Domestic Violence in the Mainstream: Violent Music

Notions of domestic violence pop up everywhere around us; however, we often do not pay close enough attention for them to trigger a reaction within us.

Popular music, among other things, has a tendency to do this to us. Have we not all been singing along with songs on the radio without thinking about the words’ actual meaning in a literal manner? Song lyrics are one source of information that often talks about violence. Some lyrics may portray violence in a glorified manner, while others use music to condemn violence. Domestic violence, in particular, is mainly portrayed from three general perspectives within music: glorified, condemned, or educational/informational.

Glorification of violence is commonly found in rap music and derogatory terms regarding women are frequently used throughout the songs. Take Eazy E’s debut song “Boys-N-The-Hood,” for example. Many of us are familiar with this once very popular song and know the words well. Do we realize, though, that this is what they are actually saying?

“Went to her house to get her out of the pad. Dumb hoe said somethin that made me mad. She said somethin that I couldn’t believe. So I grabbed the stupid b***h by her nappy-a** weave. She started talkin s**t, wouldn’t you know. Reached back like a pimp, slapped the hoe.”

These words clearly glorify domestic violence and make it sound as if this behavior is perfectly normal. As the mean world syndrome suggests: the more we are exposed to negative things, the more we will believe that this is how reality works. 

“Face Down” by The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus is an example of a song condemning domestic violence. The lyrics speak from a third-person perspective, which is trying to understand the dynamics of the ongoing abusive relationship.           

“Cover up with makeup in the mirror. Tell yourself it’s never gonna happen again. You cry alone and then he swears he loves you … Do you feel like a man when you push her around? Do you feel better now as she falls to the ground? Well, I’ll tell you my friend, one day this world is going to end. As your lies crumble down, a new life she has found.”

These lines not only question the reasoning behind domestic violence, but also target the abuser in a way intended to make him or her reflect over what they actually get out of their abusive behavior. How will it ever make a person feel better by hurting somebody else, either physically or emotionally?

Moreover, many people may not realize that Eminem and Rihanna’s song, “Love The Way You Lie,” is a perfect example of the cycle of violence. Personally, I listened to this song for weeks without even realizing what it was actually talking about until I saw the music video. While the chorus may be quite ambiguous in explaining the victim’s emotions, the verses are truly descriptive.

“Here we go again. It’s so insane. Cause when it’s going good, it’s going great. I’m Superman with the wind in his bag. She’s Lois Lane. But when it’s bad, it’s awful … Next time I’m p****d, I’ll aim my fist at the dry wall. Next time. There will be no next time. I apologize, even though I know it’s lies. I’m tired of the games. I just want her back. I know I’m a liar. If she ever tries to f*****g leave again, I’mma tie her to the bed and set the house on fire.”

It is in these verses that the both the violent and the educational parts can be found. The scenario is described from the abuser’s perspective and the entire cycle of violence is played out throughout the song; the violent episode, the “honeymoon” phase, the tension building, and back to another violent episode.

Valuable information about domestic violence can be found in these songs, and it is important for us as listeners to understand what messages these types of songs are trying to send us. Of course, these are just songs. Listening to violent music does not immediately turn you into a violent person. However, music is a powerful instrument. Everyone reacts differently to music and its lyrics. The more violent music we are exposed to, the more likely we are to be affected by its messages. Thus, it may be a long shot, but our musical interpretations could be crucial in our effort to end to domestic violence.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship please call the Hubbard House hotline at (904) 354-3114 or (800) 500-1119.

ABOUT HUBBARD HOUSE

Founded as the first domestic violence shelter in Florida in 1976, Hubbard House is a certified, comprehensive domestic violence center providing programs and services to more than 5,000 women, children, and men annually in Duval and Baker counties. While Hubbard House is most known for its emergency shelter, the agency also provides extensive adult and youth outreach services, school-based education, therapeutic childcare, batterers’ intervention programs, court advocacy and volunteer and community education opportunities. Visit http://www.hubbardhouse.org to learn more.

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