We Are Young

The Anthem of a New Generation?

We used to sing, “All you need is love.” But today’s anthems are decidedly different, and they tell us something about this generation. Stay tuned to BreakPoint.


John Stonestreet

Earlier this summer, I kept hearing this song with a very memorable sound — and not the “if I can’t get this song out of my head I may jump off a cliff” memorable sound of “Call Me Maybe,” the most popular song of the summer.  No, this one reminded me of the rock anthems of the 80’s and 90’s.

So when I heard a commentator suggest that this song, “We Are Young,” by the band Fun, could work as an anthem for the Olympics, I looked up the lyrics. I already knew the chorus: “We are young; so let’s set the world on fire, we can burn brighter than the sun.”

As someone who often played sports with Queen’s “We Are the Champions” playing in the background, I assumed this was one of those “seize the moment” and “we can do it” songs. But the rest of the lyrics were anything but: “My friends are in the bathroom getting higher than the Empire State” and “If by the time the bar closes, you feel like falling down, I’ll carry you home tonight.”

That’s what setting the world on fire means? Scottish writer and politician Andrew Fletcher was right when he said, “If a man were permitted to write the ballads of a nation, he need not care who writes its laws.”

My friend David Eaton, who leads a terrific worldview ministry for students called Axis, says “We Are Young” is like so many other songs that focus on the here and now: dissassociating actions today with consequences tomorrow. Get drunk, get high tonight, but no worries about waking up tomorrow with a pregnant girlfriend, or a drug habit, or being unable to hold down a job.

This sort of postmodern fantasy—that ideas don’t have consequences—dangerously resonates in the minds and hearts of young people. In fact, Rolling Stone called the performance of “We Are Young” the defining singalong moment of one of the largest music festivals this summer.

But the immorality is only part of the problem, and celebrating the drunken bar scene isn’t what bothers me most about “We Are Young.” Most troubling is how this lifestyle is portrayed as not even really meaningful, but as all that’s left because there’s nothing significant to live for.

In fact, another song by Fun called “Some Nights,” is no better. The video utilizes something as historically significant as a Civil War battle in order to sing, “So this is it? I sold my soul for this? Well, that is it guys, and that is all, five minutes in and I’m bored again.”

The rebellion of the past was a way of expressing youthful independence or personal toughness. The rebellion of today is doing anything in order to feel something, to cope with the sickening sense that life is ultimately meaningless.

Ravi Zacharias suggests that God created us with a sense of wonder that is ultimately only fulfilled in the wonder of Him. A generation without wonder, that has lost purpose, is one that needs a new anthem.

But what can we do about it? After all, you say, songs that promote immorality and nihilism have been around for decades. But folks, today’s songs are more blatant and more accessible than ever before. We went from “I want to hold your hand” in the 60’s to “I want to sex you up” in the 90’s to lyrics I can’t even mention today.

So please, talk with, not just at, your students about their entertainment. And if you need help, check out the work of Axis. David Eation and his Axis teams are more effective than any group I know in confronting students’ apathy toward ideas. Go to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary, and we’ll link you to their website.

We’ll also link you to today’s Two-Minute Warning, where I call on Christian professionals and business people to step up to the plate and engage culture. Because if we don’t, it won’t be long before faith will be banished from the public square. Again, that’s my Two-Minute Warning at BreakPoint.org.


Further Reading and Information

“We Are Young” lyrics
Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Axis: Apathy to Action

Two-Minute Warning
John Stonestreet | ColsonCenter.org | August 16, 2012

BreakPoint Special Video: We Are Young
John Stonestreet | BreakPoint.org | August 16, 2012
“The music of a new generation is no longer about the pleasure of sex and drugs. It’s about doing anything to feel something. In this BreakPoint video special made easy for sharing on Facebook and Twitter, John Stonestreet champions a return to meaning for young people through recovering a sense of wonder.”

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