Nearly one in five songs in modern UK top 10s mentions alcohol, a sharp rise from just a decade ago, said researchers from Liverpool John Moores University.
Karen Hughes, of the university’s Centre for Public Health, said: “Health and other professionals should recognise increased alcohol promotion in popular music and ensure this does not reinforce binge-drinking culture or contribute to already high burdens of alcohol on young people.”
The figure from 2011, 18.5%, is more than double the percentage of references from 2001, at 8.1%. In 1991, just 2.1% of songs referred to drinking, with the 1981 figure at 5.8%.
The study analysed lyrics of singles including Perry’s 2011 hit ‘Last Friday Night’, which includes lines about drinking “too many shots” and smelling “like a minibar”.
More recent hits spoke about drinking in a positive way, “linking alcohol use to valued attributes and favourable outcomes”, added Prof Hughes, who said US songs and those in the R&B, hip-hop, and rap genres were more likely to have mentions of alcohol.
Positive references outweighed those that mentioned negative aspects of drinking, with the study citing Aloe Blacc’s 2011 song ‘I Need A Dollar’, which contains the lyrics: “My wine is good to me, it helps me pass the time. And my good old buddy whiskey keeps me warmer than the sunshine.”
Prof Hughes has urged more research to be carried out into the phenomenon.
In the study, published in the Psychology of Music, she concluded: “Public health concerns are already focused on the impacts of alcohol advertising on the drinking behaviours of young people, yet the growing reference to alcohol in popular music could mean that positive alcohol promoting messages are reaching much larger audiences, regardless of restrictions [ie age] on direct advertising.”