‘The times they are a-changin': Alcohol has gone out of style and out of the music charts, research reveals

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Image: Getty/robeo
Image: Getty/robeo

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As surveys find that Gen Zs are drinking less than any other age group, new data also shows a significant decline in chart-topping songs that reference being drunk.

It is often reported that drinking alcohol is not cool anymore. One in five under-25s in the UK report that they are teetotal, according to research by Drinkaware. This global cultural shift is often seen in celebrity-backed NPD. Formula One champion and entrepreneur Lewis Hamilton has just launched a non-alcoholic spirit created from real blue agave.

Now, new original data analysis has examined lyrics of chart-hitting pop songs from the UK in the last decade to reveal a decline in references to being 'drunk'.

The song study, conducted by sparkling water brand DASH Water, analysed lyrics for the top 10 songs of each year since 2012 to find the number of references to drinking and being ‘drunk’. The results revealed that drunk references declined by 40% in 2022 compared to the previous year. 

According to the data, drinking references in songs were at an all-time high in 2017, where half (50%) of hit songs mentioned being drunk.

Overall, ‘drunk’ references declined 79% since 2017.

The data reveal a significant cultural shift in attitudes to alcohol, claimed DASH Water. It said online searches for ‘sober curious’ and ‘mindful drinking’ (which encourages people to take a more conscious and intentional approach to alcohol consumption) have increased 96% and 41% respectively in the past five years.

It added that generational shifts are happening in pop culture as people are becoming more 'mindful' of what they consume both literally and culturally.

Similarly the hashtag #mindfuldrinking has over 24 million views on TikTok and #sobercurious has over 711 million. There’s even been a 12% decline in those looking for ‘cocktail recipes’ online over the past year, compared to a 19% increase in ‘mocktail recipes’.  

Today’s songs are even adopting more anti-alcohol lyrics, the company noyed, from the likes of Doja Cat’s Paint the Town Red with the lyric “I am so much fun without Hennessey,” to Ed Sheeran’s Bad Habits with “My bad habits lead to late nights ending alone.”

“People are much more mindful of what they’re putting into their bodies than they were five to ten years ago,”​ said Holly Crossley, Head of E-Commerce at DASH Water. “Concerns around how certain foods and drinks affect us used to be focused predominantly around physical appearance, but now, we’re much more aware of how things affect our mental wellbeing. Young people especially seem to be adopting a more mindful approach to drinking and I think that’s down to the many self-care trends we see online.

"Here at DASH, we’re all about using ingredients that are simple, natural and good for the body, and I think that’s something our younger audience appreciate.”

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