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Narcissism in Popular Music

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Recently (as in this morning) I heard a bit on public radio about an increase in narcissistic lyrics over the last thirty years or so. Essentially, the researchers have concluded that lyrics are now focused more on "me, I, my, mine, etc." whereas during previous decades, there was less focus on the self and more on a communal "we, us, etc."

 

Here is a link to a conversation with the head of the research team, Dr. Jean Twenge, Tom Moon, and Minnesota Public Radio's Midmorning host Kerri Miller.

 

 

[spoiler=And Here's the Other Side]

Source

 

The New York Times, NPR and others have been hyping psychologist Nathan DeWall's recent claim -- based on extensive computer analysis of pop song lyrics from 1980 to 2007 -- that there is "a statistically significant trend toward narcissism and hostility in popular music."

 

Because "the words 'I' and 'me' appear more frequently along with anger-related words, than 'we' and 'us' and the expression of positive emotions," DeWall further argues, contemporary youth must be more self-obsessed than those in previous generations.

 

Do "late adolescents and college students love themselves more today than ever before," as Dr. DeWall concludes? I don't know. Neither does DeWall or his computer.

 

Common sense dictates that using song lyrics to prove almost anything -- stripped of the irony, humor and ambiguity that so often inform those lyrics -- is inherently bogus. To compare the words used in certain '80s hits with those of contemporary charters to support yet another iteration of the "nothin's no good no more" trope is a stretch that would be laughable if it weren't taken so seriously.

 

Specifically, DeWall's article in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts points to Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder's "Ebony and Ivory" and Diana Ross and Lionel Richie's "My Endless Love" ("two hearts that beat as one") as exemplars of the "happy togetherness" of the '80s.

 

They then compare these lame tunes favorably to such more recent tracks as Weezer's "The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)" "Sexy Back" by Justin Timberlake and Fergie's "Big Girls Don't Cry", in which the line, "It's personal, myself and I" supposedly proves not only her massive self-involvement but also that of those who like the record.

 

Another '80s tune the researchers point to, John Lennon's "Starting Over," is a good, warm-hearted effort. But it hardly approaches -- in quality or cultural resonance -- Lennon's '60s masterpiece of self-reference, "Strawberry Fields" ("No one I think is in my tree/I mean it must be high or low"), written at the height of the supposed "peace and love" era, or " Imagine", that paean to togetherness that kicked off the '70s, widely regarded as the "Me Decade".

 

It's silly on its face to characterize the '80s -- a decade dominated by such ego-enthralled superstars as Madonna, Prince and Whitney Houston, whose 1986 anthem "The Greatest Love of All" celebrated, above all, learning to "love yourself" -- as a benchmark of musical or societal harmony.

 

The biggest '80s star, of course, was Michael Jackson, the "King of Pop" whose self-obsession would have made Narcissus himself blush. Even Jackson's "We Are The World", which raised a ton of money for a great cause, can be seen as something of an act of self-glorification. (Saturday Night Live's parody, with Billy Crystal as Prince singing "I am the world, I am the children..." brilliantly sent up the "we left our egos at the door" pretensions of that enterprise.

 

On the flip side, a far better, more communal and more meaningful song, Lady Gaga's 2010 anthem "Born This Way" has already become a cornerstone of self-acceptance to an entire generation of record listeners.

 

If young people were so darn communal in the '80s, how come punk rock was so easily co-opted as capitalism's way of bottling and selling revolution during those years? And why did so many young adults help elect Ronald Reagan twice by landslides and then cheer him on as he dismantled as much of the New Deal and the Great Society as he could get away with?

 

I yield to no man in my revulsion of narcissism. In fact, I can say without hesitation that some of my worst friends are narcissists. And no doubt there are plenty of budding narcissists out there. Most young people I know combine an understandable dose of self-absorption -- in the face of skyrocketing health care costs, record unemployment for workers ages 16 to 24 and student loan debt now exceeding total credit card debt -- with some kind of spiritual practice and/or commitment to making the world a better place.

 

Green Music Group is just one of many contemporary organizations promoting eco-friendly rock tours, which often include "green" accommodations. Maybe a computer comparison of this movement with the hotel room trashings of the halcyon days of happy togetherness will reveal that today's kids aren't as full of themselves as conventional wisdom, and DeWall's pseudoscience, suggest.

 

 

I'm hoping to get a nice discussion going on this. So, any thoughts?


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Well, like the rebuttal says, it doesn't really take context into account.

 

If it's true I'm not surprised, advertising has become increasingly heavy-handed over the past twenty years so it's only natural that people become more self-centered.


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Sure, popular music appeals to the simple-minded masses. Today's corrupt youth connects with anything narcissistic; after all, isn't it always about ME ME ME!?


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How else would brain-dead pop culture zombies know who to like? They need a song to tell them who is best at having sex, getting girls, driving cars, making money, yada yada.

 

Not even in rap. For christ sake, read the lyrics to "Clush" by Isles & Glaciers


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delete


If you do things right people won't be sure you've done anything at all.

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Songs suck more in general today. Especially rap, or "mentally handicappeds" (go to hell, censor) attempting poetry.


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Damn, you seem mad.


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Songs suck more in general today.

I hate it when people say this.

 

You're not looking hard enough.


 

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Songs suck more in general today. Especially rap, or "mentally handicappeds" (go to hell, censor) attempting poetry.

This has nothing to do with the topic. Settle down.


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Songs suck more in general today.

I hate it when people say this.

 

You're not looking hard enough.

 

Truly. I don't hate any time-zone of music per say, but I strongly prefer modern music to anything pre-90's. It's all about progression of talents and presentation. Music is music bro. chillllll


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Anyone who likes tacos is incapable of logic.

Anyone who likes logic is incapable of tacos.

 

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Nothing wrong with rap.

 

What are the majority of rap songs concerned with today?


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Depends who you listen to, what sub-genre, etc. Why not take a look for yourself if you're that interested?


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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjtVr_qNb7M

 

Rap has the most narcissism in my opinion especially the mainstream crap.

 

[bleep] pop is pretty bad at the moment with the likes of Kesha, Gaga, K Perry and all those others idiots.

 

I think mainstream rock has the least amount of narcissism (compared to rap/pop) but alot of the songs I hear just sound whiny and that gets annoying quickly.


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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjtVr_qNb7M

 

Rap has the most narcissism in my opinion especially the mainstream crap.

 

[bleep] pop is pretty bad at the moment with the likes of Kesha, Gaga, K Perry and all those others idiots.

 

I think mainstream rock has the least amount of narcissism (compared to rap/pop) but alot of the songs I hear just sound whiny and that gets annoying quickly.


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I hope that people aren't taking this as narcissism=bad music. Narcissism certainly doesn't imply the music "sucks". It just proves that the artists (or producers) who write lyrics are more centered on themselves than in previous generations.


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"He could climb to it, if he climbed alone, and once there he could suck on the pap of life, gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder."

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I think that the way they reached their conclusion (I haven't read the article, so feel free to correct me) is pretty silly: the amount of I's has become larger while the amount of we's is lowering. How does that equal narcissism? If I say I love you, does that make me a narcissist? If someone makes a song about how they view the world, does that make them a narcissist?

 

I think what this proves is that music is becoming a more personal thing, more artists are reflecting on their own lives. Though this argument can't be made for the mainstream pop music that's just meant to attract sales.

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http://www.youtube.c...h?v=qjtVr_qNb7M

 

Rap has the most narcissism in my opinion especially the mainstream crap.

 

[bleep] pop is pretty bad at the moment with the likes of Kesha, Gaga, K Perry and all those others idiots.

 

I think mainstream rock has the least amount of narcissism (compared to rap/pop) but alot of the songs I hear just sound whiny and that gets annoying quickly.

 

I disagree entirely.

 

Here I am! rock you like a hurricane...

 

or

I'm TNT I'm dynomite

 

or that Ted Nugent song about stroking [kitty] cats and whatnot

 

Narcissism knows no bounds of genre


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Anyone who likes tacos is incapable of logic.

Anyone who likes logic is incapable of tacos.

 

PSA: SaqPrets is an Estonian Dude

Steam: NippleBeardTM

Origin: Brand_New_iPwn

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I hope that people aren't taking this as narcissism=bad music. Narcissism certainly doesn't imply the music "sucks". It just proves that the artists (or producers) who write lyrics are more centered on themselves than in previous generations.

 

I know that but I always try to raise awareness to the people that aren't aware of how much better music there is out there and are tired of the crap the radio forces down your throat.

 

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=qjtVr_qNb7M

 

Rap has the most narcissism in my opinion especially the mainstream crap.

 

[bleep] pop is pretty bad at the moment with the likes of Kesha, Gaga, K Perry and all those others idiots.

 

I think mainstream rock has the least amount of narcissism (compared to rap/pop) but alot of the songs I hear just sound whiny and that gets annoying quickly.

 

I disagree entirely.

 

Here I am! rock you like a hurricane...

 

or

I'm TNT I'm dynomite

 

or that Ted Nugent song about stroking [kitty] cats and whatnot

 

Narcissism knows no bounds of genre

 

Well that's only three songs and their nowhere near as narcissistic as some of these songs you hear on the radio telling young kids about how much more money they have than them and how famous they are. These people on the radio are purely in it for the money, no love for music and if you believe otherwise, that's fine, enjoy your radio music. I'll stick to my indie music that still have some passion and aren't ego maniacs.


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Not really. If you looked into the actual study you would know that they used control groups from every genre.


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"He could climb to it, if he climbed alone, and once there he could suck on the pap of life, gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder."

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It depends on the situation. For example, we've been in a recession for quite a while so songs empowering the individual might be more popular because of it.


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Oh god, it's someone claiming to be "indie" having a pop at popular music (couldn't resist)... RUN AWAY!

 

I'm not a musician. You do know what indie means, right?

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independent_music

 

Your post didn't have much of a point. Come back when you have an argument, and grow up. I'm not trying to offend anyone, if you like radio music listen to it, it's not my life.


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