Explicit music at dances is a blurred line

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Photo by Taylor Bushey

Middletown High School student listens to explicit music content outside of school facilities.

By Taylor Bushey, Online Editor-in-Chief

Taylor Bushey
Online Editor-in-Chief

I walk in all dressed up with my group of friends at the start of the dance. The music is blaring, people are dancing and it looks like everyone is having a good time. Toward the middle of the dance many people start to leave and by the end, nearly half of the people who attended are gone.

The Monday after the dance, I start to hear comments about the music. They are both positive and negative. “I can’t believe they mixed country and electronic songs together,” said one student. “They finally played a good slow song,” said another.

Every year, students at Middletown High School gather for school dances such as Homecoming and Prom. And the most important part of the dance is the music. It sets the mood.

“It’s all pretty fast-moving and has a good beat, which is what I think all dance’s music should be like,” said Alexa Kehlbeck, MHS sophomore.

The majority of the music played is upbeat, but there are many favorites that are restricted because the dances are school-related activities. As part of Frederick County Public Schools’ policy, schools are restricted from playing music that has inappropriate language, sexual content or promotes chemical substances or alcohol.

“We have to look at what the music symbolizes, too, because it can offend some groups of people,” said Denise Fargo-Devine, MHS principal.

The song Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke was specifically requested by Fargo-Devine to not be played, according to Cynthia Anderson, math teacher and Student Government Association adviser.

“I don’t understand why she would ban that particular song,” said Kehlbeck. “It’s not particularly G-rated, but dances have played much worse.”

To help students understand what songs may be played, there is usually a list made available to students with recommended songs that qualify.

We have serious restrictions on what we can play,” said Anderson. “Even more than a radio station.”

Radio stations can play music as long as vulgar language is taken out and are allowed to play the full song, where FCPS can only play the song for a limited time and has to follow the rest of its policy.

In deciding what DJ to hire, the only requirement is that he be licensed and insured.  There are no requirements or screening of the DJ based on what FCPS allows.

“When we look for a DJ, affordability is the number one factor. We want a DJ that works well in a high school environment, as it takes much patience, and someone who is open to suggestion,” said Joseph Haddad, MHS SGA special events planner.

This year, the music ran differently than expected. The DJ hired in the spring cancelled two weeks before the dance and SGA had to find a quick replacement. It found a DJ that specialized in light shows along with music.

Anderson said that, unfortunately, the dance had a better light show than music.

“The music in general wasn’t great because there was too much mixing,” said Anderson. “It was the way they were being played.”

From an administrative point of view, Fargo-Devine says that she doesn’t like when different genres of music are played in the same remix, but thinks it’s better so that students will avoid explicit dancing.

Administrators will sometimes go to the DJ and ask for a song such as The Electric Slide to break things up.

“I would like to have student input in terms of music,” said Lee Jeffrey, assistant principal. “There would be a variety of requests, which means I would play a variety, and with doing that you aren’t going to please everybody.”

SGA and this Homecoming’s DJ wanted to get more of the student body involved with song choice. The DJ set up a Twitter account that allowed for song requests by students which were approved by FCPS policy.

The Twitter account did get a lot of feedback, but a lot of the songs requested were cut from the list.

“I like having the ability to request what music I like because I like having my voice heard,” said Victoria Robertson, MHS junior.

Most of the popular artists requested were One Direction, Usher and Jay-Z. Every song is analyzed for school use.

“The request list consisted of annoying, twangy, country songs along with your typical generic songs like Shots by LMFAO and I Gotta Feeling by the Black Eyed Peas,” said Haddad.

“It was a fantastic idea, thanks to our committee,” said Kirsten Kron, MHS SGA president.

Although the idea seemed promising, most of the songs requested were not approved by administration.

While an SGA committee takes care of Homecoming, a different branch of students plan a much larger and more anticipated event. The Prom is run by the Junior Executive Board instead of the SGA.

Some students feel that Prom is a more special occasion so music genres should be different.

“Prom is more of a dance you need to bring a date to, so there should be more slow songs for slow dances,” said Kehlbeck.

Students lean more towards Prom as being the dance with the better music selection.

“The Homecoming music is edited to be appropriate for ages 5 and up whereas Prom music is appropriate for ages 13 and up,” said Robertson.

The DJ tried to meet in the middle with the requirements of administration as well as student requests.

“Sometimes DJ’s will pick music they think the students will like and they don’t always get it right,” said Jeffrey.

The Prom will be held on May 2 this year with a Moroccan-styled theme. Jeffery said that students always come out saying that they had a good time and that it was one of the best Proms.

Robertson says that music at Prom “suits a wider range of people.”

Fargo-Devine says she wants all of the students to have fun, but she wants them to follow rules and regulations of the school system.

Kron says that she would love to improve on what gets played at our dances.

“These songs are not that bad, especially if it’s a clean version. No one will be paying attention to the words, just to each other and the entire experience itself,” said Kron.

“SGA can always improve on the way they prepare a theme and music, but students need to know we have a limited control over the event and it is impossible to please everybody,” said Haddad.