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More and More Songs Mention Alcohol

We all know a song or two that mentions alcohol. At least, I could think of a few when I thought about it. Take Katy Perry’s song Last Friday Night, where she sings:

Last Friday night
Yeah we danced on tabletops
And we took too many shots
Think we kissed but I forgot

And a few lines down she sings this:

Think I need a ginger ale
That was such an epic fail


What I didn’t realize is that more and more songs mention alcohol. British researchers looked at the top 10 hits in the UK hit charts and searched for references to alcohol. They came up with these statistics:

  • 1981: 5.8%
  • 1991: 2.1%
  • 2001: 8.1%
  • 2011: 18.5%

Because a reference to alcohol in a song in itself doesn’t mean anything, they also labeled them as positive (meaning embracing it, highlighting the positive effects of alcohol), negative, or neutral. This resulted in the following picture:

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It’s obvious that not only is alcohol mentioned more in songs, it’s mentioned more in a positive way, basically promoting it. And this is an issue because there’s been document correlation between the exposure of young people to alcohol in the media and drinking behaviors.

What’s interesting, is that heavy alcohol mentions were related to urban music (hip hop, rap) and more specifically, American music. Statistics from another study done in 2008 shows that 23.7% of American hit songs mentioned alcohol. Considering the strong influence of American music on the British ‘scene’, researchers fear the stats in the UK will go further up as well.

Song lyrics are always a good topic of conversation with students, considering how much teens listen to music. Seeing studies like this about the overall content of songs reinforces that importance. Ask your students how they feel about alcohol mentions and if they think it affects their views on drinking. Not to judge, but as a conversation starter. Awareness is always the first step in helping students make smart decisions in matters like this.

Do you think alcohol mentions in songs influence teens? 

[Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via Compfight cc]
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