Saturday, February 14, 2009

“Goyish” Music, TV, and Movies

Lately I’ve been thinking about music, what types I like, and what I think of “goyish” music. A little while ago an encounter triggered my memory on to this topic.

Usually I’m very good with faces, and I’m always the one to recognize people from my past. But this time I was by a restaurant with my mother and little sister, and at the table next to us was a few girls. We overheard their conversation the whole time, and they sounded like teenagers. I didn’t get to see all of their faces, cause I don’t stare at people. But then when the girls were done eating, they got up, and one girl comes over to me. She says “Hey, your ‘Babysitter’, your so and so’s cousin”. Once she said that I was able to figure out who she was, and I was like “o, your so and so, and I was in your bunk in sleep away camp”. So we caught up a little.

Now how did this encounter trigger my memory to music? Well this girl happened to be the girl that introduced me to non Jewish music. I was 11 years old in camp and she was in my bunk. One day she started singing and dancing to “oops I did it again” By Britney Spears. That was officially the first non Jewish song I heard. Then also during that summer I learned about movies, what G, PG, PG-13, and R means.

That year I had been going into 7th grade. So then when the school year came, I was talking with my friends and I found out that my friend listens to z100, so I started listening to it too. I learned a lot of stuff by listening to that station, stuff which I didn’t understand at that age, so it didn’t even make a difference that I heard it. My friend also had CD’s full of Non Jewish music, I would go to her house and she would let me listen to some. Then I decided to download some of my own, so I downloaded Hillary Duff, Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears and a bunch of others. That was when I was a bit older, at 13 or 14.

During my 7th and 8th grade year I was a bit “rebellious”. My friend had become friends with another girl that she had gone to day camp with the previous summer. That girl decided she wanted to go see a movie, she told my friend about it, and my friend invited me. She told me the movie title and it sounded good and I liked the story line. So I asked my father if I can go see a movie with my friends. He said yes at first, then he changed his mind and figured it won’t be a good idea. But I had still wanted to go, I was excited about it. It was a Chanukah night, after my father lit candles, I ran out of the house to sneak to my friends house so that I can go with her. But then my father knew where I was going, so he came after me, to stop me. He talked some sense in to me, and I said ok I won’t go.

So I didn’t go to see that movie, years later, I decided to finally check it out, and I watched it online, and I’m glad I didn’t go when I was younger. The movie was “Not another Teen Movie” which is not a clean movie, and the beginning scene is a frightening one.

But later that year I did end up going to see a movie. It was a funny story. Spy kids 3 came out, the 3D one, so I decided to go with my friends to see it, and I didn’t tell my parents about it. Meanwhile, my twin brother had also gone to see it, but himself. Yet at the same time, my parents went to see it themselves. Nobody told each other that we were going to see it. What could have been a family night out guilt free, was done sneakily. I had kept my movie tickets and glasses, my little brother had snooped and found it and told my parents, and that’s how we realized that we all went to it.

Originally my family had a TV, I was brought up as a child with a TV, I have fond memories of watching Mr. Rogers, Barney, Puzzle Mania, Full House, Boy Meets World, Sabrina, 7th Heaven, Gilmore Girls, Wheel of Fortune, and others. Then when I was still a child, my twin brother got angry about something and smashed the TV. So then we never got a new one and that was the end of that.

Later when I was in 7th or 8th grade, my friend told me how you can buy a mini black and white TV at value depot for 10 dollars. So I went and bought one. My father knew about it, and let me keep it, so long as I didn’t watch too much, and kept to my priorities. With my brother though, he didn’t let him have a TV cause my brother would play hookey and stay home to watch.

We also always watched movies at home, my mother bought her child hood favorites for us to watch. So I remember watching “Willie Wanka and the Chocolate factory”, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and “Marry Poppins”. But once the TV monitor was broken, we no longer were able to watch all the video cassettes we have. My mother used to video us, and we would watch it, it was so much fun. All my child hood memories are on there, I wish to one day be able to convert them to DVD.

Back to my thoughts on music, TV and movies. I think with all these things, you can’t limit yourself to only Jewish stuff. This applies to books too. Let me just add one more thing. Up until a few years ago, I had thought that only teenagers listen to non Jewish music. I thought that fathers have iPOD’s to listen to Shiurim with. When I found out that a married father had gotten a ipod for his birthday present and was going to fill it with music he likes aka. non Jewish music, I was shocked.

I always felt that if you listen to non Jewish music then its something that you keep private, that on social networking profiles where it had a place for you to fill out what music you like, I had thought people wouldn’t advertise that they listen to non Jewish music. But then after being on Facebook a while, I realized that so many girls who I thought were all so frum and wouldn’t understand if I listen to non Jewish music, actually had their own non Jewish music up.

So now, back to my opinion on all this. I think non Jewish music, tv, and movies are acceptable, that they are neutral. Just like everything else in life. That you should judge each song/movie/book on itself. So long as the content is age appropriate and clean then there’s nothing wrong with it.

But yet having said that, it doesn’t mean that Jewish music isn’t good which is why non Jewish music is good. They aren’t opposites, they are both forms of music. There are good and bad in both. You have to judge each song individually, see what you like. I think Jewish music is extremely under rated by those that listen to non Jewish music. They seem to think they are only allowed to enjoy non Jewish music if they say that Jewish music isn’t professional. I think both can sound good, and with my Jewish Song Sunday’s I try to show that Jewish music can be good too.

Now with TV, I’ve had a long debate with Frum Skeptic on this, so I won’t get into it again. But for a researched write up of why TV isn’t good for kids, you can read my post, and keep in mind this is a speech I wrote for my college class, so it has no religious reasons in it.

Now with going to an actual movie theater, at first I wouldn’t have agreed to it. Certain movies I wouldn’t feel comfortable watching with other people, some stuff are more fun to watch in the privacy of your own home. But with regular stuff, I don’t think it would be different than going to an imax or 3d show, that so many frum people go to on chol hamoed. It’s the same concept, seeing a video on a large screen. The content you choose to watch is the questionable part, not the actual going to a movie theater.


Dude with hat (aka BTS) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dude with hat (aka BTS) said...

Was writing a reply here but then decided to post it in my blog. Here you go

Sorry for deleted comment - there was wrong link by mistake.

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

*ahem*. ..sorry; something in my throat.. thing I've always felt very uncomfortable about has been the very terminology of "Jewish" or "non-Jewish" music that Flatbush kids use (I kind of hoped you were getting to a point of that nature since your title had "Goyish" in quotes). Anyway, what I mean is, especially as a Jew of Moroccan decent, using the term "Jewish" music as referring only to what might otherwise be called "modern-litvish music" or something, seemed to be excluding not only my beloved Moroccan-Jewish music, but most other forms of "pre-American" Jewish music (even European).

Yet that wasn't my only problem; the term "non-jewish" or "Goyish" as referring to modern American pop and rock and rap, etc, also didn't seem to do justice to the term "Goyish". Were those the only types of music ever created by people who aren't Jewish?! What about Mozart? Is he as "Goyish" as "Fiddy Cent"?

In my opinion the reasons for this philological misuse is obvious; the youth dislike "heavy, meaningful" music. Their attention span for music has gone down to the average 3 minute "Jewish" or "non-Jewish" song.

...if anything, the "Jewish" songs are worse to listen to because of their singing the same (one) phrase repeatedly. At least the "Goyish" songs have more than five words; it's a start!

February 15,

Shorty said...

I had always wondered how you felt about "secular music". You are right, it is a different form of music. There are perfectly "ok" variations, positive songs, that i think are fine to listen to, even the "heart break" ones...I have to admit, i'm not into punk, or as i call it "angry" music (sounds like they are screaming). I know some people are into it, and that's ok, that is their choice.

For TV, there was a recent study that came out that children who watch too many hours of tv become depressed as teenagers. I figure it has to do with expectations, and well, disappointment that follows. TV and movies isn't reality, and unfortunately people watch then, and expect life to be "like that".

AmIaFrumFeminist said...

Oh, there most definitely IS a difference between Jewish and "non-Jewish" music... Jewish music all sounds exactly the same. There's no creativity in it. There's maybe one or two Jewish music groups\singers who've got an original sound, and all the rest of them sound exactly the same.

"Non-Jewish" music has a lot more creativity and talent, mostly because the creators have studied music and actually know what they're doing, as opposed to Jewish musicians who usually just became musicians with some talent and a few lessons here and there. How many Jewish musicians have actually studied music theory?

That's not to say that non-Jewish music is better for your soul, because it isn't. There's no comparing a song with words from tehillim to a song with words from some non-Jew's drunk evening.

But there's only so much of the same-old-same-old Jewish music that most people can take before their brains explode.

Ookamikun said...

That's why I prefer Israeli and Sefardi music.
Though usually, it's JPop and sometimes Russian Pop.

corti said...

Hm, a frum guy in my class once 'explained' to me the heter for listening to Non-Jewish music by saying that it's not live (I also got this answer when I asked him why he had Spice Girls- kol isha- in his playlist) I certainly don't buy that excuse and while I do listen to some Non-Jewish music (though I'm not that big into music to begin with) I don't feel like it's totally ok. I just look at it as talent that Hashem gave to some Non-Jewish people and try not to get too obsessed--- and the lyrics? Some are passable, I really don't harp on certain lines "oh that was a brilliant lyric", but I do laugh at how stupid the lyrics are sometimes. And other times I'll find myself liking a tune and then when I finally concentrate on the lyrics I'm just incredulous (there's a certain Akon song...). I never cared much for rap, but then after a music class in college I learned about rap's origins and there went that genre in my esteem (basically deejays battling each other with sexual boasts). So that's that. No simple solution and in HS teachers used to talk about the effect music has on one's neshama... anyone know anything about this?

As far as movies, I always wondered why Imaxes aren't taboo the same way movie theaters are? I have no problem with movie theaters aside from the rip-off factor and the hangout factor. I once read somewhere that even a clean movie could be problematic to see in a theater because of "ub'moshav letzim lo yashav" (and on the flip side clean movies are totally ok to watch in one's home). No idea if this is true or not but with my college schedule there's no time for any of this lol

Ookamikun said...

Mike, sounds like your school has a very good propaganda/brainwashing/programming department.

frum single female said...

i listen to jewish and non-jewish music. i like the originality of the non-jewish music and the fact that most of the non-jewish singers have better voices.

corti said...

Moshe: So you think that non-Jewish music is perfectly fine? You mentioned that you stick with J-Pop...

And what makes you think that I'm brainwashed? My HS did have an excellent propaganda dept in other areas but they actually never spoke explicitly about non-Jewish music, they figured it wasn't in our "shetach shel bechirah" and instead harped on the Jewish music that imitates non-Jewish music. Which reminds me of another thing I feel about non-Jewish music... these Jewish artists are clearly listening to non-Jewish stuff and imitating the style, so how different is listening to the non-Jewish stuff altogether.

And btw the origins of my opinions are eclectic... I had to filter out a lot of HS stuff and now I sit in college all day listening to liberals argue that just because a story written in first person speaks of "my husband" does NOT allow us to assume that the narrator is female :P Lol. In one ear and out the other with a good laugh in the middle.

A Merry Misanthrope said...

I feel like "non-jewish" music stands the test of time better. When I was about 11 or 12 and I started listening to The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkle I would spend hours discussing Paul vs John with my mother who loved them when she was my age. Maybe it's because non jewish music has a bigger range and more genres but how many jewish artists will be relevant 30 years from now? It's like every day there's a new cutesy little boy band.

And my school once told me that every time I listened to non jewish music I was poisoning my neshama to the point where I would start hating hashem. True story.

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

BTS: I checked out your post, I'm gonna comment on it there.

Shlomo: I thought Jewish music meant any music sung by a Jew, from Americans, Europeans or any place.

True point about comparing those two. That's why "goyish" isn't the right word. There's regular stuff like the national anthem, mozart and all these stuff. Then there's cultural music like fifty cent which might have lyrics that don't adhere with Jewish standards.

what do you consider "heavy meaningful" music?

There are some Jewish songs that are long songs and don't just repeat the same 5 words. It depends. There's the songs which are from posukim, so there its usually the same words over and over. But if its a song with a created lyrics then it will have more to it.

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

Shorty: yea, I agree with you. I'm usually not into punk either, unless I'm in a bad mood, then angry music helps me get out of it.

Interesting, I can see that happening. I know for myself lots of stuff I saw on movies sounded better than in real life. It's like a fantasy.

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

AmIAFrumFeminist: Everyone says Jewish music sounds the same. Harry-er than them all put up a song once that was made in a camp where they took lots of Jewish songs and mashed it into one and you see how they all have the same chords. But I think thats because there's this mentality that Jewish music has to sound a certain way, that it can only be one genre. That's why they were against Lipa, cause he introduced a new type. I think variations is good, and I think they are starting to get there, where they don't all sound the same. I like Israeli music, which sounds different than the standard Jewish songs.

You might be right about the Jewish singers not studying music. I took a music class though, and I can't say it helped me to be able to know how to play music better or compose better. It just made me realize that music is a talent that some have and some don't. I don't have the talent, so no matter how many classes I go to, I still won't be able to figure it out. If you have the talent, then studying music may or may not help.

Very true..

yea, I understand that.

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

Moshe: yea, I like Israeli and Sephardi music too.

I still remember that song you told me about, and then "Mike" said it would be good for that game.

Mike: I heard that heter regarding listening to female non Jewish music, for a man. But not in the Jewish v. Non Jewish aspect of it.

Yea, they can have crazy lyrics sometimes.

I remember learning about that too! That they would battle each other with their music. It's actually funny though, cause one of the first classes my professor downloaded the top 10 songs from itunes and played it for the class, and he hadn't known any of them! He was this young looking guy, I would have thought he knew the hit songs. But he said he's more into classical music. It was actually funny, by the music presentations, a bunch of people played the craziest songs, lol. This one girl actually gave a performance, she got dressed up in a costume, and danced for the whole class, I was rofl'ing, she had no busha!

Also, I took the class during the time when you can't listen to music, I think it was sefira time. But because it was for school then I was allowed too, but it made sefira loose its specialness.

yea, they always talked about the effect music has on your neshama. One teacher actually brought in a cd player with different cd's and played some for it, and asked us to move in the way the music makes us feel. So by an Avraham Fried song it made you want to hold your hands to Shamayim or sway in a davening motion, so thats fine. Then there's the kumzits type that make you sway from side to side, and that was also fine. But the type that makes you move in a provocative way, she said that wasn't good. So she said that's how you judge music.

Right, the hang out factor is another thing that makes it questionable.

So yea, I dunno, that reminds me of like how they were against the greek theaters and stuff, so that would equate movies with going to a stadium to watch some baseball or something.

Yea, I have no, my last semester, gotta do it right! arrgg

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

FrumSingleFemale: See I'm not so sure about that, maybe you just haven't heard of all Jewish music yet. Cause there definitely are ones with good voices and originality. At least in my opinion.

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

Mike: I think when he said J-pop, he meant Japanese pop?

Your gonna hear the brainwashing line a lot. It's as though I'm reliving those years again. The first year after HS, when I started college, I heard those same things from other people. Your gonna come across it a lot.

and lol...yea, a bunch of my professors bring that up too. They'll say it says "partner", but yet in NY law their not considered married, so you can't call them a spouse on a tax return.

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

Stacy: Interesting point. That non Jewish music or even movies can become classics that you talk about for generations. While Jewish music doesn't really have that. But I think there are some Jewish singers that became classics, like Carlbach, Avraham Fried, and maybe even Shwecky.

Yea, I might of heard similar. I would dismiss these thoughts though.

Ookamikun said...

Yeah, JPop is the official abbreviation for Japanese Pop.

corti said...

Oh right, now I remember J-Pop. It was actually one of the genres on the list of options for my music term paper-- my mistake for assuming it stood for Jewish. I love DDR :)

And Babysitter: that partner/spouse thing for accounting is hilarious, never thought of it that way...

Ookamikun said...

You got StepMania for PC, right?

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Shlomo: "I thought Jewish music meant any music sung by a Jew, from Americans, Europeans or any place."- To me, calling the mind numbing repetitious music Flatbush kids make "Jewish music", and never referring to anything else as "Jewish music", that's saying something. ...personally, I don't even call it "Ashkenazi music" anymore, since Ashkenazi music is much more than that; there are old German liturgical hymns, there is classical Chasidic music, which itself branches out into Polish, Russian, Hungarian and many other styles. If you want to listen to it, ok, but don't overlook 2,000 years of Jewish musical history around the world for "srully williger".

"Then there's cultural music like fifty cent which might have lyrics that don't adhere with Jewish standards."- So now you're defining goyish music as anything that "doesn't adhere to Jewish standards"? My own opinion is that "goyish" in general is a hard term to use, since 99.9% of our very diverse world is not Jewish..

"what do you consider "heavy meaningful" music?"- You know, like classical, ..opera....sefaradi music, Arab music, ..basically all kinds of traditional music have the posibility to be meaningful. 3 minute pop songs, weather made by Jews or not, cannot really be "heavy and meaningful".

"yea, I agree with you. I'm usually not into punk either, unless I'm in a bad mood, then angry music helps me get out of it."- Ha. I don't know why but I think that would be a funny sight for me!

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

Mike: yea I remember you brought up DDR a while ago. and yea it was funny.

Moshe: yea I had step mania, but then I did over my computer and I didn't re install it. I tried doing DDR a few times, and its not for me,

Shlomo: right of course there's more to Jewish music than what's playing today. But we don't necessarily have access to all of it nowadays, do we?

So maybe goyish means Christian? or anything against the Jewish religion?

what would be a funny sight? if you would listen to punk music while you were angry?

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