Music Is Life Is Complicated
“Music is life” is a popular quote to stick on your profile page or post as a clever tweet or status update. It’s always relevant and it always has deep meaning to someone at any given moment. People often credit certain musicians as being their savior during tough times, for understanding them when no one else had the ability to. Music can be our escape from reality; pop in your ear buds and crank up the iPod and sit back as the world around you ceases to exist for a few blissful moments while you’re lost in the melody. It has the ability to simultaneously change the mood and actions of an entire crowd. It speaks for us when we’re unable to find the words.
According to a study, one out of three popular songs contains references to drug or alcohol abuse. Dr Carolyn West states that rap and hip hop exploit young black women and promote unhealthy lifestyles, causing adolescent girls to devalue themselves and underestimate what they can be and accomplish in this world. Other common themes in some music include graphic violence, promiscuity, and speaking of suicide as a solution to life’s problems. Some parents blame music for a drop in their child’s grades. One study states that girls who watch rap music videos are three times more likely to assault a teacher and be arrested than the females their age who avoid watching those videos and listening to that type of music.
Who can forget the aftermath of Columbine when Marilyn Manson was crucified by the public for being the cause of the massacre. Manson stated that he “definitely can see why they would pick me. Because I think it’s easy to throw my face on the TV, because in the end, I’m a poster boy for fear.” Without a doubt, he is a freaky guy and was a very visible public figure at the time. His music video for Sweet Dreams freaked me out a bit, I will admit, and his songs definitely aren’t for the faint of heart. He was primarily blamed for the tragedy, along with violent video games and a couple other music groups, because the two boys enjoyed his music and seemed to be under the influence of the lyrics somehow.
“Music is life” doesn’t translate into meaning “music creates life.” I didn’t start hating the homosexual community or thinking I should tie up my husband and put him in my trunk after listening to Eminem, nor did I become a gothic loner or a punk after listening to Garbage and Green Day in high school. Music is to life what the colors of a sunset are to the weather; it’s an addition with minor changes that accent the whole without permanently altering it. A beautiful sunset can make a bitterly cold day seem more pleasant, just as listening to your favorite song can make a bad day at work seem a little more upbeat. Nothing has actually changed, you just chose to adjust your attitude and focus on something that made you happy.
You can argue that negative music influences negative behavior and you can show stats and research to back it up. The thing is, just about everyone on this planet listens to music and the majority of those people listen to something that isn’t exactly PG. Obviously, violent people will have a history of listening to violent music because there is so much of it out there. That shouldn’t translate into meaning that music was the reason for their behavior. People’s behavior is caused by people, not the tunes on the radio. Behavior is adjusted to fit in based on the group dynamic and not on song lyrics; a group can become violent at a concert because of the atmosphere created by those in attendance. If a person is feeble-minded enough to punch someone because the song told them to, should the musician be blamed for the irrational behavior of a disturbed person who interpreted their art incorrectly?
I attended a concert in 2006 where a man, Andy Richardson, received a fatal injury as Deftones was on stage at the Family Values Tour, a multi-band event; he angered other men in the mosh pit by allegedly harassing one of their girlfriends and one of the males decided to punch Richardson, causing his head to hit the concrete. Tragic, but what rubbed me the wrong way was Richardson’s mother blamed the security at the concert for her son’s death and expressed interest in pursuing legal action against Korn, the headliner of the event. At no time did I see an interview or read a statement of Richardson’s family blaming the guy who delivered the punch that led to the fatal injury. Instead, they blamed everyone else. Stories popped up everywhere afterward claiming that the Family Values Tour was started by Korn as a way to promote violence and bad behavior and that their lyrics were extremely harmful.
I started writing this blog today after listening to Korn’s My Gift To You on my iPod. It stemmed from a dream Jonathan Davis had about killing his wife; he shared the dream with her and she urged him to put it to song. For some reason, I began thinking of what someone would think if they had never been exposed to this type of music, what they would think of me for listening to lyrics describing a man watching the life drain out of a woman. I first heard the song back in 1998 when I was 16 or 17 and my impressionable teenage mind didn’t take it out of context then nor does it affect me negatively now. That song is one that has always served as a way to cheer me up when I’m sad or even slightly annoyed, the same way hearing Ice Ice Baby makes me happy or listening to Sexy And I Know It by LMFAO makes me laugh and sing along.
Music for me has been a means of escape and a way of expressing emotions in a private manner. When I was hospitalized in my freshman year in college over a scary experience, I got through it by listening to Rammstein and Rob Zombie nonstop; it distracted me from the medical procedure and put my mind at ease for the duration of my stay. It’s impossible for me to be irritated at work when I have Sir Mix-a-Lot in my headphones. The music I enjoy matches my personality, not because it had a hand in shaping it but because it appeals to it. Music is not my life, it’s just a part of it. I can’t blame it for any of my choices or actions and other than choosing to drop cash on concerts and CDs, it hasn’t influenced any of my decisions. Music is one of life’s great accessories. It might sound deep to assign it great meaning and say that it’s life and the universal language, but it just isn’t true. Music speaks to us all differently and has various levels of importance from person to person. It’s not the foundation to our lives, but simply a provider of a few bricks. It doesn’t control who we are and what we do; those things lie solely on the individual. We have to stop laying our blame on outside sources and start looking at the individuals who are responsible for the negative activities happening around the world.