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Why does the content of lyrics matter?

Patinka? Spausk ir pridėk prie mėgstamų!

This study explored 19 themes embedded in the lyrics of 1,040 U.S. top-40 songs from 1960 through 2010, using R strucchange software to identify trends and breaks in trends. Findings reveal both continuity and change. As in 1960, the predominant topic of pop music remains romantic and sexual relationships. However, whereas the proportion of lyrics referring to relationships in romantic terms remained stable, the proportion including reference to sex-related aspects of relationships increased sharply. References to lifestyle issues such as dancing, alcohol and drugs, and status/wealth increased substantially, particularly in the 2000s. Other themes were far less frequent: Social/political issues, religion/God, race/ethnicity, personal identity, family, friends showed a modest occurrence in top-40 music throughout the studied period and showed no dramatic changes. Violence and death occurred in a small number of songs, and both increased, particularly since the 1990s. References to hate/hostility, suicide, and occult matters were very rare. Results are examined in the context of cultural changes in the social position of adolescents, and more specifically in light of the increased popularity of rap/hip-hop music, which may explain the increases in references to sex, partying, dancing, drug use, and wealth. Keywords U.S. top-40 music, music lyrics, content analysis, trend analysis In view of the centrality of popular music in the lives of adolescents, it is important to understand the messages inherent in it. Indeed, popular music both reflects and constructs the adolescent agenda. This study tracks historical trends in the themes embedded in the lyrics of modern popular music – the U.S. top-40 songs from 1960 through 2010. Music in adolescence Popular music has long been a crucial interest of youth. Music’s importance has not waned in the era of new media, new music listening platforms and media-multitasking (North & Hargreaves, 2003). Surveys of U.S. adolescents conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (Rideout, Foehr, & Roberts, 2010; Roberts, Foehr, & Rideout, 2005; Roberts, Foehr, Rideout, & Brodie, 1999) found that average daily music listening time for 8- to 18-years olds jumped from 1.75 hours in 2004 to 2.5 hours in 2009. Among 15- to 18-year-olds the average time rose from roughly 2.5 hours in 2004 to 3.33 hours in 2009. This last number is corroborated in a recent study (Edison Research, 2015). Young people have been shown to listen to music to improve their moods and to cope with problems (Christenson & Roberts, 1998; Saarikallio, 2011; Schäfer, Sedlmeier, Städtler, & Huron, 2013). They also use the images and messages in lyrics to acquire knowledge of the social world and to develop and refine the image that they want to project. In that sense, music helps to define teens’ personal identity (Ter Bogt, Mulder, Raaijmakers, & Gabhainn, 2010). Why does the content of music lyrics matter? The themes and references in popular music lyrics matter for at least two reasons. First, assuming that popular music says something about what is on the minds of the youth who produce and consume it, lyrics reflect what young people are interested in, worrying about, aspiring to, and so on. To be sure, lyric content should not be viewed as a faithful picture of youth culture and values, but as a sort of funhouse mirror, producing a somewhat distorted image of such aspects of teen “reality” as sex, alcohol, drugs, conflict with authority, and so on. Nonetheless, it seems reasonable to view patterns of content in popular music as a reflection, however distorted, of trends in youth culture and of individual concerns of adolescents. Second, music preferences are linked with important indices of adolescent welfare. The extent to which adolescents are affected by the media they consume is addressed by a large and growing body of theoretical perspectives. We briefly refer to two recent ones relevant for the study of music’s effects. Valkenburg and Peter’s (2013) Differential Susceptibility to Media Effects Model (DSMEM) integrates aspects of earlier media effects theories into a framework in which media effects are linked to individual, developmental and social factors. Ter Bogt et al.’s (2013) Music Marker Theory (MMT) builds on the observation that music and music preferences have been shown to direct individuals in either more or less risky social contexts. For example, youth gravitating towards groups with “non-mainstream” music preferences in combination with elevated deviance will be more likely to adopt norm-breaking behaviors and minor delinquency than those who lean toward “mainstream” forms. In empirical studies, music taste—especially a taste for electronic dance music, hip-hop, and the more aggressive forms of rock—has been linked to substance use, problem behavior, and norm-breaking (for example: Arnett, 1996; Coyne & Padilla-Walker, 2015; Lozon & Bensimon, 2014, 2015; Miranda & Claes, 2004; Mulder, Ter Bogt, Raaijmakers, & Vollebergh, 2007; Tanner, Asbridge, & Wortley, 2008; Ter Bogt, Keijsers, & Meeus, 2013; Vuolo, Uggen, & Lageson, 2014). Experimental research indicates that listening to popular music not only correlates with but may directly influence listeners’ attitudes, values, mood, and behavior, positively or negatively (for example: Carpentier, 2014; Carpentier, Knobloch-Westerwick, & Blumhoff, 2007; Engels, Slettenhaar, Ter Bogt, & Scholte, 2011; Greitemeyer, 2009; Johnson, Jackson, & Gatto, 1995; Lennings &Warburton, 2011; Mast & McAndrew, 2011). Previous content analyses Most content analyses of music lyrics have focused either on specific genres—in particular heavy metal, country, rap/hip-hop—or on a specific content domain, such as sexuality, substance use, violence, or suicide (for example: Aday & Austin, 2000; Armstrong, 2001; Baxendale, 2008; Flynn, Craig, Anderson, & Holody, 2016; Freudiger & Almquist, 1978; Lena, 2006; Lowell et al., 2014; Rogers, 1989; Stickle & Tewsksbury, 2015; Weitzer, 2009). The following discussion focuses on studies that do one or more of three things: (a) examine samples of top-ranked songs (as opposed to collections of songs that happen to contain a reference to a narrow issue); (b) deal with thematic categories that have played a central part in popular music and in the research literature on it (for instance, romance, sex, substance use, politics, violence); and/or (c) provide evidence related to trends over time. Themes surrounding what one might call the “boy–girl issue”—courting, romance, breakup, sex, and so on—have long predominated in American popular music. For example, Christenson and Roberts (1998) analyzed the top-40 Billboard hits from 1980 to 1990 and found that, of 240 songs examined, 73% had a “love relationship” as the major theme. Even a casual glance at the current charts confirms the importance of boy–girl relationships on the popular music agenda. The extent to which music has referred to sex in relationships has increased with each decade since the 1950s (Carey, 1969; Christenson & Roberts, 1998; Cole, 1971; Fedler, Hall, & Tanzi, 1982; Hall, West, & Hill, 2012; Primack, Gold, Schwartz, & Dalton, 2008). References to sex have also become more explicit over time. Primack, Gold and colleagues (2008) examined a sample of 279 top songs from 2005 pulled from several different charts (Pop, Hot-100, Country, R&B/Hip-hop, Rap, Mainstream Rock, and Modern Rock) for the frequency and tone of sexual references. Some 37% of songs made some sort of reference to sexual intercourse. A similar pattern emerged in a recent study by Madanikia and Bartholomew (2014). Hall et al. (2012) analyzed 600 Billboard year-end top songs, comparing lyrics from 1959 with those from 1969, 1979, 1989, 1999, and 2009 and found that sexualization was more present in male artists’ lyrics and in those of non-White artists. Sexualization increased markedly from 1959 to 2009. Attention has also been paid to substance use portrayals in popular music. Roberts, Henriksen, and Christenson (1999) examined 1,000 popular songs from the years 1996 to 1997. Of this sample, 18% of songs contained references to illicit drugs, 17% to alcohol, and 27% referred to either or both. Primack, Dalton, Carroll, Agarwal, and Fine (2008) tallied alcohol and drug references in top Billboard songs from 2005 and found that 24% of the songs portrayed alcohol, 14% portrayed marijuana, and 11% portrayed other or “unspecified” substance use. Overall, 33% contained a substance reference of some kind. Other researchers have charted historical trends in references to substance use and found overwhelming evidence for a strong increase in those references (Christenson, Roberts and Bjork, 2012; Herd, 2005). Hall, West, and Neeley (2013) documented a similar trend. This pattern also holds in the U.K. charts (Hardcastle, Hughes, Sharples, & Bellis 2015). Concerning political content (see Christenson & Roberts, 1998, for a review), early research tended to center around 1960s “protest rock” (Denisoff & Levine; 1970). More recently, the focus has been largely on rap and hip-hop. Generally, the few published content analyses of political content tend to show that although political messages have certainly occurred, they have never been common (Christenson & Roberts, 1998). We located a single quantitative study of the frequency of political/social themes in the Billboard year-end charts. That study found that only 5% of top hits from 1980–1990 conveyed themes related to political or social issues (Roberts, Kinsey, & Gosh, 1993, cited in Christenson & Roberts, 1998). Articles dealing with the political and social content of rap and hip-hop (Krims, 2000; Ogbar, 2007; Reddick & Beresin, 2002; Rose, 2008) establish that rap—especially in the 1990s—has incorporated such commentary, but we found no systematic quantitative analyses of the frequency of political themes in rap or hip-hop. Data on the frequency of violent content in overall top hits comes from the earlier cited (unpublished) analysis of top-40 songs from 1980–1990 (Roberts et al., 1993, cited in Christenson & Roberts, 1998), which found that 8% of top-40 songs during the 1980s contained references to violence and that violence formed the primary theme in fewer than 1%. Other studies of violent content have tended to center on heavy metal and rap. We found no systematic quantitative analyses of trends in the frequency of violence in heavy metal, but rap/hip-hop songs have been examined. Herd (2009) found that the percentage of songs with references to violence in top rap songs increased from 27% during 1979–1984 to 60% in the 1994–1997 period. In addition, these references became less condemning over the roughly two-decade time span of the study. Hunnicutt and Andrews (2009) studied Billboard chart rap songs across a somewhat shorter timeframe (1989–2000) and found a modest increase in the representation of homicide across this time period. Between 1989 and 1991, 29% of the most popular rap songs contained homicide-related lyrics, compared to 42% in the period from 1998 to 2000. In sum, most previous content analyses of popular music lyrics have examined either specific genres and/or specific content domains, with the topics of romance/sex, substance use, political/social commentary, and violence/aggression receiving the most attention. Some studies have taken a trend approach, but none has examined a broad range of content in top songs across multiple decades. Note also that studies addressing a longer time span employ adequate but rather basic statistics such as χ2-tests, ANOVAs, or logistic regression to locate time trends. In this study we use a more sophisticated analytical tool, the R package strucchange (Zeileis, Leisch, Hornik, & Kleiber, 2002) to identify time trends and change points where sudden increases or decreases in the prevalence of themes occurs, or where acceleration, deceleration or reversal of trends become visible. With the preceding discussion in mind, then, we advance these research questions: RQ1: What lyrical themes prevailed in top chart hits during the period 1960–2010? RQ2: How did the relative frequency of these themes evolve over the time period? Method Sample We examined the lyrics of the year-end U.S. Billboard top-40 singles for every even-numbered year from 1960 through 2010. Instrumental recordings, present in 1960, 1962, 1968, and 1982, were replaced by songs from the 41st position and up. The sample consisted of 1,040 song lyrics representing 26 years. In early decades, top-40 charts were based solely on record sales and radio airplay data. Various online sources provided Billboard charts for these earlier years (1960s through 1980s). More recently, Billboard has incorporated data from downloads and Internet exposure as well, and has published a year-end “Hot-100,” readily available from Billboard.com. In spite of the change in methodology, we are confident that the sample of 1,040 songs constitutes a valid reflection of the lyrics of the most popular songs across five decades. Lyrics were compiled from Internet lyric sites such as www.azlyrics.com, www.lyricsmania.com, www.romanticlyrics.com, and www.lyricsmode.com. Because of the many instances of slang involved in music lyrics, websites such as www.urbandictionary.com, www.rapgenius.com, and www.lyricinterpretations.com were consulted. Content categories A search of the research literature on lyric content, as well as examination of popular press accounts of controversies surrounding the (perceived) threats posed by “offensive” content (see Christenson & Roberts, 1998, for a summary) led to a list of content categories. In addition to content areas already prominent in the literature such as Relationship/Love, Sex/Sexual Desire, Alcohol/Drugs, Social/Political, Violence and Death, we added themes further reflecting adolescent leisure (Music/Musicians, Dance/Dancing, Good Times/Partying) and their social context (Family, Friends); identity and mood issues (Personal Identity, Alienation/Unhappiness/Depression, Suicide); religious affiliation and feelings (Religion/God, the Occult); as well as concepts in the Violence spectrum (Interpersonal Hate/Hostility); and Race/Ethnicity. These additions were based on an extensive but non-quantitative examination of approximately 200 popular songs. The following list of our final 19 concepts briefly explains our content categories. Relationships/Love Content implicating a “romantic” or “love” relationship in which the “other” is important, as opposed to being merely a sex object. Bad relationships and relationships gone wrong were included as well as good ones. Sex/Sexual Desire Content related to sex or sexuality (“I want to have sex with you”), as well as specific acts, including oral sex. Kissing and hugging were not included. Music/Musicians Content addressing music or artists, bands or composers Dance/Dancing Content describing types of dances or the (fun or difficulty of) dancing. Good Times/Partying Content addressing social gatherings having a good time Alcohol/Drugs Generic (“Let’s go get drunk”) as well as specific (“Let’s go chug some Scotch”) content related to either alcohol or drugs. Wealth/Status Content related to money or the trappings of wealth as avenues to social status—e.g., reference to expensive champagne, Cuban cigars, luxury cars. Social/Political Issues Content that seemed consciously to involve social, political, and/or controversial “issues.” The classic example would be the protest song. Race/Ethnicity References to race and race issues, belonging to a distinct ethnic group, relations between ethnic groups. Religion/God Content related to institutionalized religion, religious feelings, or a personal relation to God or another Supreme being. The Occult Content referring to other supernatural phenomena not part of conventional religion, sometimes with a dark twist. Personal Identity Content related to the search for “who one is” and where one fits in. Alienation/Unhappiness/Depression Content addressing periods of bad, unhappy moods, and feelings of not belonging in this word. Suicide Content addressing suicide ideation or suicide. Family References to family life, relations with family members, Friends/Friendship Content describing friendship and the quality of friends. Interpersonal Hatred/Hostility Negative ideas or hostility directed at individuals or groups, but falling short of violence. Violence Content involving (the threat) of violent actions with or without weapons. Interpersonal violence, street violence, and military violence were included. Lyrics are not necessarily promoting violence, but can include disapproval of violent acts (e.g., a song protesting violence or war). Death Content addressing dying, death itself, and the death of people

Patinka? Spausk ir pridėk prie mėgstamų! Public Image Ltd. - Religion I
Patinka? Spausk ir pridėk prie mėgstamų! Lil Kim - Drugs
Patinka? Spausk ir pridėk prie mėgstamų! Elvis Presley - Shoppin' Around
Patinka? Spausk ir pridėk prie mėgstamų! Monty Python - Death
Patinka? Spausk ir pridėk prie mėgstamų! Talking Heads - Animals
Patinka? Spausk ir pridėk prie mėgstamų! Pet Shop Boys - Violence
Patinka? Spausk ir pridėk prie mėgstamų! Frank Zappa - SEX
 
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