‘Chantilly Lace’: school theme song faces backlash over lyrics

Senior+Sydney+Schneider%2C+junior+Julia+Shen%2C+senior+Kaitlyn+Chou+and+junior+Claire+Myers+practice+alongside+the+rest+of+the+dance+team+in+the+cafeteria+on+Wednesday%2C+Sept.+20.+The+team+performs+%E2%80%9CChantilly+Lace%E2%80%9D+at+school+football+games+as+per+long-standing+tradition.

Mahika Sharma

Senior Sydney Schneider, junior Julia Shen, senior Kaitlyn Chou and junior Claire Myers practice alongside the rest of the dance team in the cafeteria on Wednesday, Sept. 20. The team performs “Chantilly Lace” at school football games as per long-standing tradition.

By Mahika Sharma, Chantilly High School

For decades, the 1958 record “Chantilly Lace” by American musician Jiles Perry Richardson Jr., better known as The Big Bopper, has been the CHS theme song. However, many are calling for change in light of the song’s purportedly sexist lyrics.

“Chantilly Lace” depicts a relationship between a teenage boy and his girlfriend, whom he calls up at the outset of the song. A few verses later, the boy describes aspects of the girl’s appearance, including her face, hairstyle and the Chantilly lace she wears.

“I think [‘Chantilly Lace’] praises women,” junior Ava Bartnik said. “[It] could be taken offensively, but the song makes it sound like the man singing likes this girl, [and he] is not putting her down in any way.”

Not everyone agrees that the song is simply a flattering love letter from an adoring boyfriend. Some believe that the narrator is degrading his girlfriend by reducing her to her physical features and that the song paints women in a derogatory light. Thus, students, faculty members and parents alike have been advocating for “Chantilly Lace” to be stripped of its affiliation to the school this past year.

“[The song] is just very sexist. It objectifies [a woman],” sophomore Connor Richmond said. “A few years ago, [when] I went to a football game, my mom found out they were playing it, [and] she was like, ‘really?’”

On Sept. 2, Principal Scott Poole sent out a “From the Principal’s Desk” bulletin to members of the school community, asking that they take some time to reflect on the song’s lyrics and whether it is appropriate for school. He closed the email by stating that, until a consensus was reached on the issue, the song would continue to be played at school football games in what has become “an important CHS tradition” for some.

“I perform ‘Chantilly Lace’ with the dance team at [the] games,” dance team member and sophomore Alexis Brunner said. “I think [it’s] a big part of school culture; the band knows it, [we] perform it and the football players sing along. [Although] I respect the people who have different views and opinions on it, I don’t think we should get rid of the song.”

Despite Poole’s announcement, school officials have already removed “Chantilly Lace” from several festivities. For example, students participating in this summer’s iteration of Charge Ahead, a program in which underclassmen learn about school procedures ahead of the academic year, were not taught the song as per usual. Some have even begun to speculate on the possibility of a new school theme song altogether.

“When [the administration] started talking about potentially getting rid of [the song], we heard that maybe they were going to switch it with ‘Sweet Caroline’ [by Neil Diamond]. And I was like, ‘yes, that’s a great idea,’” Richmond said. 

Whether “Chantilly Lace” will be renounced remains unresolved for now. According to a statement sent via email, Poole plans to “facilitate conversations” on the future of the song this winter. Nevertheless, the controversy continues to draw the school community at large. A petition on Change.org to keep the song stands at over 600 signatures as of Oct. 25, with community members commenting on the matter every day.

“I see both perspectives [on] the song, honestly,” Bartnik said. “I would tell people, regardless of their current opinions, to try and see it from the other person’s perspective.”

This story was originally published on The Purple Tide | The Knightly News on November 25, 2021.