Boston Teens Report on Songs That Glorify Unhealthy Relationships

December 3, 2009 § 3 Comments

I love this.

Supported by the Boston Public Health Commission, a panel of teenagers released a nutritional label-style list of popular songs with “unhealthy relationship ingredients.”

The “Sound Relationships Nutrition Label” was developed by 14 teens after they attended a seven-week commission-sponsored institute on healthy relationship promotion and teen dating violence prevention. During the seven-week program, teens were also taught to evaluate music based on themes of power, control, equality and gender roles.

The teens then developed their list after analyzing songs from Billboard’s “Hot 100” chart.

…Shaquilla Terry, 15, of Boston, a teen panel member, said it was important for listeners to go beyond the songs’ beats and listen to the lyrics.

The commission says its program aims to teach teens how to evaluate popular media, and help parents talk to teens about healthy relationships. Commission officials also said the label invites consumers to become song lyric nutritionists by helping them identify positive and negative messages about relationships in songs.

“We aren’t telling people what they should or should not be listening to,” Barbara Ferrer, the commission’s executive director, said in a statement. “We are giving them a tool that will help them make an informed choice about what they put in their bodies.”

In addition to the label, the commission also plans to released a lesson plan for teachers.

Jack Perricone, chair of the songwriting department at the Berklee College of Music, said pop songs generally allow listeners to get away from the bad news of the day. But he said pop music, by its very nature, is very repetitive, and sometimes if songs have negative messages, those repetitive messages can get inside teens’ heads.


So which songs made the cut? The top ten unhealthy songs were:

1. Break Up – Mario
2. Blame It – Jamie Foxx
3. Paparazzi – Lady GaGa
4. You’re a Jerk – New Boyz
5. Baby By Me – 50 Cent
6. Best I Ever – Drake
7. One More Pain – Ludacris
8. Be On Your – Flow Rida
9. Hotel Room Service – Pitbull
10. Bad Romance – Lady GaGa

And the top ten healthiest?

1. One Time – Justin Bieber
2. Miss Independent – Ne-Yo
3. Replay – Iyaz
4. Say Hay – Michael Franti
5. Knock You Down – Keri Hilson
6. Only You Can Love Me This Way – Keith Urban
7. Her Diamonds – Rob Thomas
8. I’m Yours – Jason Mraz
9. Fallin For You – Colbie Caillat
10. Meet Me Halfway – Black Eye Peas

Via Feministing Community.


§ 3 Responses to Boston Teens Report on Songs That Glorify Unhealthy Relationships

  • Nell Gwynne says:

    Maybe it helps that I didn’t listen to a whole lot of mainstream pop songs as an impressionable teenager (though I was pretty into the Doors and Rolling Stones, which may not have scored particularly high on this evaluation, either), but I thoroughly enjoy some of the “unhealthy” artists and songs. Lady GaGa’s “Bad Romance” played on repeat helped me get over ending a relationship with a guy that treated me like crap. And no matter how “healthy” Mraz’s “I’m Yours” is, I automatically change the station whenever I hear it on the radio, because something about the song irritates me to no end.

    Yeah, sometimes teens do pay attention to the lyrics on a very deep level, and sometimes listening to songs by an artist like Lady GaGa or Pitpull are enjoyable because they have very catchy, dancable, beats. (I shall also own to dancing around crazily whenever I hear “Calle Ochco”.

    I mean, does the fact that my very progressive, politically involved, hippie parents listened to lots of Rolling Stone’s music, with many references to drugs, drinking, murder, and mindless sex in their your somehow make them less progressive?

    • mirandanyc says:

      For me, the idea behind this study was not that teens (or anyone else) can’t listen to “unhealthy” songs, it’s that they should do so in an informed way. Instead of listening with no regard to the message of the lyrics, they should take the song with a grain of salt. Case in point: Beyonce’s Single Ladies is one of my absolute favorite songs. On a bad day, I Youtube it on repeat. But the feminist in me really doesn’t like the lyrics’ message: every single lady just wants a man to complete her? Putting a ring on it is the ultimate manifestation of love? I think about these issues, and still enjoy the song. It’s about informed consumption.

  • Shetu says:

    Yeah, I don’t think the lists have anything to do with the quality of the songs themselves.

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