Parents once worried that Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones and the Sex Pistols were forces for sex, violence and anarchy. Now the claim that “modern music” is bad for the health of the listener, the concert-goer and society in general is being given an academic twist by researchers from Iowa State University and the Texas department of human services.They say it is not only the sound and fury of performance, on stage or in videos, that matter. The words are just as important.

Researchers argue that their experiments, involving 500 students in different tests, demonstrate that songs with violent lyrics increase aggressive thoughts rather than act as a safety valve.

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“In sum, listening to angry, violent music does not appear to provide the cathartic release that the general public and some professional and pop psychologists believe,” they say in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the journal of the American Psychological Association.

Repeated exposure to violent lyrics may contribute to the development of an aggressive personality “as is true for longterm TV violence”, they conclude.

They played 15 songs with what one group of the stu dents regarded as violent or non-violent lyrics, including humorous songs, sometimes by the same band, before running a series of tests.

Bands included hard rock outfit Tool, punks Suicidal Tendencies, the punk to hip-hop Beastie Boys and rappers Run DMC. The tests included asking participants to classify words such as “rock” and “stick” that could have both aggressive and non-aggressive meanings.

The experiments showed violent songs led to more violent interpretation of ambiguously aggressive words; increased the relative speed at which people read aggressive as against non-aggressive words and increased the proportion of word fragments, such as h-t, that were filled in to make aggressive words such as hit.

The increased feelings of hostility were not down to differences in musical style, performing artist or “arousal properties” of the song. Even the humorous violent songs increased aggressive thoughts.

There could be implications for “real world” violence, provoking friends, family, peers and teachers, to respond “negatively” to an individual’s aggressive attitudes.

The researchers admit that the effects of violent songs may last only as long as it takes to listen to the next non-violent ones. Some violent songs have lyrics that are undecipherable.

‘Violent’ lyrics

Tool – Jerk-Off (1993)

If consequences dictate my course of action I should play God and shoot you myself/I’m very tired of waiting/I should kick you, beat you, fuck you, and then shoot you in your fucking head

Suicidal Tendencies – I wouldn’t mind (1994)

I wouldn’t mind seeing you shaken with fear/ I wouldn’t mind seeing you screamin’ in pain/ I wouldn’t mind seeing you dead/ I wouldn’t mind I wouldn’t mind/ I wouldn’t mind blood squirting from your veins/I wouldn’t mind hearing you beg for your life/ I wouldn’t mind hearing you beg for your life/I wouldn’t mind I wouldn’t mind seeing you dead

‘Non-violent’ lyrics

Suicidal Tendencies – Love vs Loneliness (1994)

And when you’re down and you think you need something/ The temptation’s so hard to resist/ But what you grab sure ain’t what you needed/ That’s not love it’s loneliness/ And when you are lonely and think you need someone/ The plot a painful twist/ There ain’t no one that can make you feel like someone/ Only you can cure loneliness

Beastie Boys – Live at PJ’s (1992)

I’m gonna bust my shoes I’m gonna bust my socks/ I’m gonna spread my word from standing on this box/ This drive-through world it just ain’t right/ Gonna run to Joe and Tony’s and get my hair cut nice

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