It is well known that music can have a huge impact on our mood. But will it help us to ditch standards of beauty and advocate for self-acceptance? According to a recent survey, it all depends on the artists and music genres you listen to.
WithinHealth, a start-up specializing in eating disorders, wondered whether the fourth art could help us break body dictates. To do this, they analyzed 165,559 songs included in 2,544 playlists on Spotify whose titles refer to self-confidence and “body positivity” or, conversely, to harmful beauty standards. They also surveyed over 1,000 people about the psychological effect of music on self-esteem.
It turns out that certain music genres are more helpful in building confidence and breaking away from highly standardized representations of the body. Among them is rock’n’roll. Two-thirds of the people surveyed say that they get a good self-image when listening to it. 90s music and pop is also one of the most popular genres among music fans who adhere to “body positivism”, a United States-born school of thought that advocates for body diversity. Surprisingly, Latin music is listened to relatively less by respondents who have a peaceful relationship with their physical appearance.
If the authors of the survey do not hypothesize about the reasons for this disenchantment, it may be related to the stereotypical and sexual representations expressed by some of the songs belonging to this music genre. In 2021, Marta Lucia Ramirez, the then Vice President of Colombia, was angered by hit reggaeton singer, J Balvin’s song and character on a music video. “sexist, racist and misogynist”,
But this problem is not exclusive to Latin music. Many genres reinforce the satire of the “object female” or “hypervirile” male in the lyrics of the songs or their accompanying video clips. It’s no wonder that 28% of people surveyed by Within Health say the clip has already had a negative impact on their body image.
The survey shows that some songs promote more confidence than others, like Demi Lovato’s “Confident,” Miley Cyrus’ “Flowers,” or even SZA’s “Kill Bill.” These tracks appear on many music playlists about self-esteem and “body positivity”, such as some hits by Lizzo, Doja Cat, Ariana Grande and Nelly Furtado.
Small problem though: Many of the titles included in the playlist whose titles refer to body image problems criticize rather than reinforce standards of beauty, which distorts the study’s results. It is also important to note that everyone reacts differently to music and emotional responses differ depending on a person’s personality. One person lacking confidence will find comfort in committed pieces from artists campaigning for the acceptance of all bodies, while another may not necessarily derive the same benefit.
(ETX Daily Up)