The teenager that knows about music only from listening to or watching Beyonce, Chris Brown and Li'l Wayne, has a decidedly narrow focus on music, with narrow ideas.
Li'l Wayne's mysogynous lyrics become the ideology of 13 year old African America boys who refer to potential girlfriends as "ho's". It is the silent-to-the-public ipod drumbeat of many inner city public schools, both middle school and high school.
Emotions are catchy and young people who are not yet anchored in their lives or ideals, easily assimilate messages that they hear over and over. Violence in lyrics, including violence against women, contributes to aggression in young people, that can surface while they are still teens, or later when they enter into marital or other relationships.
The American Psychological Association (APA) refers to a study in the May (2012) issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 84, No. 5), which indicates that "violent song lyrics increase negative emotions and thoughts that can lead to aggression."
Above: Rapper Li'l Wayne - July 23, 2007 - Photo: Ryan Dombal from New York, NY, USA
Li'l Wayne, with misogynous lyrics and aggressive rap, is the most popular rapper in
Newark, NJ inner city public schools among African American middle school and high school students.
Nicki Minaj with lyrics of strong profanity and self-hatred, is the most popular female rapper among the corresponding female middle and H.S. students in Newark.
The term above in
school, means that this is the most popular music that students listen to while they are actually in
school, under the current policies, where headphones to smartphones and ipods are tolerated, if not officially condoned in and between classes, at breaks, during classes from substitute teachers, at recess, after classwork is done, of for some classes, during class, (especially if students can complete their work while listening to music at the same time). This is not all schools in Newark, but a significant percentage.
The music of some popular singers may at times convey a positive message, such as with Alicia Keys New York ballad, much of what is current and popular focuses on narrow topics such as the turmoil of relationships, revenge on has-been lovers, lust, and, in the case of some of the more popular rappers like Snoop Dog or Li'l Wayne, misogyny in its lyrics is the general rule, that is, the disrespect of women, referring them disdainfully as the "ho's" and "b's".
There is some current, pop, R & B music with a positive non-sexual message such as some of the music of from Alicia Keys. However, most current R & B has drifted into either a sexual message to youth, lust, or emotions of hatred, anger, disrespect of women, or in some cases such as Nicki Menaj, popular with African American teenage girls, tinges of self-loathing, coupled with obscene lyrics.
Chris Brown is a soulful young African American singer who sings to the heart of teen girls. "I kissed Chris Brown," a thirteen year old girl boasted. She went on to describe her encounter with Chris Brown (imagined). "I'm Chris Brown's wife," said another young teen.
The sexuality of today's music scene is accentuated by the powerful imagery of music videos.
Alicia Keys - Photo: Jen Keys, 2002
Lady Gaga's videos are potent if sexual shock-effect, her Poker Face music video has hints of a modern Roman orgy. Miley Cyrus went from Snow White at 13 to the Wicked Witch at 18 in her current music video, a Michael Jackson Thriller-like sometimes sexy music video where bad is good.
Lady Gaga performing "Poker Face" on The Monster Ball Tour (revamped version).
photo:Kiah Brasch, August 30, 2010
Parents who indulged their daughters in Miley Cyrus music through their tweens, have to take a step back as the teen star has come of age, and is dabbling her foot into the world of surly sexual commercial stunts like pole dancing and flirtatious lesbian half-kisses in music videos. The Climb or Cyrus's career has taken her way beyond Disney's boundaries.
Even as some of the tamer pop music stars whose message is not necessarily sexual, but might revolve around popular themes of romance or relationships such as Taylor Swift, carry videos that lead the young teen to their imaginative experimental first kisses.
Women are viewed as sex objects in the greater part of the hip hop world, from the lyrics to the music videos, and the most popular female artists such as Beyonce and Rihanna, spread their sexuality about for popular appeal, selling their sex for money, to create a stir, to capture the attention of their fans, to acquire new fans, increase their popularity, and sell albums.
Beyonce is both a pop music artist and part of the sexual commercialization scene sold to teenagers.
photo: Flickr photo by Hello hubbie!
As one African American teen high school student put it, "Beyonce dances like that [sexually, provocatively] to be noticed". (This message of misogyny and the commercializing of sex through music videos - two distinct messages- were that was highlighted in class by a middle school health education teacher in Newark, NJ (2008), and earlier (concerning music videos) by a high school teacher (Freshman) in Carteret, NJ - 2006).
This attitude towards sex and women as portrayed in popular music is bound to have an affect on the thinking of teenagers and their attitude towards sex, who pick up on this sexual message of the commercial world and pop-culture. Some male teenagers develop the attitude that girls/women are there for their sexual gratification or experimentation. They get this message from the popular culture of music and television.
It is up to parents and educators to help teenagers and children to delineate between the fantasies, as portrayed through popular music, and the realities of relationships and what it takes to have a successful relationship.
References for Music Psychology page:
1. Catterall, James S., Richard Chapleau, and John Iwanaga. "Involvement in the Arts and Human Development: General Involvement and Intensive Involvement in Music and Theater Arts." Los Angeles, CA: The Imagination Project at UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, 1999. NELS:88, National Education Longitudinal Survey)
2. Connors, Abigail, (August 2009). Listen! music matters - Seven surprising benefits of music education. NJ Family.
3. Hamman, D. L., Walker, L., (1993). Music Teachers as Role Models for African American Students.Journal of Research in Music Education, Vol. 41, No. 4, 303-314, (1993). DOI: 10.2307/3345506.
4. Music Education Online. Children's Music Workshop. (Retrieved August 4, 2009). https://www.schoolmusictoday.com/advocacy/benefits.html
5. Ratliff, B., (June 3, 2008). Bo Diddley, Who Gave Rock and Roll His Beat, Dies at 79. New York Times.
6. Robertson, J., (1998). Natural Prozac. San Francisco: Harper SanFrancisco.
7. Violent song lyrics
may lead to violent behavior. July 2003. American Psychological Association. Vol 34, No. 7.
Responsible Hip-Hop - Why one rapper rejects hate messages of L'il Wayne and gangsta rap. Article/Interview with rapper DEE1 - DR BOYCE WATKINS: WHY THIS RAPPER TURNED DOWN A DEAL FROM LIL WAYNE’S LABEL
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