Emotional Ramifications of Song Lyrics

Music is a universal language. It can change one’s mood instantly. For some it is part of their daily self care repertoire. Both playing and listening to music have tremendous value and affect emotional states. Mona Lisa Chanda, PhD, found that music improves the body’s immune system function and reduces stress. Listening to music was also found to be more effective than prescription drugs in reducing anxiety before surgery (Trends in Cognitive Sciences, April, 2013). The positive effect musics has on us is evident.

The power of music lies in its strength to influence. Society, especially young adults, tend to take the lyrics of songs and internalize them. If the lyrics are relatable and the artist identifies with feeling pain and persevering through, it is a positive influence for the listener.

The issue emerges when the lyrics are not so positive. Most recently the song, “Psycho” by Post Malone has reached the top of the charts. It is played multiple times a day. The tune is catchy and I often find myself singing along, until one certain line. Every time I hear the line, “Had so many bottles, gave ugly girl a sip”, I cringe. As a forty year old woman who has struggled with self confidence all my life, this line angers me. I have lived through enough to know that our appearances are not the most important thing in life. My concern is for the younger listeners.

Listeners with low self confidence and fragile egos are susceptible to being pulled down even further. To a young girl who struggles with body image, these words are damaging. If she is already hearing negative voices about her own appearance, she is very likely to internalize this. Of course the lyrics are not expressly directed at her. Nonetheless the message is that ugly girls don’t deserve the same as pretty girls. Post Malone’s message is that the “ugly girl” got a sip because he “had so many bottles”. This sends the message to girls who perceive themselves as ugly that they are not enough.

An individual who already has negative self talk occurring in his or her head does not need any more fuel to feed the fire. The lyrics from Post Malone’s song only add more fuel. In addition, the popularity of the song means hearing it multiple times a day, adding to the frequency of negative thoughts. In the article, The Toxic Effects Of Negative Self Talk, Elizabeth Scott, MS states, “Studies have linked negative self-talk with higher levels of stress and lower levels of self-esteem. This can lead to decreased motivation as well as greater feelings of helplessness. This type of critical inner dialogue has even been linked to depression“.

While the issue truly lies inside the one whose perception is making her feel this way, it does not benefit anyone to perpetuate these feelings. Freedom of speech and expression is important but just as we censor out curse words for the general listening public we may need to examine other degrading phrases as well. This may sound extra sensitive to some readers but if you have ever had any experience with an eating disorder, someone dealing with depression or someone who is suicidal, the idea of censoring offensive lyrics would be more appealing.

Music weaves it’s way into the soul. When it is uplifting and beautiful so are its effects. When it includes negative messages, its effects are negative. So many of us struggle with body image. It is ultimately the individual’s responsibility to work through these issues. If we can avoid furthering these issues and adding to them with simple general listener censoring, it will benefit society. Love to heaven…

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