Practically since the first musical note was ever played, governments, religious authorities, and various other scolds have warned against the antisocial or otherwise nefarious effects of song and dance. Now they have proof, sort of. A new study in the journal Pediatrics shows a significant correlation between delinquency and young kids who listen to a wide variety of non-mainstream music — "rock (e.g. rock, heavy metal, gothic, punk), African American music (rhythm and blues, hip-hop), and electronic dance music (trance, techno/hardhouse)." If you listened to Bauhaus or Jay-Z when you were 12, Dutch researchers found you "were more likely to commit crimes" at age 16, says Daniel Kreps at Spin. On the other hand, "those who listened to Justin Bieber or high-brow stuff like Beethoven turned out to be model citizens."
Put another way, says Lindy West at Jezebel, science has now proven that "delinquents have the best taste in music."
The researchers followed 300 people in the Netherlands for four years, from age 12 to 16, gathering information about what music they were listening to and their incidents of "minor delinquency" — petty shoplifting, vandalism, and fighting. They found that musical preferences at age 12 were "more powerful indicators of later delinquency rather than early delinquency" itself.
More specifically, says Lindsay Abrams at The Atlantic, 12-year-olds who were into punk, metal, gothic, hip hop, and electronic music were already acting out and would continue to do so; "those who liked rock music at age 12 were relatively well-behaved, but were more likely to engage in bad behavior at 16"; and the love of mainstream pop, classical, or jazz at age 12 "did not predict future delinquency, and in some cases was negatively associated with it."
According to the researchers, we should study the problem more thoroughly. But the clear implication is: "Parents, you've been warned," says The Atlantic's Abrams. Parents who accept these conclusions will likely try and shape their children's musical tastes and helicopter over their choice of friends, and policy-makers will be tempted to keep watch out for kids who express their non-conformity by listening to "non-mainstream" music at an early age.
Of course, not everyone accepts the premise of the study, much less its conclusions. "Oh, come on, you guys," says Jezebel's Lindy West. "How many times are we going to chase this dumb rabbit around the track?"
In Medieval Europe they literally banned certain intervals because only the devil could have birthed such suggestive dissonance. Depression-era jazz clubs were incessantly raided by police, because only dope fiends and scarlet women would taint their ears with such indecent caterwauling. Yesterday's devil's music is today's hold music.
Pop music is made by people with no problems for people with no problems.... Rates of delinquency are higher among people who aren't either camped outside the Tacoma Dome to see Justin Bieber or praying their clarinet choir makes it to regionals? You don't say. Maybe that's because that group encompasses pretty much all people. And guess what — I just did a study in my head and found that 100 percent of juvenile delinquents are, in fact, people.... At most, all this study shows us is that questioning the world can have some negative side effects. And we already knew that. [Jezebel]
Besides, says Spin's Daniel Kreps, Russian researchers raise a very good counter-point: "Most mainstream pop songs are littered with references to sex and drugs." That means one of two things: Either the Dutch scientists are right, and "the candy-coated method in which those pop songs are delivered... diffuse their innately deviant messages," or "all these studies are just loads of bullshit."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why you shouldn't eat dog. Not even once.
- How U.S. special forces are preparing for the worst-case scenario in North Korea
- Why Israel can no longer let the Palestinian Authority be responsible for security in the West Bank
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- I hate Ayn Rand — but here's why my fellow conservatives love her
- 10 things you need to know today: July 25, 2014
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- Why are so many parents being arrested?
- How social conservatives became a minority in need of protection
Subscribe to the Week