Offensive Musical Lyrics About Death, Sex, Drugs…Is Anyone Listening? Commentary by Dr. Burriss with MTSU

Mar 18, 2023 at 02:20 pm by WGNS News

In music, we often hear things that bother us in some way or another. But, does anyone truly pay attention to song lyrics? With today media commentary, here is MTSU Professor Larry Burriss…



Verbatim: "I was listening to the radio the other morning, and heard a song about this young lady who threw her aspiring suitor off the roof of a downtown building. Then there was another song about a young man who was killed in a motorcycle accident. And then there was car crash song in which a young woman was killed.

Later I saw a portion of a movie called "International House," which included a song about a man getting high on marijuana.

Believe it or not, none of these songs are current hits. The songs are from the late l950's and early 1960's, and the movie, starring Cab Calloway, is from 1933.

The point here is that songs have always contained not only sugar and spice lyrics, but lyrics others have found offensive. In fact, as far back as the late 1700's there were complaints about the kinds of music young people were listening to in the local taverns.

A question not often asked, however, is anyone out there really listening? The evidence seems to indicate that in fact people aren't listening to the words.

A recent study, for example, indicated when students were asked what their three favorite songs are, fewer than one third could actually tell what the songs were about. And of nearly 700 songs the students named, less than 10 percent were said to be about drugs, violence and sex.

As another example, the researchers found one commonly condemned song, "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin was perceived as actually being about climbing stairs to heaven, and a Bruce Springsteen song, "Born in the U-S-A," was perceived as being everything from a super patriotic song about the joys of living in America, to a protest song about tragedy of the poor.

The upshot of the research is that the lyrics in songs have little meaning for those who listen. In fact, only if the melody catches the listener’s attention do they start to relate to the lyrics.

I think the conclusion we can draw from all of this is people have been objecting to music for a long time, and the republic is still standing, and besides, most people don't pay any attention to what they're listening to anyway. -I'm Larry Burriss.”


About Dr. Burriss - Larry Burriss, professor of journalism, teaches introductory and media law courses. At the graduate level he teaches quantitative research methods and media law. He holds degrees from The Ohio State University (B.A. in broadcast journalism, M.A. in journalism), the University of Oklahoma (M.A. in human relations), Ohio University (Ph.D. in journalism) and Concord Law School (J.D.). He has worked in print and broadcast news and public relations, and has published extensively in both academic and popular publications. He has won first place in the Tennessee Associated Press Radio Contest nine times. Dr. Burriss' publications and presentations include studies of presidential press conferences, NASA photography, radio news, legal issues related to adolescent use of social networking sites, legal research, and Middle Earth.

Dr. Burriss has served as director of the School of Journalism, dean of the College of Mass Communication and president of the MTSU Faculty Senate. He was appointed by Gov. Phil Bredesen to serve on the Tennessee Board of Regents. He was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force and served on active duty in Mali, Somalia, Bosnia, Central America, Europe and the Pentagon.



Sections: News