Popular music used to favor love songs. In popular music today, the theme of romantic love has been largely replaced by songs that are just about sex.
My fellow Patheos blogger G. Shane Morris has written about this in The Federalist, citing several studies that confirm the change.
His discussion, quoted and linked after the jump, includes readings of both old love songs and the new sex songs. (Caution: Some lyrics are not appropriate for underaged audiences, though they are the ones buying most of the songs.)
Morris associates the switch from love to sex to “the disappearance of courtship,” as dating and romance are increasingly replaced by crass sexual hookups.
He does, however, point to a few exceptions, some traditionally romantic love songs that rise through the muck.
From G. Shane Morris, Today’s Sex Songs Are Making Love Songs Go Extinct, The Federalist:
Turn on your local hits station (you know, the one where Justin Bieber plays on the hour) and you’ll notice what I’ve noticed: Almost every song that has anything to do with men and women is about sex. I’m not just talking about the throbbing beats or breathy vocals. I’m talking about the lyrics.
Gone are the syrupy vows of eternal devotion I heard on the radio as a kid. No one belts out “I will always love you!” anymore. Instead, they’re “In the bed all day, bed all day, bed all day,” and no, Zayn Malik is not sleeping. Something has happened to pop music, and though an occasional song still comes along that’s genuinely romantic, the vast majority of them are celebrations of raw sexuality, with references to body parts, specific acts, and (if you’re listening on an uncensored medium) loads of explicit terms.You’re not going crazy. The transition from sap to smut is real, and research proves it. . . .
Back in 2011, Albany psychology professor Gordon Gallup and student Dawn R. Hobbs published a study in Evolutionary Psychology showing that 92 percent of the 174 songs that made it into the Billboard Top 10 sometime during 2009 contained what they hilariously dubbed “reproductive messages,” including references to “sex appeal,” “arousal,” and “genitalia.”
Billboard reports that lyrical occurrences of the actual word “sex,” have surged relative to “love,” which peaked in 1988 and has plummeted since. “Sex” peaked in 2009 with Ciara’s “Love Sex Magic,” and Jeremih’s “Birthday Sex,” both of which hit the top 10. And while it’s still going strong, artists today seem to prefer other, often more explicit terms.
A new study this year by Drs. Jennifer Shewmaker and Andrew P. Smiler with Brittany Hearon is the most extensive so far. Published in Sexuality and Culture, their research examined “sexual stereotypes in popular music lyrics across five decades.” Their title says it all: “From ‘I Want to hold Your Hand’ to ‘Promiscuous.’”
Photo of Jay-Z and his wife Beyoncé singing “Crazy in Love,” by idrewuk – originally posted to Flickr as Hello hubbie!, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10579989