Without music, thinking would B-flat

The songs we listen to affect our thoughts and actions

If you’ve ever heard the saying “you are what you eat” and have found it to be true, the saying “you are what you listen to” isn’t far from the truth. Different music genres have been known to produce certain results on the brain.

Although that’s a positive effect of music, a lot of messages sent through the music young adults listen to today is actually influencing young minds with negative ideas, such as drinking and drugs. It’s not hard to influence a teenager. Rap music, while its overall message is usually okay, has been known to cause aggression in young people who listen to it.

Take classic rapper Eminem. One of his songs, ‘Kim,’ depicts a “fake” scenario where Eminem yells at his wife for cheating on him and proceeds to not only kill her and her boyfriend, but her boyfriend’s son as well. The lyrics reflect Eminem’s extreme anger towards his ex-wife Kim. The lines, “There’s a four year old boy lyin’ dead with a slit throat – In your living room, ha-ha – What you think I’m kiddin’ you? You loved him didn’t you?” Those lyrics literally are describing the murder of a four year old child in the name of revenge. In general, the violent messages, often visually shown through music videos, depict gang fights or fights in general and lead to aggressive behavior and attitudes. The aggression can be shown through anything from aggressive thoughts and feelings towards others, to the development of aggressive personalities.

The alcohol and drug messages prevalent in rap music also influence young listeners. A study performed at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation Prevention Research Center, marketers reported an increase in sales for alcohol brands mentioned in rap songs.

Even though rap puts forth some negative messages, one positive aspect of the genre is that it provides hope. Lots of lyrics in rap music discuss poverty and rising above those obstacles to success. In example, Tupac’s song ‘Me Against The World’ has an extremely inspirational lyric saying, “No matter how hard it gets, stick your chest out, keep your head up and handle it.” For people experiencing self-doubt and lack of confidence, songs with these messages often inspire.

Country music is often not expected to have a negative aspect but surprisingly does. Country has been known to reflect some pretty dark feelings. A main theme in country music is heartache, and people going through rough times often find comfort in knowing that someone shares in their feelings; even though one might think this is a positive thing, it often is what leads to suicide.

Those who are already impressionable often will find the ‘answers’ they’re looking for in the music they listen to. Country music as well as rap both depict alcohol as a necessary coping method for life’s problems, and when it is found by the listener that it is in fact not a positive way to cope, the negative effects could reach as far as suicide. The song ‘Misery and Gin’ by Merle Haggard is about drinking to make oneself feel better. Despite this, country music stresses companionship and helping those who feel alone. The song ‘Hey Brother’ by popular DJ Avicii, is all about keeping family and friends close. In particular, the lyrics, “Oh, if the sky comes falling down for you, there’s nothing in this world I wouldn’t do.”

Classical music, on the other hand, has a complete opposite effect. Often being categorized as boring, classical music has been shown to intensify focus and increase memory while completing intellectual activities. University research done in France showed that students who listened to classical music during an hour long lecture showed significantly higher test scores than those who didn’t. This was because the music helped them to zone into the topic at hand and focus as well as retain the information better.

Looking at all the negative aspects these polar opposite genres have on the brain, the positives certainly outweigh the negatives. Even though rap causes aggression, it also provides hope for those struggling. Even though country has been linked to increase in suicide rates, it also provides companionship for someone struggling. And even though classical is sometimes viewed as boring, it helps majorly on memorization and productivity.