Musically, The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

03/18/2011 07:54 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

I was sitting at my desk, reasonably patiently, downloading songs from iTunes for my daughter. As she sampled the songs, I couldn't help wondering what the heck she was listening to these days and why it was even allowed on the radio. Things have changed so much since I was a kid, it seems. After one particular song, I could hold my tongue no longer.

"Do you know what he means?" I half shouted. "Do you know what an 'eenie, meenie, miney mo lover' is? Do you even know what a lover is? Because you'd better not! And what the heck is a 'shawty,' anyway?"

She looked at me curiously, not unlike, in retrospect, how I looked at my mother many, many years ago. As though I were a freak from another planet.

Ah, my helicopter-mother half thought indignantly, but this is different! Listen to some of these lyrics today! Katy Perry singing, "Let's go all the way tonight" and Ke$ha singing, "Take it off"! Then there are titles like "I Just Had Sex" and "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?" Or "S&M" and "Stay the Night." And I know I can always count on Britney Spears, this time for "Hold It Against Me."

Yes, replied my Zen-mother half, some of these songs have racy lyrics and downright sexual overtones. But the truth is, what I see her doing is dancing to them, not pondering their meaning. Not yet, at least. And when she's ready to ponder their meaning, then she'll be old enough to ponder their meaning. If that makes any sense.

Well, still, said copter-mom, it's just not right. It's like the whole world's gone crazy, what with no one thinking there's anything wrong with this music! We are exposing our children to songs about sex, for Pete's sake! The girl is dancing to them and singing lyrics she doesn't even understand! I find myself wincing just like my mother did when one of these songs comes on the radio. Which is disturbing on many levels.

This is when Zen-mom stepped up. Let's see, she thought. Where will it lead? Where did "Afternoon Delight" lead? Or "Paradise by the Dashboard Light?" How about "Kiss You All Over," "Love to Love You Baby," "Let's Get It On" and "Sexual Healing"? Not for nothin', but that Marvin Gaye really had a one-track mind.

Then there was "Having My Baby" and "Feel Like Making Love" and "Like a Virgin" and "Centerfold" and "I Want Your Sex." We had "Do You Want to Make Love" and "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" and "Tonight's the Night," and believe it or not, there were even more graphic titles out there.

My daughter's grandparents had some of their own, too. Jerry Lee Lewis, anyone? "Sweet Sixteen"? Elvis had "Baby Let's Play House," Muddy Waters had "I Just Want to Make Love to You" and "Hoochie Coochie Man," and who can forget Bobby Darrin's "Dream Lover"? There was "Under the Boardwalk," "Hanky Panky" -- a personal favorite when I was, oh, eight or so -- and "Let's Spend the Night Together." And these were 50 years ago!

Don't even get me started on the '90s, with "Let's Talk About Sex" and "I Wanna Sex You Up" and "Mama Said Knock You Out" and "Bitch" and "Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover" -- sex and language in one fell swoop!

Well, yes, thought copter-mom, I actually liked some of those. I mean, I wasn't a mom yet. And that one about the--

Zen-mom jumped in. Just hold on a second, Miss World-Revolves-Around-Me. Did you hear what you just said? The songs from the '90s didn't bother you because you related to them, and because you didn't have kids yet. Well, somebody had kids in the '90s, I'm guessing, and they were probably bothered by the lyrics just like you're bothered now. And I'm guessing, for the most part, the kids are turning out all right. Like they did in the '60s. And '70s. And '80s. And now.

As I remembered my mom standing by the rack of 45s at Kmart some 40 years ago, waiting somewhat patiently for me to choose a new record, I smiled. Maybe things haven't changed that much after all.