Tackling Social Issues in the Music Industry

Use popular music trends to get your teen participants to tackle important social issues 

Music and art have always been a great way to inspire thinking and get conversations going.  Use the music your participants identify with to create discussions around issues that teens deal with every day and may have trouble addressing in a healthy way and safe environment.  These discussions can help participants analyze deeper meanings from music videos, lyrics, or imagery used by popular artists in the Music Industry. 

In addition, the hope is to achieve the following outcomes… 

  • Teens feel comfortable to open up about their own thoughts/experiences related to current social issues
  • “Normalize” sensitive subjects, making it OK to discuss honestly 
  • Set an example of adults/mentors discussing topics openly and constructively (especially if differing opinions are expressed) 
  • Participants use concepts or topics discussed in their own original lyrics 

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Note: Due to the mature nature of the topics/lyrics/media that may be viewed/discussed, this program is recommended for older teens. Also consider getting support from the community or additional staff members like a social worker, counselor, resource officer and/or nurse. 

How to… 

  • Carefully listen to the themes in popular music or what your teen participants are listening to 
  • Collect relevant music videos, song lyrics, album art, or social media posts from music industry leaders/artists that depict current social issues, including: 
    • Sexual Harassment/abuse 
    • Depression/suicide 
    • Race 
    • Drug abuse 
    • Violence/crime 
    • Poverty/inequality 
    • Etc.
  • With your teen participants, decide on the social issue topics that they would like to discuss each week 
  • Establish discussion ground rules with teen participants, including:
    • Speaking one at a time 
    • Be respectful of others’ views 
  • With teen participants, watch relevant music videos or listen to song lyrics and facilitate an open discussion 

Week 1: Example – Kesha 

  • First listen to an older Kesha song like “TiK-ToK” 
  • Without discussion, next watch “Praying”
  • Discuss and compare the contrasting themes in the two music videos, including:
    • Music video imagery and themes 
    • Lyrics 
    • Instrumentation, arrangement, and production choices 
    • Personal feelings/reactions to either video
    • General discussion about the social issue itself
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