Popular Music: Revealing Our Obnoxious Nature?

We live in an increasingly "me, me, me" society, and the lyrics in today's most popular music can't help reflecting it, according to the authors of a recently released study on music and culture. 

MSNBC's Mellissa Dahl reports that the study's authors used a text-analysis program to examine song lyrics for the 10 most popular songs (according to the Billboard Hot 100 year-end chart) for every year from 1980 to 2007. They found that the older songs tended to use more first-person plural pronouns (we, our, us), while more recent ones reflect a nationwide increase in narcissism, with more first-person singular pronouns (me, my, mine), and self-absorbed messages similar to these:

Rihanna: Want you to make me feel like I'm the only girl in the world!

Taylor Swift: Why can't you see? You belong with me!

Kanye West: Excuse me? Was you saying something? Uh-uh. You can't tell me nothing.


Besides being more narcissistic than ever, recent lyrics are meaner, the study also indicates. The authors identify an increase in what they call "angry, antisocial words" (like "kill," "hate," "annoyed," "damn" and "f—-") in pop songs over the years.

The researchers explain that "music serves as a cultural product that documents change in U.S. culture across time" and link the nasty words to a study indicating that self-reported feelings of loneliness jumped 250 percent between 1985 and 2004 — and to the fact that more of us than ever are living alone these days.

They may be on to something. But remember, the idea is that the music we like reflects our attitudes, not the other way around. So don't waste any time searching for an instrumental version of your favorite pop album to protect yourself from self-absorbed, antisocial tunes. It could (maybe) make for good listening, but it won't make you any nicer to be around.

Read more at MSNBC.

In other news: Virginia Teacher Stages Mock Slave Auction.

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