The Music and Messages of the #1 Hits of 2010

The Music and Messages of 2010’s Top Songs

Written by: Jonathan McKee, the director of, and his associate, David R. Smith and published on Jonathan's blog, December 17, 2010.  Jonathan and David researched and commented on all 17 #1 songs of 2010.  The article below is edited for space, but you can read the complete unedited article at this link.
I highlighted MESSAGES in the title because every song has a message and I believe parents should be aware of the messages in the music that is leading today's youth.
As of mid December, there were 17 different #1 songs on the Hot 100 chart. The lyrics for most of the songs are included as well as Jonathan's and David's comments to help the reader understand the message in each song.  

Fair warning: Even edited, many of these songs are graphic and there’s a lot of information to absorb. But I encourage you to become familiar with these songs because they are what your kids are listening to.  Even if your kids aren't, their friends are.

In His service and yours,
Al Menconi,
Al Menconi Ministries
Here goes…. 

“Tik Tok” (Ke$ha) 
David’s comments: 
This song is basically about a night out on the town: lots of alcohol, lots of guys, lots of dancing. 

  Wake up in the morning feeling like P Diddy 
  (Hey, what up girl?) 
  Grab my glasses, I'm out the door, I'm gonna hit this city 
  (Let’s go) 
  Before I leave, brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack 
  'Cause when I leave for the night, I ain't coming back
  Ain't got a care in world, but got plenty of beer 
  Ain't got no money in my pocket, but I'm already here 
  And now, the dudes are lining up ‘cause they hear we got swagger 
  But we kick ‘em to the curb unless they look like Mick Jagger 
  I'm talking about everybody getting crunk, crunk 
  Boys tryin' to touch my junk, junk 
  Gonna smack him if he getting too drunk, drunk

“Imma Be” (Black Eyed Peas) 
David’s comments: 
Starting March 6 the group that reigned at the top of the Hot 100 for literally half of 2009 bounced back with “Imma Be,” a ditty about the group’s “greatness.” It doesn’t take long for the tune’s single message to be revealed: the Black Eyed Peas will be the greatest…forever. 

In fact, the music video (which takes advantage of Fergie’s “assets,” of course) starts with a vignette of lead singer informing the band he has a machine that will propel them into the year 3000. In the midst of their bragging, they sneak in lyrics needlessly employing sex and expletives. Jonathan went into great detail about this song and its lyrics in one of his blogs, linking a video of three young girls performing this song. One watch of that video and you’ll quickly realize that many of our kids do know the lyrics. 

“Break Your Heart” (Taio Cruz featuring Ludacris) 
David’s comments: 
Hearts get broken all the time. But I’ve never seen heartache as…ummm…celebrated as it is in Cruz’s “Break Your Heart.” (He and his girlfriend actually make a bet out of breaking each others’ hearts.) 

Jonathan wrote an entire article on this song when it first came out; you can read it to get a glimpse of the arrogance and stoic nonchalance that Cruz evidently believes goes hand-in-hand with romance. 

Cruz is simply another artist who believes loving relationships are nothing more than games to play. 

“Rude Boy” (Rihanna) 
David’s comments: 
After Rihanna suffered domestic violence at the hands of Chris Brown last year, I found myself in her corner, perhaps out of sympathy. But when “Rude Boy” was released this year, my compassion for Rihanna ran out. 

The lyrics construct a message I just can’t support.
  Come on rude boy, boy 
  Can you get it up 
  Come here rude boy, boy 
  Is you big enough 
  Take it, take it 
  Baby, baby 
  Take it, take it 
  Love me, love me 
  Imma let you be the captain 
  Imma let you do your thing, yeah 
  Imma let you be a rider 
  Giddy up 
  Giddy up 
  Giddy up, babe

Unfortunately the music video is nothing but a fixation on Rihanna’s rear end. She breaks out every skin-tight pair of pants she owns then writhes in front of the camera as it zooms in at opportune moments. Is this really surprising? No. The APA Report on the sexualization of young girls, “44%–81% of music videos contain sexual imagery. Sexually objectifying images of women constitute a large portion of this sexual content.” 

But what do you expect from a song that comes from an album titled Rated R

“Nothin’ on You” (B.o.B) 

The song’s opening lyrics tell the whole story:
  beautiful girls all over the world 
  i could be chasing but my time would be wasted 
  they got nothin' on you baby

  hands down there will never be another one 
  i been around and i never seen another one 
  look at your style i ain't really got nothin' on 
  and you wild when you ain't got nothing on 
  baby you the whole package plus you pay your taxes 
  and you keep it real while them other stay plastic 
  you're my wonder women call me mr. fantastic

“OMG” (Usher) 

Usher frequently sings about the club scene (e.g., hits such as “Yeah” or “Let’s Make Love in the Club”). “OMG” is yet another glimpse into the club scene from Justin Bieber’s role model. Here’s a sample:
  I fell in love with shawty when I seen her on the dance floor 
  She was dancing sexy, pop, pop, popping, dropping, dropping low 
  Never ever has a lady hit me on the first sight 
  This was something special; this was just like dynamite 
  Honey got a booty like pow, pow, pow 
  Honey got some boobies like wow, oh wow

“Not Afraid” (Eminem) 
Jonathan’s comments: 
Eminem is an interesting artist. I say artist because I believe Eminem actually has a gift. He’s intelligent, he’s real, and he has always managed to generate a pretty good sound. 

Unfortunately, that talent is neck deep in obscenities, objectifying women, and an attitude of hate commonly expressed through descriptions of violence in his songs as well as verbal attacks against anyone with whom he disagrees. 

In this song Eminem connects with listeners, identifying with the storms they will face in life and imploring them to walk the road together:
  I’m not afraid to take a stand 
  Everybody come take my hand 
  We’ll walk this road together, through the storm 
  Whatever weather, cold or warm 
  Just let you know that, you’re not alone 
  Holla if you feel that you’ve been down the same road

Eminem goes on to express that he can’t continue the way he’s been living. He wants to clean up and maybe come back “brand new.” These lyrics are a little bittersweet, mixed with attitude and Eminem’s typical obscenities—but overall not a bad song. 

“California Gurls” (Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg) 
Jonathan’s comments: 
To get the complete gist of “California Gurls,” you have to sample the music video where she ends up naked, lying on a cloud or watch her perform it live. The lyrics themselves are mildly suggestive, but combine her “melt your popsicle” line with her oral-sex gesture, and the song’s intent is clear. Maybe that’s why Entertainment Weekly refers to her live MTV performance as a “raunchified rendition (check the hand motions!) of the new official song of the summer.” 

This song was so popular that wrote a Music Discussion using the song as a springboard for a talk about “The World and Its Desires.” This discussion provides both Scripture and small group questions.  

We’ve discussed Perry in-depth in past Youth Culture Window articles (like this one). She’s probably my vote for the worst influence on teenagers in 2010.  

“Love the Way You Lie” (Eminem featuring Rihanna) 
Jonathan’s comments: 
Eminem has a skill for delivering lyrics that his audience can identify with. The lyrics themselves don’t tell the story half as well as the music video, however, which has…get this…255 plus million views on YouTube alone as of this writing. You might want to take a look at this video — your kids most likely have. 

The song tells a story of love, frustration, and pain. I usually don’t post this lengthy of a section of lyrics…but take a peek at this amazing imagery from Eminem:
  You ever love somebody so much 
  You can barely breathe 
  When you're with them 
  You meet 
  And neither one of you 
  Even know what hit 'em 
  Got that warm fuzzy feeling 
  Yeah them chills 
  Used to get 'em 
  Now you're getting f**king sick 
  Of looking at 'em 
  You swore you've never hit 'em 
  Never do nothing to hurt 'em 
  Now you're in each other's face 
  Spewing venom 
  And these words 
  When you spit 'em 
  You push 
  Pull each other's hair 
  Scratch, claw, bit 'em 
  Throw 'em down 
  Pin 'em 
  So lost in the moments 
  When you're in 'em 
  It's the rage that took over 
  It controls you both 
  So they say it's best 
  To go your separate ways 
  Guess that they don't know ya 
  Cause today 
  That was yesterday 
  Yesterday is over 
  It's a different day 
  Sound like broken records 
  Playin' over 
  But you promised her 
  Next time you'll show restraint 
  You don't get another chance 
  Life is no Nintendo game 
  But you lied again 
  Now you get to watch her leave 
  Out the window 
  Guess that's why they call it window pane

Eminem goes on to become more violent in the song and video, talking about things that many feel but few express. 

The message kids hear from the song and video might vary, but here's what we found:

 • This kind of hitting and fighting is normal among couples.
 • The pain is well worth the reward.
 • Violence in relationships is excusable.

Whatever the message…255 plus million people have viewed it! And the song stayed in the number-one spot for seven weeks. 

I’m torn by this kind of song. On one hand, it’s irresponsible because young people with their undeveloped brains are taking in this message and cementing wrong ideas about relationships. On the other hand, Eminem doesn’t seem to be gratuitous or selling out…he seems to be expressing an authentic point of view that we (adults) need to recognize. 

“Teenage Dream” (Katy Perry) 
Jonathan’s comments:
The title track of Perry’s hit album seems to be a clear message “live for the moment.” 

 Take a peek at the lyrics:

  Let's go all the way tonight 
  No regrets, just love 
  We can dance until we die 
  You and I 
  We'll be young forever 
  You make me 
  Feel like 
  I'm living a teenage dream 
  The way you turn me on 
  I can't sleep 
  Let's run away 
  And don't ever look back 
  Don't ever look back

  We drove to Cali 
  And got drunk on the beach 
  Got a motel and 
  Built a fort out of sheets 
  I finally found you 
  My missing puzzle piece 
  I'm complete 
  Let's go all the way tonight…

Then later she continues with:
   Let you put your hands on me 
   In my skin-tight jeans…

The lyrics are actually quite tame compared to the video. For the last few months I’ve been showing just 20 seconds of the music video at my parenting workshops. I point out that iTunes doesn’t have any disclaimers regarding the video at all—it deems the video clean. Then I show parents a snippet of the video starting at about two minutes in. (warning — this is racy stuff.) 

“Just the Way You Are” (Bruno Mars) 
Jonathan’s comments: 
In a world where girls constantly feel as though they don’t measure up, here’s a song that says, “Girl, you’re amazing just the way you are.” Take a peek:
  When I see your face, there's not a thing that I would change 
  Cause you're amazing, just the way you are 
  And when you smile, the whole world stops and stares for a while 
  Because girl you're amazing, just the way you are (yeah)

The song not only is clean, it’s refreshingly simple and sweet. The music video is clean as well—an anomaly in today’s music videos. 

“Like a G6” (Far East Movement featuring the Cataracs) 
Jonathan’s comments: 
Check out the opening lyrics:
  Poppin’ bottles in the ice, like a blizzard 
  When we drink we do it right, gettin’ slizzard 
  Sippin’ sizzurp in my ride, like Three 6 
  Now I’m feelin’ so fly like a G6

  Gimme that Mo-Moet 
  Gimme that Cry-Crystal 
  Ladies love my style, at my table gettin’ wild 
  Get them bottles poppin’, we get that drip and that drop 
  Now give me 2 more bottles cuz you know it don’t stop 
  Hell yeaa 
  Drink it up, drink-drink it up…

The video reflects similar enthusiasms—partying and drinking. 

Most parents are clueless to the content and many believe it is acceptable for their children to listen to because it’s doesn’t have “explicit” cuss words. The local public high school plays this song on campus at lunch at least two times a day. This is the same school that asked me to chaperone a dance (my expose’ on that experience here) that didn’t allow drinking but nevertheless played this song and video (the DJ projected music videos on the wall during the whole dance). The lyrics repeat “drink it up, drink-drink it up!” while the administration says “don’t drink!”   Do you recognize the problem?

“We R Who We R” (Ke$ha) 
David’s comments:
In the grammatically challenged song (both title and lyrics), Ke$ha basically provides the masses with another dance club hit. Not only does it sound like “Tik Tok,” but the message is much the same. 

Except this time, she drags Jesus into it.

  Hot and dangerous 
  If you’re one of us, then roll with us 
  ‘Cause we make the hipsters fall in love 
  And we’ve got hot-pants on and up 
  And yes of course we does we’re running this town just like a club 
  And no, you don’t wanna mess with us 
  Got Jesus on my necklace 

  I’ve got that glitter on my eyes 
  Stockings ripped all up the side 
  Looking sick and sexy-fied 
  So let’s go-o-o (Let’s go!)

  We’re dancing like we’re dumb 
  Our bodies go numb 
  We’ll be forever young 
  You know we’re superstars 
  We R who we R! 
  DJ turn it up 
  It’s about damn time to live it up 
  I’m so sick of being so serious 
  It’s making my brain delirious! 
  I’m just talkin’ truth 
  I’m telling you ’bout the s*** we do 
  We’re sellin’ our clothes, sleepin’ in cars 
  Dressin’ it down, hittin’ on dudes (HARD!)

“What’s My Name?” (Rihanna featuring Drake) 
David’s comments: 
The music video for “What’s My Name?” isn’t nearly as racy as the “Rude Boy” video. But the lyrics make the point of the tune crystal clear. Here are just a few lines:
  Not everybody knows how to work my body 
  knows how to make me want it 
  but boy you stay up on it 
  you got that something that keeps me so off balance 
  baby you’re a challenge, let’s explore your talent 
  hey boy I really wanna see if you can go downtown with a girl like me 
  hey boy, I really wanna be with you 
  cause your just my type 
  ooh na na na na 
  I need a boy to take it over 
  looking for a girl to put you over, uh 
  oooooh, oooooh

“Only Girl (in the World)” (Rihanna) 
David’s comments: 
And after watching the music video, I was thankful Rihanna was wearing clothes (and that the camera was pointed at the cheeks on her face…instead of her, um, other cheeks). 

  Want you to make me feel like I'm the only girl in the world 
  Like I'm the only one that you'll ever love 
  Like I'm the only one who knows your heart 
  Only girl in the world... 
  Like I'm the only one that's in command 
  Cuz I'm the only one who understands how to make you feel like a man 
  Want you to make me feel like I'm the only girl in the world 
  Like I'm the only one that you'll ever love 
  like I'm the only one who knows your heart 
  Only one...

  I want you to love me, like I'm a hot ride 
  Keep thinkin' of me, doin' what you like 
  So boy forget about the world cuz it's gon' be me and you tonight 
  I wanna make your bed for ya, then imma make you swallow your pride 
  Want you to take me like a thief in the night 
  Hold me like a pillow, make me feel right 
  Baby I'll tell you all my secrets that I'm keepin', you can come inside 
  And when you enter, you ain't leavin', be my prisoner for the night

“Raise Your Glass” (Pink) 
David’s comments 
Pink has built herself a reputation for being an artist willing to get in your face and tell you what she thinks—even if it angers you. ( offers a MUSIC DISCUSSION about her song “So What.”) 

The music video features two dudes kissing each other…on the lips. Throughout the video, Pink keeps waking up next to religious leaders of all kinds, including a nun. Both women have smiles on their faces, as a result. In one scene, several women are having their breasts milked so a cow can drink from them. (I’m not making this stuff up!) Then there’s profanity in the lyrics spread around like the manure. And finally, the whole song is about drinking with plenty of images of alcohol to support the not-so-subtle message. 

The gist of the song is that no matter who you are, what you do, or what you stand for, we can raise our glasses and drink together, because we’re all just “nitty gritty dirty little freaks.”
  So raise your glass if you are wrong, 
  in all the right ways, 
  all my underdogs, 
  we will never be never be anything but loud 
  and nitty gritty dirty little freaks 
  won't you come on and come on and raise your glass, 
  just come on and come on and raise your glass.

“Firework” (Katy Perry) 
David’s comments:
The synopsis of the song is “let your light shine,” which is definitely a positive message for today’s kids. The video focuses on several real-life situations where the characters get a chance to shine their inner “firework.” One kid is a cancer patient; one kid breaks up domestic violence. One overweight girl shuns a pool party at first but then decides to jump in, regardless of what others may think. Another guy is jumped by street thugs, but he wows them with his talent for performing cool magic tricks. 

Okay…lots of powerful, positive stuff. And all those scenes are set to Perry’s lyrics that talk about shining:
  You just gotta ignite the light 
  And let it shine 
  Just own the night 
  Like the Fourth of July 
  Cause baby you're a firework 
  Come on show 'em what your worth 
  Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh!" 
  As you shoot across the sky-y-y 
  Baby you're a firework 
  Come on let your colors burst 
  Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh!" 
  You're gunna leave 'em fallin' down-own-own

There are more positive elements in this song than in any of her other #1 hits. But at the risk of sounding like “the guy who complains,” I need to mention something that irked me. The song’s video shows two guys kissing.

The frequency of girl on girl and guy on guy kissing in media is rapidly increasing. It’s a clear message of the homosexual agenda: “Being homosexual in public requires bravery and courage, but it’s worth it because we’ll be happy.” 

We disagree. Strongly. 

But I won’t let the one scene completely ruin the overall intent of Perry’s song. She’s encouraging people who listen to shine so their lives and others’ lives can be changed. 

I just wish she and I agreed that the change would always be for the better. 

* * *

The Big Picture 
Comments by Jonathan:
As promised I want to note a few “big picture” items that surfaced as I studied the year’s biggest songs. Here they are in no particular order. 
 1.  It was a BIG year for Rihanna….a very big year. Rihanna had a very public setback in early 2009 when her then-boyfriend Chris Brown was arrested and convicted of assaulting her. I doubt the full details of that night will ever come to light, but whatever happened has all but destroyed Brown’s career. It could have ended Rihanna’s career as well, but she seized several opportunities and catapulted herself back to the forefront. Unfortunately, she used her sexuality to do this. Sex sells… it always will.
 2.  It was a BIG year for female artists. Look over the list: Katy Perry had three songs at the top. Ke$ha had two. Rihanna’s name appeared four times. Female artists accounted for well over half of the #1 songs. If there were queens of music for 2010, these three women were just that.
 3.  Music reflected life…in all its brokenness. Again, looking over the year’s music, we can see that several songs tell genuine stories about life. Granted, most tunes copped to your garden-variety unrealistic, superficial, pop-culture glibness, but a few of these tunes took life by the throat:
  Taio Cruz’s “Break Your Heart” is about the prevalence of trampled emotions.
  Eminem’s “Not Afraid” is about confronting life’s issues.
  Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie” speaks to the disappointment that so often    
                accompanies relationships.
  Rihanna’s “Only Girl (in the World)” gives listeners a glimpse of what every female 
                really wants.
  Katy Perry’s “Firework” encourages hearers to shine their lights in the darkest of 

It’s important to note these kinds of messages and themes in today’s music, mainly because our kids are taking note of them (and even more subtle ones). So I encourage you to do all you can throughout the coming year to stay current on what the teenagers in your life are listening to. 

Now that you’re all caught up on 2010’s biggest hits, why not have a conversation with a teenager about one of life’s biggest influences…music. (We hope our free Music Discussions pages on both Jonathan's youth ministry site and his parent site are a great resource for you.) 

Jonathan McKee, president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of numerous youth ministry books including the brand new Ministry By Teenagers,Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the award winning book Do They Run When They See You Coming? He speaks and trains at camps, conferences, and events across North America, and provides free resources for youth workers internationally on his website,

David R. Smith is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others to do the same. He co-authored his first book this year, Ministry By Teenagers. David provides free resources on his website, DavidRSmith.orgto anyone who works with teenagers.  David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida. 


  1. Thanks so much. I have three teenagers so this is a great help

    God bless


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