Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Out of their heads: Study finds songs about drinking, drugs

We're not entirely sure why anyone would bother, but - presumably during a quiet time - a team led by Dr. Brian Primack of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine totted up the number of references to drinking and drugs in pop songs, did some maths, and decided that 15 to 18 year old kids in America hear 30,000 references to substance use every year. While listening to music.


Seventy-seven percent of rap songs tracked in the study contained such references, along with 36 percent of country songs, 20 percent of songs classified as "R&B/hip-hop," 14 percent of rock songs and 9 percent of pop songs. Alcohol and marijuana were the most common references found, with tobacco more rarely mentioned.

In "Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off", country singer Joe Nichols sings: "She can handle any champagne brunch/A bridal shower with Bacardi punch/Jello shooters full of Smirnoff/But tequila makes her clothes fall off."

Blimey. One song and that's four references right there.

The study doesn't draw any conclusions, much:
The study, published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, did not draw conclusions about the music's effect on young listeners. But the researchers said there is evidence that exposure to certain media messages can increase substance use among adolescents.

Because it turns out that nearly all drug addicts had listened to music when they were growing up, we suppose.

Still, however slight the research might be, the RIAA has flown into action, blaming society for putting drunks into records instead of music for putting drunks into society:
"While we have not had the opportunity to thoroughly assess the study, it's important to note that music is generally a reflection of society," said Jonathan Lamy, a spokesman for the Recording Industry Association of America, the trade group for the U.S. recording business.

Lamy said recording companies place parental advisory logos on albums stating an album contains explicit content.

"Parents play an essential role as well -- the music that children listen to is an importance choice, and parents are the first and most important teacher," Lamy said by e-mail.

But does a mention of alcohol count as "explicit content"? Amusingly, the RIAA website giving guidance as to when explicit content should get a sticky label spends far longer explaining where to place the sticker than it actually does giving guidance on when to do so; it mentions parental guidance might be required for songs which mention substance abuse, but the survey was about substance use - would Jermaine Stewart, for example, suggesting that drinking cherry wine is something you can do without taking your clothes off get a sticker? Probably not; but it would probably fall foul of the survey.

This is starting to treat the study as if it was meaningful, though. Coming tomorrow: someone burns through university funds to produce paper saying "bloody hell, have you seen how many songs are about having sex?"

[Thanks to Michael M for the link]

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