Research on popular music has explored the negative effects it has on schoolwork, social interactions, and mood (Fuld, 2009). Due to the difficult transitions youth face while maturing, they tend to rely heavily on music to reinforce, or alter their moods (Van Der Zwaag et al. 2012). The amount of time listening to music also becomes an influential factor on their everyday behavior.
It is estimated that by the twelfth grade, teens spend as much time listening to music and watching music videos, as they have spent in school (Zillmann and Gan, 1997). Preference for heavy metal, rap, and related genres tend to increase the likelihood of risky behaviors compared to others. Examples of such behaviors include increased abuse of substances, poor grades, and lack of education commitment (Fuld, 2009). In the mid-80s, heavy metal artists, Ozzy Osbourne and Judas Priest, were put on trial for influencing teenagers to commit suicidal behaviors (Nantais, 2000). Adolescents who are feeling isolated due to personal failures tend to stick to these types of music, which might reflect their pessimistic view on life. Music also tends to define teenage peer groups.
They are in the midst of growing up and finding themselves, so music helps youth feel like they’re a part of a group; groups provide a sense of belonging. Thus, lifestyle and fashion interests tend to shift according to their musical taste. For instance, one’s behaviour may change if there is an increased interest in hard rock. The fan may go along with preexisting attitudes and stereotypes of a, “bad boy”, resulting in smoking, rebelling, etc. An example of a change in behaviour due to an increased interest in heavy metal would be capturing the more superficial traits pertaining to their look or style. They may begin to change their physical appearance with clothing, hair styles, piercings, and tattoos to fit into the grunge, “metal head,” stereotype.
Even a change in language such as increased cursing, or personality traits can be found while being accepted into a musical peer group (Zillmann and Gan, 1997). The lyrical content of popular music reaches a large audience. You can find it in stores, movies, and the radio (Ballard, 1999). This results in less control of who listens to the music, or if they are at an appropriate age to be hearing the words said.
The lyrical content has recently become more explicit. Lyrics commonly use objectionable language, and speak of sex, drugs and alcohol. There is concern that such lyrics drive listeners to mimic them. These words are glamorized and taken as the hip thing to do. This is dangerous because adolescents are very impressionable listeners (Fuld, 2009). A current example of a popular song with harmful lyric content is Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop,” (Williams and Cyrus, 2013), “And everyone’s in line in the bathroom, trying to get a line in the bathroom.
We all so turned up here, getting turned up, yeah”. Here, we see Miley referring to getting high or, “turned up,” by doing lines of cocaine in the bathroom. This is not only encouraging illegal substance abuse, but is making it seem common, and cool to the listener. Additionally, increased male sex-role stereotyping and negative attitudes toward women have been influenced by the lyrical content in genres such as rap, heavy metal, R;B, and club. When constantly being exposed to music that encourages this type of behaviour, the listener is more likely to believe it to be true.
In 1991, Janet St. Lawrence and Doris Joyner found just that. They performed an investigation on the effects of sexually violent music, on undergraduate male attitudes towards women, and their acceptance of violence against women. The experiment involved the exposure to heavy-metal rock music, or easy listening classical music for a number of weeks. One month before the study, participants completed several tests to compute their personal backgrounds like as religious and sexual orientations. The results indicated that the males being exposed to the heavy metal rock music, increased their sex-role stereotyping and negative attitudes toward women (St Lawrence and Joyner, 1991).
Although this study was conducted over twenty years ago, it is still relevant. Openness to vulgarity and sexual violence found in lyrics have only increased over the years, resulting in the expansion of these findings in adolescent males. Songs revolving around topics of sexual promiscuity and infidelity promote that lifestyle to female listeners, as well. Gas Pedal (Woods, 2013) is a prime example of a current song which uses derogatory words to describe women: “Got two hoes with me make my old bitch hate me. ” Not only does this encourage men to casually use these words, but also has women believing it is common to be associated with them. Today, the music industry appears to be filled with more pop products that have been created for business, rather then hard working musicians who have true musical talent.
This is giving the impression that you do not need to work hard at your skill to be a success in the popular realm. This gives a false impression of ease of celebrity success. There is an increasing disingenuousness of music because of the fascination with auto-tune. Auto-tune was originally developed to correct pitch, but is now used to change the sound of the voice entirely. So many successful pop stars use this as a crutch, and let the studio magic do all the work. Having the right look has also become a make or break factor in the rise to fame.
If one has an attractive or odd look, they are more likely to get noticed. The majority of these stars become famous not through their skills as a musician, but because they are considered beautiful or interesting. Lady Gaga is an example of a pop star who became successful because of her outbursts of crazy actions and shocking outfits. The more outrageousness, the, “more profitability, more performance, and more innovation,” (Corona, 2013). These are selling points to the industry.
Agencies want someone they can create, become the next rising star, and make them the most money. There is less interest in musical expertise. This exhibits a lack of needed talent, and it displays unrealistic ideas of achieving success to youth. There is a promotion of laziness, and obsession with image and vanity, instead of pushing the idea of working hard to master your talent.
It is giving the negative impression to adolescents that you do not require any skill, or need to put in your practice to become a successful pop star; you just need to digitally alter your voice, and have the right look. Adolescents are naive and very impressionable. Most teenagers do not have a definite personality, and are influenced by the actions of their music idols. Popular music encourages reckless behaviours, promotes the lyrical content within, and exhibits a false idea of becoming successful in the industry. This music can be dangerous because youth are oblivious to the negative effects it has on them.
Rather then promoting these negative outcomes, influential pop figures should be demonstrating a positive form of guidance and support, whilst always being aware that they directly affect their audiences.
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