A new study of popular music shows the glorification of drinking culture with none of the downsides, as American teenagers continue to spend two-and-a-half hours per day listening to music.
Over the air and online, songs in the hip-hop, rhythm and blues, and country genres celebrated excessive drinking with references to Patron tequila, Hennessy cognac, Grey Goose vodka, and Jack Daniel’s whiskey. These three brands made appearances in half of songs mentioning alcohol, researchers at Johns Hopkins University said.
The researchers justified the cultural study by emphasizing the potential power of music over the mind, and the sheer time spent listening — even subconsciously — to the lyrics. "Given the heavy exposure of youth to popular music, these results suggest popular music may serve as a major source of promotion of alcohol use among youth," David Jernigan, director of the university’s Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, told reporters this week.
Generally, the consumption of alcohol was portrayed in a positive manner when mentioned in a pop song, the researchers found. Completely omitted from the radio song, however, were any of the negative repercussions of the hard-drinking lifestyle, including alcoholism, domestic and bar-related violence, incarceration, and financial troubles. The investigation analyzed lyrics from Billboard’s most popular songs of 2009, 2010, and 2011, which included 720 songs.
While nearly a quarter of those songs included alcohol references, not one of them included a rock and roll song. Of those songs, 6.4 percent referred to specific alcohol brands, researchers said. In particular, rap, hip-hop, and R&B songs focused heavily on booze, with 38 percent making reference to drinking or the high-flying lifestyle associated with bottles of Patron, if not Gulfstream 5s.
In between lamentations of lost love and affirmations of the working class life, country songs made reference to alcohol 22 percent of the time, in comparison to songs in the “pop” category. In a sampling of lyrics, the researchers noted that “One More Drink” by Ludacris, who performed the hip-hop song with T-Pain, contains the lines “Was taking shots and tipping the bartender / Surrender to the woman end up brining me home / Cause she started looking better every shot of Patron.” Other hip-hop songs also celebrated underage drinking and intoxication, such as Asher Roth’s rap hit “I Love College.”
In the study, the researchers note that 14 long-term studies have solidly established a link between mass media marketing of alcohol and the likelihood of young Americans to start drinking or to increase their drinking. But most interesting, perhaps, is the prevalence of certain brands within the pop music zeitgeist, according to Michael Siegel, a professor of community health sciences at the Boston University of Public Health. “A small number of alcohol brands and beverages appear to make frequent appearances in popular music,” he said, noting the big three — Patron, Grey Goose, and Jack Daniels.
Every year in the United States, some 4,700 young Americans under the age of 21 die from alcohol-related causes.
Below is the video for Asher Roth's "I Love College":