga’s videos doesn’t bother me as much as the violent overtones do.  Poisoning an entire diner full of people?  As I sang in this parody of Telephone by my brilliant pal Mark Douglas, “Please don’t beat me up but I have to ask what does that have to do with a telephone?”

Family therapist and author Carleton Kendrick says, “It is okay for parents to let younger children listen to Lady Gaga songs that they have first screened, (but) tweens and young teens may be confused or harmed by exposure to videos like “Alejandro” or “Telephone.”

I wonder if the issue some people have with Gaga is less about her lyrical and visual content and more about the fact that she’s a woman – and a young one at that.  A song like “Bad Romance” is about relationships, yes, but what about the myriad of radio hits sung in praise of straight-up makin’ love?  As SD blogger Sandy recently suggested, there’s really nothing new under the sun when it comes to today’s provocative pop.  Things may be spelled out a bit more these days, but as music producer Robin Frederick points out, “Punning allusions and bawdy language were quite common in love songs” dating as far back as the Renaissance.  Forsooth, Lady Gaga doth descend from a long line of lovers.

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