Pink, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry Spread Gospel of Self Esteem

I’ve always had difficulty understanding the words to songs that I hear on the radio. The summer after my freshman year in high school, I was at the pool with a group of friends. King of Pain by The Police was playing on the radio and everyone was singing along. Caught up in the moment I sang a little too loudly “I’m a pool hall ace…” One friend stopped and stared at me. What did you just say,” she asked? I knew I was busted but I wasn’t sure why. “I’m a pool hall ace,” I replied more than a little defensively. “That’s not how it goes,” she informed me shaking her head. It’s “How my poor heart aches.”

Fast forward almost 30 years and I’m a dad whose kids enjoy listening to songs on the radio as we ride around in the car together. I still have problems understanding the lyrics but since the radio stations play the same songs over and over, I eventually catch onto some of them. One thing that I’ve noticed is that several popular songs by Lady Gaga, Pink, and Katy Perry unmistakeably promote the gospel of self esteem.

In Born This Way Lady Gaga tells “subway kids” and I guess the rest of us that we are all “superstars”, “that there’s nothing wrong with loving who you are,” and we should “just love yourself and you’re set.”

Pink has two songs with similar themes including Perfect and Raise Your Glass. She tells us that we are perfect and that we need to change the voices in our head until they agree that we are as perfect as she says we are. She raises her glass to all those who are wrong in all the right ways.

I’ve read that Katy Perry is the daughter of a pastor but has since rejected Christianity. In her song Firework she speaks to girls who “feel like a plastic bag” or “feel so paper thin.” She wants them to know that “…there’s still a chance for you Cause there’s a spark in you. You just gotta ignite the light And let it shine Just own the night Like the Fourth of July.”

A Few Thoughts…
1. I assume that at least one reason that these songs are at the top of the charts is because their message resonates with listeners. There’s a deep hunger in each person to feel like you are okay, your life matters, and someone knows you and cares about you. But how comforting is it that the person who pumps you up and tells you that “You’re original, cannot be replaced” doesn’t even know you?

2. The gospel of self esteem is terribly unsatisfying. I know myself and there’s no way that you can convince me that I’m perfect.

3. Does anyone find it ironic that three skinny, rich women who appear very image conscious are telling young people who struggle with feeling accepted that they are perfect just the way they are?

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