Mar 27 2012

Letter to my 6 year old daughter about Trayvon Martin

Dear Maddy – I love you more than life itself but unfortunately I will not always be there to protect you. Recently, something very tragic happened to another mommy and daddy and I want to tell you about it. As you grow older, we will keep talking about situations like this. I wish life were like the Barbie movies but it’s not. It’s my job as your mommy to prepare you so you can made wise choices in life yet I don’t want to scare you so badly that you don’t live your life to the fullest. So here are some of my thoughts for you as you go through life.

1 – You are not a Power Ranger. You have not been tasked with fighting the Nylocks, Undead Army, Alien Warloads, and Evil Monsters to protect the world. Unless you become a police officer or sheriff’s deputy and have been trained and tasked by the proper authorities, you should not take it upon yourself to be a vigilante warrior. You will most likely cause more harm than good.

2 – Real life is not like any of the Power Ranger series. Real life bad guys do not look like part cyborg part plant part animal part car part monster. They are not easily identifiable and they are not as tall as buildings. Just because you see someone wearing clothing that you would not wear doesn’t make that person a criminal. You should not have to worry about being murdered when choosing your outfit for the day. As a girl you should not have to worry about being raped because your skirt is too short. Boys should not have to worry about being shot because they are wearing a hoodie sweatshirt.

3 – If you are worried about criminal activity in your neighborhood and you are keeping an eye out for suspicious people, then your priority is to remain safe. Call 911. They are in charge of sending out the people who are specially trained to serve and protect. You are not.

4 – You may choose to carry a gun at some point in life. That is your right. However, be prepared for the consequences. If you do not use it wisely you may not only put yourself in danger, but put others in danger also. You will have to live with the consequences of your actions. Even if your intention was well meaning….it does not matter. You did not make a wise decision.

5 – It is a given that you will make some poor decisions in life, I have made many. But I also accepted the responsibility and consequences of my decisions. I drove drunk on many occasions. Luckily I never hurt anyone or myself, but I did get arrested. I paid the consequences. If you make a poor decision and someone gets hurt, I will still love you, but you must pay the consequences of your decision.

6 – Now if you are walking down the street and someone is following you – call 911. If the person gets out of the car and approaches you, please walk faster away, run, either way, call 911 and/or yell for help. There is no way of knowing if this person in the car is safe or not safe. I just want you to stay safe. It is your right to defend yourself if someone is following you and then gets out of his car and starts yelling at you. What scares me is that you never know if the other person has a weapon or is mentally unstable and you could get hurt or die. You cannot protect yourself with self defense if the other person has a gun. I don’t want you to run scared from the world, but I don’t want you to be hurt or killed either. You are not a samuari, a ninja, a mystic force titan, and you have not had your genes genetically enhanced with super warrior skills. You are flesh and blood.

7 – Unfortunately, we live in a world were people are judged by the color of their skin, the clothes they wear, how they look, and it is not fair. It is not fair at all. But you are not the judge and jury of other people. Again, you may have good intentions of protecting your community, but unless you have been specially trained and legally authorized, you will most likely cause more harm than good. You may even take the life of an innocent 17 year old boy carrying a bag of skittles, a can of Arizona sweet tea, wearing a hoodie while walking in the rain, talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone, on his way back to his dad’s girlfriend’s house. And had you made a better decision, that boy would not be dead.

I may not be able to protect you forever, but I will do my best to ensure you grow up to make wise decisions as an adult. Regardless of legal tactics, political jargon, or defense strategies, I would not want to be the person who thought he had good intentions but made a very, very, poor, tragic decision and killed an innocent boy. He must pay the consequences of his decision.


Mar 8 2012

Dear Naysayers of #Kony2012

Open letter to the naysayers of the #Kony2012 video,

I was deeply moved by the Invisible Children video. As a mother of a young daughter I could relate to trying to explain to a child how bad things can happen in our world. Yes, I cried while watching but I also was so inspired by these people who want to do something. These kids, these filmmakers, they inspired me and they gave me a glimmer of hope in this dark world.

They wanted to get American’s attention. They did. We only have a short attention span; they made a 30 minute video. They wanted the message to spread quickly; it did via Twitter and Facebook. They wanted the youth of America to see outside our borders. They did. They want to make Joseph Kony famous. They have succeeded.

Now, the troubling part for me is the negative reactions. I understand that it is important to critically analyze media messages. I’m a doctoral student who studies media messages. Being able to think critically is a doctoral component and if you cannot do it, you cannot be a Ph.D. I advocate for teaching critical thinking in middle school. It is good to ask questions. It is important to question the message senders. Sometimes, a lot of times, message senders such as the mass media, the government, big corporations, politicians running for office, and those in office have a way to skewing the information to push their own propaganda.

For instance, isn’t it curious that our school books teach us about Columbus discovering America? I like the joke that says Columbus discovering America is like me walking into your house and declaring it is now Judydania and then killing you and your family. Yeah it’s like that.

So back to #Kony2012 and Invisible Children. I ask the naysayers these questions:

  • Why do you need to make it about race? Why call it the “white man’s burden”? Burden? Really? Maybe it’s the white man’s burden because as I sit here in my nice house with electricity, running water, multiple degrees, a laptop, iPhone, iPad, HD tv, wii, 4Runner, lots of shoes, lots of clothes, lots of Ikea furniture, I feel a tad bit out of sync with the rest of my brothers and sisters around the globe. I’m a white female. I don’t feel it is my burden. It is my responsibility as a member of the human race.
  • Critics are saying that Invisible Children are simplifying the problem. Well yes they are. We Americans don’t have a lengthy attention span. That is why Twitter is only 140 characters per tweet. That is why when we text we write OMG, LOL, WTF, IKR, SMH….because we can’t take the time to spell it out.
  • Critics are attacking Invisible Children stating they only spend 31% of donations on direct services. Do you know where that quote came from? An undergrad student blogger. He only looked at the financial from the previous year. I looked at all the financials. They are impressive. That is the problem with blogging. Everyone can spout their opinion, whether it is accurate or not.

What this comes down to, for me, is as follows. A small group of people (young people) saw a problem, became passionate about it, and are trying to help. They have done an amazing job so far. Look at all they have done so far. It’s not just about one viral video.

When I graduated college, I too wanted to save the world. I had beautiful rose colored glasses. I worked with mentally ill clients, developmentally disabled clients, and homeless. After a couple of years, I grew frustrated and overwhelmed. Our mental health system sucks. There is no easy answer for homelessness. So I walked away.

Then I went to work for an affordable housing developer. We developed apartment complexes for very low income, low income, and up to 60% of the area median income. I tried to convince local governments, housing agencies, and even hobnobbed on Capitol Hill, trying to take a good vision and make it real. I realized fighting the government sucked. I also realized how politics worked. And it sucks. It is all about money and who can do what for whom and what’s in it for them. Current case in point, Florida Representative JD Alexander and his new public university, it’s not good for the state, USF, or the rest of the university system. Florida legislature is cutting millions for university funding. Yet they granted Alexander his wish for his own little university. So now there are 14 universities. Cut millions yet add a school, the math doesn’t add up. But that is politics. And it sucks.

I also worked with many, many, many nonprofits. They always had a wonderful vision but they didn’t understand how to make it happen. Happens all the time, people want to do good and they try to do good, then they get fed up and walk away.

Doing good should not be so hard. When people want to do good, let’s help them do good. Stomping on people’s rose colored glasses is what the majority of the world does best. Politicians, lawyers, critics, economists, advisers, pundits, talk show hosts all excel at telling us why we cannot do something. They tell us why it will not work.

I am only one small voice. But I say, and I say it loudly, DO SOMETHING. BE MORE. Be more than what the world tells you can be. Be more, do more, and help more.

I’ve traveled to many countries. I spent many months watching America from the shores of other countries. And it is not a pretty sight. We are so out of touch with what is happening all around the globe. We read what our media tells us, we watch what they want us to watch, and our decisions are based on information that isn’t always accurate. It is easier to get caught up in the silliness of “reality TV”, which isn’t even reality, than watch the real reality in other parts of the globe.

Many naysayers say ‘we need to help our own before we help other countries’. Yes, yes, we should help our own people. But I ask in return, ‘what are you doing to help your fellow American that needs help’? What?

No one is more important that the other. We are all a part of one race, the human race.

My proposition is this: find your own passion and find your own mission as a member of the human race. Find it and then do something to be more and help more.

My passion is Russian orphans. My passion is at risk American girls. My cousin is a missionary in Papua New Guinea. That is her passion. I have friends on twitter whose passion is American foster care. My mother’s passion is helping the United Methodist Women’s programs. Some people help rural farmers, tornado victims, flood victims, or become mentors.

There are so many people that need help. So stop telling me why I should not care. I advocate supporting causes that are legitimate and show results. I support critical thinking.

Invisible Children is not just about Uganda. It is about opening our eyes to other parts of the world. It is about being the change. It is about getting involved. It is about holding governments accountable.

Find your passion. Do more. Be more. And frankly, fuck the critics.


Feb 14 2012

And for your reading pleasure…

Here is the police report from the night Chris Brown beat the shit out of Rihanna. Interestingly enough, there were previous incidents of violence that went unreported. Guess poor misunderstood Chris Brown got unhappy with Rihanna and bashed in the driver’s side and passenger side windows of a car they were in. Chris Brown Police Report


Feb 14 2012

Pictures speak a thousand words and “get over it” aren’t included…

Courtesy of Chris Brown's fists


Feb 14 2012

Dear Chris Brown,

Okay….where do I start? There are so many things wrong with this whole Grammy double performance situation. I think I can drill it down to one point. REMORSE. No one believes you are remorseful. Oh I get it, it’s in the past for you, for your record label, probably even Rihanna, but it’s not in the past for me. See you kind of fucked it all up again with your little temper tantrum you threw at Good Morning America. And when I say “threw” I also mean whatever large object you threw against a large window and broke it. Are you that stupid that you think people are just going to forget you slammed Rihanna’s head into the window? I mean, hello – did you see the picture TMZ posted of her face? Her eyes were swollen shit, that was a full on pounding of your fist to her face, over and over.

And you are not remorseful. You have anger management issues. See the problem isn’t us, the problem is you. You are a narcissistic spoiled little brat. You threw a temper tantrum about not being allowed to perform at the Grammy’s. You throw a temper tantrum anytime someone brings up Rihanna. You threw a fucking chair and shattered a window because Robin Roberts asked you about Rihanna. Which by the way, you knew ahead of time she was going to bring it up.

Now look, I don’t know what goes on with you and Rihanna now. Part of me thinks that she walks a fine line between glorifying violence in the bedroom(her S&M video) and freedom of speech and expression as an artist. Frankly, that is confusing to her young fans and that is another topic for another day. However I read Perez Hilton and I read the rumors that perhaps she may be sending you some come hither messages….I see you have a new girlfriend and maybe you get so upset by the Rihanna situation because there is some mental games going on between you too. And poor you, nobody understands poor, poor Chris Brown. But none of that matters, there is a restraining order in place.

You could have used this whole situation as a learning experience. You could have been a real man, taken the consequences of your actions, and then become a better person for it. But no……not you. You don’t get it. You don’t understand what the fucking problem is. The problem is you. How about all these tweets on Grammy night from girls on Team Breezy that said “‘oh Chris Brown is so hot, I’d let him beat me down”. Really? Way to single-handedly or single fistedly ruin all the progress & hard work that every single women’s domestic abuse shelter and non-profits across the globe made over the past 20 years.

You know, maybe you need to go talk to every female victim of domestic abuse and tell them to get over it, it’s in the past. Maybe you need to spend some time with the little children who have had the shit beat out of them by their own father, spread your message of “get over it, it’s in the past”. Oh! Wait, I know, why don’t you go to the morgue and visit all the dead bodies of the victims of domestic violence….you know, like Yeardley Love. Perhaps you don’t know her, she is dead. Her boyfriend killed her in a “crime of passion”. I highlight those words because I have read some of Team Breezy’s comments, apparently it’s okay to them if the crime is one of passion.

How are you any different than Josh Powell? You may not know him, he is dead too. He killed his wife. Then when things didn’t go his way in his custody battle, he waited until the social worker brought his two sons to his house and then blew the whole house up.

It does suck that you are such a piece of shit. I like your music. I loved the song International Love with Pitbull…..until I realized it was you singing it. Now, I change the channel and even my 6 year old daughter knows why. Because we don’t support wife beaters. And frankly, I turn the channel when Rihanna’s songs S&M and Talk That Talk are on. Why? Because it is never okay to hit a woman. NEVER.

When you are looking at statistics, you know total sales this week, last week, iTunes downloads, gold certified, etc. How about you add one more column to your list? Add incidents of domestic violence, felony assault on a female, battery on a female, rape, and date rape. You can take credit for those too.


Feb 1 2012

Come Together – A Call to Popular Music Researchers

Recently the Journal of Popular Music Studies posed the question whether or not there should be some overarching cannon formation for the field (Waksman). As a doctoral student and new member of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music – US branch (IASPM-US) I do not have an answer but I do have a suggestion. We should all wear nametags. I think Elaine had the right idea when she suggested it to the Mayor’s office in a classic Seinfeld episode. My nametag might say My Name and Human Development Doctoral Student. Though I’m More Akin To A Social Psychologist Who Is Interested In Popular Music Studies But I Do Not Attend A Formal Academic Program In Popular Music Studies. I’m Not a Musicologist, Anthropological Scholar, nor a Cultural Historian. I am Interested In Gender Studies in Popular Music and I Have Self Published A Book Titled Good Music is Better Than Sex: My Search for The Old Blue Chair But I Do Not Think I Would Call Myself a Music Journalist. Lastly I Am Not a Musician But I’m Quite the Singer When in My Car. I doubt all of that would fit on a nametag so perhaps we ought to have some type of laminated 8” x 10” signage hanging on our backs.

Often I am not sure if I am in the proper place for scholarly mingling and interaction so I ask this next question with the ignorant bliss and naiveté of a doctoral student. The IASPM – US bylaws state that our purpose among others is “to encourage recognition of the popular music as an area for scholarly research and establishing connections between the scholarly community, those in the music profession, and those who write about popular music”. Is there a forum, think tank, central research center, or something similar that provides physical space for popular music researchers and musicians/artists to come together?

McGill University’s Laboratory for Music Perception and Expertise is an example of where those who are interested in cognitive psychological music studies come together.  Dr. Levitin is a leading scholar in that area of the psychology of music. Prior to his academic career he was a musician, producer, engineer, musical consultant and has worked with artists such as Santana and The Grateful Dead. His scholarly work also includes advances in methods and tools to study music perception, cognition, and musical expertise. Additionally Levitin and the staff at the McGill Lab study special populations with neurogenetic impairments such as Autism, Williams Syndrome, and Down Syndrome (Levitin).

Is there such a place similar to this where those who are interested in the research aspects of popular music studies can come together and work as a scholarly research team? Using the wise words of John Lennon (Come Together ), I stress the importance of the theme “Come Together” because in order to further the purpose of the IASPM I believe as scholars we must work in conjunction with popular artists and musicians.

Our field of popular music studies is unique in many ways. There are scholars from many different backgrounds, hence my humorous suggestion for introductory signage. I align closely with the social psychology research arm but I know that the academic background diversity of our field brings endless opportunities for new knowledge creation. An example is how Popular Music Studies section of the Society for Ethnomusicology (PMSSEM) communicates with the IASPM – US branch by cross posting calls for papers, job notices, and other items of mutual interest.

Another unique factor is that popular music pedagogy is often hidden under other academic departments.  The MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry, CCNY’s Popular Music Studies specialization, and media psychology programs such as the doctoral program at Fielding Graduate University are examples of the variety of educational program available. However when looking for universities with an active research center similar to Dr. Levitin’s I found very few and they were on different continents. There were some that used qualitative methods, but those that focused on quantitative were sparse.

The need for such a research center is clear and has been evident for some time. Several advocacy groups issued statements regarding the importance of research on popular music, yet part of the problem was the lack of a valid research method. For instance the AAP report (Pediatrics 1219) noted, “Although evidence is incomplete, based on our knowledge of child and adolescent development, the AAP believes that parents should be aware of pediatricians’ concerns about the possible negative impact of music lyrics”. According to the Report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls there is a need to “examine the presence or absence of the sexualization of girls and women in all media but especially in movies, music videos, music lyrics, video games, books, blogs, and Internet sites” (4).

In a recent dissertation from the Fielding Media Psychology program (Osuna 2) the author states that while there is solid theoretical basis for such studies there are many pitfalls and obstacles to overcome while adhering to experimental validity. Her literature review shows many quantitative studies are troubled with validity issues. She cites several key problems. First, many studies compare popular songs to one another. That means not only are different lyrics being compared but different music is also being used. This is not being controlled or accounted as a variable. Also problematic is that many studies use college students as participants. While students are easily accessible they are likely to be familiar with the songs and already have existing opinions, thoughts, or attitudes towards the lyrics and/or music. Lastly, content differences within lyrics are “often vaguely defined without scientific basis” (3).

As mentioned previously our research field is a vast playing field with many players of different academic backgrounds. This feature adds more complexity to an already complex research subject. According to Osuna in order to study music with lyrics one must have an understanding of linguistics. It is necessary because “scientific study of music lyrics requires the study of both the structure and the function of language”. She notes that the most relevant linguistic subtopics as syntax, semantics, pragmatics, and discourse analysis (Osuna 6). Additionally, one cannot study the music without the lyrics nor the lyrics without prosody. Osuna (6) states that prosody is of utmost importance because this is what combines all the elements of music together and creates another level of communication.

Also problematic is the majority of studies tend to classify music with lyrics into broad genres of style categories such as rock, country, rap, pop, and classical. While labeling by genre might appear practical it does not address the multiple layers of subgenres. On the internet radio station Pandora there is a main label which defines the appropriate station’s genre. However when one clicks on the main label the subgenres of Today’s Country, Classic Country, Outlaw Country, Traditional Country, Traditional Country Hymns, Bluegrass, Alternative Country, and Western Swing will appear (Pandora Media Group).

Osuna notes that comparing “categorized styles of music is a method lacking in internal validity because of the effects of the many components of a given song in a given style even if closely matched to another song” (28). Recently a study was conducted to determine if there were similar musical preferences across three independent studies (Rentfrow). The conclusion was that the three studies did converge and what resulted was a five factor musical preference model that could be used versus the pre-existing genre classification models. The researchers (Rentfrow) interpreted and labeled the five factors as follows: a) a Mellow factor which is comprised of relaxing and soothing musical styles; b) an Unpretentious factor that is authentic, sincere, and rootsy such as the story telling style of country and singer-songwriter genres; c) a Sophisticated factor that includes classical, world, jazz, and opera; d) an Intense factor which is defined by loud, forceful, energetic music such as heavy rock and punk; and e) a Contemporary factor that is described as rhythmic and percussive music such as rap, funk, Latin, Europop and acid jazz. This MUSIC model of music preferences is presented as a more reliable foundation and framework for which new research can be built upon rather than using the problematic genre classification models (Rentfrow 1155).

While the understanding of linguistics is important for analyzing lyrical content, it cannot be the only method. As discussed earlier the combination of the lyrics and the music creates the prosody and adds meaning. Osuna (49) points out that prosodic elements add meaning, such as emphasis on certain words or raising the pitch at a specific point. Her suggestion of having musicians and lyricists compose two or more versions of a lyric set to the same music in order for it to be analyzed caught my attention. This would hold many variables in a controlled setting. There are specific steps to follow for researchers to replicate the factor scoring method, as well as guide lines to improve ecological validity such as studying music and lyrics in a naturalistic setting. It is a more expensive method, however if not controlled then the ecological validity is threatened.

So I pose the question to the IASPM-US community; is there some physical space where scholars and artists/musicians can come together and further research in popular music studies? Is there already a center for popular music research that brings scholars from different backgrounds together with practitioners in the industry to research the important questions that have already been asked but never answered in a manner that is scientifically valid?

One could imagine how extremely helpful it would be if researchers could work with recording artists and songwriters to understand the personal intent and meaning behind the lyrics. To have first-hand contextual information from the artist and/or songwriter perspective would allow scholarly research into the psychology of music to rise to new groundbreaking levels. It would increase the validity of lyrical meaning and perception studies greatly. As Osuna recommended by having the researcher work with artists and musicians and create exact replicas of music with lyrics changed would end the problems with variable control.

In my mind’s eye I can imagine a bustling research center where researchers can discuss current methods and issues. The scholars could bring their own unique academic background and perspectives and together, we would build a consortium of knowledge. Even though I am only a doctoral student, I would bring my insights to the table. For instance in the Fischer and Greitemeyer study on the impact of song lyrics on aggression related thoughts the researchers used songs classified as “misogynous”, “man-hating”, and “neutral” (1165). However the classification of lyrics as “man-hating” raises the issue of gender bias. The researchers used the songs “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morrisette, “Can’t Hold Us Down” by Christina Aguilera, “Ich find dich scheibe” which translates into “I Think You Are Shit” by Tic Tac Toe, and “Neue Manner braucht das Land” which translates into “The Country Needs New Men”, by Ina Detar. There is not any information regarding how the process to determine how lyrics were deemed man hating.

While many aggression theories are used as theoretical basis to study the impact of lyrics, there is a lack of female aggression theories in the existing research. Dana Jack (1999), a leading researcher in the study of women and aggression, states that “As our society defines it, aggression designates male; the term derives its meaning in relation to female ‘absence’ of aggression. In all measures of masculinity, ‘aggressive’ forms the core of masculine qualities. A man’s aggressive behavior enhances his masculinity. A woman’s destructive or dominating, aggressive behavior detracts from her femininity… Aggression by women connotes destructiveness and a challenge to male authority. One of the surest ways to neutralize the force of an intelligent, sexually assertive, independent woman is to depict it as destroying others, particularly children or men” (Jack).

By researching the psychology of music with a gender based perspective I believe we may find a distinct difference in how males and females perceive lyrics. In a recent discussion with a music contributor for USA Today, we each brought very distinct and very different perspectives on lyrics to Kelly Clarkson’s new album release Stronger. Whereas Brian Mansfield, a male, perceived lyrics to be aggressive and man-hating, I perceived the same lyrics to be confident and self – assertive.

Another opportunity that could occur at this research center is that the scholars could bring music journalists into the scientific dialogue. Those who write about music send their own messages and interpretations out into the world. My dissertation is going to examine the themes of these messages. I believe that the message senders unknowingly send statements that it is not okay for women to express anger.

It is important to mention that while there are many aspects of the experimental research side that need to be improved, it is still important to continue with qualitative methods. As Boon found in his study on textual analysis of lyrics, the meaning of a song lies within each reader/listener. How one perceives a song and develops special meaning to a song is an important aspect that deserves more study. This type of deeply personal relationship that binds one’s memories and emotions to a song really can only be studied with qualitative methods like ethnography and phenomenology. I envision the staff and faculty at this ideal research center being diverse in knowledge areas. The uniqueness and differences can come together and work in unison to make substantial gains in our field.

Academically diverse scholars, professional artists/musicians, and non-academics who write about popular music all come together and work to make our field a valid and respected area of study. Together we can learn from each other, we can make strides in the research methodology that is used, and we can provide empirically valid data that perhaps will allow for a resurrection of music based education programs in our schools and communities. While there are many small programs that strive to bring music arts programs back to our schools, there is an opportunity to bring popular music into the classroom. Popular music can be used to teach reading comprehension, popular artists can be used as case studies for business, civics, economics, and mathematics all while providing educational material that is relatable, timely, and extremely interesting to today’s students.

Is this ideal research center possible? I look forward to opening a dialogue with my fellow scholars with musical souls. In close, once again I look to John Lennon (Imagine) because “you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one”, well at least hopefully.

Association, American Pyschological. Report of the Apa Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association 2007. Print.

Boon, A. “The Search for Irony: A Textual Analysis of the Lyrics of Ironic by Alanis Morissette.” The Reading Matrix 5.2 (2005). Print.

Fischer, P. and Greitemeyer, T. “Music and Aggression: The Impact of Sexual – Aggressive Song Lyrics on Aggression – Related Thoughts, Emotions, and Behavior toward the Same and the Opposite Sex.” Society for Personality and Social Psychology 32.9 (2006): 1165-76. Print.

Jack, Dana Crowley. Behind the Mask: Destruction and Creativity in Women’s Aggression. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999. Print.

Lennon, J. Come Together 1969, Westminster.

—. Imagine. 1971, Tittenhurst Park.

Levitin, D. J. “Http://Daniellevitin.Com/Publicpage/About-Dan-Levitin/Levitin-Lab/”.  2011.

Osuna, Brenda L. . “Psychological Effects of Music with Lyrics: A Methodological Study.” Dissertation. Fielding Graduate University, 2011. Print.

Pandora Media Group, Inc. “Error! Hyperlink reference not valid..  2011. Internet radio.  Pandora Media Group, Inc. <http://www.pandora.com/#!/genres/country>.

Pediatrics, American Academy of. Impact of Music Lyrics and Music Videos on Children and Youth. Elk Grove Village: American Academy of Pediatrics, 1996. Print.

Rentfrow, P. J., Goldberg, L. R., and Levitin, D.J. . “The Structure of Musical Preferences: A Five – Factor Model.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 100.6 (2011): 1139-57. Print.

Waksman, Steve. “Imagining an Interdisciplinary Canon.” Journal of Popular Music Studies 22.1 (2010): 68-73. Print.


Dec 22 2011

FAQ about my journey to become Judy M. Core, Ph.D.

On my journey to become a Ph.D. many have asked me questions so I have posted my own FAQ with my answers:

1) Why are you getting your Ph.D.? Read the essay below.

2) What is your Ph.D. going to be in? Read the essay below.

3) What the hell do you study again? Read the essay below.

4) What is it you want to do again? Read the essay below.

5) Why? Read the essay below.

What I have posted is an essay that I had to submit for something called Comprehensive Essay #1 aka Comp 1. After you have completed X amount of credits and taken certain required classes you have to complete three comps. One is to describe your doctoral journey thus far and outline what theorists & schools of thought have impacted you. My comp 1 also serves as the rough draft of my dissertation concept paper. So when you ask me any of the questions above – here ya go. Or if you are just a stalker and/or creeper and want to know all about me….here ya go.

Originally I enrolled at Fielding in 2000. After completing the requirements for a Master’s Degree and being approximately half way through the doctoral program, my personal and professional life began to unravel. I was juggling a marriage, step-kids, and operating a company with my spouse on top of attending Fielding. In 2004 I concluded that I would need to drop out of Fielding. After looking at my life and my priorities, I decided that obtaining a Ph.D. was just not important anymore. Becoming Dr. Core was a nice idea but the reality of going through a divorce and running a company full time with my then ex-husband seemed to override my dream. Additionally, I had a hard time explaining to those in my life why I was attending a doctoral program that had nothing to do with my career as a real estate developer.

I graduated University of South Florida in 1994 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Shortly thereafter I began working in the mental health field for several years. Unfortunately the minimal salary became an issue. I job hopped for a while until moving with my first husband to North Carolina. There I secured a job overseeing the supportive services programs for a real estate developer who specialized in affordable multifamily housing financed with federal low income housing tax credits. It is a rather specialized niche market in real estate.

I never wanted to be a real estate developer, it just sort of happened. Several years went by and I found myself at the top of the management chain. I was very interested in organization development, management, and leadership so I began a certificate course through DePaul University. After completion and still feeling a void I applied to Fielding. Deep down, I had always wanted to write and teach at the college level. I wanted to inspire, motivate, and stimulate others to live up to their full potential.

Starting Fielding was both exciting and scary. For the next few years, if I wasn’t working, I was studying and vice versa. In 2004 I was assessing in KA 706 Social Psychology with Keith Melville. After getting very harsh feedback on one of my papers, I threw my hands up in defeat. I had finished the entire KA, applied project included, and all I needed to do to complete the course was to rewrite that paper. I had finished my comps but had not submitted them yet. However at that point in time I just couldn’t emotionally handle any more, so I quit.

During the next several years I worked non-stop and adopted my daughter from Russia in 2006. By that time I had come to grips that while I didn’t want to be a real estate developer, I was one. And frankly, I was very good at it. I’d come to embrace my career. When people asked about Fielding, I replied that it just wasn’t important anymore and my priorities changed. In late 2008, the real estate market was still crashing and serious changes were made at my company. By 2009, I was the only person left. It became one of those situations where things start coming undone, then they snowball, then they pick up at a high velocity and completely spin out of control. All the while, I just stood there and watched my professional life and my real estate career dissipate. It took me so long to come to terms with being a real estate developer that it was hard to watch it fall apart. I tried to control it but at some point I realized that sometimes when things get so out of control it is better to just let it go, because perhaps you are supposed to be ready for the next life adventure and this is God, the Universe or whatever unnamed force in action.

One day I looked around and realized I had nothing to do. No job to go to, no projects to work on, no loans to close and no apartment construction to oversee. It hit me that I had always said if I had the free time and the financial ability, I would finish my Ph.D. It wasn’t a passionate driven decision. It was more matter of fact, pragmatic I should do something because I have a lot of student loan debt and not much to show for it, type of decision.

The downside to being a doctoral student is 99.99% of the time I am alone in my quest. Not many in my circle of friends really “get” it. They listen and try to understand but I see their eyes glaze over and that’s okay. I think if I were a student in a traditional program like at USF and hung out with other doctoral students on a daily basis my journey would be really different. However, I am not looking to sit around with a bunch of academics theorizing about various psychoanalytical theories. I am looking for an academic foundation so that I can use it to help me, help adolescent girls.

In 2006 I self-published a book titled Good Music is Better than Sex: My Search for the Old Blue Chair. On Amazon the book description reads “Author Judy Core confronts her demons of alcohol abuse and fractured relationships and discovers the woman she’s meant to be. Frank, honest and appealing, this memoir is as memorable as the Kenny Chesney songs Core loves” (Amazon.com, 2011). My book may never be a best seller but the intrinsic value it has brought me is in the form of emails and letters from people saying that by putting myself out there I have helped them is enormous. It was a story that I felt I had to tell.

Lessons that I had learned from Fielding played a major part. I deeply connected to the studies that Carol Gilligan (1982) and Lyn Mikel Brown (1998) had conducted regarding voice and adolescent girls. While working on my first KA, Human Development, I came across Gilligan’s groundbreaking work on voice. She defines voice as such, “To have a voice is to be human. To have something to say is to be a person. But speaking depends on listening and being heard; it is a relational act” (Gilligan, 1982, p. XVI).  During the course of the five year study of girls ages seven to eighteen, it came to light that girls on the edge of adolescence encountered deep psychological dilemmas’ where they felt that if they said or revealed what they actually thought, then no one would want to be with them. Yet if they didn’t speak what they were feeling they would be all alone (Gilligan, 1982, p. XX). It was a paradox that created painful cognitive dissonance.

This dissonance begins the girls’ movement towards disassociation. Whereas a student at eleven can state something with “ordinary courage”, by age fifteen she was questioning herself, changing her mind and changing her heart (Gilligan, 1982, p. XXII). Girls struggle against losing their voices with losing relationships and ultimately end up carrying “unvoiced desires and unrealized possibilities” (Gilligan, 1982, p. XXIII). These girls are at a high risk for future unhealthy relationships and psychological suffering. Not only does Gilligan rethink women’s psychological development, but she calls for a rethinking of psychological development as a whole. She posits “the lie in psychological theories which have taken men as representing all humans, and the lie in women’s psychological development in which girls and women alter their voices to fit themselves into images of relationship and goodness carried by false feminine voices” (Gilligan, 1982, p. XXVI).

These studies led me deeper into women and relationships and women’s aggression. Social psychologists such as Lerner (1985 ) and Jack (1999) filled my research notes. Jack points out that “As our society defines it, aggression designates male; the term derives its meaning in relation to female ‘absence’ of aggression. A man’s aggressive behavior enhances his masculinity. A woman’s destructive or dominating, aggressive behavior detracts from her femininity…Aggression by women connotes destructiveness and a challenge to male authority. One of the surest ways to neutralize the force of an intelligent, sexually assertive, independent woman is to depict it as destroying others, particularly children or men” (Jack, 1999, p. 29).

Using these academic lessons and others I weaved my own life experiences into a book. In the beginning I did this because I felt I had no say in the matter. It was something within me that burst out onto paper and then into a finished product. As I stated before, I doubt it will ever be a best seller but the feedback that I have received from readers is more than enough in royalties. The feedback I received confirmed what I had been silently thinking for so long. I am not the only female on the planet that struggles with relationships, self-esteem, and self-identity. If I could not even hear my own voice amongst all the other incredibly loud ones in my life, would inner peace and happiness really ever be possible? The answer at the end of my book was no.

People often ask me what the old blue chair that is in the title. Old Blue Chair is a song written and performed by Kenny Chesney (2004); it was the catalyst that blew the lid off of all the silent thoughts inside my head and forced me to put my pen to paper. The lyrics tell of the one place where Chesney can ultimately find peace and contentment. As a country music superstar, Chesney has seen a lot of the world, more than the average person could ever hope or dream. However he always finds peace in the solitary old blue wicker chair that sits on a beach in St. John, USVI. The chair provides his escape from all of the noise and chaos of his life; it is the place where he can hear his own voice. The song set me off on my own quest. I needed to find and be able to nourish my own voice. And I did.

With the previous information, one can see how during my first Fielding tenure my area of research interest lie at the intersection of female adolescent development, voice, authenticity, female aggression, and pop music lyrics. Prior to my 2010 re-enrollment I started researching and thinking about what and where I wanted to end up on this doctoral journey. My area of interest was unchanged. I still felt strongly about pop music. I felt strongly about female adolescent development and the idea of voice. And deep down, I still believed that my original dissertation question was a good question.

My dissertation concept is that I think that as toddlers we females listen to fairy tales that send us messages as to how to behave in order to find our Prince Charming. As we age into our twenties we read Cosmo, Glamour, etc. and it gives us advice on how to keep our man happy. In between there what do we have? We have music. Many people connect with music and identify with the lyrics. Songs can become anthems they can be the important soundtrack to important events in our lives.

The lyrics send messages. But there is also another place we get messages from…..other people who talk, write, or review the songs. What they say about the music/lyrics sends messages into the vast universe of society. I believe that these messages, albeit completely unintentional, are important and they become additional voices we hear that tell us what is right, what is wrong, what is socially appropriate and what is not socially appropriate.

My main example has always been the case of Alanis Morrisette and Meredith Brooks. My personal experience was that when I would blast “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morrisette I was given the feedback from guys, friends, radio DJs, magazine writers that I must be an “angry young woman” just like Alanis and Meredith. In my head, I processed those messages into “so…. it’s not okay for me to be angry?” Apparently not, because I picked up messages that guys do not like angry girls. Angry girls are angry bitches. Anger is not good for me. Anger disrupts the relationship. I am a man hater. Anger is bad.

When discussing my concept with professors and other students, sometimes I would hear back negative comments. Then the self – critical debate in my head was “maybe I’m wrong, maybe I am off base, wow, and I am totally alone in vast ocean maybe I should drop out again”. However I have learned that sometimes in life you just have to continue on and maybe you will have an epiphany or just a small sign that you are on the right track. Somehow it will all work out as it should because you always end up where you are supposed to be. You just have to trust in that. And I did.

I ended up on academic probation my first year back because I dilly dally. Bottom line I read too much, research too much, and dilly dally around on the internet without realizing I am wasting valuable time. Once I actually started reading books for the overview of social psychology, I found myself getting bored and dilly dallying. That was until I started The Heart of Social Psychology (Aron, 1989). I never thought I would describe a social psychology text book as “exciting” and “can’t put down” but I enjoyed the book so much that I read it from front to back, every page, and sometimes several times again. It also got me questioning myself deeper. Social psychology is about the love of theory, Aron says. He states that “this freedom, this love of wild ideas, is actively taught to each generation of social psychologists “ (1989, p. 127).

This book was a catalyst for me. I sat here entranced by the energy and excitement that the authors brought to the field. One day it hit me, I want to be a social psychologist. In my heart I am a social psychologist. YES! This is it. Granted, I am not in the Fielding Psychology program but while I have felt at home at Fielding most times I feel alone in the Human and Organization Development program. I feel that I am one of the few students in the Human Development portion of the HOD program.

With that said, I have no intentions of switching programs. What I do have is a new sense of confidence in my role as a doctoral student. I have found a home base in social psychology. Aronson (1999, p. XI) states that implicit in his belief is that social psychology is extremely important – that social psychologists can play a vital role in making the world a better place. I’m utterly fascinated with most every aspect of the field.

I have always envied the people in the world who knew exactly what it was that they wanted to do when they grew up. This was never the case for me. I’ve always just stumbled along. Granted I have been successful in my stumbling but I never felt that sense of confidence in the direction of my life’s path. Until now, now I feel confident, strong, and I can see how everything in my life fits together and has brought me to this point.

As a young manager at Busch Gardens in Tampa I was working my way through college full time. I had a co-worker, also a college student, who would stop me in the middle of some menial task that required no thought and say “Stop. What are you thinking right this minute?” I would have that childish look of you caught me. Then I would say something like, “Well I was thinking about the prison system and how it doesn’t work and what alternatives might be helpful to end the recidivism rate and actually help prisoners”. He would just roll his eyes and shake his head. Statements like “you think too much”, “who thinks those types of things” and “you are so strange” were quite common from my friends.

Aron (1989) made the history of social psychology so very interesting, very enjoyable, and really makes me ponder not just the academic side but the application side. Aron (1989, p. 148) discusses many examples of social psychologists utilizing their findings to make a difference in society. Citing examples from action research, Aronson’s jigsaw classroom, and Kelman’s conflict resolution work with Palestinians, Israelis, and Egyptians, Greek and Turkish people caused me to look deep inside myself. What social impact do I want to have? What good do I want to do with my knowledge?

As I stated earlier, I want an academic foundation that will help me help adolescent girls, young women, and even adult women. I also believe that popular music plays an important role in the psychological development. In my opinion, I feel that popular music studies is somewhat brushed aside by other scholars as though they don’t see any value in the work. However I feel strongly that it is incredibly important. If we as researchers want to understand the common man so to speak then we must understand and develop an appreciation for common things, such as Top 40 radio. It cannot be written off as fluff or inconsequential.

I’ve read articles where the author is amused at a University for offering a course in Lady Gaga. Yet she is a strong, creative, artistic, and immensely successful young woman. She is a newcomer in most aspects and she has only released her second album in May 2011. Within six months it was certified 2 times multi-platinum in the United States. That equals sales of 2 million albums for an artist who is only on her second album. It took 33 years for the Beatles second album to sell 2 million in the United States. In addition to music sales, Lady Gaga is an outspoken advocate for the gay community. Most recently she met with President Obama to discuss anti-bullying laws. To not study such a powerful and influential person seems rather irresponsible as a social psychologist.

At the same time I was studying social psychology, I happened to have an interesting exchange with the music contributor for USA Today, Brian Mansfield. I happened upon his review of Kelly Clarkson’s new album Stronger. This is how it begins:

“Guys, if you start going out with a girl who tells you how much she loves Kelly Clarkson’s latest album, run away. Fast. Kelly takes telling guys off to new levels here, to the point that you eventually start to wonder if, just maybe, it’s not the guys with the problem. By the time you get to the end, the country song you’re half-expecting to hear isn’t Don’t You Wanna Stay, her chart-topping duet with Jason Aldean. It’s Before He Cheats” (Mansfield, 2011).

What is so interesting is that how he perceives the album is not how I perceive it.  In regard to the first single Mr. Know It All (James, 2011) Mansfield says, “Kelly sings, practically spitting the words in the face of the person she’s singing to, because she clearly thinks he ought to”. I don’t think she is spitting the words. In my head I picture a strong woman who is calmly confident and just smiling with her secret knowledge that the poor guy is just so sadly mistaken. I don’t even it take it as an angry song. I just picture her walking away from some man who is trying to control her, telling her what she thinks, what she needs, how she should act, and she isn’t mad. She isn’t crying, she is just holding her head high and walking confidently into the future with the knowledge that all his grandstanding was just about him, not about her. Kind of like my second husband. It took me a long time to break down that wall, the wall that was built from all of his critical hurtful demeaning statements. In Clarkson’s video for the song there is a wall of newspaper articles of all the negative hurtful opinions, comments, and/or rumors. In the video she starts ripping them down and steps over to the other side, smiling. It is almost as if her smile is saying “say what you want about me, you don’t know me at all”. In my view there isn’t any anger just quiet confidence.

For the second track What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger) (Elofsson, 2011) Mansfield says “Just in case Kelly didn’t belittle Mr. Know It All enough in the first song, telling him, “You know everything about everything, but you don’t,” now she’s back for round two: “The bed feels warmer, sleeping here alone” (Ouch!). Nah, her life doesn’t suck without him. What sucks is that she didn’t deck him before she left. With a song that would fit with a boxing film’s workout montage, she’s clearly thinking about it: If she does come back, she’ll come back swinging” (Mansfield, 2011).

I feel like we are listening to two different albums. To me here is a woman that has come out of a hard time and she is better for it. She isn’t angry and vengeful, she is stronger. Hence the album title I would gather. To me this is the part of the movie where she gets out of her bed where she has been for days crying, gets her butt in the shower, cleans up, looks herself squarely in her eyes and says back to herself “I can do this”. The message I take is that I can tackle life again. I get empowerment and confidence from it. Mansfield thinks she is pissed off and ready to punch the guy.

For the third song, Dark Side (Busbee, 2011), Mansfield writes

“This song’s music-box intro quickly turns nightmarish, as Kelly sings about place that’s not pretty and that few have ever gone. She’ll show that dark side to you, lover, but you better promise up front that you can handle it, no matter how bad it is. This could wind up being a favorite songs of psycho girlfriends everywhere, because it’s a set-up. She never quite says so, but, given the first two songs, here’s how it plays: If you bail before seeing the dark side, she’ll tell everybody she knows that you’re shallow. If he bails after, she’ll tell everybody you’re a jerk. Kelly finishes the song in her most siren-like voice, singing, “Don’t run away, don’t run away.” Don’t listen to her, guys”(Mansfield, 2011).

I completely relate to this song. I often referred to myself as the Badass Barbie that was so fun for guys to play with, I drank, cussed, had sex but then…..once the dark side started creeping out, Barbie got put back on the shelf. But after getting told for so long that my dark side made me unlovable I believed it until I was in my 40’s. Now looking back, to me it is yin and yang. The dark side balances out the light. Everyone has a dark side. It is human nature.

Yes, I do believe everyone has a dark side. It is filled with doubt, fear, tears, insecurities etc. Mine happens to be filled with a label called Bipolar. It took me a long time to accept it, took me a longer time to take medicine for it and took me until a few months ago to get okay with it. The downside is sometimes there are mean people out there who quickly label me and automatically run away. I roll my eyes and shake my head and in my southern way say “bless his poor little heart, he just doesn’t know any better”. So that is my dark side. Have I found someone who can handle it? Nope. But really there are 7 billion people out there. Statistically the odds are in my favor. I’ll be okay.

Mansfield’s review and my review are completely different. We bring completely different perspectives that I believe are gender based. We chatted on twitter about his review and he said that he would worry if his wife or daughter felt like those were the stories of their life. Well, I hazard a guess but I’m going to say at some point in their lives it was or will be. Anger is just a normal emotion. Everyone gets angry. Everyone gets sad. It’s okay. Just because you get angry doesn’t make you a psycho bitch. Anger is just a different shade of hurt. Sometimes, the best way to work through anger and hurt is to make a soundtrack for the movie of your life.

For my depth portion of the Social Psychology KA I am researching the social psychology of popular music. One study that I found centers on music and aggression. Fischer and Greitemeyer (Greitemeyer, 2006) examined the impact of sexual – aggressive song lyrics on aggressive thoughts, emotions, and behavior towards the same and opposite gender. The part that caught my attention was in their study #2 they used lyrics that had been deemed “man – hating” and “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morrisette was included. The researchers note that “pretests revealed that the lyrics of these songs were perceived as more man-hating (M=5.42, SD = 2.32) than the misogynous (M = 0.33, SD = 0.92) and neutral song lyrics (M=0.73, SD = 1.29)….”(Greitemeyer, 2006, p. 1170). I am curious as to exactly how the pretests were structured and precisely how the lyrics were deemed man-hating. I emailed the researchers but have not heard anything back.

The other important study that I found happens to come from Brenda Osuna, a recent Fielding graduate. Her dissertation is a methodological study on the psychological impact of music with lyrics (2011). This work is provides me with a foundation on which to build. Osuna analyzed various studies and the methods used and created a quantitative method that will provide the necessary validity. Additionally, she composed best practices guidelines for future studies that involve music with lyrics.

Conclusion

I’m extremely excited to move forward in my Fielding journey. Popular music studies is a passion of mine and I want to be able to contribute knowledge that can be used in adolescent interventions, the classroom, and provide a voice of experience and empowerment to teen girls through my humorous tales.

My next steps include completing KA 706 Social Psychology, completing my Comprehensive essays #2 and #3, and completing KA 753 C with Annabelle Nelson. I believe that once I complete my literature review of the psychological studies of popular music my next challenge will be to gain a solid foundation in quantitative research methods.

I am still in the beginning stages of the dissertation process. My mentor Judy Stevens Long will also serve as my dissertation chair. During my progress review I was excited to learn that Rich Appelbaum has a personal connection to the popular music field. His son in law is the lead guitarist for the highly successful and talented band The Foo Fighters. Rich has also agreed to serve on my committee. I contracted with Annabelle Nelson for 753 C for the express purpose of working with her and learning more about the area of music therapy. I continue to participate in the International Association for the Study of Popular Music and am keeping my eyes open for an external examiner.

Early on in my Fielding journey many, many faculty and staff advised me to trust the journey. This journey most certainly has been a leap of faith. I’ve gotten lost, taken long detours, and stopped at many scenic vistas. It has been an incredible adventure thus far.

Amazon.com. (2011). http://www.amazon.com/Good-Music-Better-Than-Sex/dp/1419628666/ref=sr_1_11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1322593763&sr=1-11

Aron, A. A., E. N. (1989). The Heart of Social Psychology A Backstage View of a Passionate Science. Lexington: Lexington Books.

Aronson, E. (1999). The Social Animal (Eighth ed.). New York: Worth Publishers.

Brown, L. M. (1998). Raising their voices: the politics of girls’ anger. Cambridge Harvard University Press.

Busbee, A. (2011). Dark Side BMG Platinum Songs, Hello I Love You Music, Jam Writers Group (BMG).

Chesney, K. (2004). Old Blue Chair (pp. Song). Nashville: Sony/ATV Tunes, LLC, Islandsoul Music.

Elofsson, J., Tamposi, A., Gamson, D., Kursten, G. (2011). What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger): Universal Music Publishing MGB Scandanavia AB, Sony/ATV Music OBO Perfect Storm Music Group.

Gilligan, C. (1982). In a Different Voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Greitemeyer, T. a. F., P. (2006). Music and Aggression: The Impact of Sexual – Aggressive Song Lyrics on Aggression – Related Thoughts, Emotions, and Behavior Toward the Same and the Opposite Sex. Society for Personality and Social Psychology, 32(9), 1165-1176. doi: 10.1177/0146467206288670

Jack, D. C. (1999). Behind the mask: destruction and creativity in women’s aggression. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

James, B., Dean, E. Jones, D., Seals, B. K. . (2011). Mr. Know It All: B UNEEK SONGS C/O Universal Music Group,   EXTERNAL COMBUSTION MUSIC , .

Lerner, H. (1985 ). The Dance of Anger New York: Harper & Row.

Mansfield, B. (2011, 10-23-2011). Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Stronger’: A track – by – track review  Music Review USA Today. Retrieved from http://content.usatoday.com/communities/idolchatter/post/2011/10/kelly-clarkson-stronger-review-track/1?csp=34life&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter&dlvrit=285341

Osuna, B. L. (2011). Psychological Effects of Music with Lyrics: A Methodological Study. Ph.D. Dissertation, Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara.   (UMI 3454580)


Nov 9 2011

Dear Jake Owen, we need to talk about the Dallas Bull show.

Dear Jake,

Yesterday I happened to catch your interview with the afternoon DJ’s from US 103.5 Tampa. You all were discussing your recent performance at the Dallas Bull on 10/28. You acknowledged you had been “over served”. The DJ’s, Travis and Jenny, then made comments that maybe you should do that more often and the fan feedback was great. How do I say this tactfully? That is some advice that should be completely disregarded as just DJ’s kissing your ass.

I was at the show. That was the first time I got to see you perform live. Great is not the word I would choose to describe the show. My description as tweeted during the show was more along the lines of “what the fuck is this mess?” I say that with love and after hearing Travis and Jenny give you inaccurate feedback, I feel you would be better served with some tough love rather than endless shots of Jack Daniels.

You have talent. You have a strong, amazing voice that is packaged inside a highly marketable aesthetic exterior.  I am a doctoral student. I study human development, leadership, management, social psychology, and more specifically the micro and macro effects of popular music on individuals and society. In the past when I posted comments on a blog someone accused me of showing off the fact that I was getting a Ph.D. That’s absurd. I show off new stylin’ boots or my new hair color. My Ph.D. is something I am busting my ass to get achieve. When I throw it out there, I am throwing out my academic credentials to back up my opinions which are based on my many years of study and research. With that said, here is my tough love advice for you.

Demand excellence. Demand excellence from yourself and those you whom you choose to surround yourself. The people who succeed in life do so because they work hard and they continually strive for excellence. People like Steve Jobs, people like Bill Gates and people like Kenny Chesney.

Now, there is word on the street that you might be touring in 2012 with Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw. You are being given the opportunity of a life time. You are smart, I doubt you would screw up a big stadium show by getting completely fucked up wasted. Right? So if that is the case, why would you get completely fucked up wasted when you have the opportunity to perform to a sold out crowd for a two hour set at the Dallas Bull? The excuses can be that you are young, your college buddies were there, you wanted to exercise your freedom because you weren’t playing a Keith Urban tour show that is heavily regulated and you just wanted to have fun. All valid reasons and I will credit you with the fact that you warned the audience at the onset that you were going to get fucked up and play some random shit. And that is precisely what you did.

Your choice of covers ranged from Pearl Jam to the theme song from Prince of Bel Air to Chris Isaac. I like covers. I like when artists mix it up and keep the crowd pumped up. But your choice of covers did not really keep the dance floor packed. I don’t know if you could tell but there was a distinct difference in the sardine factor when you played a seemingly endless stream of covers and then you sang Barefoot, Blue Jean Night. The sardine factor is how packed in the crowd is at any given time. When you started playing BBJN people came running out to the stage.

For the record, I think it was nice of you to let your bass guitarist perform his rendition of Stone Temple Pilots. However, he is no Scott Weiland. Many years ago I saw STP in concert and Weiland performed the entire set from a rocking chair because he was so fucked up. And that was still better than your bass guitarist. When you choose covers, choose what fits your voice. Choose wisely. Choose songs which have an energy level of 11 on a scale of 1-10, choose covers that show off your voice, and those that your audience can stay engaged. God knows I love me some grunge but you have a very, very different voice than Eddie Vedder.  I’m thinking that going from a hard rocking song to Chris Issak’s Wicked Game isn’t the best way to keep the audience awake.

The other thing is that if you are going to drink while you perform, then don’t let it get to the sloppy mess stage of drunkenness. When you sang Alone With You and ended it with the repetitive slurred phrases about a booty call and wanting your “D”, you went from being a hot mess to just a sloppy mess. And with the drunkenness comes the raunchy x-rated talk which is fine, if it’s just hanging with your buddies and you had invited me to a beer bash at your house. But, I paid $11.50 and as my good friend Lauren said, “That was definitely not a good first impression show”.

The next time you want to get fucked up and play random shit, do it on your bus. Do it after the set when the bar is closed, or at your house, but not while you’re on the clock. Most people would get fired if they got butt ass drunk while at their jobs.

So I hope you can take all this to heart. You have an opportunity of a life time. You treat your fans well.  I loved how you called 500 plus fans to ask them how they liked the new CD. The decision to do the StageIt kitchen concert was awesome. You know the kind of things fans want and you deliver. You are on the cusp. You have what it takes to be a powerhouse superstar like Kenny Chesney. You also have what it takes to be a continually struggling just can’t quite pull his shit together mix of drama that overshadows his actual talent…like Chris Cagle.

It’s up to you. Demand excellence.


Oct 24 2011

Why Kelly Clarkson’s new album Stronger has made me stronger

I am many things. I’ve been a commercial real estate developer, apartment complex owner, book author, motivational speaker, wife to two different husbands, step-mom to two awesome boys, world traveler with lots of high school kids, friend to some amazing people, friend to some not so amazing people, a not so good friend, a not so good wife, an alcoholic, a homeowner, a foreclosed upon not my house anymore person, a defendant in too many legal cases and the list goes on. The most important me is the mom to the best thing that ever happened to me. The other important me is the doctoral student. It’s important for numerous reasons but mainly because my love of knowledge and my quest for my purpose led me down an educational path that has brought with it a lot of student debt. Currently it is around $80,0000 ish and rising. I have come too far to drop out again. Additionally, I prayed for so many years that if I could just have a few years off I would finish my PhD. I would do what I have wanted to do since I was in my mid twenties, I would teach college. I would write more books in my oh so amusing way telling my tales interwoven with really important life lessons backed up by academic research because maybe, just maybe one girl will read it and say “I’m not alone”.

So, with all that said, 99.99% of the time I am alone in my quest. Not many people in my circle of friends really ‘get’ it. They listen and they try to get it but they don’t really get it get it. And that’s okay. I think if I were a student in a traditional program like at USF and hung out with other doctoral students on a daily basis my journey would be really different. Kind of like the guys from The Big Bang Theory except not using so many big words and not shooting lasers off the moon, but definitely incorporating the word “Bazinga” into daily conversation. See, I am not looking to sit around with a bunch of academics theorizing about various psychoanalytical theories. I am looking for the academic foundation so that I can take that and use it to help me help adolescent girls. My book may never be a best seller but the intrinsic value it has brought me is in the form of emails and letters from people saying that by putting myself out there, I have helped them.

What does all that have to do with Kelly Clarkson? Well, my dissertation concept is that I think that as toddlers we females listen to fairy tales that send us messages as to how to behave in order to find our Prince Charming. As we age into our twenties we read Cosmo, Glamour, etc and it gives us advice on how to keep our man happy. In between there what do we have? We have music. Many people connect with music and identify with the lyrics. Songs can become anthems, they can be the important soundtrack to important events in our lives. The lyrics send messages. But there is also another place we get messages from…..other people who talk, write, or review the songs. What they say about the music/lyrics sends messages into the vast universe of society. I believe that these messages, albeit completely unintentional, are important and they become additional voices we hear that tell us what is right, what is wrong, what is socially appropriate and what is not socially appropriate.

My main example has been the case of Alanis Morrisette and Meredith Brooks. My personal experience was that when I would blast “You Oughta Know” by Alanis I was given the feedback from guys, friends, radio DJs, magazine writers that I must be an ‘angry young woman’ just like Alanis and Meredith. In my head, I processed those messages into “so it’s not okay to be angry?” Guys do not like angry bitches. Anger is not good. Anger disrupts the relationship. You are a man hater. Anger bad.

When discussing my concept with professors and other students, sometimes I would hear back negative comments. So then the debate in my head was “maybe I’m wrong, maybe I am off base, wow I am totally alone in vast ocean, maybe I should drop out again”. However I have learned that sometimes in life you just have to continue on and maybe you will have some major life epiphany. Somehow it will all work out as it should because you always end up where you are supposed to be. You just have to trust in that. And I did. Until Brian Mansfield came along and absolutely made everything in the Judy Universe crystal clear!

Brian Mansfield is a contributing writer for USA Today.  Last night I happened upon his review of Kelly Clarkson’s new album Stronger. This is how it begins:

“Guys, if you start going out with a girl who tells you how much she loves Kelly Clarkson’s latest album, run away. Fast. Kelly takes telling guys off to new levels here, to the point that you eventually start to wonder if, just maybe, it’s not the guys with the problem. By the time you get to the end, the country song you’re half-expecting to hear isn’t Don’t You Wanna Stay, her chart-topping duet with Jason Aldean. It’s Before He Cheats“.

Wow. I tweeted him and told him thank you for completely and utterly verifying my theory in one single paragraph. He responded and we had a nice little chat. What is so interesting is that how he perceives the album is soooooooooo not how I perceive it.

About the first single Mr. Know It All Brian says, “Kelly sings, practically spitting the words in the face of the person she’s singing to, because she clearly thinks he ought to”. Really?? I don’t think she is spitting the words. In my head I picture a strong woman who is calmly confident and just smiling with her secret knowledge that the poor guy is just so sadly mistaken. I don’t even it take it as an angry song. I just picture her walking away from some man who is trying to control her, telling her what she thinks, what she needs, how she should act, and she isn’t mad. She isn’t crying, she is just holding her head high and walking confidently into the future with the knowledge that all his grandstanding was just about him, not about her. Kind of like my second husband. It took me a long time to break down that wall, the wall that had all of his critical hurtful demeaning statements. Just like in the video, I started taking the wall down and I stepped over to the other side, smiling. Knowing that he didn’t know a thing about me. There isn’t any anger just quiet confidence.

For the second track What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger) Brian says “Just in case Kelly didn’t belittle Mr. Know It All enough in the first song, telling him, “You know everything about everything, but you don’t,” now she’s back for round two: “The bed feels warmer, sleeping here alone” (Ouch!). Nah, her life doesn’t suck without him. What sucks is that she didn’t deck him before she left. With a song that would fit with a boxing film’s workout montage, she’s clearly thinking about it: If she does come back, she’ll come back swinging”.  Really…..I feel like we are listening to two different albums. To me, again, here is a woman that has come out of a hard time and she is better for it. She isn’t angry and vengeful, she well, she is stronger. Hence the album title I would gather. To me this is the part of the movie where she gets out of her bed where she has been for days crying, gets her butt in the shower, cleans up, looks herself squarely in her eyes and says back to herself “I can do this”. I can tackle life again. I get empowerment and confidence from it. Brian thinks she is pissed off and ready to punch the guy.

For the third song, Dark Side, Brian writes “This song’s music-box intro quickly turns nightmarish, as Kelly sings about place that’s not pretty and that few have ever gone. She’ll show that dark side to you, lover, but you better promise up front that you can handle it, no matter how bad it is. This could wind up being a favorite songs of psycho girlfriends everywhere, because it’s a set-up. She never quite says so, but, given the first two songs, here’s how it plays: If you bail before seeing the dark side, she’ll tell everybody she knows that you’re shallow. If he bails after, she’ll tell everybody you’re a jerk. Kelly finishes the song in her most siren-like voice, singing, “Don’t run away, don’t run away.” Don’t listen to her, guys”. Hmmmm again, I can totally relate to this song. I often referred to myself as the Badass Barbie that was so fun for guys to play with, I drank, cussed, had sex but then…..once I got the dark side of myself Barbie got put back on the shelf. Which is unfortunate because it’s yin and yang. Light and dark. But after getting told for so long that my dark side made me unlovable I believed it. Until I was 40ish.

Everyone has a dark side. It is filled with doubt, fear, tears, insecurities etc. Mine happens to be filled with a label called Bipolar. Took me a long time to accept it, took me a longer time to take medicine for it and took me until a few months ago to get okay with it. The downside is sometimes there are bastards out there (in this case with the name of Josh Thompson, country singer and douche bag extraordinaire) who deem you the “bipolar psychobitch”. Please. I roll my eyes and shake my head and in my southern way say “bless his poor little heart, he just doesn’t know any better”. So that is my dark side. Have I found someone who can handle it? Nope. But really there are 7 billion people out there. Statistically the odds are in my favor. I’ll be okay.

Okay, so I could continue on….but you get my point. His review and my review? Completely different. Completely different perspectives. But in our chat last night Brian said that he would worry if his wife or daughter felt like those were the stories of their life. Hmmm. Well, I hazard a guess but I’m going to say at some point in their lives it was or will be. Anger is just a normal emotion. Everyone gets angry. Everyone gets sad. It’s okay. Just because you get angry doesn’t make you a psychobitch. Anger is just a different shade of hurt. Sometimes, the best way to work through anger and hurt is to make a soundtrack for the movie of your life.

Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger is definitely on my life soundtrack. Oh, and guys, if you take Brian’s advice and run, it’s okay you wouldn’t be able to handle me anyway. And for the record, I am fucking amazing. Dark side and all. ;)


Aug 22 2011

Why I Love Today’s Country Music and My Comments Have A Lot To Do With the Article, Amanda.

Recently, I commented on a blog article because 1) it was written by a country radio DJ 2) it was titled “Why I Can’t Love Today’s Country Music”[1] and 3) my personal opinion was that it was just whining about the same ole, same ole blanket complaint about country music today. My comments were lengthy and albeit time consuming to read, I frankly thought I made some good points. Apparently, some chick named ‘Amanda’ thought not. Her comment is below.

Judy….what on Earth do your comments have to do w/ this article? It seems like you took this as an opportunity to write your own article and show off that youre getting your PhD. I was baffled reading your comments trying to figure out what they had to do with this article.

Well, after I analyzed it for some time and asked all my friends what they thought about it, I responded again.

Amanda – ummmm okay well my comments were a) the biz is a game so to get heard you have to play it, b) if you want to hear artists who don’t get played then request it c) manufacturing an ‘identity’ is part of the game and only once an artist gets to a level if success can they truly do their own thing d) the beatles info is to let fans know how the biz works so if a producer wants to revise a song oh say….if I die young by the band perry so it can play on a pop station – the band perry may have no say bc they signed over the rights….

I’m not showing off that I am a grad student – I happen to love discussing music with everyone. I personally get annoyed when people criticize artists and so quickly call artists a sell out when they have no clue how the backside of the business works.

The whole experience just reminded me why I need to refrain from posting on other blogs and just post on my own blog. 1) People are mean. 2) People are rude and 3) people just suck. With all that said I am taking Amanda’s advice and using this opportunity to post my own article.

Then afterward, I shall do a little dance and show off that I am getting my Ph.D. What a stupid thing to say to someone. Show off that I am getting a Ph.D. I am shaking my head in confusion…for the record, it is hard ass shit. That is why I dropped out the first time. The only reason I predicate my thoughts with ‘I’m getting a Ph.D. in human development and I study popular music and its impact on the person, society blah blah blah’ is to politely say I have just spent six months spending 40 hours a week reading about various theories on the social psychology of music. Then, I wrote a 23 page paper about it and turned it in to my professor. Then he pointed out areas of weaknesses in my paper and I re-wrote it and submitted a 26 page paper in for a final grade of an A+. Which again I point out, it is really fucking hard…so I am politely saying ‘I have done a little bit of research in the area’.

Alright so setting that aside – the guy wrote the article about why he can’t “love” today’s country music. His reasons cited were 1) the hit single (the demand for an up and coming artist to have a top ten). This translated into basically radio program managers being the gatekeeper of who gets put into power rotation. 2) Reality TV – the writer complains about Nashville signing every reject from American Idol to a record contract. 3) Manufactured identities – artists allowing themselves to be manufactured into some more marketable identity.

My issue with his article is that he is just bitching. He is just bitching about three topics that country music fans seem to bitch about without really offering up some new avenues of thought or turning the bitching into actual dialogue. So I offered my opinion and here it is.

For the record, I love today’s country. And yesterday’s country, yesteryear’s country and most likely next year’s country too. And, since Amanda couldn’t figure out what my points were – I highlighted and underlined them here.

______________________________________________________________________________

As a student getting her PhD in human development I study popular music and its impact on the person, society, the artist, the songwriter, etc. Popular music is a commercial commodity. It has been since the late 1800′s.

It is difficult to discuss something that is manufactured without acknowledging that it is manufactured. Here is the kicker though, throughout history the big 4 corporations have not ‘led’ the trend setting; they just actively and aggressively pick up what’s hot and exploit it. That is their mission, I noted in a recent paper that Warner Brothers Music Group used the word ‘exploit’ about 15 times in their annual report.

So what does that mean? It means that if listeners want to hear an artist, there has to be a push. There have to be requests, there has to be demand.

What does that mean to an artist? Well number one, the artist needs to understand that the relationship with the label is paradoxical. They need each other however; the mission of the label is to exploit the artist. If an artist truly understands the business side and understands that there are other ways to get their music to the listeners an artist can find alternative ways to make a living at making music. The primary relationship that the artist has to always nurture is that with the fans.

As for the Johnny Cash statement, I believe and I am researching this, but I truly believe that an artist has to balance staying to true to his/her own identity, while playing the business game and then ultimately the artist will hold enough power to direct his/her own course. That is evident in Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, Shania Twain, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith even down to Aaron Lewis of Staind. Aaron Lewis released his own country album while all of the Staind fans dropped their jaws. He didn’t care; it was something he wanted to do. Same with Kenny Chesney and releasing Be As You Are, it was something he wanted to do and he got to the position where he held all the power to do his own thing. Now we see that with Miranda and Blake, why? Because they played the game and they worked hard. Miranda is now able to do the Pistol Annie’s thing.

As for what is ‘country’ and what is ‘pop’…..it has always been that way. In the country music genre there has always been soft pop country (Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Shania Twain, Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts) and there is hard country (David Allen Coe, Merle Haggard, Toby Keith, Willie Nelson) etc.

Many fans do not like when their favorite artist does something that veers off the path of what the fan believes should be country. But isn’t that basically saying to the artist, you can’t grow and develop your creative side, just stay here in the little confined box of what I think country music should be….Well, I applauded when Reba talked about doing the cover of If I Were A Boy by Beyonce. During an interview on GAC with Suzanne Alexander, Reba said something to the effect of ‘I wish there were no boundaries in music’. Ditto.

So, to all the fans out there, if you hear a song and you love it….request it. Often. Support the artist. Go to the shows, call your radio stations, ask your bars to book the artist….it’s a two way relationship. The artist cannot survive without you and if you want to hear little played artists, then you have to do your part.

For the artists out there, look at Dierks Bentley. He has a hard core group of fans that call themselves DB Congress. These individuals of 100+ do the work of requesting, voting and constantly promoting their boss. And guess what? Dierks constantly shows them appreciation, he blogs on their site, he gives them shout outs on his twitter, he cultivates the fan relationship. There are some artists out there who alienate their fans, welp, that is just bad business in any business.

Jake Owen is finally getting some strong movement on his new single. Artists, go read the recent interview that Lauren of CMIL did with him.

If you want to make a living at making music, you find a way. Whether it be like Bridgette Tatum (co-writer of She’s Country) pitching her song Loud to the ACC and getting it placed as their anthem to Jason Michael Carrol and his partnership with Cracker Barrel…..if you want something bad enough, you make it happen.

August 18th, 2011

Afterthought – many fans also don’t understand that when an artist signs a publishing contract regarding master tapes they have in essence given up all rights to a song.

I just wrote a rather lengthy school paper on The Beatles. Basically, John, Paul, Ringo & George tried to protect their songs from 1963-1971 because they had signed a publishing contract with EMI for everything prior. Unfortunately, the major shareholder screwed over the four in 1969 and sold out to a large corp. called ATV. ATV retained control over the Beatles catalogue through 1985, Paul and Yoko Ono came together to try to purchase the majority however they were not successful, at that same time Paul worked with Michael Jackson on their duets. Paul explained how it worked, and Jackson bought the catalogue. However, after his death Sony picked it up from Jackson’s estate for 250 million. So frankly, it’s kind of a depressing tale. George Harrison said in 1987 after Nike used the song Revolution that they wrote songs as artists not product pitchmen. And, it’s one thing to do it when you’re dead, but they’re still alive and there is no respect for the fact that those songs were their lives.

________________________________________________________________________

I realized after I wrote this and posted it, that some, like Amanda, wouldn’t know what the hell that had to do with the article. So – to clarify again, fans tend to bitch about country artists going pop or breaking some secret unwritten rule in the country music headquarters archive that make a song less country.

I posted the information about The Beatles to explain to people who haven’t spent six months researching the topic. The fact remains that pop music, country music, top 40 music and alternative adult music or whatever genre boundary creating label gets slapped on a song – it is all commercial. It is a product. It is a commodity. And unfortunately, most artists are not all that business savvy and once an artist signs a publishing contract, he/she loses control.

One reader, Flora, pointed out to me that I was inaccurate because Carrie Underwood refused to let her song Before He Cheats get remixed into a pop version. That is awesome for Carrie, however most up and coming artists do not have the power to do that type of thing. I pointed out that The Band Perry may have had no choice when it came to If I Die Young getting put into power rotation of pop stations. I don’t know, but apparently they open their shows with “Hi we’re The Band Perry and we play country music”.

Ultimately, I don’t give a damn about genres and labeling of music. I am with Reba and I wish music had no boundaries. But then, that would be kind of messy for the suits with the big bucks. But on the flip side, remember what I said in the beginning? The suits don’t set the trends, they just hop on the bandwagon and exploit the shit out of it.