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Study Finds American Music Full of References to Drugs and Alcohol

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by Kim Jones
Feb. 6, 2008

What you won't find in Christian and Gospel music

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine recently released the results of a study of American music in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Researchers broke down the lyrics to 279 of the most popular songs of 2005, (as named by Billboard Magazine) and found that one of every three glorified drugs and alcohol.

The report showed that one-third of the songs (33%) had explicit references to drugs/substance abuse. Another two-thirds of the songs put drugs and alcohol in a "positive light" by associating them with sex, partying and humor, according to the team led by Dr. Brian Primack.

The researchers calculated that with American teens (age 15 to 18) listening to 2.4 hours of music daily, they hear 84 musical references to substance use a day and more than 30,000 a year.

Country, pop, rap, R&B and rock music were all well represented in the songs that were studied, but rap stood out with 77% of their top songs making drugs and booze king. Country music came in second place with 36%. R&B/hip-hop hit 20%, rock came in at 14% and pop brought up the rear at 9%. Alcohol and marijuana were the most common references found over-all.

It seems that popular music lyrics frequently pair up substance use with peer acceptance, partying and sex. The study found the the consequences of drug use were portrayed as more positive than negative in 68% of the songs and more negatively in only 18%. Only four songs (all in the rock genre) contained specific anti-drug use messages, and not a single song just said no to drugs.

Country music seemed to pair the vices more with humor than with blanket acceptance.

    She’ll start with kickin’ out of her shoes
    Loose an earring in her drink
    Leave her jacket in the bathroom stall
    Drop a contact down the sink

    From "Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off" by Joe Nichols

    He's on the dance floor yelling Freebird
    Singing off pitch but he knows every word
    Grabs him another girl and he holds on tight
    Now he's chasing everything in sight
    He'll fall apart when he gets home
    Right now his worries are gone
    Life looks good, good, good
    Billy's got his beer goggles on

    From "Billy's Got His Beer Goggles On" by Neal McCoy

    Don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here,
    That’s what they said when I got my last beer.
    Oh my God, its 2 o’clock, I can’t find my keys and my trucks locked
    So I grabbed a tire tool and I broke my window, hurt my elbow got me in though
    Two foot later backed into the light pole, all the town folk got a good show

    From "All Jacked Up" by Gretchen Wilson

Rap music, on the other hand, glamorized drug and alcohol use.

    I was sellin rocks when Master P was sayin "Unnnh"
    Buck pass the blunt
    These G-Unit girls just wanna have fun
    Coke and rum
    Got weed on the ton

    From "How We Do" by The Game featuring 50 Cent

    Tastes like fruit when you hit it
    Gotta have bread to get it
    Smoke all night, sleep all day
    That should be the American way

    From "Stay Fly" by Three 6 Mafia

Young Jeezy comes at it a little differently, at least acknowledging that he is doing wrong.

    I'm knee deep in the game
    So when it's time to re-up, I'm knee deep in the cane
    Real talk, Look, I'm tellin' you mayne
    If you get jammed up don't mention my name
    Forgive me Lord--I know I aint livin' right
    Gotta feed the block, niggaz starvin', they got appitites
    And this is er'day, it never gets old
    Thought I was a juvenile stuck to the G-Code
    This ain't a rap song, nigga this is my life
    And if the hood was a battle field then I'd earn stripes

    From "Soul Survivor" by Young Jeezy featuring Akon

Christian and gospel music weren't included in the study because, well ... Christian and gospel music don't glorify anything but Jesus!

The Christian and Gospel top songs of 2005 gave us a lot of positive messages.

    I remember when I was thirteen
    I saw a picture on my TV screen
    The Reverend Billy Graham and the people sing “Just As I Am”
    And I felt like You were talking to me

    From "Next Thing You Know" by Matthew West

    We stand and lift up our hands
    For the joy of the Lord is our strength
    We bow down and worship Him now
    How great, how awesome is He

    From "Holy Is The Lord" by Chris Tomlin

    Cause in a Blink of an eye that is when
    I'll be closer to You than I've ever been
    Time will fly, but until then
    I'll embrace every moment I'm given
    There's a reason I'm alive for a blink of an eye

    From "In The Blink Of An Eye" by MercyMe

Dr. Primack said, "It is important to note that this study does not say anything about the relationship between these exposures (to the lyrics) and behavior." He also noted that more research is needed to show whether kids who listen to these lyrics are more likely to drink or use drugs.

As a parent, this one scares me. I know that my own kids listen to music from all over the map (Christian, rock, pop, country, hip/hop). The "parent friendly" stuff is what I hear coming from their MP3 players. But I'm smart enough to know that if they want to listen to music they know I wouldn't approve of, there are plenty of opportunities out there. My fall-back position and saving grace is that I have faith in the way that they are being raised. They know that drugs and alcohol aren't the answer to any of the questions. But what about other kids? What about the kids out there that don't have solid Christian backgrounds and upbringing? What information do they have to weigh against what they're hearing on the radio?

Though I find this article to be true in the sense it was written, I have found some supposed Christian/Gospel music with verses and or videos pertaining to things I do not believe should be there. An example is the latest one I came across. (click here) What are your thoughts on this article?