The Power of Music on Attitude


For as long as I can remember, music has had the power to directly influence my mood.  At first, I noticed that if I couldn’t understand why I was feeling a certain way, there was often music in the background that I may not have been conscious of that matched what I was feeling perfectly.  Once I discovered that, I began to set my mood by finding music that matched what I wanted to feel.  As a child and young adult, that often meant finding the right beat, the right speed.  As I grew older, however,  I started to pay attention to the lyrics.  Instead of just wanting the right beat, I wanted the singer to “talk to me” about where I wanted to go emotionally….

Many people are familiar with this phenomenon.  Some are not conscious of it at all.

When I give presentations on attitude and self-awareness, I’m often astounded at the level of anger many of my young participants feel.  In many cases, their anger is sprung forth from a fundamental lack of self-awareness, coupled with an array of legitimate and horrifying circumstances.  (For instance, you might be surprised at the difficulty some participants have answering the question: “who are you?”).  However, when I talk about cultural and spiritual connection, the lack of awareness often reaches an entirely new level.  The May 13, 2011 edition of The Week magazine highlights a new study that suggests a reason why: lyrics found in today’s music.

Nathan DeWall, a University of Kentucky psychologist, conducted a study with several colleagues in which they analyzed the lyrics of Billboard Hot 100 songs from the past three decades.  This is what they found:

‘In the early ’80’s lyrics, love was easy and positive, and about two people,’ study co-author Jean Twenge tells The New York Times. ‘The recent songs are about what the individual wants, and how she or he has been disappointed or wronged.’  The study found a marked increase in the prevalence of the words ‘I’ and ‘me’ in song lyrics, and fewer instances of ‘we’ and ‘us.’  It also registered a jump in angry lyrics about hating and killing, and a drop in songs containing positive words like ‘love’ or ‘sweet.’  The researchers suggest that rampant narcissism may be making it harder for people to connect with one another.

Wow.  Talk about a smoking gun.  If our children and young adults are responding to music the same way that I did as at their age, then we really are in trouble.  When I compare what I read about the study with what I know anecdotally about youth and their disconnect with others, I realize we’ve all got a lot of work to do.  As a father of 10 and 5 year-old daughters who listen to the radio constantly, I’m aware that it’s incumbent upon all of us to pay attention to what they’re listening to, and to consistently talk to them about what they’re hearing and what they think about it.

It’s bad enough that they’re listening to songs about hating and being wronged (and let’s not even get started on the whole “B,” “H” and “N” word thing), but if songs about “I” and “me” keep them from seeing how their anger and actions spill over onto others, then where are we going as a society?

I keep talking to my girls.  Even when I don’t understand, I try my best to listen.  Even though they protest, I make sure to put my “oldies” (and hey, when did ’80’s music become “old?”) on the radio so they can hear songs about love and positive struggle.  And I keep facilitating workshops, trying to reach and teach as many as I can about who they are, Whose the are, where they come from and where they’re going.

What are you doing about this?  What does your music say to those around you?  Please check in and tell us.  We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Sound Off!

Broadcast Your Inner Champion!


1 Response to "The Power of Music on Attitude"

  • Willie Nabors says:

    I agree wholeheartedly. As a musician and singer, I can attest to the power of music and lyrics. They can drive an event like a Hemi, and convince people to do anything. “We Will Rock You” makes mediocre teams rise up to pound champions, any slow Stevie Wonder song can turn the Nerd King into Rico Suave…. trust me on that. It is proven that I can use music to program you. So, program yourself. Set your atmosphere with the words you need. Even the Lord Himself requests a certain atmosphere if you intend for Him to ABIDE with you. That being said, how polluted is your atmosphere?

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