Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Pop music and social distinction

In every region, Americans with higher education and higher incomes typically prefer rock music over country. We found that rock lyrics had a lot more talk of choice, control and self-expression, as in the Rolling Stones' refrain, "'Cause I'm free to do what I want any old time." But when we analyzed country music, preferred over rock by less-educated Americans in every region, we heard more mentions of self-protection and defense, as in Darryl Worley's observation, "We didn't get to keep [our freedom] by backin' down." When choice was mentioned, it was often as a prelude or coda to tragedy, as in George Jones's lament "Now I'm living and dying with the choices I've made."

From an article by Barry Schwartz, Hazel Rose Markus, and Alana Conner Snibbe, entitled, "Is Freedom Just Another Word for Many Things to Buy?" (New York Times, February 26).

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