Drugs, Music And The Media Hype Machine

posted in: Music News

Substance abuse has been a consistent theme within the world of music, and the media hype that surrounds the artists who get involved with drugs is constant. Bashed hotel rooms, cancelled tours, multiple arrests… the list of tabloid headlines stemming from the topic is limitless. Now, there are very unique relationships between drugs and media in different genres, in the way that artists approach illegal substances and in the coverage that major newspapers and blogs choose to give these incidents. Some try to stay away from the public eye as much as possible, others can’t help but stumble into the limelight. But how does this relationship actually work?

Sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll

Not only does the media constantly cover the antics of rock stars, but the musicians themselves seem to go out of their way to remind us of their ridiculous lifestyles. From Iggy Pop‘s bloody paintings to Michael Todd’s arrest after holding up a pharmacy, the self-destructive lifestyle has been well-documented throughout the history of rock music. Many have even written anthems about their preferred method of addiction. Unfortunately, this widespread abuse has led to the untimely passing of many artists who still had many years of creative output ahead of them (see the 27 Club). It comes to no surprise to us that rock music and drugs go hand-in-hand in the press: it’s almost a required vice to be considered a true rock star.

The Chronic

Rap music isn’t far behind: Not only have references to substance abuse steadily increased in chart-topping urban songs since the ’80s, but so has rappers view of drug use. Compare the lyrics and the depiction of cocaine in “White Lines” by Grandmaster Flash (1983) to Frank Ocean‘s (very excellent) “Novacane” (2011). Think of the biggest songs and albums from this genre, and count how many portray drugs in a negative light. It’s become socially acceptable to lump drug use with rap artists. In fact, they’ll probably go out of their way to publicize what they do, possibly even carve out careers that have the drugs as a centerpiece (like Wiz Khalifa with Rolling Papers). Hell, we even have a poster of Dr. Dre‘s “The Chronic” at the OurStage office!

Drink a little drink, smoke a little smoke

Turns out the outdoor-lovin’ country stars enjoy smoking funny things more than we thought: Studies show that the the genre that proportionately has the most drug references in their recent chart-topping hits is none other than country.  It’s usually considered proper, clean-cut family music. It does need to be said that there would be no country music without alcohol. But why the abundance of marijuana lyrics, and why do so many listeners don’t think twice about what they’re hearing? In contrast to rock and rap, country artists usually sing about weed as a byproduct of spending time with your friends hand having a good time, making it much less abrasive than the pusher and abuser mentality more common in the two aforementioned genres. This low-profile focus on drugs is reflected in the Nashville media”this is a scandal to be avoided at all costs, lest the artist risk losing his or her backing from conservative outlets. Unless you’re Willie Nelson.

What are your thoughts on the presence of drugs in music? Speak your mind in the comments.