While pop music may have an approachable, up-beat sound, those accessible rhythms dominating the airwaves actually contain just as much violence and misogyny in their lyrics as hip hop and rap music, according to a new study.
Nearly one-third of popular songs have lyrics that degrade or demean women by portraying them as submissive or sexually objectified, according to the study conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri.
‘One wonders why pop music is not as maligned as hip-hop/rap for its communication of violence,’ said the report.
Rapper Ice Cube (left) poses for photos backstage at the Genesis Convention Center in Gary, Indiana in July 1989. Cube’s music has often been criticized for its violence, but a new study finds pop music is just as violent in its lyrics as hip hop and rap. Gwen Stefani (right) is shown here in her 2004 video for ‘Hollaback Girl,’ which is cited in a recent study finding that pop music is just as violent as hip hop and rap. The song is about a physical fight between two girls
Researchers at the University of Missouri started out by analyzing pop lyrics of more than 400 top Billboard songs released between 2006-2016, searching for profanity and references to violence, misogyny and women engaging in degrading sex acts.
They compared their findings to lyrics across all major genres: rap/hip hop, rock, country, heavy metal and R&B. For the purposes of the study hip hop and rap were grouped together as one category.
While rap and hip hop are often criticized for their violent content, researchers discovered that it tied with pop music as the most violent of all genres – the two most popular types of music among teens and young adults.
Researchers also found that country music had the least amount of violent and misogynistic content, according to the study published this week in the journal ‘Media Watch.’
When thinking about violence in music, most people may recall Eminem’s 2000 hit ‘Kim’ in which he graphically describes murdering his then-wife, or ‘Straight Outta Compton’ by Ice Cube, which has the artist threatening to use an AK-47 and likening his crime record to that of Charles Manson.
But researchers cited several problematic examples in pop music, including ‘Wake Up Call,’ by Maroon 5, which tells the story of a man shooting his girlfriend’s lover: ‘Came without a warning, so I had to shoot him dead; he won’t come around here anymore.’
Another set of problematic lyrics can be found in the song ‘Blurred Lines’ by Robin Thicke, which alludes to pressuring a woman into sex against her will.
Researchers also referenced ‘Hollaback Girl’ by Gwen Stefani, which is about a physical fight between two young women on a track: ‘So I’m gonna fight, gonna give it my all; gonna make you fall, gonna sock it to ya; that’s right, I’m the last one standing, and another one bites the dust.’
Adam Levine (left) of Maroon 5 performs during the Pepsi Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on February 03, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. Maroon 5’s song ‘Wake Up Call,’ about a man shooting his girlfriend’s lover, is cited in a new study finding pop music is just as violent as hip hop and rap. Rapper Eminem (right) is shown here in an undated photo at a record release party. Eminem’s music has long been criticized for its violent nature
The violence, cursing and ‘antagonistic’ lyrics may be harder for listeners to spot when it comes to pop music, with its happy melodies and up-tempo beats, said Cynthia Frisby, a study author and professor in the Missouri School of Journalism.
‘Unlike rap or hip-hop, pop music tends to have a bubbly, uplifting sound that is meant to draw listeners in,’ she said. ‘But that can be problematic if the lyrics beneath the sound are promoting violence and misogynistic behavior.’
That insidious aspect of the violence and misogyny in pop music is what is most problematic, Frisby said.
She also noted that violent and misogynistic music is now often accompanied by music videos that further perpetuate the problem, with scantily clad women being objectified while the violence and degradation of those women is glorified.
‘The male artists often times is fully dressed, and they’re usually wearing sunglasses so you can’t see their eyes, but it’s clear that they’re looking at and focusing on women’s body parts,’ she told DailyMail.com, noting that ‘Blurred Lines’ by Robin Thicke is an ideal example of that trend.
Frisby urged parents to have discussions with their children and teens to address the subtle messages contained in popular music.
‘Ask your daughters and sons what songs they like to listen to and have conversations about how the songs might impact their identity,’ Frisby said.
‘For example, many songs might make young girls feel like they have to look and act provocative in order to get a boy to like them, when that isn’t necessarily the case,’ she added. ‘If children and teens understand that what they are hearing isn’t healthy behavior, then they might be more likely to challenge what they hear on the radio.’
Examples of violence and misogyny in pop and hip hop/rap lyrics
‘Here’s a murder rap to keep yo dancin’/with a crime record like Charles Manson/AK-47 is the tool/Don’t make me act the motherf***** fool/Me you can go toe to toe, no maybe/I’m knockin n****z out tha box, daily’
-‘Straight Outta Compton’ by Ice Cube
‘I hate these blurred lines/I know you want it/I know you want it/I know you want it/But you’re a good girl/The way you grab me/Must wanna get nasty/Go ahead, get at me/Everybody get up/What do they make dreams for/When you got them jeans on/What do we need steam for/You the hottest b**** in this place’
-‘Blurred Lines’ by Robin Thicke
‘You can’t run from me, Kim! It’s just us, nobody else/You’re only makin’ this harder on yourself!/Ha-ha, got ya! Go ahead, yell!/Here, I’ll scream with you, ‘Ah, somebody help!’/Don’t you get it, b****? No one can hear you!/Now shut the fuck up and get what’s comin’ to you!/You were supposed to love me!/Now bleed, b****, bleed! Bleed, b****, bleed! Bleed!’
-‘Kim’ by Eminem
‘Caught you in the morning with another one in my bed/Don’t you care about me anymore?/Don’t you care about me?/I don’t think so/Six foot tall/Came without a warning, so I had to shoot him dead/He won’t come around here anymore/Come around here/I don’t think so’
-‘Wake Up Call’ by Maroon 5
‘When I met you last night baby/Before you opened up your gap/I had respect for ya lady/But now I take it all back/Cause you gave me all your p****/And ya even licked my b****/Leave your number on the cabinet/And I promise baby, I’ll give ya a call/Next time I’m feeling kinda horny/You can come on over, and I’ll break you off/And if you can’t f***, that day, baby/Just lay back, and open your mouth/Cause I have never/Met a girl/That I love/In the whole wide world’
-‘Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None)’ by Snoop Dog
‘I heard that you were talking sh**/And you didn’t think that I would hear it/People hear you talking like that, getting everybody fired up/So I’m ready to attack, gonna lead the pack … So I’m gonna fight, gonna give it my all/Gonna make you fall, gonna sock it to ya/That’s right, I’m the last one standing, and another one bites the dust’
-‘Hollaback Girl’ by Gwen Stefani