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Music Influences

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Music is a prominent force in adolescent lives; according to the American Medical Association, American adolescents spend a total of four and a half hours a day listening to music and watching music videos. Parents are increasingly weary of suggestive, violent, lyrical content in popular music. A University of California study recently showed that 48% of Americans, including the younger generation, say that violence in popular music should be regulated. In Paducah, the affect of violent lyrical content in popular music has been an ongoing debate since the Heath High School shooting. Prior to the Heath shooting, in the case of the school shooting in Jonesboro, Arkansas, one of the teen murderers admitted to law enforcement officers that the rap music he listened to might have contributed to his state of mind before the murders, if not his overall decision to gun down his classmates. Mitchell Johnson, the student, said, "It puts you in a certain state of mind." This is not only relevant to the music/violence debate but it is a crucial element in understanding what is going on with the modern youth. Clearly, it can not be stated that the sole contributing factor in the student's decision to commit murder was rap music; but it was a contributing factor. I believe that there is a painful and direct correlation between violence in popular music and violence in youth; I do not believe that government regulation, or censorship, is going to fix this problem. For those who debate the adverse effect of violent music on a person's mind-state, I offer this example. I enjoy jazz. In my opinion, jazz is soothing and relaxing. When I am in the mood to calm down after a long day of work, I listen to jazz. The soft tones and relaxing beats have a positive, feel-good effect on my state of mind. In the early days of jazz, African-Americans would listen to, and play, the music as a release from the racial climate in which they lived. The music, if only for a while, removed their problems. This being the case, how can we deny that music, even without lyrics, has an overwhelming impact on our mind-state. Popular music affects everyone. Some people find that they can't get a song out of their head after hearing it on the way to work. Other individuals discover that they get sentimental if they hear a song which they danced to at their prom. At funerals, people are brought to tears at the first note of Amazing Grace. While there are almost always other reasons behind the emotion, it is the music that triggers that particular mind state. Recent musical releases, believed to have been marketed towards impressionable young people, have been the subject of a strong backlash against violence in music. Eminem is a rap artist who has been catapulted to fame in spite of his violent, misogynistic, homo-phobic, and sexually explicit messages. Also known as Slim Shady, Eminem claims that his alter-ego, Shady, is to blame for his violent lyrics. What most people don't know is that Eminem released a positive rap album, as a debut effort, before he became famous from songs like '97 Bonnie and Clyde, a shocking song in which Eminem raps about killing his wife, and asking his three year old daughter to help him dispose of the body. Eminem's positive debut album, which didn't contain the profanity and violence that made him famous, was called Infinity. It failed, miserably. If indeed there is a direct correlation between violence in music and violence in youth, it is important to look at where the connection lies. Is it the violence in the music that causes the violence in our youth, or vice versa? In this debate, Dan Quayle asked, "What kind of artists would put a message of murdering cops in a song for young, impressionable people to hear?" It is equally important to ask, what kind of society would put a song with a message of murdering cops on the charts? If there is a widespread demand for any product, eventually, someone will produce that product. That product feeds back into the violence obsessed society that demanded it, and the result is a never-ending cycle of immoral beliefs that cheapen the value of human life. The product is going to be



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