Listen to the Lyrics! Problematic Messaging in Music

By Megan Fariel, Hartford High School Alum                                                                                Guest Youth Writer

There are a lot of great songs on the radio, but unfortunately, the music of my generation is known for autotune, graphic descriptions of behinds, and way too many songs about “sex in da club” and other sex acts. A lot of this type of music is harmless, albeit mindless, but a lot of it isn’t.

Our music is riddled with objectification and stereotypes. Some songs are even downright creepy in their messaging, and one in particular stands out to me: the song Feelings by Maroon 5. Melodically, it’s quite a catchy tune. But as soon as you start listening to the lyrics, it’s hard to listen to the song the same way. A sample of the chorus from…

If you want me take me home and let me use you

I know he doesn’t satisfy you like I do

And does he know that there’s nobody quite like you

So let me tell you all the things he never told you

I got these feelings for you

And I can’t help myself no more

Can’t fight these feelings for you

No, I can’t help myself no more

I, I, I

Wait, what??

These lyrics are problematic.  Phrases like “use you” and “help myself” are harmful because they perpetuate the objectification of women as well as the stereotype that men have no self-control. Both of these ideas harm all individuals, regardless of gender. Also, this song mentions another man as if men just pass women from one to another, which again, is unfair to everyone.

This song is disappointing because I enjoy Maroon 5’s music in general. Now I feel a bit disgusted when it plays on the radio, like the feeling of eating something that’s not good for you and ALSO doesn’t taste good.

So what are we to do?

Well, first we have to acknowledge there’s a problem. Lyrics with poor messaging contribute to our society’s acceptance of violence in two ways.

First, lyrics like the ones above reinforce stereotypes and objectification, both of which make it easier to perpetrate violence. If our music reinforces the ideas that women are passive objects and that men are active subjects with no self-control, it is much easier to shrug your shoulders and accept these as facts. Stereotypes prevent us from being our best, authentic selves. Second, songs that are outright about violence normalize it as part of our culture. If we don’t want violence and stereotypes in real life, then we can’t tolerate them in our media.

Music lyrics are an important aspect of our culture, because everyone hears them and yet very few people listen to them and analyze their meaning. These messages proliferate our subconscious, so it’s important to pay attention and point out any kind of unhealthy message that comes our way. Ask your friends or kids what they think of a song with harmful messaging and talk about why you think there’s an issue. Even if you don’t have the time to set up a petition or boycott the record company, or even if you think a song is catchy and want to groove, pointing out sexist, stereotypical, or degrading lyrics is still important, because you’re adding to other’s perspectives, and that’s what activism is all about.


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Sex Education and Sexist Stereotyping