Last Updated Jun 2, 2011 12:41 PM EDT
Music isn't just for entertainment, it can be a tool to create energy and promote health. The American Music Therapy Association says music therapy can promote wellness, manage stress, alleviate pain, express feelings, enhance memory, improve communication, and promote physical rehabilitation. Music therapy is also used to improve neural plasticity -- allowing the brain to re-wire around injured areas.
But if you haven't suffered a brain injury, can you still use music to live a richer life? Three of the biggest pop stars today -- Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Pink -- have hit songs with lyrics that could have been ripped from the self-help section at your local bookstore. The question is, can listening to pop stars espouse pop psychology be therapeutic? My gut says yes. I contacted Dr. Marc Skelton, a clinical psychologist in Laguna Niguel, California to weigh in on three of the most popular songs on the radio today:
Lady Gaga -- "Born This Way"
According to Dr. Skelton, this hit song "Contains lyrics reflecting how a parent can instill confidence in a child which is very positive. She also promotes self-acceptance through lines such as 'Just love yourself and you're set.' These messages are affirming to an adolescent who is trying to find their way in a complex world."
Katy Perry -- "Firework"
While I doubt this song will win awards for its lyrical complexity (e.g., "Do you ever feel like a paper bag"), "Firework" does have a strong message that resonates with adolescents. Dr. Skelton says the focus is on "Fostering a unique identity and being optimistic, or at least finding reasons for being positive. She also seems to have insight into how listeners can impact others not so much by being impressive, but rather expressing his or her own intrinsic talents. This song is a very good message for improving an individual's outlook, versus remaining self-conscious."
Pink -- "Perfect"
"Perfect" is a sugar-coated pop song that has the ability to inspire its listeners. Dr. Skelton analysis shows that this song "Encourages those who may be insecure to try, try again, while learning along the way that it is okay to make mistakes."
Bottom line according to Dr. Skelton, "Given the listening audience for all three artists may largely be composed of teens and young adults who are psychologically navigating the waters of identity versus confusion and intimacy versus isolation, the lyrics offer needed hope. As the struggle is both developmentally appropriate and universal to replace insecurity with confidence, optimism instead of negativity, and self-acceptance rather than personal condemnation, the artists' efforts do help to affirmatively point the way."
It turns out listening to pop music doesn't have to be such a guilty pleasure after all. As Lady Gaga sings, "There's nothing wrong with lovin who you are," even when that includes listening to cheesy pop songs.
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