Sex, Drugs, Rock 'n' Roll … and More Sex

Sex, alcohol, drugs, and profanity are easy to find: just turn on the radio. During the summer of 2009, the top 20 songs were full of such references. One hit song was even entitled “Birthday Sex.”

Popular singer Lady Gaga's single “Love Game” was all about her sexual desires. The music video was so provocative, perhaps because of lesbians kissing, that it was banned in Australia. Another popular song, “Best I Ever Had” featured “f***”19 separate times.

From June 10 to July 22, 29 songs were listed on the top 20 airplay charts as posted by Mediabase. An astonishing 69 percent of the songs made at least one reference to sex, alcohol, drugs, or contained profanity. Nearly half (46 percent) of the songs contained sexual lyrics and 31 percent of the songs referenced drugs or alcohol. Profanity occurred in 41 percent of the songs.

Despite these troubling numbers, the media has been generally indifferent to the obscenity, and often praised the artist. Some of the artists even performed on the networks' morning shows.

While just about everyone acknowledges that song lyrics are often inappropriate for children and teenagers, studies have shown that inappropriate lyrics can actually influence negative behavior in teenagers.

Sexualized Lyrics


Sex was a reoccurring theme in many of the songs, with some of the references very blatant. (Readers can easily find lyrics to all songs mentioned in this article here.) “Poker Face,” sung by Lady Gaga included the lyrics, “And baby when it's love if it's not rough it isn't fun fun.” In “Blame It” Jamie Foxx sings, “Now she got her hand on my leg. Got my seats all wet in my ride.”

Dr. Brian A. Primack, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, conducted a study in 2009 in which he discovered that teenagers who listened to degrading and sexualized song lyrics were more likely to engage in sexual behavior. Primack stated, “In fact, exposure to lyrics describing degrading sex was one of the strongest associations with sexual activity…These results provide further support for the need for additional research and educational intervention in this area.”

Anybody listening to “Birthday Sex” would discover sex was all the song consisted of. The popular song made the charts for six weeks. Singer Jeremih left little to the imagination.

And make you wanna tell somebody (body how I do)
Or maybe we can float on top my waterbed
You close your eyes as I improve between your legs
We work our way from kitchen stoves and tables,
Girl, you know I'm only able to please
Say you wanted flowers on the bed
But you got me and now it's on again

Girl you know I-I-I, Girl you know I-I-I

I been feenin,

Wake up in the late night

Been dreamin bout your loving, girl

Girl you know I-I-I, Girl you know I-I-I

Don't need candles and cake

Just need your body to make…

Birthday sex…Birthday sex

Birthday sex…Birthday sex

But instead of reviewing the impact of Jeremih's song , Steve Jones of USA Today promoted the song and wrote, “'Birthday Sex' is proving to be a gift that keeps on giving for R & B newcomer Jeremih, whose salacious first single is one of the summer's hottest.” He went on to write that it's “not bad for a self-taught musician.” Jones also quoted Sean Ross of Edison Media Research, who said, “I think it would have been a hit any time.”

On June 29, Ken Capobianco, of the Boston Globe, gushed, “With his smash, steamy single 'Birthday Sex,' Jeremih almost single-handedly made everyone look forward to getting older. The debut from the Chicago native doesn't come close to capturing the magic of that small epiphany.”

The media wasn't alone in rewarding Jeremih for “Birthday Sex.” The Chicago public school system was so proud of the graduate's success that it enlisted him in a Twitter campaign to get Chicago teens back to school this fall.

One song that was not quite as obvious in its' sexual references was Britney Spear's “If You Seek Amy.” It was only on the charts for two weeks, but when pronounced it spells “F*** me.”

Love me hate me, say what you want about me

But all of the boys and all of the girls are begging to if you seek Amy

Love me, hate me, but can't see you what I see?

All of the boys and all of the girls are begging to if you seek Amy.

Pop music critic Ann Powers, of the Los Angeles Times, criticized Spears. She wrote, “The lyrics about Brittney as mannequin, sex object, paparazzi victim and leather-clad mistress have grown tedious. When the wittiest one is based around an adolescent text-message style joke, you know it's time to refocus.”

The Culture and Media Institute previously reported about a radio station in Cincinnati that was considering banning the song from the airways. Q102's Patti Marshall told MTV, “we're publicly owned … We have a responsibility to the public, you put this ... out and act like we're all fuddy-duddies, like we're trying to make moral judgments. It's not about us. It's about the mom in the minivan with her eight-year-old.”

The mom in the minivan might also want to think twice about playing Lady Gaga's hit song, “Love Game,” which was on the charts for six weeks and made it to the number one spot. Lady Gaga sings about riding “a disco stick.”

Let's have some fun, this beat is sick

I wanna take a ride on your disco stick

Don't think too much just bust that stick

I wanna take a ride on your disco stick

The song that was most degrading to women was “Right Round” by Flo Rida and featuring Keisha. On the charts for three weeks, the song is supposedly about a stripper.

Flo Rida was a popular guest on NBC's “Today Show. “ He appeared on July 24 during the “Today Talk” segment and on August 14, he performed for “Today's” summer concert series.

In an interview with DJ Boot, Flo Rida explained, “Hey, when I'm havin' a nice time in the club, you just might watch me make it rain. You might get some of my money. So I'm not really sayin' I don't want 'em to take my money, it's really that I've come to enjoy myself.” But some of the lyrics in the chorus sound more like oral sex.

You spin my head right round, right round

When you go down, when you go down down

You spin my head right round, right round

When you go down, when you go down down

From the top of the pole I watch her go down

She got me throwin' my money around

Ain't nothing more beautiful to be found

It's going down down


Drugs and Alcohol


Getting high and drunk seemed to be a popular topic for the singers in 2009. One song that referenced drugs was Kid Cudi's “Day N' Nite.” He sang about getting high as, “the lonely stoner seems to free his mind at night.” Jon Caramanica, of the New York Times described “Day N' Nite” as being, “somehow both viscous and zippy.”

A total of 31 percent of the songs on the airplay charts referenced drugs or alcohol. But little has changed in two years; a study done in 2007 showed that one third of popular songs also referenced alcohol or drugs. A Reuters article featuring the study stated, “Most lyrical references to substance use were associated with partying, sex, violence and, or humor.”

In “Blame It,” by Jamie Foxx and featuring T-Pain, the singer assigns poor decisions to alcohol, completely abdicating personal responsibility.

Kelley L. Carter, of USA Today, did acknowledge that, “'Blame It' encourages listeners to chalk up bad decisions to an overindulgence of alcohol.” But Carter went on to praise Foxx. “He can deliver award-worthy scenes with Hollywood's best, but he also can also shake his rump next to today's hottest rappers and still come out garnering respect from both camps.”

Blame it on the vodka, blame it on the henny

Blame it on the blue tap, got you feeling dizzy

Blame it on the a-a-alcohol

Blame it on the a-a-alcohol



Many of the singers, it seemed, just couldn't resist peppering their songs with profanity. In the wildly popular song that made it to the top spot, “Boom Boom Pow,” the Black Eyed Peas included profanity. They sang, “S***in' on y'all with the boom boom.”

Profanity occurred in a total of 41 percent of the songs. The Sacramento Bee reported in 2008 that, “the Internet, television and other media may be making adolescents more comfortable with swearing, but it is their parents' own language habits that are the biggest influence.” Parents are always the biggest influence, but obscenity in mainstream pop music clearly helps to normalize crude language.

The song that contained the most vulgar profanity was Drake's “Best I Ever Had.” Not only did “f***” appear 19 times, but the song also include five other uses of profanity, including “the N word” three times, along with “s***” and  “b****.” A Youtube video of “Best I Ever Had” featured the lyrics uncensored with Drake's face as the backdrop. It was added in February and had over 16 million views at the end of July. CMI has previously reported that Youtube “remains a haven for soft-core pornography, obscenity and links to outside porn sites.”

Even with all the profanity, Chris Lee, of the Los Angeles Times, praised Drake's single as being, “not only a hit, but arguably 2009's 'Song of the Summer.'” He went on to write, “the song is an earnest expression of admiration from a young man to the object of his desire. And despite the coarseness of its explicit lyrics, 'Best I Ever Had' is surprisingly tender – at least, as emotive as hardcore hip-hop gets without being declared 'song.'”

“Best I Ever Had” only appeared that last week on the chart. The chorus includes:

I say you the f----- best

You the f----- best

You the f----- best

You the f----- best

You the best I eva had

Best I eva had

Best I eva had

Best I eva had

I said you the f----- in

Music Videos


Hearing the lyrics is one matter, but music videos often go over the top in dramatizing them. All of the songs had music videos and 31 percent of the songs had music videos that were potentially offensive. Two of the music videos even had lesbians kissing: Black Eyed Peas “Boom Boom Pow” and Lady Gaga's “Love Game.”

Lady Gaga had two music videos that were simply all about sex: “Poker Face” and “Love Game.” “Love Game” was so offensive that, according to the Daily Telegraph, “Racy pop star Lady Gaga is too sexy for Australian TV censors, with her clip for 'Love Game' banned for 'frequent verbal and visual sexual references.'”

Australia was the first country to release “Love Game” and Video Hits producer Ben Fletcher stated, “It's pretty rare that we get a pop clip that's sexual to the point there's almost no way we can edit it without destroying the original content of the video.”

The content of “Love Game” included suggestive dancing, with male dancers grabbing themselves at times. There was a scene with two lesbians kissing. In another scene one naked man and another man wearing only a top are sitting on a bench with a naked women. In one shot the women is leaning back into one man, spreading her legs in the air.

Lady Gaga's “Poker Face” also contained crude content, although in this music video she stuck to just kissing men. But it too had her and others dancing suggestively while barely dressed.

The most outlandish clip was from a 3 oh! 3's “Don't Trust Me” music video, which featured simulated bestiality.

The Charts Are No Place for Kids


With Ipods, satellite radio, and music hotspots like Pandora, music is easy to obtain and has become an intricate part of daily life. In 2008, Science Daily cited a study that found 15-18 year olds listen to around 2.4 hours of music each day. No doubt many of these top songs are what teenagers are hearing on a daily basis, exposing themselves over and over to crude, obscene and nihilistic lyrics.

Some songs on the charts did feature positive messages. Nickelback's “If Today Was Your Last Day” and Miley Cyrus' “The Climb” both sent positive messages to teenagers. But more than two-thirds of songs had lyrics' that promoted sexual activities, alcohol, and included profanity.

To the media, the crudeness of the lyrics are no big deal. But parents should care about the how the lyrics and their messages that kids are absorbing can impact behavior.