Study: Narcissism on the Rise in American Music

According to The New York Times, psychologists have discovered “a statistically significant trend toward narcissism and hostility in popular music.”

Study: Narcissism on the Rise in American Music

In the beginning of my freshman year, I remember the first exam in Russian class—a good majority of the students received dismal marks and we were all on the verge mutiny: “you’re going to ruin my GPA,” “I need to get at least a B in this class to keep my scholarship,” “I studied hours for this exam,” etc.

My professor shook her head in disappointment: “Why should I give you an A when you don’t deserve an A? Why should I tell you you’re doing a great job when you obviously have no grasp of the material? I never understood American education. You expect me to smile, pat you on the back, and give you an A for going to college and showing up to class. I’m here to help you learn, not boost your ego.”

At first her words struck me as unnecessarily harsh and nationalistic, but as I continued with the course, and with my college career, I began to realize that her assessment of American education had some truth to it. From an early age, we are coddled and awarded for accomplishments that amount to nothing more than our willingness to do what is obligated of us by our society. Our ability, our intellect and our worth is rarely challenged. Instead, we are encouraged to function at a level of mediocrity that leaves us blind to the big picture—the world outside the “I.”

As a result, an overwhelming attitude is steadily rising in America that everything we do and experience is of the greatest importance and deserves recognition. With current trends in culture technology, we now have the green light to share everything we take part in, engaging in a nationwide competition for 15 minutes of fame: reality shows glorifying teen pregnancies and bitchy brides, youtube videos of brawls at school, Facebook updates from last night’s drunken escapades and tweets informing followers that you just took a shit…Millions of voices screaming “Look at me! Look at how awesome I am!”

According to the NY Times, this attitude has also become more apparent in our music taste. After three decades of analyzing lyrics from hit songs, psychologist Dr. Nathan DeWall and his team have found “a statistically significant trend toward narcissism and hostility in popular music.” Since the ’80s, popular music has become increasingly focused on the “I” and “me,” alternating between messages of self-glorification and self-deprecation.

Currently number one on the Bilboard’s Hot 100: Rihanna’s “S&M” featuring Britney Spears. I have nothing against songs about sex. But last time I checked, sex involves two (or more) people. Rihanna mentions “I” or “me” 39 times in her lyrics, and “you” twice. That’s beyond self expression, that’s self obsession.

Rihanna’s not alone. Seemingly every celebrity — from music, to movies, to television — can’t stop rubbing our noses in much they’re “winning.” And we eat it up, because that’s what we aspire to—the ability to revel in our narcissism on a global level.