Jäger, Vodka Sodas, Jack and Cokes, Tequila Shots, Gin and Tonic, Jameson, Negronis, Titos with chasers, red wines, Stolies, whiskey, and Natty Lights. Every single one of these specific alcohol references can be found in one song, All Night Longer. This catchy and upbeat “party song” by Sammy Adams may seem innocent enough, however, there is a lurking danger within its message. The subliminal message that Sammy creates in this song not only makes younger kids feel ready to drink, but also reinforces the idea of binge drinking as a recreational activity for college students. The other influential aspect of All Night Longer is that whether you like Sammy Adams or not, you can’t help but know every single word to this song.
Unfortunately, Sammy is not the only artist who is guilty of skewing his audience’s opinion towards the acceptance of excessive drinking. The amount of alcoholic references in songs is becoming an ever increasing epidemic. In 2011, researchers from Johns Hopkins and Boston University School of Public Health conducted a study that analyzed the lyrics of 720 of the most popular songs of 2009, 2010, and 2011. The basis of the analysis was to search for the amount of alcohol references found within many chart topping songs. It was found that “nearly a quarter (almost 200) of the songs mentioned alcohol. Of these [that referenced alcohol], 6.4 percent mentioned specific alcohol brands.” The study additionally examined the manner in which alcohol was portrayed in these songs. Researchers identified that alcohol was nearly always portrayed in a positive light with no mention of any of the negative repercussions. The reason that the increasing amount of alcohol references in popular music is concerning is because of the subconscious effect it has on its audience. It is a well known and established fact that exposure to alcohol marketing increases the likelihood that young people will start drinking or, if already drinking, drink more. A Medical News Today article discusses a survey where teenagers were given the titles of songs with alcohol references. The results showed that “[teenagers] who could accurately remember the alcohol brands [used in the songs] were twice as likely to have had a complete alcoholic drink [and] were also more likely to have ever binged on alcohol.” Many other sources, such as the following tweet from iPublicHealth, also recognize the link between alcohol references in pop music, and increased alcohol use in teens.
On average, US teens listen to about 2.5 hours of music a day. Being exposed to 2.5 hours a day of songs that could contain a positive portrayal of alcohol is leading to an increase of the consumption and binge drinking of alcoholic beverages in teens. This causes heavy concern due to the negative affects that binge drinking can have on the developing brains of adolescents. These detrimental effects are not only well known throughout the medical community, but also throughout our social community which begs the question, why are we, as a society, okay with the music industry targeting our youth and influencing them to harm themselves. To further elaborate on this point, the following video clip from an ABC News interview sheds some inside light on the teen binge drinking scene and its negative affects, especially on young girls.
The most disturbing part of this video is its main point that the majority of binge drinking that occurs with young girls is due to a desire to feel like they fit in. Due to incredibly popular and publicized songs such as Beyonce’s Drunk in Love, the growing mindset of the need to get drunk to fit in has created a strong foothold in our society. The strong power of word association that is illustrated in the following tweet demonstrates just how large of a role that pop music, and its references, play in daily life.
A tweet about watermelon juice instantly becomes a worldwide reference to alcohol consumption because of Beyonce’s song. Pop music has transformed the way adolescents view alcohol; the new pop influenced characterization of alcohol is that of a risk-free and recreational activity. There is a new acceptance, and recognition, associated with the practices involving the consumption of alcohol; these newly accepted practices have resulted in the idea of alcohol consumption turning into social norm for today’s youth. It’s time the music industry recognizes its part in the glamorization of both underage, and excessive drinking and begins to project a new, and more healthy image of a good time.