Tobacco, alcohol, drugs in popular music

Can I find good Christian music? Is Christian music awesome? Should I worship God?

It’s been said that the heart of rock ‘n roll is rebellion. At times, that’s true…it depends on the song, doesn’t it? I suppose some would respond that if it’s not rebellious, it’s not rock ‘n roll.

That may be true in a general sense, as a recent study indicates. At the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine, the 279 most popular songs of 2005 (according to Billboard magazine) were analyzed for references to tobacco, alcohol, and drugs. Here are the results:

1/3 of the most popular songs explicitly portray substance use:
77% of rap songs
36% of country songs
20% of R&B/hip-hop songs
14% of rock songs
9% of pop songs

That’s an average of over 35 references to substance abuse per listening hour.

Their calculations show that Americans between the ages of 15 and 18 (a critical developmental phase) listen to 2.4 hours of music daily, which adds up to 84 musical references to substance abuse every day, or over 30,000 every year. Over those four years, teens would apparently average around 120,000 positive references to the use of tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs…diminished slightly by the 4% of songs with an anti-use message.

What should we take away from this? I’d suggest a couple of things…you might add your own thoughts:

  • Parents of generations past worked hard to get their kids to be like the rest of society. Work hard, fit in, look around for examples of virtue. Today’s parents have to work hard to get their kids to not be like the rest of society.
  • Parents should be aware of what is influencing their kids. I’m pretty sure that most parents of teenagers aren’t listening closely to their music. As has been said to previous generations of parents, we should be.

No, I’m not saying that rock music is bad. Far from it. I’m saying that statistics like these can be a catalyst for starting discussions with those in our care.

This study only mentions 15 to 18 year-olds. Does anyone know how many hours per day kids 10 to 14 listen to?