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Psychology and Mental Health

Chicago, USA
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Messages in the Music: A Lyrical Analysis of Rap, Country, Pop and Christian Music

Author(s): Stickle B, Tewksbury R


Society is confronted with tremendous amounts of music each day and with current technological enhancements, we are able to control the types of music we often listen too. Previous research has demonstrated that by listening to music individuals identify life goals and the acceptable means for achieving those goals. In the present study we examine the top songs of 2013 across four genres; rap, country, pop, and Christian to examine the life goals and methods for obtaining these goals promoted within each. We find rap music continues to extoll deviant and criminal behavior. Although not identified in prior research we found underlying themes of narcissism interwoven within rap music and an unusual emphasis on prescription drug abuse. Country music largely endorses quality relationships; pop music is shallow and promotes a party lifestyle. Finally, Christian music encourages a relationship with God as the sole focus of life. These and other themes within each genre serve as the primary life goals identified which may influence an individual's behavior either negatively or positively. The present findings are evaluated through a lens of social learning theory to evaluate the messages presented and the potential criminal, deviant and pro-social behaviors they promote.

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