If your kids seem to be saying "I" and "me" with excessive frequency these days, you may want to check their iPods. A new study, published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, analyzed the lyrics of hit songs from 1980 to 2007 and found a statistically significant trend toward narcissism and, secondarily, hostility. The "us"-centric songs of the 1980s, like "Ebony and Ivory," have given way to "me"-centric lyrics like Beyonce's "It's blazin', you watch me in amazement." And there's a correlation between narcissistic songs and an uptick in narcissism over time. Are Beyoncé and Co. to blame?
Yes, blame the music: This spot-on study leaves you wondering, "How does an entire generation become so full of itself?" says Sandy Hingston in Philadelphia Magazine. You don't need a Ph.D to see a straight line from songs about "I, I, I, me, me!" to the jump in narcissistic college students who, in surveys, agree with statements such as, "I like to look at myself in the mirror."
"Are today's kids narcissists?"
No, this doesn't prove anything: Granted, "Beyoncé might be a special case when it comes to sublimating herself lyrically," but there's no shortage of great "we" songs today, says Maura Johnston in The Village Voice. And there was no lack of self-lovin' in the '80s. Madonna, anyone? Prince? Even if people are more narcissistic today, "this bit of junk 'it was all better in the old days, wahhh' research" sure doesn't prove it's music's fault.
"Annoyed scientist wants all you narcissistic pop stars to get off his lawn"
These studies have gotten out of hand: This whole social-science trend of analyzing pop hits is ridiculous, says Jacob Ganz at NPR. One study claimed that lyrics with more words per sentence "tended to be 'popular during threatening social and economic conditions.'" Another suggested that "the popularity of simple songs with a regular beat predicts volatility in the economy." What nonsense. And this latest study confirms nothing more than the "anti-youth biases" of its researchers.
"This whole... analysis of the pop charts thing is getting out of hand"