Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Music Therapy

An Analysis of Themes in Popular Songs from 2010 to 2014 for Clinical Application with Adolescents/Analyse De Thèmes De Chansons Populaires Composées Entre 2010 et 2014 Pour Une Application Clinique Auprès D'adolescents

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Music Therapy

An Analysis of Themes in Popular Songs from 2010 to 2014 for Clinical Application with Adolescents/Analyse De Thèmes De Chansons Populaires Composées Entre 2010 et 2014 Pour Une Application Clinique Auprès D'adolescents

Article excerpt

Popular music can be an effective and motivating way to address anger, social isolation, aggression, academic issues, and alcohol and/or drug use (Gardstrom & Hiller, 2010; Keen, 2004; Tyson, Detchkov, Eastwood, Carver, & Sehr, 2010). Adolescents express themselves, work through personal problems, and connect with others through song (Mark, 1988). Music therapists who work with adolescents use popular music for a number of reasons, including helping establish initial rapport and developing the therapeutic relationship; making the therapeutic process feel more familiar; providing the opportunity to draw on the client's existing relationship with music; and allowing the therapist to access very personal and private aspects of the client (Keen, 2004; McFerran, Baker, Patton, & Sawyer, 2006). For the purposes of this article, popular music is defined as recently released music that has a broad appeal and caters to popular taste. Operationally speaking, such music is identified using objective rankings, in this case Billboard Magazine chart lists.

One of the many uses of popular music in music therapy with adolescents is song discussion, also known as lyric analysis. Songs are often selected by the client, but the therapist may select them for this purpose as well. Considerations that prompt a music therapist to choose a song for discussion rather than leaving the choice up to the client might be that the client or group has difficulty in choosing music, a topic, or a theme for the session or the therapist wants to encourage the client or group to consider an alternative way of engaging with an issue in a non-confrontational way (Doak, 2013; Zanders, 2013). Additionally, therapists may wish to present the song live rather than using a recording-especially if improvisation, active music making, songwriting, or singing are also included in the session plan-and to prepare the music in advance. Another consideration would be that when working with groups with high turnover rates such as inpatient medical or psychiatric populations, the therapist may wish to bring several choices of popular songs in order to present music that would be appealing or at least familiar to many different individuals whom the music therapist has not seen before.

In cases in which the therapist is choosing music for song discussion, there are a variety of factors to consider. Careful selection of songs for this purpose must take into account thematic content, therapeutic value, client characteristics, client preference, and facility policies (Gardstrom & Hiller, 2010). Because of the diversity of client preferences and client needs, choosing appropriate music for song discussion is a difficult task. It often requires familiarity with a vast amount of music, as the digital model of music consumption provides an incredibly large and diverse amount of music that is readily available to adolescents as they form their music preferences (McFerran et al., 2006). The dizzying array of music that is readily available via the Internet is often as overwhelming as it is helpful. Maintaining a broad, up-to-date collection of repertoire is increasingly challenging as today's adolescents listen to enormous quantities and varieties of music.

While the process of choosing music for song discussion has received some attention in the literature (for a thorough exploration, see Gardstrom and Hiller's 2010 publication on preparing for and facilitating song discussion as music psychotherapy), there are few resources available to assist music therapists in selecting current popular songs for the purposes of song discussion. Other populations such as older adults have received more attention in this area, and suggested repertoire lists to assist music therapists in creating songbooks are not difficult to find (Baker & Grocke, 2009; Moore, Staum, & Brotons, 1992). In embarking on this project, the researchers wished to provide music therapists who work with adolescents with a practical tool to assist with selecting recently released music for the purposes of song discussion. …

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