Hit songs may be brainwashing you to drink more

Research reveals many Billboard chart-toppers have alcohol ads embedded within them

Topics: Pacific Standard, tequila, cognac, Research, study, hit songs, Music, recording artists, Alcohol, , ,

Hit songs may be brainwashing you to drink more (Credit: Christian Bertrand/Shutterstock)
This piece originally appeared on Pacific Standard.

Pacific Standard Drinking songs date back to the Middle Ages. So it’s not particularly surprising that a study of recent hit recordings finds nearly a quarter of them mention alcohol—and almost always in a positive light.

What is striking is that a substantial percentage of those chart-topping numbers reference specific brands of alcohol—and only four brands account for more than half of all such mentions.

A lot of hit songs, in effect, have alcohol ads embedded within them.

“Many of the artists of these songs—particularly within the urban genre—have agreements with alcohol companies to promote their brand,” a research team led by Dr. Michael Siegel of the Boston University School of Public Health writes in the journal Substance Use and Misuse. “Thus, alcohol companies may be indirectly promoting brand-specific alcohol use among underage youth through sponsorship of popular artists.”

Utilizing Billboard magazine’s year-end charts from 2009 to 2011, Siegel and his colleagues selected the most popular songs released each year in four genres (pop, rock, country, and “urban,” which combined R&B/hip-hop with rap).

That gave them a total of 720 songs, 167 of which referenced alcohol. Of those, 46 (or 6.4 percent of the total) mentioned a specific brand of booze.

Those references “are concentrated among a small number of brands,” the researchers report. “Four brands alone—Patron tequila, Hennessy cognac, Grey Goose vodka, and Jack Daniel’s whiskey—accounted for more than half of all alcohol brand mentions.”

You Might Also Like

More than two-thirds of these references occurred in urban songs; surprisingly, “there were no alcohol brand mentions in any of the rock songs,” the researchers write. “Within urban songs, alcohol brand mentions were concentrated among a small number of artists.

“Nearly all of the brand mentions for Patron, Hennessy, Remy Martin, Grey Goose, Ciroc, Cristal and Moet occurred in urban songs, whereas 4 of the 5 brand mentions for Jack Daniel’s occurred in pop and country songs, and 9 of the 12 references to brands of beer were in country songs.”

OK, that last point is hardly a shocker. Nor is the finding that “popular music is largely portraying alcohol use as a fun part of the youth lifestyle that is free of consequences.”

Nevertheless, Siegel and his colleagues call these results “alarming, because they suggest that popular music may be serving as a major source of promotion of alcohol use in general—and of the consumption of several specific brands in particular—to underage youth.”

Studies such as these inevitably bring up the chicken-and-egg question of whether the art in question is simply mirroring the culture, or actually influencing behavior. Underage kids, after all, were experimenting with liquor long before the rap era.

Either way, however, marketing specific brands to kids by contracting with popular artists is highly questionable, ethically as well as aesthetically. One shudders to think that, if it were written today, the classic drinking song would likely be called “99 Bottles of Heineken on the Wall.”

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 8
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Sonic's Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog

    Sonic calls this a "gourmet twist" on a classic. I am not so, so fancy, but I know that sprinkling bacon and cheddar cheese onto a tube of pork is not gourmet, even if you have made a bun out of something that is theoretically French.

    Krispy Kreme

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Krispy Kreme's Doughnut Dog

    This stupid thing is a hotdog in a glazed doughnut bun, topped with bacon and raspberry jelly. It is only available at Delaware's Frawley Stadium, thank god.


    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    KFC's Double Down Dog

    This creation is notable for its fried chicken bun and ability to hastily kill your dreams.

    Pizza Hut

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Pizza Hut's Hot Dog Bites Pizza

    Pizza Hut basically just glued pigs-in-blankets to the crust of its normal pizza. This actually sounds good, and I blame America for brainwashing me into feeling that.

    Carl's Jr.

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Carl's Jr. Most American Thick Burger

    This is a burger stuffed with potato chips and hot dogs. Choose a meat, America! How hard is it to just choose a meat?!

    Tokyo Dog

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Tokyo Dog's Juuni Ban

    A food truck in Seattle called Tokyo Dog created this thing, which is notable for its distinction as the Guinness Book of World Records' most expensive hot dog at $169. It is a smoked cheese bratwurst, covered in butter Teriyaki grilled onions, Maitake mushrooms, Wagyu beef, foie gras, black truffles, caviar and Japanese mayo in a brioche bun. Just calm down, Tokyo Dog. Calm down.


    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Limp Bizkit's "Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water"

    This album art should be illegal.

  • Recent Slide Shows


Loading Comments...