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TristanhGCL

United States

Do Music Lyrics Pose a Positive or Negative Effect on Children?

March 17, 2016

    I start every morning listening to music. Music perks me up as I make my way to school and sets me in a good mood to begin the day. I often continue listening throughout the course of the day and even have the fantastic opportunity to play in my band class, as well as out of school, most days. Even as I write this essay, I’m listening to music.
A common argument made about music, old and new, is that certain lyrics, and the genres they pertain to, deliver a bad message to the youth. Rap, Metal, Rock n’ Roll, and Pop are all typical victims of this critique. Many would debate that certain music should be censored by more than just a sound covering up a curse word. Certain people want particular messages portrayed through music to be abolished entirely. Such messages often include those of sex, drugs, hate, crime, violence, money, and misogynistic views.

    Personally, I feel that every artist deserves the right to write about absolutely anything they desire. Of course censorship is necessary in some cases, but not to where it limits the artist. Music is supposed to be free and full of creativity. Forbidding musicians from open expression would be against human nature and entirely unconstitutional.
    
    
Music inspires children on a daily basis. It can provide an outlet of expression, creativity, and emotions. Relating to music can even be a type of therapy. It is scientifically proven that music can release endorphins in the brain, relieving stress and boosting happiness. Hearing certain songs can change moods in an instant. Music usually brightens my day and affects my mood positively. An artist's creation can uplift someone, keep them going throughout the day, push them harder in a workout, and overall improve the daily lives of everyone. A study conducted by Dr. Tobias Greitemeyer from the University of Sussex proves this. Dr. Greitemeyer played different songs to different groups of kids. The most obvious test performed was when the Dr. played the song “Heal the World” by Michael Jackson for one group. Later, Greitemeyer “accidentally” knocked over a cup of pencils and the subjects who listened to the Michael Jackson song picked up almost five times as many pencils as the group of kids who had heard other, more negative, songs. Dr. Tobias Greitemeyer said, "It's a very consistent effect. I did not expect it would be so significant" (Walker, Peter. "Positive Lyrics Can Hit Home With Grumpy Teenagers, Study Says.") Of course, some songs  still portray negative messages. Songs about violence, gangs, drugs, and sex can all have ill effects on children, but it is the parent's responsibility to inform their child of the meaning of certain songs and teach them what not to do. Also, adults can prevent their kids from listening to certain music.

    Taking away the freedom an artist has when writing music is much worse than simply reinforcing the need to not follow the inappropriate and unhealthy lyrics you may hear in certain songs.
As a musician myself, I have played at many venues that do not permit certain language. Curse words or songs obviously about sex or drugs are often prohibited at events where children are present. Censorship in that aspect is clearly valid and sensible. A terrific example of an artist whose music is inspirational, uplifting and joyous, yet can be violent, sexual, and crime-ridden is the Rap icon Kendrick Lamar. Kendrick grew up in Compton, California, a city notorious for its high crime-rate and amount of gang violence. He often writes about his childhood in Compton and the violence and drugs he has been surrounded by. Much of the lyrics in his songs are about his hometown and similar topics that would be deemed unsafe for children to hear, but that is the world Kendrick grew up in. One of his most popular songs, “m.A.A.d city,” is about his childhood and the brutality, gang fights, and drug-use he was accustomed to at the time. But, the famous rapper also speaks of happier and more ‘appropriate’ topics in many of his songs. The song “i” talks about loving yourself and being proud of who you are. Songs such as “i” and “Alright” are prime examples that the positivity in the freedom of speech in music greatly outweighs the negative images portrayed through more dark and disdainful lyrics. Most children know the difference between what is right and what is wrong in society and know not to commit the crimes that various artists write about. Censoring an artist’s creativity would not be the right action to take on this matter.

    The opinion that I strongly disagree with is that the majority of Rap, Rock n’ Roll, and other popular genres have negative effects on kids. A common argument from this side is that, Rap talks too much of gang violence, alcohol, and crime while Rock n’ Roll is “the devil's music” or talks too much about sex and drugs. "It's not normal for a kid to want Hennessy,” former gang member, Derek Brown said in an interview recently. “or to smoke a blunt with a combination of marijuana and tobacco, which is what Tupac rapped about," he said. "No African-American male from an urban community knew about Versace until Tupac started rapping about it. Now, (rapper) Future is telling our kids it's cool to pop a molly," or Ecstasy” (Turner, Dawn M. "Gang Alum: Some Rap Music Hurts Kids"). Obviously, there are negative effects and messages in some Rap music, but there all also positive messages in Rap as well.

    Not all music is perfectly appropriate or censored, but that’s also what’s so amazing about music. The different stories and messages diversify the music industry and inspire tons of people every single day. Music provides an outlet for kids to express their emotions and to relate to. Censoring bits and pieces of music is acceptable if not suggested, but limiting an artist and his/her creativity is bogus.

    Music is an expression of freedom of speech. It is a constitutional right. Being able to write your thoughts, feelings, and emotions and turn it into music is something everyone should continue to be able to do without worry. Music affects and influences youth in more positive ways than negative. It’s quite simple, the happiness and inspiration music provides children is far greater than the negative influences of drugs, sex, alcohol, violence and hatred that some songs contain. This is because people have morals, as do kids. We know the difference between right and wrong in this world and can learn what is healthy and safe over what is unhealthy and hazardous from music.

    Personally, I feel that every artist deserves the right to write about absolutely anything they desire. Censorship is needed in some instances, but music is supposed to be free and full of creativity. Censoring a song after it has already been created and produced is far different and greatly superior to limiting what an inspired artist is permitted to create in the first place.
Music is an act of free speech and opinion. Being able to express your beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and emotions through music is a basic right that should not be eliminated or limited. Music is an open and free road that continues on forever and many people would find themselves lost without it.

Work Cited
Riley, Jason L. "Gangsta Rap's Grim Legacy for Comptons Everywhere." SIRS. Wall Street
Journal, 26 Aug. 2015. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.
Turner, Dawn M. "Gang Alum: Some Rap Music Hurts Kids." SIRS. Newspaper Chicago
Tribune (Chicago, IL) Nov 6, 2015, P. 3, 6 Nov. 2015. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.
Walker, Peter. "Positive Lyrics Can Hit Home With Grumpy Teenagers, Study Says." SIRS. The
Guardian, 4 Jan. 2010. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.

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