Pop Music Could Be Turning Us All into Miserable Alcoholics

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I blame Ke$ha.

"Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?" John Cusak famously utters in the opening sequence of the vinylphiliac film High Fidelity. It turns out, he might have been on to something. A new study in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research found that pop music heavy with alcohol references might be turning teens into huge binge drinkers. The researchers combed through Billboard Magazine to determine what kind of music U.S. kids were jamming from 2005 to 2007. Of the 793 most popular pop hits, it was found that 169 had explicit references to alcohol and 41 actually contained brand name references (pass the Courvoisier). 

The lyrics of these booze anthems largely associated positive outcomes with alcohol use — 41.5 percent glorified it and 17.1 percent were downers. Alcohol brand appearances in lyrics most often were tied to wealth, sex, luxury items, partying, drug use, and vehicles of all varieties. Because in pop music, alcohol really doesn't have any of the associated hangovers, social isolation, or myriad health problems that real-life compulsive consumption comes with. Imagine if "Brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack," in Ke$ha's "Tik Tok" was changed to "Brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack/ And now I have cirrhosis?" What if Katy Perry's "It's a blacked out blur/ But I'm pretty sure it ruled," was actually "It's a black out blur/ Woke up in my own drool/ And I am worried about what this is saying about my reliance on drinking to socialize, maybe I need to talk to a therapist."

This could mean teens — one-fifth of whom statistically binge drink regularly — are more driven to the fabulousness of alcohol because R. Kelly and Chingy continue to purport its panty-dropping, yacht-cruising fabulousness. Teen participants who liked boozy pop songs and remembered brand-dropping were up to twice as likely to have binged at least once in their lifetime. “While it may be that alcohol mentions in songs prompt adolescents to form more favorable attitudes about alcohol,” the study claims, “it is also highly plausible that music-oriented adolescents who develop favorable attitudes about drinking for other reasons could be drawn to genres that promote drinking and often mention brands.”

So maybe the alcoholically inclined just like artists who always sing about the sauce, but like any social problem, it's hard to pinpoint one exact cause. Fighting video games could cause more violence, violent porn could cause aggression, watching Fast Times at Ridgemont High on repeat could lead to more spliff smoking, but for now, all we can say is that the media continues to have a heavy influence on how teens talk about and decide to use alcohol. Ke$ha isn't to blame for the downfall of society (that'd be too easy), but she and artists like Puff Daddy, Ludacris, and Pitbull, who literally launched liquor brands to promote their music, don't exactly make it easier to put down your cup. I mean, have you ever seen a group of rowdy adolescents listen to the insidiously catchy LMFAO song "Shots" and refrain from throwing back a few?

[h/t Pacific Standard]

Image via Becky Sullivan.