Shocking Pop Lyrics You Wish Your Kids Never Heard
Ever since Elvis came out on stage and swiveled his hips to "Hound Dog," pop music has had its share of songs and musicians that make parents shake their heads in disbelief. That is what pop has always been about — rebellion for a younger generation finding its way to adulthood.
As kids, we also listened to tunes that left little to the imagination, all while confusing our elders. Today, however, we're in their shoes. Check out some song lyrics by current artists that you may have trouble explaining to your kids!
"Dark Horse" by Katy Perry
As well as having a number of songs that are empowering like "Roar," Katy Perry also has some that could be deemed inappropriate for small children. However, only one of those namechecks a real-life serial killer with a cannibal instinct.
In "Dark Horse," Perry sings from the point of view of a witch who warns potential suitors not to fall in love with her. Rapper Jessie J adds a descriptive verse in which he says "She's a beast, I call her Karma, She eat your heart out like Jeffrey Dahmer."
Yes, you read that right.
"Locked Out of Heaven" by Bruno Mars
He played the Super Bowl, so he has to be family-friendly, right? Megastar Bruno Mars appeals to just about everyone. (Who hasn't heard and grooved to "Uptown Funk"?) But he, too, has lyrics that you may not recognize as being appropriate for smaller children unless you're listening clearly.
Take, for example, his 2012 smash "Locked Out of Heaven" in which Mars exclaims, "Your sex takes me to paradise." A little additional trivia about the song comes from the days of our youth: Mars wrote "Locked Out of Heaven" with The Police in mind. In fact, it's heavily influenced by the 1979 hit "Roxanne," in which Sting implores a prostitute of the same name not to "turn on the red light."
"Money" by Cardi B
Cardi B burst onto the scene about two years ago and has been just about everywhere since. As fun and vibrant a performer as she is, this record-breaking hitmaker has a litany of songs that you may not want to hear your child singing. From "Bodak Yellow" to "I Like It" and beyond, Cardi's messages are bold and catchy, but perhaps a little too much for young ears.
Take for example the lyrics to "Money" in which Cardi proclaims "I like boardin' jets, I like mornin' sex, But nothing in this world that I like more than checks" — and that's only the tip of the iceberg. Regardless, Cardi still has young fans of the song, one of whom went viral after changing the lyrics to more family- or, perhaps, cookie-friendly fare to sell Girl Scout cookies. (And you better believe it worked!)
"Closer" by The Chainsmokers Featuring Halsey
This Australian duo's songs are generally innocuous, save for the 2016 smash "Closer" in which the band's vocalist Andrew Taggart sings "So, baby, pull me closer in the backseat of your Rover / That I know you can't afford."
Hooking up may be a coming-of-age experience when you're well in your teens, but you don't really want to hear anyone younger than that singing its praises, do you?
"Anaconda" by Nikki Minaj
The "Anaconda" Nikki Minaj sings of is not an ode to the South American reptile. It is instead a song that Minaj describes as "embracing curvy women." This nearly five-minute celebration of big butts is rife with lyrics we can't possibly republish here and heavily features a sample from Sir Mix-a-Lot’s 1992 hit single "Baby Got Back.”
"My anaconda don't want none unless you got buns, hun" from Mix-a-Lot is the least racy line in the song!
"Baby Shark" by Pinkfong
The lyrics to "Baby Shark" by South Korea’s Pinkfong are simple and call out a shark family one by one, progressing from the baby shark to its grandparents, followed by a chorus of "do-do-do-do-do-do” after each verse. The "Baby Shark" earworm that burrows in your head may be the sole reason you don't want your kids singing it. But "Baby Shark" does have a darker side. The song as we know it is NOT the "Baby Shark" of yesteryear — and by yesteryear, we mean about a century ago.
"Baby Shark" has its origins in summer camp traditions, and it has been passed down orally from generation to generation. The song's lyrics, pre-Pinkfong whitewashing, take the listener through a shark attack involving dismemberment and CPR, and, as with the song's current iteration, there was a dance that went with the gruesome tale.
"I Love It" by Kanye West and Lil' Pump
West performed a “cleaned up” version of his hit, “I Love It,” with rapper Lil' Pump on “Saturday Night Live” in 2018, but there wasn't much of a song left to perform.
It's true lyrics — save for about four lines and the words "I love it" — about the joys of a "quickie" are far too explicit again to republish here or anywhere else, but that didn't stop the video from collecting 76 million views in its first week making it the biggest-ever debut for a rap video on YouTube.
"Paparazzi" by Lady Gaga
We have to give it to Gaga — she's cleaned up her act since her debut in 2009, and her songs have far less shock value today than they did when she first started.
But one of her biggest hits, "Paparazzi," extols the virtues of stalking with lyrics like "Promise I'll be kind, But I won't stop until that boy is mine, Baby you'll be famous, Chase you down until you love me, Paparazzi.” The sentiment is a little too creepy for kids.
"Shut Up and Drive" by Rihanna
If your kids loved the movie "Wreck-It Ralph," they've no doubt heard Rihanna's "Shut Up and Drive."
With lyrics like, "Get you where you wanna go, if you know what I mean, Got a ride that's smoother than a limousine," the song really doesn't have much to do with cars, and it's simply astounding that it was featured in an animated kid's film!
"Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I'm Bored" by Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande is an idol to little girls all over the world, but she has several songs that are very explicit, especially for those that have not yet reached their teens.
"Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I'm Bored" off her latest album, “Thank U, Next,” is not as sexually charged as some of them, but it does detail a woman's quest to break up a couple for her guilt-free pleasure. Sexual connotations aside, it's not a lesson your kids should learn at really any age.
"Murder on My Mind" by YNW Melly
In March 2019, rapper YNW Melly's song "Murder on My Mind" skyrocketed to the top of the Billboard charts. Songs about murder have charted before — Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks" are two examples of lyrical homicide — but never has a song with subject matter about a real-life murder been at the top of the charts.
YNW Melly, aka Jamell Demons, is in jail for the alleged murder of two of his friends and may have detailed the event in "Murder on My Mind." And the lyrics provide a graphic description of the the crime. “I didn’t even mean to shoot him, he just caught me by surprise, I reloaded my pistol, cocked it back, and shot him twice, His body dropped down to the floor and he got teardrops in his eyes.”
"I Can't Get Enough" by Selena Gomez
She's certainly not a Disney channel star anymore! The lyrics to Gomez's latest single "I Can't Get Enough" are in Spanish and English and are all about longing for someone.
While that's a well-trod sentiment in pop music, Gomez's are particularly racy. "I like that, you like that, so let's be crazy, The contact, impact, I want that daily. Our breath getting deeper, deeper, lately, I like that, baby."
“Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke with Pharrell Williams and T.I.
“Blurred Lines," Robin Thicke's 2013 hit, spent 33 weeks on the Billboard charts, but certainly hasn't held up well in the era of #MeToo.
Lyrics like “I know you want it … you’re a good girl" promote a troublesome attitude towards sex, consent and the objectification of women. The song's concepts that are not only too advanced for young children but harmful in their influence overall.
"Rockstar" by Post Malone Featuring 21 Savage
Post Malone was nominated for a Grammy in 2018 for "Rockstar" in which he declares he "feels just like a rockstar" and details the lives and habits of living fast and dying young, all while namechecking deceased icons like Bon Scott and Jim Morrison who did just that.
This ode to sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll is far too explicit for younger kids in its language and concepts, especially if you have a wannabe musician on your hands.