Parallel Lines

Music review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
Parallel Lines Music Poster Image
Catchy pop breakthrough for band with punk roots.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this music.

Positive Messages

Like other early punk and new wave musicians, Blondie operated under that DIY rock 'n' roll ethic, writing most of their own songs and infusing the music with their own sounds and attitude. Also, Debbie Harry is so gorgeous that it's easy for listeners to assume that this band was glorifying superficial beauty -- in "Pretty Baby," for example. But in reality the group took a disdainful view of "Hollywood" good looks, even as they capitalized on their lead singer's natural beauty.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Debbie Harry has grown to be an impressive role model for rock 'n' roll girls. Though the band capitalized on her physical beauty (who could ignore it?), she has always performed and behaved like her own woman, and she definitely had vocal talent to spare. It's also worth noting that Harry took years off from the music business in the mid-1980s to see her then-partner and bandmate, Chris Stein (guitar), through a serious illness. Now in her mid-60s, she has performed with a re-formed Blondie, as a solo artist, and with avant-garde group the Jazz Passengers, showing her versatility and enduring appeal as an artist.

Violence
Sex

Most of the tracks on Parallel Lines are love songs after a fashion, so there are frequent, though mostly innocent, mentions of romance. In "Hanging on the Telephone," Harry sings, "I'd like to talk when I can show you my affection." "One Way or Another" depicts a romantic obsession. In "Picture This," the narrator recalls watching someone shower. Other tracks on the album like "Pretty Baby," "Heart of Glass," and the Buddy Holly song "I'm Gonna Love You Too" talk about emotional love, but not physical love.

Language

"Heart of Glass" includes the line: "Once I had love and it was a gas / Soon turned out to be a pain in the ass."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Someone smokes a cigarette in "11:59."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Parallel Lines is the breakthrough album by Blondie -- the album that turned an underground New York punk band into a massively popular new wave/pop powerhouse. There's very little of parental concern on this album of catchy pop tunes. The album contains one curse word ("ass"), one mention of smoking cigarettes, and no actual sex. But a couple of the tracks -- "Picture This" and "One Way or Another" -- depict voyeurism and romantic obsession, respectively.

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What's the story?

Blondie, founded by Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, emerged from the early New York punk scene. Whereas the band's first two albums were a little more low-fi, PARALLEL LINES is a collection of unique-sounding pop songs. Strong songwriting by the bandmembers and polished production by British producer Mark Chapman made this album extremely engaging and successful. The album rose to No. 6 on the Billboard album chart and yielded two Top 40 hits: \"Heart of Glass\" (No.1) and \"One Way or Another (No. 24).

Is it any good?

Parallel Lines bridged the gap between new wave and pop, and the result is enormously pleasing to listeners of either persuasion. These are catchy pop songs, but with real guitars and drums, attitude, and a little edge -- much more interesting than most pop fare of the time. At the heart of it all is Debbie Harry's beautiful, expressive vocal; sometimes a growl ("One Way or Another"), sometimes sweet and airy ("Sunday Girl," "Heart of Glass"), Harry's voice is one of the pop wonders of the world.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the relationship between physical beauty and popularity. Do you think Blondie would have been as successful if Debbie Harry weren't so pretty?

  • Do you think Blondie sold out when they made this catchy record? How does a band's credibility change when they become this popular?

  • In relation to "One Way or Another," think about how people you know act when they have a crush. What are good ways to show someone you're interested without overdoing it?

Music details

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