Does Heavy Metal Corrupt Youth?
Musical preferences are as diverse as the people who listen to
it. Different types of music have different reputations. Heavy metal
music is often labeled as "negative." Yet others find it a harmless
form of music. The argument presented in this paper will show that
heavy metal music poses no threat to the well-being of its listeners.
Like other types of music, such as jazz, blues, and even rap. The
distinct style of heavy metal music can be grouped into three main
sections (Ratliff 1). One popular style of heavy metal is death metal.
Death metal has a more dark sound and eerie style than other forms of
heavy metal. The music itself is fast, heavy, and loud. The images
that death metal portrays are death, doom, destruction, suicide, sex,
and drugs. Some see these images as harmful or having a negative
effect on the listener (Halbersberg 1). Another form of heavy metal
music is speed metal. Speed metal has a more upbeat sound than death
metal and is not as depressing as death metal. It is fast paced and
has a hard impact The lead guitar follows a frenetic pace. This is in
contrast to death metal which emphasizes rhythm guitar (Graff 3). The
last type of heavy metal music is thrash metal. The name refers to
both the thrashing sound of the music and the flailing movement of its
listeners. The sound is very loud and has the same tone and style of
speed metal (Graff 3). These styles however, attract certain people.
The majority of people who listen to heavy metal music are
suburban white males. These males range in ages between 14-24. They
have a certain style of dress and way of life. They wear dark
clothing with morbid images of death and destruction. This clothing
can be seen to be a costume that advertises the teens' musical
preference. It is a way of getting attention. Surprisingly, even
though the crowds tend to be young, adults are also seen at these
concerts. One example of an adult and a parent is Dave Mullins. He
likes to take his sons to see death metal shows.(Graff 1) Mullins says
about death metal, "I did see one band that had a clear bag with a
fetus inside it. It looked gross, but it was just a gag. When I'm
watching the kids, they're just letting off steam. When I was a kid,
we used to beat people up after school. This seems better to me."
(Graff 1) Of course, not all parents agree with Mullins.
Parents want the best for their children, but sometimes their
efforts are not beneficial. When parents nag their children about what
they should and should not listen to, kids can become angry and
depressed. This possibly can lead to drinking and drug use, and
suicide. Parents can blame this behavior on the music that their kids
are listening to. A group of parents formed the Parent Music Resource
Center in the 80's (Gonzales 1). Even the Vice-presidents wife, Tipper
Gore, got involved. She led the center in the fight against heavy
metal music. The center's main goals were to destroy heavy metal music
and all other music that had a negative message. They were effective
in banning some groups from record stores and canceling some concerts.
However, Tipper Gore's mission failed to kill off heavy metal music.
The Parent Music Resource Center still exists, but it is not as
powerful as it once was (Gonzales 3). This group never examined
whether heavy metal music could be a healthy outlet for aggrssion.
A well known psychologist from Durham, Stephanie Pinder-Amaker,
said that music can influence a person's state of mind. In her studies
she found that "if people listen to music that is faster than their
heart rate, such as heavy metal, it increases the heart rate. If
you're trying to increase your energy level, it might be a good way to
generate excitement." (Freelon 1) Heavy metal music by increasing the
heart rate of its listeners can be seen as a form of exercise or a
Studies have been done on the effect of heavy metal music. Roe
and King, child psychiatrists at the University of Iowa examined the
effects of heavy metal music on teenagers social behavior. These
studies show that many teens who thought seriously about suicide and
abused drugs listened to heavy metal, but they also showed no direct
connection between the music and these actions.(Freelon 2) Another
recent survey done by the University of Iowa reported that teenage
female hard rock fans thought about suicide more often than people
that listened to other types of music. However most of the females who
thought about suicide were too scared of dying to try it.(Freelon 2)
One positive effect of this music was that even if the teenager was
feeling bad and low, listening to his or her favorite music helped him
or her feel better again.(Freelon 2)
In another test, teens and their parents were surveyed to
investigate the association between heavy metal music and teens'
social function. The people taking the survey were asked about current
and past psychological functioning, as well as their music
preferences. The results indicated that teens who preferred heavy
metal music had a higher incidence of below-average school grades,
school behavior problems, sexual activity, drug and alcohol use, and
arrests. Despite this, it was evident that the teens' home lives were
stable with two parents, good living conditions and sound financial
status.(Took 1) Although it seems that heavy metal music was
corrupting teens' lives, there was no direct correlation between poor
behavior and heavy metal music. Some listeners do not always
understand what they are listening to.
One study group, Prinsky and Rosenbaum, found that many teens who
listen to heavy metal music misinterpreted the lyrics.
This misinterpretation was said to be due to the teens' limited life
experience and immature development. Unlike adults, who find
references to sex, violence, drugs and Satan, teens tended to
interpret the lyrics of their favorite songs as being about love,
politics, growing up, friendship, and other appropriate subjects.
Many people do not take this music seriously. Brian Slagel, CEO
of Metal Blade Records, says:
I think the genre as a whole is serious in wanting to shock
people, but it also has its tongue planted in its cheek.
These bands don't do cannibalistic things, they do not
worship Satan. They don't do all the things people think
they do. If you take it seriously, you're further off the
deep end than most people, I think."
In other words, the content can be discounted because it is not meant
to be taken literally. On stage, groups of death metal sing about
Satan, societal ills, cannibalism and sex with rotting corpses. But to
fans its entertainment. "It's good violent fun," says Ron Holt, 26, a
death metal fan. "Its like seeing Jason slash someone's head off; it
helps me release my aggressions, but it doesn't mean i'm going to go
out and do it." David Horn, from Metal Blade Records, says:
The difference between this type of music and something
like gangsta rap, is that heavy metal is pretty much
firmly based in fantasy...I don't think a song about some
mystical war or slaying a barbarian poses as much of a
threat as far as influencing people.
In conclusion, heavy metal music, while much maligned, has not
been found to seriously damage listeners' lives. Yes, it is violent
and depicts images of doom and destruction, but it should not be
interpreted as a negative influence on its listeners. Teens will
continue to listen to music their parents do not care for. Heavy metal
music can be healthy for the mind psychologically as well as
physically. When people look at heavy metal music, they should not see
it as a negative influence, but as a therapeutic release for teenage
energy or angst.Studyworld