Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
It is well known that good music with an upbeat tempo and happy lyrics can brighten emotions and make people want to dance. What about the opposite of this? Can negative music with crude lyrics have a similar effect? Research in the past has shown that aggressive music could have a venting or calming affect. However, more recent studies have shown that this may be false. There are always many other factors to consider when it comes to behavior and the human brain but scientific studies must have to limit all other variables. Taking aside the factors of a recent heartbreak, emotional trauma, or personal issues, music can change the mood of a person without them realizing it. Lyrics can unknowingly alter personalities, relationships, lifestyles, and even sexuality. What seems like such an innocent form of entertainment could possibly be ruining the lives of young people by altering their sense of what is normal just by passively listening to today’s hits music.
To understand what is being researched here, first it is important to understand exactly what types of behaviors are defined as negative. The majority of what people are exposed to is pop culture, and can be in the genres of rap, country, R&B, and hip hop. Each genre has its own norms and what kind of topics that are sung by the artists. Country music topics may include love, breaking up, drinking, partying, and having a good time. The other genres topics include all of the same but may be more aggressive in the language used as well as the types of events that are being sung about. What is considered as negative behavior and language is the curse words, and themes of violence, sex, drugs, and sometimes even suicide. Carrie Underwood is considered to be a country star sweetheart however her song, Before He Cheats, is about destroying her boyfriends truck after she has found out that he has been cheating on her. The song goes on to describe slashing his tires, keying the truck sides, carving her name into the seats, and smashing the headlights. I am sure that no one can even imagine Carrie Underwood doing this to anyone’s personal property and she is now known as a happily married women. However, she wrote this entire song about doing all of these things after being cheated on, so what kind of message did this send to a large group of girls that loved the song? Does this one seemingly harmless song send the message that this is an okay behavior? This is just one example of a song that does not have any profanity or direct sexual language, there are so many others that are much worse and are also listened to a young crowd.
A study done in a large midwestern university in 2002 observed a group of students and their reactions to this type of music. The study was done using two songs from the same band, one that was much more loud, and lyrics were combative. After listening to each song they had a series of psychological tasks to complete and questions to answer about their current state of mind and how they felt. The short term results were that listening to the violent lyrics made it easier for them to access aggressive and violent thoughts (Anderson, et al. 2002). This contradicts the earlier idea that this actually helps people vent and get rid of negative behavior when they are upset or mad. The direct long term effects followed the same idea that when listening to this type of music people are more open to a negative mindset and aggression and when repeatedly exposed it may develop an all around aggressive personality (Anderson, et al. 2002). Indirect long term effects of this personality may change a person’s social life and how they interact with people, when a person is known as being mean and negative, peers will want to avoid interaction with them and contribute even more to that personality (Anderson, et al. 2002). The study journal concludes by saying that the short term effects of violent music will not be enough to cause significant damage if the next song heard after is nonviolent with a more positive message.
A second study thesis inspected the links between song lyrics and sexual behavior in adolescents, rather than aggression. The thesis covered many topics including teen promiscuity, pregnancy rates, HIV/AIDS/STD incidences, sexual activity, sexual partners, and even condom usage. How could these topics have anything to do with music? Well all of these topics are exactly what some popular song lyrics are about. Whether the consumers are just casually listening or are die hard fans of the writer, their brains are taking in the words and its meaning. “Forty percent of of lyrical content of music was shown to be sexual, compared to an average of eleven percent of five other medias (television, magazines, websites, and newspapers)” ( Pardun et al 2005). This shows that not only is exposure and access to music is increasing, but also the amount of sexual content is increasing as well (Langdon, 2012). If pop culture trends show that is normal to act in this way and have these behaviors then it will only get increasingly worse.
In this same journal, it was discussed that lyrics may be defining and propagating what is accepted as masculine and feminine in a relationship, and most are very degrading in nature (Langdon, 2012). Ideas such as mutual respect, and consent are the most dangerous of these lyric topics and teens are learning these terms and negative portrayal of relationships. This is not the first time that music has been impacting youth, the study went on to look at brief examples of “The Devil’s Music” in every generation. In the 20th and 21st centuries sexual content has been a part of popular music dating back to at least to the 1920s (Langdon, 2012). In the roaring 20s the Classic Blues were considered promiscuous music and not accepted by huge groups of Americans. Ever since then, the promiscuity and sexual references of pop culture song lyrics have only increased, and some say at alarming rates. In the study Considerations of Gender, Genre and Responsibility authors found that,
“although the highest average number of sexual references occurred in songs sung by men between 1991 and 1998, the highest concentration of sexual references, as measured per line of lyrics, 11 occurred in songs sung by women between 1976 and 1984. This finding supports their hypothesis that lyrics of songs from recent years contain more references to sex, on average, when compared to songs earlier in the time period examined (i.e., 1958 to 1998). However, because recent songs tend to be longer and therefore contain more lines of lyrics, recent songs have lower concentrations of sexual content, as measured per line of lyrics, compared to the 1976-1984 time period.” (Dukes, et al 2003).
The proof is here that songs and modern music has more sexual references than in the past. With the huge increase of these music lyrics has the behavior of people really changed?
There is no denying that music is art and can be considered strictly as a form of entertainment for each person individually. If a person does not want to hear cursing, violent behavior, and negative sexual music lyrics than they should be able to just not listen to them, out of sight out of mind right? This has yet to be proven as a fact because pop culture is nearly everywhere and in some ways is unavoidable. Commercialism, social media, television, and the internet are infiltrated with pop culture and the messages it unknowingly spreads to its audiences. The consumers are innocent and young teens who do not even know what some of these music lyrics mean. They are also wise educated people who may be able to not allow such music affect them as a person at all. The later group of people are the ones who have brought awareness to negative music lyrics and if they have any correlation to negative behaviors. Artists such as Eminem, Miley Cyrus, and Nicki Minaj believe that their music is just art and that it should be the parents job to control what their kids listen to (Rothman, 2015). A very good point to make here, however, after a child turns 18 and in many cases moves to college, they are not supervised or being “parented” any longer. A young adult may not be fully ready to make decisions for themselves in many ways, and music is the least of these concerns and decisions.
There is no way to get away from popular culture as an average adult in developed countries of the world. Music lyrics that have a negative meaning or send the wrong message could be life altering to some people, and may have no affect on others. The good thing about a modern society is that hopefully enough citizens are wise enough to realize that music truly can alter their mindset and vocabulary and hopefully will not let it influence them. If the awareness of this topic could be spread then hopefully more citizens will be able to decide for themselves if they appreciate the way artists are supporting an industry that degrades humans. The way male artists sing about females and vice versa may seems like a harmless and even humorous form of entertainment, but it could be a small cause of such a huge crisis that humans need to get under control. Music is a form of art and pop culture may be ruining it with disgusting underlying messages.