Does Music Influence Society?

Having now lived an entire year in the USA, I find myself pondering over a very interesting a debate-worthy question: Does music influence the behavior of the people who listen to it. And no, I am no talking about enteting a club and dancing as a result of listening to a song of your particular liking.

I am talking about does a certain genre of music, namley rock or rap define or reinforce certain actions? At first I am inclined to say yes, undoubtably Rap is changing america. The most famous rap songs nowadays talk about cocaine, and bitches and not caring about school or any other intellectualy stimulating activities. People listen to this music, and see what these famous artists do and then they emulate them. Teen’s are prone to role-model influnces in the music they like. Adults are as well.

Then again, I’ve seen plenty of nice people listen to the most horrible of songs, and they live normal lives. They claim they just like the songs beats and some often ignore the lyrics.

Are some people more prone to musical influences? Does music define culture or does culture define music?

What do you think?

I would say so. The Beatles influence on society was obvious but there are others. I grew up in the Heavy Metal era and the Metalheads dressed and acted in a way that was obviously influenced by the theme. It is the same thing with rap. If those forms of music didn’t exist, I have no doubt that they would have latched onto something else but it was there so they did.

Ironically, I would say that certain kinds of rap - the money/cars/women kind as opposed to the gangster kind - has actually influenced a lot of WASP and Jewish suburban business majors to try to hustle harder and get into entrepreneurship, sports betting, and all kinds of stuff like that at an early age. I think they’d probably be doing it anyway, but there’s a spirit of success which is embraced in corporate rap that fits perfectly with these kids’ ambitions.

It’s not my scene at all - but it is there.

I saw a great play last summer in London: Rock n’ Roll, by Tom Stoppard. I just saw it once, didn’t read any reviews, and only talked it over a bit with my SO, but my take on it was, in Stoppard’s opinion, that rock n’ roll played a big part in the fall of the Iron Curtain.

I’d be interested in hearing from anyone else who may have seen or read the play.

It’s hard to say which way the influence runs. You can find a few people who say nothing was the same after a particular piece of music, but the change may be a result of the overall change. The poet Ed Sanders said, “When the mode of the music changes, the walls of the cities shake.” I believe that’s true, but I don’t know if it’s a symptom, or the cause.

Music sure did influence society back in the '60s, both directly and indirectly, especially the songs that were influenced by the earlier folk tradition.

Music is a very fundamental part of people’s lives; it sticks to us. It’s hard to believe there’s music that doesn’t affect us as individuals, and therefore as a society.

Speaking from personal experience… YES

I listen to tool a lot which has motivated me to think for myself.

My sister listens to SHIT like Avril Whoever who just talks about stupid shit like boyfriends and money, now she acts very spoiled and pretends like she is some girl from that sweet 16 show on MTV.

IMHO (Tool lyrics are the best lyrics ever written)

Moving thread from IMHO to Cafe Society.

Nitpick: that’s actually a Plato quote.

Does she eat stupid food for breakfast? (Although Avril’s music and lyrics are crap. Okay voice tho.)

Music has always influenced society, from when it was primitive tribal drums, all the way through lyrical orchestrations, to drug-induced paisley, and screaming punk insanity. I can’t see how society can avoid its influence.

Though it depends on what influence. It can give some people new ideas, but enough to change the way a whole sector of society thinks? It can manipulate your emotional state, and therefore change you as an individual, and if enough individuals are changed in the same way, then maybe.

Ask yourself this: what would you think of a friend who started listening to white supremacist bands? – Aryan Nation, KKK kind of stuff. He could claim that he doesn’t pay attention to the lyrics, that he just likes the beat, and that he really isn’t racist. I bet you’d still be appalled. And how much more apalled would you be if he starts dressing like the musicians, and using their slang – ironically, of course, or just to be cool, because he still doesn’t agree with their message. And so what if he lets his kid listen, right? Kids can tell the difference between real and make believe.

And maybe your friend is right: maybe he genuinely never has a racist thought, and maybe repeatedly being exposed to white supremacism doesn’t have any effect at all on him or his kid. But do you really believe that? And even if you do, do you still look at your friend the same way?

Okay, so that’s an extreme example. But it seems true to me that to some degree, the music we listen to reflects our values, and in turns helps to shape them. If you start listening heavily to evangelical Christian rock and hanging out with other people who listen to it, you’re probably going to end up more pro-evangelical Christian than you were before, and you might end up an evangelical Christian yourself. If you listen to a lot of music that celebrates violence, misogyny, and materialism, and hang out with people of similar tastes, it’s going to have some effect on you.

I think the scenario you’re illustrating is a slippery slope.
As a fan of awful rap (it’s a guilty pleasure, what can I say), I don’t think the music is really influencing my values or behavior and I think this goes for the majority of crappy rap fans. When I do listen to the lyrics, I realize that most of it’s fiction and enjoy it for its comic book violence, larger than life themes and the ever-so-rare clever rhyme. Those that are more impressionable are usually just kids, playing pretend.
I think that crappy rap is no more violent or misogynistic than what’s found in other forms of popular media. If mainstream rap makes you think you could be a gangsta, then you probably considered a life of crime after watching “Goodfellas”. It’s a matter of how well you can separate reality from fiction and if you can’t do that very well as an adult then… Seek help.


I love Y/N questions.

Okay, seriously, it’s pretty clear that music changes behavior. That applies all the way from national anthems (SSB, Internationale, Marseillese), through to protest music (early rap, Dylan, South African music, you name it). Their explicit purpose is to stir up feelings of pride, anger, restlessness, you name it. I think after millenia of such music forms, it’s pretty obvious.

My son works in a club in Chicago that had “hip hop night” and played quite a bit of rap music in general. It’s a late-night club and they had lots of fights when those fans were there. There was a shooting outside the club a couple months ago. Then a few weeks ago, a guy got stabbed with a busted glass.

My son was forever jumping over the bar to break up fights (and getting banged up pretty good himself in the process). It was a mother’s nightmare. Finally, after the stabbing, his boss fired the hip hop DJ on the spot and changed the format of the club.

The fights have stopped, but so has the money. They’re trying to find a niche that doesn’t draw such a violent clientele. It’ll be a while before they establish themselves as something else. I realize the booze has a lot to do with it, but the music was definitely drawing a violent element. That crowd came in and heard hair band music and immediately left. I can’t help but wonder how much of a part the music plays in the equation.

Yow! Thank you, Biffy the Elephant Shrew. I’ve been quoting that for years, and I never knew top Fug Ed Sanders stole from a guy who couldn’t sue.

Next, I suppose, I’ll learn that,* “Do not tell me I am source of your knockup. The mud elephant, wading through the sea, leaves no tracks.” was stolen, too.

*The Fugs presented this as supposedly a haiku. I don’t have it spaced as one, because I don’t know the format. I have poetry anxiety.