Many US pop songs glamorize underage drinking as a consequence-free fun part of youth lifestyle, while Patron Tequila, Hennessey Cognac, Grey Goose and Jack Daniel’s dominate music mentions.
That’s according to research from the Boston University School of Public Health and John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, which set out to assess the ‘prevalence and context’ of alcohol brand references in pop music.
Siegel et al. used Billboard Magazine year-end charts from 2009-2011 to identify the most popular songs in four genres: Urban, Pop, Country and Rock.
Of 720 songs assessed, 23% mentioned alcohol and 6.4% an alcohol brand mention, with Urban songs including the highest percentage of mentions under both heads.
“Public health efforts may be necessary to reduce youth exposure to these positive messages about alcohol use,” the authors write.
Danger of alcohol to US youth
Siegel et al. note that the context associated with alcohol brand mentions was almost uniformly positive or neutral, and suggest the Urban domination (alcohol mentions in 37.7% of songs) “may not be coincidental”.
“There are numerous examples of rap artists being sponsored by alcohol brands, having their concerts sponsored by these brands, or in some cases, being paid to endorse these brands in their songs.”
Introducing their study, Siegel et al. note that around 22 of US high school students engage in heavy episodic drinking, and that alcohol use among underage youth causes an estimated 4,700 deaths yearly (CDC, 2011).
They add that a growing body of literature linked alcohol portrayals in mass media to influence on youth drinking – from alcohol advertising to portrayals on TV, in movies and in music, where US adolescents listen to music for 2.5 hours daily on average.
After analysing song lyrics, Siegel et al. say that 37.7% of Urban songs mention alcohol, followed by Country (21.8%), Pop (14.9%) and Rock (7.3%).
Brand mentions occur in 11.8% in Urban, 6.2% in Country, 3.4% in Pop and not at all in Rock; overall Urban songs were 2.47% more likely to mention alcohol and 3.42% more likely to mention brands.
Interestingly, the alcohol reference percentage fell from 27.1% in 2009 to 18% in 2011, although a decline in brand mentions was not statistically significant.
Four big brands dominate
The 64 brand mentions referred to 24 alcohol brands, with 51.6% mentioning only four brands: Patron tequila (24% of brand mentions), Hennessy Cognac (12.5%), Grey Goose vodka (7.8%) and Jack Daniel’s (7.8%).
13 of the Patron brand references were positive with no depictions of negative consequences, as were all brand mentions of Hennessy Cognac (8) and Grey Goose vodka (5).
87% of brand mentions were depicted ‘positive emotions’, 7.8% neutral emotion and only 4.7% (4 songs) a negative emotion, with the most common context for brand use partying (72.6% of mentions), while sexual mentions accounted for 16.4%.
One example of the latter that the researchers cite is the Ludacris song ‘One More Drink’: “Was taking shots and tipping the bartender/Surrender to the woman end up bringing me home/Cause she started looking better every shot of Patron (yup).”
“Popular music is largely portraying alcohol youth as a fun part of the youth lifestyle that is free of consequences. Furthermore, we found evidence that many songs glamorize underage drinking and excessive alcohol consumption and their association with sex and partying,” Siegel et al. conclude.
Title: ‘Alcohol Brand References in US Popular Music, 2009-2011’
Authors: Siegel, M., Johnson, R.M., Tyagi, Keshav., Power, K., Lohsen, M.C., Ayers, A.J., Jernigan, D.H.
Source: Substance Use & Misuse, Early Online: 1-10, 2013, Doi: 10.3109/10826084.2013.793716