Power of #Celebrity Part 1. #Musicians Influence on #Youth Culture


Quite often the best ideas for a blog just seem to pop up out of nowhere when you least expect it, and that was certainly the case in this instance. I had commented to my 14 year old granddaughter that I was struggling to come up with an idea for my next blog and she asked me what I had already written about. I proceeded to tell her and explained what my blog ‘Trump Trumps Weinstein’ was about. To my amazement she came out with, “well why don’t you write about the influence music has on young people because musicians are leaders with a lot of power to influence other people”! Then she followed up with the statement that much of the music these days is about sex, drugs and violence and degrades women. She was even able to give me numerous examples of musicians and songs to support her statement. According to her all the other kids she knows only listen to that music because everyone else is listening to it.

Dave Miranda, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Ottawa specializes in music psychology and adolescent psychology and has written numerous papers on the effects of music on adolescents. His paper ‘The role of music in adolescent development: much more than the same old song’ supports my granddaughter’s previous statement in saying that “Adolescents understand how to listen to music to please their friends (North et al.,2000), which may foster their reciprocal liking. Music tastes thus involve impression management among peers (Finna¨s, 1989)”.

My granddaughter said that her peers don’t seem to care that the lyrics of certain songs are violent and degrading or that they have the power to create a negative influence. She told me of one female singer an artist known as Cupcakke who released overt sexual songs titled “Deepthroat” and “Vagina”, that she believed were very degrading to women. I decided to listen to these songs myself in the interest of good research and I have to say, I was disappointed and disgusted for young girls everywhere. Don’t take my word for it, have a listen yourself and draw your own conclusions. I have to say, this granddaughter of mine never ceases to amaze me with her resilience, strength and wisdom because she has been through more in her young 14 years than most adults. The more I talked to her about the subject the more I realized that if she feels so strongly about the effects the music is having on her generation, then I owe it to her and her generation to speak up about it.

Musicians, whether they are aware of it or not have the ability to influence their listeners and fans in a very powerful way especially where youths and youth culture are concerned. They can do this in either a positive or negative way. I believe they have a huge responsibility to be good role models and have a positive effect on their young fans. There is an increasing body of research suggesting the effects music can have on young minds. Dave Miranda, says in ‘The role of music in adolescent development: much more than the same old song’ that adolescents’ “exposure to music occurs during a life period of plasticity in which they experience (and need to resolve) numerous developmental tasks, transitions, and issues”. and that during this period of their development “the transaction between music and adolescence – opens a critical window in which music can influence at least seven major areas of development: aesthetics; identity; socialization; emotion regulation and coping; personality and motivation; gender roles; and positive youth development.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics in their journal Pediatrics, Volume 124, Number 5, November 2009, p. 1489 state that “Lyrics of some music genres, such as rock, heavy metal, rap, and new emerging genres such as reggae ton, have been found to revolve around topics such as sexual promiscuity, death, homicide, suicide, and substance abuse….. Most recently, some rap music has been characterized by the presence of explicit sexual language in its lyrics as well as messages of violence, racism, homophobia, and hatred toward women.” Volume 98, Number 6, December, 1996, p.1219-1221 has stated that “Numerous studies indicate that a preference for heavy metal music may be a significant marker for alienation, substance abuse, psychiatric disorders, suicide risk, sex-role stereotyping, or risk-taking behaviours during adolescence”.

There are many examples of musicians sending negative messages to our youth. Other than the artist Cupcakke who I have mentioned earlier there are a number of female singers providing lyrics that are degrading to women and send a message that women are objects of sexual gratification. Examples include the lyrics in Lady Gaga’s song Poker Face, “When it’s love, if it’s not rough, it isn’t fun.” Her Bad Romance video contains metaphors of forced sexual encounters where two women are seen holding her down and pouring white fluid into her mouth. Another artist, 14 year old Danielle Bregoli promoted her These Heaux (Ho’s) video on Instagram by saying “Watch the These Heaux video or I’ll beat ya duck ass,”. So sad to see a 14 year old girl acting much older and using explicitly sexual and violent references in her lyrics and video.

Controversial lyrics and musicians with the power to influence adolescents are not new to the present generation. Even Elvis Presley was controversial in the 1950’s. But honestly, Elvis’s gyrating hips make him seem like a saint compared to some of our present musicians and lyrics. Since the 1960’s with the success of bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones the boundaries have been pushed more and more as to what is acceptable. Nine Inch Nails released Big Man with a Gun in 1994 with the lyrics “I am a big man yes I am and I have a big gun, got me a big ole dick and I like to have fun, held against your forehead, I’ll make you suck it, maybe I’ll put a hole in your head”. Another example is Big Pun’s 2001 lyrics from Brave in the Heart. Present examples of male singers producing songs with the power to influence their fans negatively are Yo Gotti’s Rake it Up video which portrays women as second class and objects for men’s sexual gratification. Another example is Tyga’s Rack City video with its themes of gang warfare, violence and sexism towards women.

Adolescents are easily influenced because they are still in the process of developing their own identity and are not really sure who they are yet. I remember having conversations with my own children 20-30 years ago about the negative effects certain music could have on them. At the time my eldest son laughed it off and said it’s just music mum we’re not going to do things like that, we know right from wrong. My son’s response highlights the biggest issue around negative lyrics, images and role models in the music industry. What about those young people who are at risk because they haven’t had a stabile, loving upbringing or suitable role models to teach them the difference. These at risk youth are naturally going to look up to their musical heroes and role models and take on their life style choices, look, actions and belief systems.

Many artists, whether they be visual artists, performance artists, musicians or actors have used the power to shock to develop a following and to influence. Many adolescents take up their role models persona as a means to rebel against things they are not happy with. When their role models advocate behaviors such as violence, sexism, hatred, drug use and racism, society as a whole is in deep trouble. The music of our times has always reflected the culture of that era. What I find deeply disturbing, is that the reflection I am seeing now in the music world of our adolescents seems to contain more shocking and negative lyrics and images than ever before in history.

I understand there are many musicians out there who are trying to have a positive influence on our adolescents with their music and take this responsibility seriously. What we need is for every musician to seriously think about what messages they are selling to young people and the potential influence their lyrics, videos and image can have on those young peoples lives and society as a whole.

Dave Miranda (2013) The role of music in adolescent development: much
more than the same old song, International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 18:1, 5-22, DOI: 10.1080/02673843.2011.650182

31 thoughts on “Power of #Celebrity Part 1. #Musicians Influence on #Youth Culture

  1. QuriksandPearls October 25, 2017 / 11:13 am

    I don’t even know where to begin. It’s really sad. Sometimes when I think of it, I just feel bad for my generation. So many things are just going wrong. I can only pray for my generation and impact in the little way I can. People that are not following these wrong norms are seen as outcast. It’s really sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • debrarussellblogsfromdownunder October 25, 2017 / 11:22 am

      Yes it is a lot of pressure for young people to not follow their heroes in the music industry. I just think we need good people to keep trying to show the good in the world

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Michael October 25, 2017 / 9:17 pm

    Great article Debra, you introduced me to musicians I’d not heard of and will probably take your word for what they are advocating. Our grandchildren are very vulnerable to influences around them and I understand the role music plays in all this…..when I was teaching I had several students who would come up to me and say have I heard this artist or that and usually I would say no but I’d go and find them and have a listen. That would then lead to a discussion between us as the the content and value of the particular artist. They introduced me to some artists I liked and some I didn’t but it was eye opening in terms of what is out there for our youth to listen to and be influenced by. I enjoyed your article very much and what a smart granddaughter you have.

    Liked by 1 person

    • debrarussellblogsfromdownunder October 26, 2017 / 2:01 am

      Thanks Michael, she certainly has a good perspective especially after what she’s been through. I had never heard of some of the artists either till my granddaughter told me about them. I think there would be many adults out there who could say the same. I am going to try to keep a little bit more in the loop now she is living with me so I can have informed conversations with her about this.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Michael October 26, 2017 / 2:04 am

        I’m sure you’ll learn a lot from her….and she’ll keep you young….

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life. October 28, 2017 / 8:38 am

    Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    A thought provoking post on the power of Celebrity on the young from Debra Russell in Australia. The subject of the post was actually suggested by Debra’s 14 year old granddaughter which says a great deal for her maturity and wisdom. Debra has only been blogging for a month but she has already written som terrific posts.. Please head over and follow. #recommended

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC October 28, 2017 / 9:32 am

    GOOD LORD! I’ll take your word for it – I have NO desire to have these nasty thoughts in my consciousness (and I promise you I am no prude).

    Good for your granddaughter to realize that this music is EXTREMELY demeaning to woman, and violence promoting. I hope she will be able to become a positive influence on her friends and that her generation will BE the change we all want to see in the world.

    The only way this nastiness will go away is for people to stop being willing to support it.
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to transform a world!

    Liked by 1 person

    • debrarussellblogsfromdownunder October 29, 2017 / 10:45 pm

      Yes I hope this generation will be able to effect positive change. You are absolutely right, we all need to stop supporting it that is the only way change will occur

      Liked by 1 person

      • Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC October 30, 2017 / 6:35 am

        Shutting down economic reward will probably get the message out.

        I am but one – but my voice is strong and my pocketbook closed to anything I can’t admire. 🙂 I challenge today’s kids to join me.

        Liked by 1 person

      • debrarussellblogsfromdownunder October 30, 2017 / 6:49 am

        Thank you Madelyn for your support and kind words. I have been showing my granddaughter all the comments and it is good for her self esteem and confidence that she is a special young lady with a great deal to offer

        Liked by 1 person

    • debrarussellblogsfromdownunder October 28, 2017 / 8:32 pm

      Yes the 2 singers I mention in the article Yo Gotti and Tyga are both rap artists and so fall in the Hip Hop genre. But to be fair there are also Hip Hop artists out there trying to set a positive example. Heavy metal music is also quite notorious for influencing our adolescents negatively


  5. -Eugenia November 3, 2017 / 11:52 pm

    Your granddaughter is a smart young lady. I am not going to knock any specific genre of music, but music that sends negative messages can’t be in anyone’s best interest. “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”
    ― Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter

    Liked by 1 person

  6. the-wolfe-review November 16, 2017 / 11:27 am

    Fantastic article, you speak in an enlightened manner in a very important topic. Your writing is compelling too. I worry that one reason celebrity is so important to the young is that they find their transcendent identity in them in they way they should be finding it in their social circles. For the longest time, identity and meaning were found in social circles, but now people, and most importantly the young, can locate whatever source they wish to assume an identity. I’d like to think that education could be an answer, but I’m not so sure. What are your thought on a solution? Thank you.


    • debrarussellblogsfromdownunder November 16, 2017 / 12:06 pm

      I believe it is important for young people to develop their own identity. I don’t think diversity in developing that identity is the issue as long as the role models they are choosing are passing on traits such as respect. You are right there has been a shift from smaller social circles influencing our young and helping shape their identity. Globalisation, advances in technology and social media have all contributed to this shift. Also there has been a big shift from a sense of community in smaller communities. I believe we all need to work towards renewing and fostering that sense of community in our local communities and involving our young people from an early age.


  7. -Eugenia November 21, 2017 / 11:46 pm

    Excellent post, Debra. Our youth is vulnerable, as we were in our youth, seeking role models and those we should idolize. Music means a lot to all ages, and I hope more musicians realize the impact their lyrics have on their listeners. Truly talented musicians don’t need to project negativity and disrespect to become well-liked.


  8. Cathy Kennedy January 4, 2018 / 12:57 pm

    I feel for the younger generation subjected to such lyrics but the only way to put a halt to it is to turn on that gray mass between the ears, start thinking for oneself, and if you don’t like it then don’t support it (listening to or buying). The one thing mewsicians, entertainers, athletics, politicians, … understand is the almighty dollar. If you’re not buying records, concert/sporting events/movie tickets, or voting against those opposing your political views then it hits their wallet which gets their attention quicker than anything. Each of us need to be the change for the world to change in a positive light.


  9. Bernadette January 4, 2018 / 1:36 pm

    This is a fantastic post. I am a firm believer in the theory that you need to protect yourself from such vileness in music, movies and books. Because I also believe what you read, listen to or watch makes a home in your brain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • debrarussellblogsfromdownunder January 4, 2018 / 9:08 pm

      Thanks Bernadette for your comment. I agree we are what we live and I think young people become so desensitized to these influences they seem a normal part of life


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