Recently, in the 1990’s references have often beenmade to link violent and deviant behavior to music andcertain music genres. Some such genres include but arenot limited to; heavy metal, rock, death metal, rap,gansta rap, industrial, hardcore, and alternative music. During the last decade we have seen music lyrics becomemore and more violent and sexually explicit. Expertsargue that this can cause problems in children andadolescents. Studies show that the average teenagerlistens to approximately 40 hours of music in a givenweek. One is to assume that somewhere in the mix a childis going to hear something derogatory or objectionable, asit has become the norm in todays society.
In most musictoday especially rap and heavy metal most of the lyricscontain references to violence, sex, and/or drugs. Whilemany argue that this is dangerous for children to hear weknow that a modern day teenager often faces violence,drugs, suicide, pregnancy, and other aspects of thismusic. While we find that lyrics may be dangerous to a childwe must ask ourselves whether the child fully understandsand comprehends what the artist is saying. Teenagersoften do not understand what is being said, in fact in onestudy only 30 percent of those questioned knew the lyricsto their favorite songs and they all had variedcomprehension as to what the message was.
It could beargued that if the lyrics were not included in the artistsbooklet then the audience would never know what was beingsaid. Some lyrics are indeed harsh such as this Nine InchNails lyric:I am a big man yes I am; and I have a big gun; gotme a big ole *censored* and I like to have fun; held againstyour forehead I’ll make you suck; you know, just forthe *censored* of it. Obviously we cannot interpret this as a positive meaning. A sampling of lyrics from Marilyn Manson include Who saysdate rape isn’t fun, . .
. the housewife I will beat. . ,and I slit my teenage wrist, among others. Mansonconcerts are often grounds to bash religion and rip bibleswhile fan chant we hate love, we love hate.
Other songsthat have overtones of violence include slap-a-ho byDove Shack and another song sung by death metal bandCannibal Corpse in which they make reference tomasturbating with a dead womans head. Avid music loversattest that they words sung in these songs are just wordsand or no different that poetry printed in literaturebooks. No studies to date have concluded that listeningto a song that speaks of death will make a teenager wantto go out and kill. Do these kinds of lyrics breed todays children to bekillers and to be sexually promiscuous? Yes, and no,depending on who you speak to.
Listening to music doesnot drive people to kill, and no proof of such has beenoffered. In fact, one teacher speaks of a student whowore a Metallica shirt everyday to school and wrote lyricswith foul language, but was often seen sitting in thefront row at Sunday mass with his mother in a nice suit. The same people who go out to see Black Sabbath and MotleyCrue are the same people who handle world finance andinternational affairs, it is just their choice in music. Studies that use music videos on the other hand showan increased tolerance in deviant behavior among bothmales and females. Music videos add reinforcement to whatis being heard with the use of visuals.
Now an extrasense is being used. Videos often exhibit sexualinnuendo, acts of aggression, and gender stereotypes. Studies showed that men have a tolerable attitude as towhat is violent and what is too far in sexual advances. Women have less of a tolerance.
Studies have also foundthat heavy metal music and gansta rap influence mensattitudes towards women and that increased exposure tovideos containing interpersonal violence against womentended to increase men’s acceptance of rape myths such asshe was dressing like she wanted it or she brought iton herself. In contrast, women’s beliefs decreased andthey felt that men were coming on too strong and being toaggressive. Another study conducted on college campuses in thenorthwestern United States involved men and women watchingvarious music videos and then answering a set of questionsafterwards. One video was The Way You Make Me Feel byMichael Jackson which depicts a man stalking a woman whothen becomes infatuated in his game of pursuit.
The otherwas The Stand by REM which only showed the band on-stageplaying instruments. In questions answered after thevideos men said it was necessary to pursue the woman tosuch an extent while women thought it was annoying and/ordisturbing. Men scored higher on a attitudes for sexualovertones, while surprisingly women scored slightly higheron the acceptance of interpersonal violence. The studiesdid conclude that women who were often subjected toviolent music videos were more accepting of violence thanthose who have not had constant viewing or listening tosuch lyrics and images. It also showed that men had agreater acceptance of sexual stereotyping and rape mythsafter being subjected to the videos. Many methods of behavior modification have beensuggested in order to keep this music from causing harm orhurting anyone individuals.
Many arguments can be made asto whether the music should be censored or if it isunconstitutional to do. The American Academy ofPediatrics recommends different types of behaviormodification to combat the harmful effects of this music. One such idea is as simple as having parents be aware asto what their children are listening to, and to discussanything they deem objectionable. This would be apositive way to relate emotions to the songs. Anotheridea proposed is labeling of content in compact discs.
Itwould be labeled outside as to what the lyrics contained(i. e. language, sex, drugs). It has also been suggestedthat groups as well as individuals approach recordcompanies, music studies, and artists and ask them toconsider the ramifications of their music on theiraudience and market it accordingly and in a favorablemanner. Ideas have been proposed to set up researchstudies to further investigate the effects of explicitmusic on the behavior of teenagers.
One of the mosteffective ideas proposed is as simple as people acceptthat this music is an art form and a means of self-expression and emotional release and treat it as such. Just as with rock and roll and Elvis Presley people willalways find something wrong with the music that otherslisten to.