Category Archives: music

Movie Review: “To Be Heard”

By Lindsay McCormack, Editorial Intern

Photo by credit: Edwin Martinez

Pearl Quick gives a tour of her bedroom

Did you catch Roland Legiardi-Laura’s documentary, To Be Heard,last weekend?  It aired on local PBS stations several times throughout the weekend and was well worth watching.

It tells a story that is both grim and hopeful. It follows three teens who hope to escape their poverty-stricken lives in the Bronx. They want to go to college and see more of the world. They want to stay out of prison and away from harm. The teenagers in this film are stunningly talented poets.

Anthony, Karina, and Pearl are high school juniors, all facing complex issues at school and at home. In poetry class, the three expose their innermost thoughts and emotions to their classmates on a daily basis.

Pearl, who struggles with obesity and body image, dreams both to overcome these societal pressures and to go to Sarah Lawrence College in New York. In the film, we watch her find confidence and see herself in a new light. One particularly striking scene takes place at Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. In the same woods where Henry Thoreau lived and wrote, Pearl stands among the trees and stretches her arms in all directions. She makes way for the sun, allowing herself to take up space and feel free in her own skin.

Anthony, who struggles to stay out of jail, is perhaps the most talented and volatile of this group. Though his mouth is quick to get him in trouble with school authorities, he becomes someone else when he recites poetry. His words aren’t necessarily cleaner when he’s speaking poetry, but there’s meaning behind them—he is a rapper without the bass or the kick-drum.  Performing on stage before a screaming audience, words pour from him effortlessly, his arms pulsing and pumping before him like a conductor. His nervous energy practically leaps from through the screen.

Karina, Anthony’s girlfriend during part of the film, struggles with realities that many young girls can relate to: a painful relationship with her mother and pressure to act as a parent to her younger siblings. She not only takes on this challenge at home—we see her loving and gentle nature with her little siblings—but she transforms these difficulties into a fiery poetic energy. She makes art out of her teenage exhaustion. She has the teachers, friends, and talent that allow her to channel something very rare and compelling.

Though the relationship between Karina and Anthony is not the main focus of the film—nothing can overshadow the poetry that the rest of the story revolves around—it is refreshing to see a genuine, loving relationship between two young people. With all of the Ronnie-and-Sam-esque crap thrown at us every day, here is a young romance that is beautiful and genuinely dramatic.

This is not just another documentary about poverty and suffering. This film is about being young and trying to find your own voice. It is about what great teachers can do, and the talent we must recognize in each other and ourselves. For this movie-goer, Legiardi-Laura’s 2011 documentary To Be Heard is pure poetry.

For more information about the film, see; Click here to find local listings for upcoming broadcasts. To arrange for a screening, or learn more about the launch of the world’s first mobile/online poetry community for youth, email: or visit:

What We Learned at Teen Voices This Week

Being a teen editor at Teen Voices brings with it a lot of experiences, togetherness, laughter, and learning. Our teen editors compiled a list of the things they have recently learned about relationships, hip hop, life, and each other. See if any of them sound familiar, and you may just learn something new!

• People almost always want to be your friend and it’s almost always worth the effort to be friends with them.
• Giant companies own many radio stations and control what we listen to.
• Looks don’t always reveal what’s going on inside. Actually, it doesn’t reveal much at all.
• You don’t need to specifically need to have a conversation with someone to feel close to them. Just sharing experiences shows trust and trust can make you feel close.
• When guys take care of their children (like they should in the first place) it shouldn’t be especially looked upon or praised because that’s what is expected.
• Media has a major impact on our lives when it shouldn’t.
• All the girls here have a lot in common as far as what they have been through in life.
• The power of a group is the most healing, beneficial and cleansing. There are many things that are not achievable individually that are possible to overcome in a group.
• The moment you give in to being yourself and overcome your shyness in a new environment there is a feeling of liberation and extreme happiness.
• I don’t always think about the music I listen to.
• The girls who seem the meanest are often the ones who have been through the most in life.
• Women don’t have an independent role in the hip hop world as much as I thought, especially after seeing how Beyonce dances around Jay-Z.
• You have to pay attention to the things you say, because you never know how other people are going to take it.
• A positive community can bring the best out of people.
• Making a difference in the world starts with you.


Boston Globe Columnist Sarah Rodman Visits Teen Voices

Boston Globe arts and music columnist Sarah Rodman visited Teen Voices last Friday to talk about her start in journalism.

During her visit, she told the teen editors about some of the famous people she’s interviewed – including Nick Jonas and Snoop Dogg — which the teens found particularly exciting.

Rodman also shared some of her techniques for conducting successful interviews, such as being persistent in asking questions in order to get your interviewee to open up. She also suggests talking to people who know your interviewee in order to find out more information for your interview.

Rodman offered the girls some great advice about handling criticism as an arts and music columnist. She says she constantly reminds herself that as a columnist, it’s her job to write her opinion. If a reader doesn’t like it, that’s fine. When she gets harsh emails, she always responds politely and says that she’s sorry they feel that way. We’re so glad that Rodman visited Teen Voices to share her experiences with our teen editors.

Please visit the Globe’s website to read some of her work.

Sarah Rodman shares her experiences with Teen Voices' teen editors.

Taking Back the Music, Part Two

We’ve put more great videos of reclaimed music on Teen Voices’ YouTube Channel. Come on over and watch — then send us your own!

Taking Back the Music

You’re dancing away to your favorite song, enjoying the beat, and not necessarily noticing the words that are being used. But wait a second — what are all those icky things that male singers are saying about women? Why all this talk of bitches, strippers, and hos? All this sexism and degradation of girls and women is enough to make a lady lose her cool on the dance floor.

So this week, the girls at Teen Voices worked with program director Saun Green to analyze the words they hear when they hit “play” on the iPod. The girls put together a list of their 50 favorite performers. Then they crossed off all the people who degraded women in their songs. And you know what? There were only four names left on the list.

It made us all wonder — is it really that difficult for the multibillion-dollar music industry to sell songs that don’t degrade women and treat them like sex objects? Apparently the music industry needs teen girls to show them how it’s done! So the girls rewrote some lyrics to popular songs, replacing the sexism with words that empower women – and then they put on a Friday afternoon concert.

One group called themselves WomanNation, and they redid the lyrics to T-Pain’s hit song Can’t Believe It. In the original, T-Pain sings about a stripper and the places he’s going to “put” her with all his money. WomanNation responded with their own lyrics:

Boy, you don’t amaze me
Just get up off me
I’m my own woman
Nope you can’t flaunt, take, and toss me

Another group of girls took the stage to sing their version of Kid Cudi’s Day and Night, using lyrics that reminded girls not to let guys take advantage of their bodies:

Don’t be pressured
It’s not wrong to tell them no, no
And if he wants to leave then let him go
Got to tell them we ain’t an easy ho, ho

The next two groups re-worked Ron Browz’s song Pop Champagne, which objectifies and demeans women with the best of them! The Teen Voices girls developed two great alternatives to the original lyrics. The Pink Ladies danced up a storm as they sang:

I’m young and I’m cute, second best to none
And if you’re worthy, I’ll be your sunshine.
Sometimes I’ll let you call me yours
But wait — I’m not a toy!

The 21st Century Ladies had their say next, singing to girls:

Ladies everywhere, won’t you throw your hands up
If the way boys treatin’ you has you fed up?
Actin’ like we’re their cooks, their mothers, and their maids
Expecting us to freeze frame when they wanna get laid
Men can act stupid and they can act perverse
Cuz before you know it we’re gonna take over the universe!

Operation Take Back the Music was a success! Know any other songs with lyrics that degrade women? Write your own lyrics and send them to us. We’ll post our favorites right here on our blog. It’s time for YOU to take back the music!

Rappers’ rude rhyming

By: Jocelyn Perez

MUSIC! Discriminating against women? What? LIL WAYNE?!

Yes, what you heard is true. When we listen to these songs from him or from other rappers, we don’t really listen to the lyrics. But when you do listen to the lyrics, you’ll be disgusted. If you’re not paying attention to the lyrics, other people are, and they take that message as an excuse to treat women worse.

Even if you’re only listening to the beat, you are supporting something that is unfair to women. When guys hear, “You got me so hypnotized/ the way yo’ body rollin’ ’round and Round/ that booty keep bumpin’/ titties just bouncin’/ up and down,” it sends out a message that its okay if we are treated as sex objects. We end up getting hurt because guys are treating us the way the songs treat us.

Women are being called “bitches and hoes” by the people most listened to in the media and you’re accepting it because its Lil Wayne and because “nothing he says is serious?” NO!  Do something about it! Don’t listen or show support to these rappers, and they’ll get the message sooner or later IF they’re not too ignorant.