WHY WE CARE


Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."

YOUR STORIES


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"

SUPPORT THE WORK OF PLUGGED IN

Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Track Review

For someone who's just 22, country singer Lauren Alaina has been through a lot.

If her name sounds vaguely familiar, it's likely because she was the runner-up on the 10th season of American Idol back in 2011 as a 16-year-old. Alaina's first album, Wildflower, sought to capitalize on that pop-culture momentum, debuting at No. 5 on Billboard's album chart [WHEN?], and spawning three Top 40 country singles.

And then came nearly six years of relative quiet—six painful years full of personal trials that Alaina has used as an inspiration for her comeback hit, "Road Less Traveled." She summarized that litany of trials in a recent interview with radio.com.

"Everything changed for me in the last six years," she said. "I moved to Nashville, my parents went through a divorce; my dad's an alcoholic, and he went to rehab when my mom asked for the divorce. I had vocal cord surgery. I overcame an eating disorder. There's all these really big, life-changing experiences. And honestly, it was really hard to go through, and it was painful. But it was worth it because I have the record of my dreams. I would've never created this music or written these songs or had this new music without all of these things I went through."

Which Road Are We Taking?

"Road Less Traveled" (co-written with "All About That Bass" singer Megan Trainor) takes obvious inspiration from a similar line in Robert Frost's famous poem, "The Road Not Taken." In Alaina's case, the rejected road in question involves standards of beauty, weight and behavior imposed upon women.

That theme is evident from the beginning of Alaina's song. "Why do you keep on staring?" she asks. "That mirror, mirror, mirror, it ain't fair at all (mmm, mmm)." Then she addresses how our culture strives to set women's identities by what they look like: "Dress sizes can't define, don't let the world decide what's beautiful/No."

From there, Alaina urges a rejection of such cultural ideals when they become damaging. "You won't make a name for yourself if you follow the rules," she sings. "History gets made when you're acting a fool/So don't hold it back and just run it/Show what you got and just own it."

At first blush, Alaina's breezy rejection of rules and her embrace of foolish behavior doesn't seem like particularly wise counsel here. In the overall context of the song, however, what she seems to be advocating for is an embrace of individuality in a healthy way and a rejection of the ways our culture wounds and damages our sense of self.

Speaking with radio.com, Alaina clarified the intent behind those lyrics. "The line, 'You won't make yourself a name if you follow the rules' is one of my favorites in 'Road Less Traveled.' I'm a goofball, and I have this huge personality, and I used to try to hide that. I used to try to kind of dim my light. Now I just embrace my personality, and it's not for everyone, and that's fine, but I think I have to be myself, and I think we all have to be who we really are."

That explanation helps to clarify some other potentially problematic-sounding lyrics later on in the song. The chorus, for example, proclaims, "If you trust your rebel heart, ride it into battle/Don't be afraid, take the road less traveled." Later in the song, she adds, "Don't follow anyone/March to the rhythm of a different drum."

If we hear those lines as a blanket invitation to break rules in the name of just being ourselves, we're in in iffy territory. If we hear them in the context that Alaina herself has suggested, as throwing off the yoke of damaging expectations placed upon us by others and by culture, her "rebellious" admonitions here can be received more positively.

Her intent seems clear by the time we reach the end of the song, where Alaina sings, "Put your hands up, show me that you're one of a kind/Put your hands up, let me hear your voice tonight." That's a message of empowerment and dignity, one coupled with healthy self-acceptance.

A Tale of Three Girls

The video for "Road Less Traveled" reinforces the song's intended theme. Much of the video shows Alaina singing and performing. Throughout it, however, we see three younger depictions of the singer's self—as a young girl, as an early adolescent, and as a young woman—all clearly wrestling with self-image.

The little girl looks at herself in the mirror. The adolescent reads a teen magazine, then pushes her plate of food away. And the young woman again scrutinizes herself critically. In the end, Alaina visits all of them with a gracious smile, as if to pass on the wisdom and perspective of adulthood in seasons where her younger selves needed it most.

It's a lovely set of vignettes about coming to terms with one's own insecurities. Lauren Alaina seems confident and comfortable in her skin. That said, one expression of her confidence here is in a dress with a plunging neckline (much more revealing than the one pictured above), which begs the question of whether she's unintentionally reinforcing the very standards of beauty and sexiness the song and video otherwise seek to critique.

I very much like the spirit of what Lauren Alaina is trying to do here. But in both the song's lyrics and in its accompanying video, there are still some issues to be navigated for young fans who would do well to take Alaina's intended message to heart.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Genre

Country

Author

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Reached No. 9 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart.

Record Label

Mercury Nashville, Interscope, 19

Platform

Publisher

Released

July 11, 2016

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Adam R. Holz

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!