A melody of Messages: An Analysis of Political Content in Popular Music



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A Melody of Messages:

An Analysis of Political Content in Popular Music

Krista Durski

April 15, 2010

Undergraduate

St. Mary’s College



Kdursk01@saintmarys.edu

Carrie Erlin



Cerlin@saintmarys.edu

A Melody of Messages: An Analysis of Political Content in Modern Music

Music serves as a form of social expression. Music lyrics contain political and social messages and real life experiences. Messages containing political content have hit the airwaves in hope of connecting to the listeners and addressing social issues not present in the news media. These messages produced language about a political party, political figure, and various social issues. By applying the social construction theory to assess political messages in five genres of music from nine months before and after President Obama’s Inauguration, this research provides a lens for understanding the political nature of social problems.

Musicians can be thought of as social movement activists if they purposely use music as a way to address the real issues in the world. In recent years, given social issues like the war in Iraq, has there been a significant increase of political messages in popular music? More specifically, have the social messages in popular music changed since the election of President Obama? Have the social messages become more political? Are there changes over time in the type of social messages in music? Do the messages vary by genre of music? This paper will analyze the political and social messages in music in five musical genres from nine months before to nine months after President Barack Obama’s inauguration. I will argue that social issues are more important than political issues and that past social issues are more important than current social issues in music today.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Music as Social and Political Message

Over the years, American music has expressed the social issues of importance to the listeners. From the jazz of the 1920s, the pop songs of the 1950s and 60s, the political rock era of the 1970s, and the growing commercialization of music in the 1980s and 90s, music has been a form of social expression.

While music may be a form of social expression, when it is linked to politics, music can sway voters. Brader (2005) found that politicians use emotions such as enthusiasm and fear to appeal to citizens. Furthermore, Brader found that candidates change the persuasive power of ads, by applying specific types of music and images to produce particular emotions. While politicians use music and images to persuade voters, in contrast artists may use their music as a way to voice politically oppositional opinions and to present suppressed news to their audiences. In other words, musicians generate protest songs and/or lyrics containing political messages. Brader also found that song lyrics generate emotional appeals to produce emotional responses by the audience. For example, Pink’s song “Dear Mr. President” (2006) reveals the emotions of anger, sadness, and despair that President Bush was ignoring social issues such as gay rights, the war in Iraq, and everyday struggles faced by ordinary citizens.

Music not only addresses social issues, Gil Scott-Heron (1979) found that music can also be a powerful tool in organizing communities. Denisoff (1970) states that community organizers use music to address the real issues and help people see “where the world is at.” Politics is one area of community organizers where music can be influential. Musicians can identify social issues and political views in their lyrics that the audience may be unaware. As Baum (2002) noted, people who are not interested in politics look to other sources of communication to receive the news, and “soft news,” like music, can be an alternative form of information about select political issues, human-interest issues, and about dramatic matter like crime and disaster (Baum 2002).

The “documentary song” offers another type of commentary on social conditions, according to Stewart (2005). Stewart found, for example, that documentary songs have highlighted a negative condition in black communities and the surrounding areas, such as economic factors. Artists have used their music to bring the suppressed negative conditions to the public’s attention. For example, rap artist Ludacris’s song “Slap” (2006) addressed the economic issues and hardships people face in the United States’ current economic climate; “I need some money please (please)/ I can barely make it on these streets (these streets)/ Cause I got a couple mouths to feed/ My baby’s in dire need/ So I’m thinkin’ bout robbin’ a bank today.” According to Fox and Williams (1974), the songs convey social meaning through music and show that the world is not blind to these conditions. Peterson (1971), however, notes that a song’s meaning is based on how the listener hears and thinks about the lyrics, and thus different audiences may interpret different meanings.

As Rose (1991) notes, listeners are influenced by the lyrical content of a song, the opinions of the artist, and the voices of celebrities. However, the audiences often listen to particular genres of music, and thus get different messages about social conditions. According to Stewart (2005), since the 1980s R & B and Hip-Hop political commentators and artists have addressed worsening social problems, including high unemployment, police brutality such as the beating of Rodney King that sparked the riots in Los Angeles, incarceration, inadequate public schools, political indifference, and dysfunctional behaviors that enable oppression. Gladney (1995) argued that the purpose of hip-hop culture was to connect the problems of contemporary urban life to music lyrics. Rose (1991) found that rap groups, such as Public Enemy, use their live performance to address current social issues, perceived media miscoverage of news events, and other issues that concern African Americans. Similarly, Sullivan (2003) found that musical groups speak out about a variety of issues including the treatment of African Americans in Los Angeles, the death of powerful leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., and the views of former and current presidents.

Maher (2005) notes that Hip-Hop artists like Paris, Nas, The Roots, Common, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, The Coup, and dead prez have used the philosophy “activists first and rappers second” throughout their career. This philosophy allows the artists to participate in the social issues of the world, to offer a helping hand to others, and to write about the important social issues in their music. Nelson George (1998) commented that hip-hop artists are not political leaders by training but become leaders because of the voices in their music. Nas, for example, uses the documentary form effectively to describe patterns of black oppression in the song “Black Zombie” (2002).

Rose (1991) noted that rap music was not originally political music but apolitical party music. However, the well-known 1970s rap group Public Enemy purposely used their music in a political and cultural way. Rose continues to note that the politics of rap music do not lie in just its lyrical expression, but also in the nature of the music; it is not just what one says, it is where one says it, how others react to what is said, and whether one has the means with which to commence public space.

Rap music is not the only musical genre that has expressed political and cultural issues. Fox and Williams (1974) argue that rock music has been described as “totalitarian” because its music overwhelms an individual’s consciousness and activates a collective unconscious. Fox and William described rock music as the sound of social change. For example, in the sixties and seventies, rock lyrics touched on social controversies such as war. As U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War increased, some rock artists made it their duty to express their anti-war views to the world through their music. For example, Barry McGuire’s number one hit, “Eve of Destruction” (1965) warns of the end of days with its doomsday description of turmoil in the Middle East, problems with Communist China, Civil Rights issues, and frustration with the political system. While rock music has been the soundtrack of social change, other genres of music have also contained social and political messages.

Fox and Williams (1974) found that country and western music contains political lyrics, but of quite a different tone than rap or rock. Country artists, like Toby Keith, also use music lyrics to convey political messages, such as “American Soldier” (2003) about a soldier at war in Iraq. This study will add to the previous literature by examining multiple song genres comparatively to analyze areas of difference and/or similarity.

THEORY

Constructing Social Messages

Sociologists believe that people are shaped by the social environments including the social environment of music. Social environments influence an individual’s values and beliefs, likes and dislikes. These likes and dislikes may include clothing styles, friend preferences, occupational choices, and musical preferences. The type of music to which an individual listens can reveal how that individual gives meaning to the world. Social construction theory examines the meanings that people give to social phenomenon, like music. For example, Loseke (2003) identifies how a condition comes to have meaning. A condition, such as a political message in music, can be interpreted in many different ways by different groups of people. Thus a social phenomenon does not hold a uniform meaning for all people observing the phenomena.

Loseke explores how social activists with different stances on a particular social phenomena use a claims-making process in order to encourage other individuals to sympathize with their cause and, ultimately, join with them in order to combat a social problem. Through this constructionist perspective a social condition, such as a political message in music, can be assessed sociologically. Loseke’s model of social construction theory can be applied to song lyrics to analyze the messages in music, specifically, if the messages focus on political, racial, class, gender, or other types of social issues.

Music operates like a fad, but as social construction theorist Best (2006:5) states, fads have real consequences for our lives. The type of music an individual listens to can portray many social phenomenons, from clothing preferences to political opinions. For example, in the same year that Ludacris’s political song “Slap” (2006) was released, many other popular rap and hip-hop artists like Nelly Furtado, Chris Brown, Nelly, Beyoncé, and Ciara continued rapping about fashion accessories like “grills” and types of shoes. While most hip-hop artists are concerned with money and cars in their song lyrics, some artists are speaking about more “real life” social issues.

Loseke (2003) argues that a social issue is not a stable category, but instead has a subjective meaning. Some social issues come to be defined as social problems. Loseke (2003:26) discusses how social problems are constructed through “claims-making” and “typification.” Claims-making occurs when a person or a group of people attempt to persuade an audience that a particular problem exists. Claims-making is the process in which claims, “any verbal, visual, or behavioral statement that seeks to persuade audience members to define a condition as a social problem,” are produced by claims-makers (Loseke 2003:26). Claims-makers produce their claims intentionally to affect a target audience that has been purposefully chosen. Claims-makers are not necessarily a person, but can be an abstract entity like an institution or artifact.

A song is a cultural artifact containing the artist’s opinion. For example, music artists select an age range to direct their music in order to get their message across, or because they feel that the age range selected is the majority of their listeners. “Audiences are critical in the process as a social problem is created only when audience members evaluate claims as believable and important” (Loseke 2003:27). Claims-makers, like product makers and music producers, ascribe meaning to the social problem. For this study, the focus is on the messages contained in the music lyrics.

Loseke (2003:19) notes that three major claims-makers are social movement activists, scientists, and the mass media. Social movement activists are similar to music artists because they are trying to get their messages and views across to a wide range of people. For example, music artists can use their lyrics to send a broad message dealing with the war in Iraq across many cultures. The song is then played over the radio, on the Internet, on a CD, or through a ring tone, and the message is then transferred to many diverse populations. According to Best (2001:15), activists need the media to provide the coverage, just as the media relies on the activists and other sources for news to report.

Best (2001:14) states that “someone has to bring these problems to our attention, to give them names, describe their causes and characteristics.” Musicians may use their music to bring attention to issues they believe are important. These social constructs in the music may be clear as anti-war messages from the 1960s or more covert about messages the artist’s feeling about issues like abortion. According to Bennett (2001:181), “music provides an important channel for young people, not only in addressing particular social problems, but also in actively engaging with and negotiating these problems.”

Sullivan (2003:606) argues that musicians act like social movements activists by using their music as a way to address social issues that politicians are ignoring in their campaigns. For example, some rap artists have changed their musical lyrics from rapping about money, drugs, and sexual exploitation of women to more meaningful messages about real life, upbringings, and consumerism (Sullivan 2003:608-609). For Loseke (2003:6), social problems reflect troublesome conditions affecting a significant number of people; the messages in music lyrics construct those conditions to an audience.

Social construction theory offers a lens to examine social and political messages in music lyrics. In order for social or political messages in music to be understood by the audience, claims-makers (or artists) need to give verbal, visual, and behavioral claims. The audience then decides whether or not that particular message is one that describes them as a social group or audience. This study is grounded in social construction theory to assess messages in musical lyrics.

METHODOLOGY
The data for this study was collected using a content analysis of original music lyrics containing any form of political messages. For this study, a political message contains a positive or negative statement, phrase, or word(s) relating to a political party, political figure, social issue(s), and/or references to the country. According to Neuman (2007:363), content analysis is “research in which one examines patterns of symbolic meaning within written text, audio, visual, or other communication medium.”

The sample was drawn from a list of songs within five genres on Billboard.com. These five genres include Rap and Hip-Hop, Country, Modern Rock, Pop, and Rhythm & Blues (R & B) across five Billboard charts. The specific charts include: Hot 100, Hot Rap and Hip-Hop, Hot Modern Rock, Hot Country, and Hot Pop. The data was collected between January 5, 2008 and November 7, 2009. To be eligible for analysis, the song had to be released between nine months prior to the Inauguration of President Barack Obama and up to nine months after the Inauguration. This time frame is pivotal because many social and political changes were taking place and I wanted to analyze if and how musicians were speaking about those changes.

The total population of songs available was 516 songs and the sample of the songs containing a political message was thirty-two songs. A political message is defined as positive or negative language about a political party, a political figure (past or present), or a social issue (past or present). Information that was coded includes the artist’s name, gender, and race, the name and genre of the song, the chart the song was located, the lyric(s) in which a political message is contained, the date the song was released, the recording label, any positive or negative language about a political party, political figure, or social issue(s), and any specific language or phrases that should be noted. Additional information included the peak and peak date of the song on the chart, and the theme of the song. This information was not substantive to my research but it was interesting to know.

Strengths and Weaknesses

One advantage in conducting this content analysis is that this method is inexpensive and allows the research to track several different factors pertaining to the music and its lyrics at once (e.g. gender, race, political content, and similar themes). This research could easily be replicated by focusing on one or all genres of music or by expanding the time frame. Another advantage was the convenience of locating and listening to the songs. I was able to listen to the song and view the lyrics on the same webpage, which became convenient that I did not have to switch back and forth through multiple web pages. Billboard.com also provided accurate information about the artist(s) and the song.

A disadvantage the researcher may face was getting caught up in the music and not listening specifically for the messages. However, since the majority of these songs were listened to repeatedly, I learned to focus on locating the message(s). Other disadvantages faced while conducting my research began with the limitation of the online Billboard charts. Up to a certain date I was not able to view the entire 100 songs but gained substantial material enough to complete my data. Although Billboard serves as one claims-maker, I believe that using another source to find political messages in music for future research would be more efficient. Billboard selects the most popular, most selling, and the most common artists and publishes weekly. Another disadvantage resulted from the amount of time used to collect data. Only a few weeks were allowed for data collection. Also, I had to discard some songs that contained political content because they were written before the date January 1, 2008, even though the song debuted on the chart after January 1. There was a small amount of songs collected that contained any political content. If I listened to every song on the charts each week, I may have a better result in my sample but the time frame would not allow. Overall, content analysis was the best method to explore the political messages over a period of time in popular song lyrics.

FINDINGS
Of the thirty-two songs, twenty-eight had male lead singers and four had female lead singers. It should be noted that male artists appear throughout the Billboard charts while female artists were more frequently placed near the bottom of the charts; therefore, female artists’ music was recorded as a small portion of the data collection.



Political Message

As stated before, a political message is defined as positive or negative language about a political party (past or present), positive or negative language about a political figure (past or present), or a social issue (past or present). Table 1 shows the relationship between the genre of the song and the political message definition.



Table 1: Political Message by Genre




Social Issue

Political Figure

Political Party

Totals

Country

9

1

0

10 (31%)

Rap and Hip-Hop

3

5

0

8 (25%)

Modern Rock

7

0

0

7 (22%)

R & B

5

0

0

5 (16%)

Pop

1

1

0

2 (6%)

Totals

25 (78%)

7 (22%)

0 (0%)

32 (100%)

As shown in Table 1, social issues such as racial discrimination, immigration, and civil rights were found in 78% of the songs. For example, a description of racial discrimination discussed by country artist Brad Paisley in “Welcome to the Future” (2009); “I had a friend in school/ Running back on a football team/ They burned a cross in his front yard/ For asking out the home-coming queen.” An example of immigration is seen in country artist Toby Keith’s “American Ride” (2009); “Tidal wave comin’ cross the Mexican border.” Lastly, a mention of civil rights is heard in the rap and hip-hop song “You’re a Jerk” (2009) by New Boyz; “So they gotta keep it separate like the Jim Crow laws.”

The social issue most discussed was war, whether it was a past war such as World War II or the current war in Iraq. Fifteen songs had mentioned war. There were four themes presently found in the songs: a soldier’s life at war, anti-war views, pro-war views, and a description of war. An example of a soldier’s life at war can be heard in the rock group The Offspring’s “Hammerhead” (2008); “I am the one/ Camouflage and guns/ Risk my life/ To keep my people from harm.” An example of an anti-war view derives from country artist Taylor Swift in her song “Change” (2008); “So we’ve been outnumbered/ Raided and now cornered/ It’s hard to fight when the fight ain’t fair.” Unlike Swift, the country group Zac Brown Band writes about being grateful for soldiers in their summer hit “Chicken Fried” (2008); “I thank God for my life/ And the stars and stripes/ May freedom forever fly, let it ring/ Salute the ones who died/ The ones that give their lives so we don’t have to sacrifice/ All the things we love.” Lastly, county artist Jamey Johnson gives a description of World War II through black and white photographs in “In Color” (2008): “Oh, and this one was taken overseas/ In the middle of hell in 1943/ In the winter time/ You can almost see my breath/ That was my tail gunner ol’ Johnny McGee/ He was a high school teacher from New Orleans/ And he had my back right through the day we left.”

The majority of Rock, Country, and R & B music contained lyrics about war, whereas the majority off Rap and Hip-Hop music discussed political figures. Table 1 also shows that 22% of the songs discussed a political figure. Among the politicians mentioned, those who held office were President Barack Obama, Senator Sarah Palin, Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton, and former President Bill Clinton. Rap and hip-hop artists are notorious for name-dropping of political figures, such as in “Lolli Lolli (Pop That Body)” (2008) by Three 6 Mafia featuring Project Pat, consists of one line in the song where President Obama appears; “Like Barack Obama said, yeah, it’s time for a change.” Other mentions of President Obama are seen in Kanye West’s line in “Forever” (2009) by Drake featuring Kanye West, Lil’ Wayne, and Eminem; “You would think I ran the world like Michelle’s husband.” Another example where name-dropping occurs can be seen in “Every Girl” (2009) by Young Money Entertainment in Gudda Gudda’s lines about former President Clinton and his wife; “And I’m about to get my Bill Clinton on/ And Hilary can Rodham too boy, I gets my pimpin’ on.” Another example of Hilary Clinton name-dropping is seen in “Lollipop” (2008) by Lil’ Wayne featuring Static Major; “And when I’m at the bottom, she Hilary Rodham.” A fourth example is found by Eminem featuring Charmagne Tripp in his summer hit “We Made You” (2009) about Sarah Palin; “And I’ll invite Sarah Palin out to dinner then/ Nail her, maybe say, ‘Hello to my little friend.’”

The other political figures were political activists who did not hold office. These activists include Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Helen Keller, and Malcolm X. Country artists Brad Paisley and Tim McGraw mention examples of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King in their songs. In Paisley’s song “Welcome to the Future” (2009), he writes: “From a woman on a bus/ To a man with a dream.” In McGraw’s song “Southern Voice” (2009), he writes: “Rosa Parks rode it/ Dr. King paved it.” A mention of Helen Keller derives from pop group 3Oh!3 in their late summer hit “Don’t Trust Me” (2008); “Shush girl shut your lips/ Do the Helen Keller and talk with your hips.” A mentioning of Malcolm X is heard in Drake’s line in “Forever” (2009) featuring Kanye West, Lil’ Wayne and Eminem; “Labels want my name beside the X like Malcolm.” Also seen in Table 1, there were no songs containing any lyrics about a political party.



Definition of Political Message

To further explore the political messages, I analyzed whether the lyrics referred to the past and the present. Table 2 shows the relationship between past and present political parties, political figures, and social issues in music and the genre in which they appear.



Table 2: Past or Present Political Party, Political Figure, or Social Issue by Genre




Past Social Issue

Present Social Issue

Past Political Figure

Present Political Figure

Past Social Issue

Present Social issue

Totals

Country

4

5

1

0

0

0

10 (31%)

Hip-Hop/Rap

3

0

2

3

0

0

8 (25%)

Modern Rock

3

4

0

0

0

0

7 (22%)

R & B

2

3

0

0

0

0

5 (16%)

Pop

0

1

1

0

0

0

2 (6%)

Totals

12 (38%)

13 (41%)

4 (12%)

3 (9%)

0 (0%)

0 (0%)

32 (100%)

Table 2 indicates that there is a slight increase from past (38%) to present (41%) social issues. Present social issues included the war in Iraq, the country’s current economic status, and immigration, while past social issues focused on topics such as racial discrimination, civil rights, and previous wars. For example, Toby Keith describes the economy regarding gas prices in “American Ride” (2009); “Why buy a gallon, it’s cheaper by the barrel.” Another example of economical issues, such as job loss, reside in “God Must be Busy” (2008) by country artists Brooks & Dunn; “There’s a single mom, just laid off/ Went and lost her job to foreign hands/ In some far away land.”

Social issues, both past and present, relating to civil rights, war, racial discrimination, and immigration were found more prevalently in country music and rock music. It should be noted that country artists use their whole song to express issues rather than a line or two, such as country songs “American Ride” (2009) by Toby Keith and “Welcome to the Future” (2009) by Brad Paisley. Similarly, in the rock group The Offspring’s song “Hammerhead” (2008), the entire song portrayed a soldier at war; “I am the one/ Camouflage and guns/ Risk my life/ To keep my people from harm.”

By contrast, the political content found in rap and hip-hop lyrics are typically a line or two to fit the rhyme. The artists touched on the social issue, but it is not the focus as seen in country and rock music. Finally, R & B artists most commonly used only words of war in their lyrics (e.g. soldier, war, fight, and battlefield). For example, during Ludacris’s rap in Letoya’s “Regret” (2009), he uses ‘soldier’ to complete a rhyme; “He still tryin’ to get back like the soldiers/ Dreamin’ and it’s time to wake him up like Folgers.”

Among the five genres analyzed, country music had the most social issues (31%). Country lyrics included regarding the economy, the environment, new advancements in technology, and the country’s status overall. In “American Ride” (2009) by Toby Keith, the song focused around political-oriented issues, such as immigration and gas prices; “Tidal wave comin’ cross the Mexican border/ Why buy a gallon, it’s cheaper by the barrel.” In “Welcome to the Future” (2009) by Brad Paisley, the song described the changes in technology and intercultural relationships. He wrote “When I was ten years old/ I remember thinkin’ how cool it would be/ When we were goin’ on an eight hour trip/ If I could just watch T.V.” about how technology has evolved into automobiles and also in video games in “And I’d have given anything/ To have my own Pac Man at home.”

Table 2 also indicated there is a slight increase in discussion of past political figures (12%) as there are to present political figures (9%). This results in the name mentioning of past presidents and their families, and civil rights activists such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King.

The most common words used in the lyrics are ‘battlefield’ (28), ‘fighting’ (11), ‘fight’ (10), ‘war’ (9), and ‘soldier(s)’ (5). Common themes include political figures like former President Clinton and his wife Hilary, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, President Obama and his family; economic issues referring to gas prices and the United States’ current economic state; and social issues focused on racial discrimination, such as burning crosses in yards and segregation; and poverty.



Changes in Political Messages

Music changes over time and the artists find new causes to write about. Those causes may be changes in social issues, changes in their lives, or simply a change in their music, where they may branch out to other genres and collaborate with other artists, or add more meaning to their music than just a good dance beat. Table 3 shows the number of songs written nine months before President Obama’s election to the nine months after the election.



Table 3: Changes in Political Messages by Genre




Released Before Election

Released After Election

Totals

Country

5

5

10 (31%)

Hip-Hop/Rap

3

5

8 (25%)

Modern Rock

4

3

7 (22%)

R & B

2

3

5 (16%)

Pop

2

0

2 (6%)

Totals

16 (50%)

16 50%)

32 (100%)

Country artists produced five songs before and five songs after the election. The songs written before the election reflected mostly on the war and issues surrounding the war by the former President George W. Bush. The songs written after the election focused primarily on how President Obama has made his mark. It should be noted that the artists claim to be proud Americans and stand by their president. Rap and Hip-Hop artists have increased from three songs to five songs, and R & B artists have increased from two songs to three songs with lines of political content that they lightly touch on in their songs. Many rap and hip-hop and R & B artists include references to President Obama by mentioning his name in a line or by using a reference of him, such as “Michelle’s husband” as heard in “Forever” (2009) by Drake featuring Kanye West, Lil’ Wayne, and Eminem. Rock artists have slightly decreased from four songs to three songs in political content found in their music; however it is still very well present. Pop artists have declined in writing political content in their music and focus more on a good dance beat that can be played in clubs, on the radio, and at school dances.

DISCUSSION
Important changes are underway in the conduct of music. The study of popular music allows a sociologist to explore how music artists socially construct political and social issues. This research indicates that country and rap and hip-hop artists are more commonly evolving their music with lyrics about political messages and issues. Music artists express themselves and their views through music as a way to communicate with the rest of the world. Artists act as politicians by writing about racism, poverty, economic issues, war, and other social issues. However, country artists use their entire song to voice these messages whereas most rap and hip-hop artists use a line or a word to reference the issue.

By applying Loseke’s (2003) model of claims-making, a political or social message as a social construct can be better understood. In order for social or political messages to be understood by the audience, claims-makers (or artists) need to give verbal, visual, and behavioral claims. The audience then decides whether or not that particular message is one that describes them as a social group or audience. If America's artists wish to communicate with its audience who are not predisposed to seek out political information, they must put the information where these potential voters are most likely to notice it. In part, this involves producing political messages to the sensibilities of song lyrics. Moreover, as my content analysis clearly demonstrates, Americans who relied on music for news about political campaigns and social issues received substantially different information than their counterparts who tuned in to more traditional sources of news.

This research only allows for a glimpse of the music rather than looking at an artist’s music over a period of time. Over time, musicians can change their style, the views, and the way they want their music to sound. They may switch genres or collaborate with other artists they did not think to before. Also, I believe that the results would produce more songs if I had looked at song lyrics from the Bush campaign and his eight years as president until President Obama’s first complete year in office. The views of people change throughout different presidential elections that bring focus to other economical, social, environmental, and technological issues.

The slow increase in political messages in most music genres over the past several presidential election cycles strongly suggests that this particular blend of politics and entertainment is likely to continue in the foreseeable future. The evidence presented in this study further suggests that this trend may be of significant consequence to American politics.

As there are many research materials on rap and hip hop music, a follow-up study on country music would benefit the findings because the artists dedicate more than a quick line to their political message or content. Past and present country artists use the entire song to include their views about the president(s) and the country as a whole. There is not a lot of research materials on country political messages, thus the research conducted would be my contribution. Another option to consider would be to include all the songs featured on the Billboard charts studied or use another source to gather popular music in order to produce a better sample.

APPENDIX A



Coding Sheet

Song:


Artist:

Date song released:

Record Label: Genre:

Gender: Race:

Billboard chart: Debut on chart:

Peak & Date:

Theme of song:

Specific words or phrases, include full lyric line:



APPENDIX B

Artist and Song Title

Genre

Artist

Title

Pop (2)

ColdPlay

Viva La Vida (2008)

3Oh!3

Don’t Trust Me (2008)

Country (10)

Brooks & Dunn

God Must be Busy (2008)

Taylor Swift

Change (2008)

Rodney Atkins

It’s America (2008)

Jamey Johnson

In Color (2008)

Carrie Underwood

Just a Dream (2008)

Zac Brown Band

Chicken Fried (2008)

Tim McGraw

Southern Voice (2009)

Justin Moore

Small Town USA (2009)

Brad Paisley

Welcome to the Future (2009)

Toby Keith

American Ride (2009)

Rap and Hip Hop (8)

Lil’ Wayne ft. Bobby Valentino and Kidd Kidd

Mrs. Officer (2008)

Lil’ Wayne featuring Static Major

Lollipop (2008)

Lil’ Wayne, Drake, Jae Millz, Gudda Gudda, Mack Maine (Young Money Entertainment)

Every Girl (2008)

Three 6 Mafia ft. Project Pat

Lolli Lolli (Pop That Body) (2008)

New Boyz

You’re a Jerk (2009)

Drake ft. Lil’ Wayne, Kanye West, and Eminem

Forever (2009)

Eminem ft. Charmagne Tripp

We Made You (2009)

Jay-Z ft. Rihanna and Kanye West

Run This Town (2009)

Modern Rock (7)

Foo Fighters

Long Road to Ruin (2008)

The Offspring

Hammerhead (2008)

ColdPlay

Violet Hill (2008)

Flobots

Handlebars (2008)

30 Seconds to Mars

Kings and Queens (2009)

OneRepublic

All The Right Moves (2009)

Sick Puppies

You’re Going Down (2009)

R & B (5)

T.I. ft. Rihanna

Live Your Life (2008)

Jay Sean ft. Lil’ Wayne

Down (2009)

Jordin Sparks

Battlefield (2009)

T.I. ft. Justin Timberlake

Dead and Gone (2009)

LeToya ft. Ludacris

Regret (2009)

Total (32):







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