Fergie, right, and Will. It's all about tonight. At least that's the message being sent in popular lyrics these days. A close analysis of the top 20 songs on the Billboard charts reveals little about long-term commitment. There are almost no direct references to fidelity. There is a lack of a family element. And there are no references to regret. Popular song lyrics are having commitment issues. Studies have shown that references to sex, drugs and alcohol are not only becoming more blatant, they are affecting listeners.
Technology has made access to music, lyrics and video easier than ever. At the same time, attempts at "shock value" are pushing boundaries. With experts warning of serious consequences, it is becoming increasingly important for listeners to be aware of the messages coming through their headphones.
Lyrics analysis According to a content analysis done by Brian Primack, an associate professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh, references to sexual activity in lyrics are common, and degrading sexual references are more prevalent than non-degrading sexual references. Primack analyzed Billboard magazine's top songs of with a complex coding process to determine degrading and non-degrading sexual references.
A Content Analysis ," he found that of the songs referenced sexual activity. Out of those, degrading references occurred 65 percent of the time, whereas non-degrading lyrics occurred 36 percent of the time. Additionally, songs with references to degrading sex also were more likely to include references to substance use, violence and weapons.
In an analysis performed by the Deseret News, nine of the top 20 Billboard hits of contained an overall theme of sex and explicit sexual references throughout the entire song, including Katy Perry's "E. Counts were made each time a chorus repeated. I will love, love you tonight. Give me everything tonight, for all we know, we might not get tomorrow.
Alcohol references were especially prevalent in Pink's "Raise Your Glass. Blatantly Obvious Jane Brown, a professor of journalism and mass communication at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, has dedicated 30 years of her life to studying the effects of media on adolescents. She said popular music has always been about love, sex and romance, referencing Cole Porter's classic "Let's Do It," which begins, "Birds do it, bees do it.
Primack said it's easy to have access to songs that were once labeled "explicit. With YouTube or iTunes, listeners can not only access the music, but view the video and lyrics and have the opportunity to repeat the song as much as they want all in one sitting.
A common defense So is there any substance to the argument "I only listen to the song; I don't listen to the lyrics"? These messages are getting across whether or not the people who are listening to them realize it.
Comparing those with the least exposure to sexual lyrics and those with the most, those with the most were twice as likely to have had sexual intercourse. Those who had not yet had sexual intercourse but were in the highest range of exposure to lyrics "describing degrading sex were nearly twice as likely to have progressed along a noncoital sexual continuum.
Primack is the first to state that the research doesn't mean that when someone hears something, they immediately do it. Exposure to degrading music is not the only contributing factor to sexual activity. What the research has shown, he said, is that degrading music does change normative beliefs and sexual behavior.
Thus, it's something people need to be thinking about, Primack said. Brown also participated in a study where to year-olds were interviewed about their "sexual media diet. Other studies have been done about musical lyrics' effects on mood, aggression, behavior and violence. As far as mood is concerned , a study located in the American Psychological Association database called the "Affective Impact of Music vs.
Lyrics" states that "lyrics appear to have a greater power to direct mood change than music alone and can imbue a particular melody with affective qualities. The Impact of Sexual-Aggressive Song Lyrics on Aggression-Related Thoughts, Emotions and Behavior Toward the Same and Opposite Sex ," researchers at the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany, found "male participants who heard misogynous song lyrics recalled more negative attributes of women and reported more feelings of vengeance than when they heard neutral song lyrics.
In addition, men-hating song lyrics had a similar effect on aggression-related responses of female participants toward men. The effects of songs with violent lyrics on aggressive thoughts and feelings," Craig Anderson and other researchers found college students who heard a violent song were more hostile than students who heard a similar but nonviolent song.
Words from the recording industry The Recording Industry Association of America does not dispute that music containing these themes is everywhere. In that sense, teenage rebellion is easier than ever before. This media access scares some parents because of the sexually explicit themes, violence and strong language so readily available," states its website. The statement argues against any form of censorship, but acknowledges that informed parents are the place to turn when deciding what children should listen to.
The music industry takes seriously its responsibility to help parents determine what is and is not appropriate for their children," said Mitch Bainwol, chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, on its website.
Currently, putting any label on a record is a decision made by individual record companies and artists. Further, artists appreciate that this is a voluntary program which, instead of seeking to censor their words, permits them greater freedom of expression while still providing them the opportunity to help parents and families make informed consumption decisions," according to the RIAA website.
The Parental Advisory Label is neither a statement that the song is appropriate for certain listeners or a definite statement that those without a label do not have references to violence, sex or drug abuse.
According to the industry's website, it is used to note that parental discretion is advised, for marketing purposes and to tell listeners whether or not there is an edited version. Her average listening time is about three hours per day. She likes Perry's "Last Friday Night. These insights are something Primack said could be the answer to decreasing risk behavior. I think what is more the answer is media literacy," Primack said.
For example, when young people hear a popular song that has messages about and glorifies substance abuse, they understand exactly what they're hearing. Primack said that if schools help children understand poetry, they shouldn't stop there. Students should learn to interpret song lyrics, as well. The teen-aged Daley said she looks up lyrics often and is often surprised at what she sees. Usually, the radio edit is a lot more clean.
She decide whether or not to purchase the song based on the content, and sometimes she chooses not to buy it. Daley said she feels most songs are pushing kids to have sex and trying to ruin the family unit. This is an example of what Primack called an "empowered consumer" — one who goes through analysis of a song, and doesn't buy into it. That's what sells their music.